Kids growing up from the mid-50s until the mid-80s all had one thing in common – they could watch Bob Keeshan bring his warmth and imagination to American children’s programming. Captain Kangaroo ran for an hour in the mornings until the CBS Morning News premiered, and was cut to a half hour thereafter.
Keeshan incorporated regular characters, puppets, and videos into his program. These were non-threatening adults who didn’t look down on kids. People like Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum) and The Banana Man (Sam Levine). Gus Allegretti performed several of the show’s best-known puppet characters, including Bunny Rabbit and Grandfather Clock.
One of the segments I remember fondly was Tom Terrific. I guess I just had a soft spot for a kid who went around with a funnel on his head. Tom and his buddy Manfred the Wonder Dog had to constantly outsmart the villain, Crabby Appleton.
Bob Keeshan died in 2004 without a lot of fanfare. Consider who affected more people for good – Captain Kangaroo or Michael Jackson – and look at the way their deaths were covered. Makes a very sad comment on popular culture today, doesn’t it?