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  • Writer's pictureJohn Shore

The Terrorizing Trauma of Captain Kangaroo

In my last post about pet-scarfing tomato plants, I mentioned Mr. Green Jeans—or, as he was affectionately known by Captain Kangaroo, “that senile farmer who keeps wandering onto my show.”

I’m kidding, of course. Mr. Green Jeans wasn’t a senile farmer. He was a pot farmer. (Fun fact: the giant pockets on Captain Kangaroo’s coat were for holding the sacks of weed Mr. Green Jeans gave him in exchange for letting him be on TV.)

The “Captain Kangaroo” children’s show ran from 1955 to 1984—so, from “I Like Ike,” straight through to, “Michael Jackson’s Hair Caught on Fire.” I watched the show mainly in the year of 1963, when I was five years old; and I watched it in black and white, since I wasn’t from the future.

The photo above shows the cast of “Captain Kangaroo.” From left to right we have Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit, Captain Kangaroo, Grandfather Clock, Mister Moose and an obviously stoned Mr. Green Jeans.

Of those six characters, I found Dancing Bear the most consistently disturbing. DB was gigantic, silent, and danced like Frankenstein with rigamortis. Standing alone against a white wall, he’d simply wave his arms and legs around like some clumsy, weird-eyed giant helplessly drowning in the air. I still have nightmares about it.

My primary take on the other five characters:

Bunny Rabbit. So small you couldn’t see him without practically smashing your nose up against the television screen. He wore spectacles, though it was clear he had exactly the wrong ears for that. Like Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit was voiceless. Unlike Dancing Bear, who never seemed to have any point at all, Bunny Rabbit made his points by repeatedly slamming his face against the table. Talk about not knowing how to take care of your glasses.

Mr. Moose. Unnervingly annoying. Would have definitely smoked a cigar if he'd had any other hand than the one clearly keeping him alive. Made a lot of dumb, obvious jokes that only he thought were hilarious. “Hey, he's Just like you!” said my stupid and always woefully wrong sister.

Grandfather Clock.The jerking way his eyes and mouth moved just behind the flatness of his visage would give Leatherface nightmares. His whole persona was relentlessly melancholic. The subtext of his every mournful-sounding word seemed to be, “Struggle, strive, be a coward or brave; in the blink of an eye you will be in your grave.” So that was fun.

Mr. Green Jeans. Green Jeans. Green Genes. Could it be more obvious that he's a chronic stoner? For some inexplicable reason, this tall toker-joker usually arrived at the Captain’s place dragging behind him some animal that was marginally exotic and even more sedated than he was. The motionless creature would be huddled on the bottom of the cage Mr. Green Jeans had just wheeled in.

“Why, look at that!” Captain Kangaroo would say. “What kind of animal did you bring us today, Mr. Green Jeans?”

Ol' Green would rub his chin. “Not really sure,” he’d say. Then he’d grab a nearby pitchfork. “Tell you what, though. I'll bet I can make the thing move.”

Weapon at the ready, he’d slowly open the animal’s cage. Sensing the possibility of freedom, the creature would attempt to rouse itself from its coma. Now gripping his weapon with both hands, Green would say, “You might want to step back here, Cap. This might get pretty ugly.”

In response to the sudden awakening of their tribal bloodlust, Bunny Rabbit would start frenetically smashing his head on the table, while Mr. Moose screamed out derangedly nonsensical Knock Knock jokes, and Dancing Bear broke into what can only be described as the Slo-Mo Jig of Terror. Through the horrifying cacophony would come Grandfather Clock's voice, intoning, “Do it. Do it. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters.”

And then Mr. Green Jeans—eyes wide, drooling tongue hanging out of his mouth—would yank open the creatures cage, squat into position, and lunge.

I'm telling you: at least once a week I thank God that show wasn't in color.

I have a friend who's my age. He remembers “Captain Kangaroo” as a wonderful, engaging and fun show that made him feel comfortable, encouraged and even nurtured.

"How can you just come right out and say that?" I said to him.

"Why in the world wouldn't I?" he replied.

Boy. There is just no understanding some people.


Ask John: John Shore's advice column from The Asheville Citizen-Times, 2016-2019 is now available as a paperback book, and as a Kindle book.

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1 comentário

Robin Tucker
Robin Tucker
04 de fev.

I loved the show, most especially Dancing 🐻. Sweet memories

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