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50 Years Since Clarabell Said "Goodbye, kids"

The 50th anniversary of one of the most touching moments in broadcast history passed on Friday with barely a whimper. It was September 24, 1960 when the original Howdy Doody program signed off for good with the first (and last) words spoken tearfully by Clarabell the Clown.

The Howdy Doody program broke ground in many ways (both good and bad) with its appeal to a national audience of children; integration of advertisements for products into the program narrative; and massive merchandising of Doody-branded books, records, toys and games.

For the Doody enthusiast interested in learning more, there are three books that are worth reading:

Say Kids! What Time Is It? by Stephen Davis
A thorough and candid account of the history of the program (and the phenomenon), written by the son of one of the producers. Davis interviewed nearly everybody involved, and the result is a first-rate history and an entertaining read.

Growing Up Happy by Bob Keeshan
Keeshan, who went on to play Captain Kangaroo for 30+ years, was also the first Clarabell the Clown. While this book covers more than just Keeshan's Doody years, it's worth hearing his perspective on what has been portrayed elsewhere as a contentious relationship between Keeshan and Buffalo Bob Smith.

Howdy and Me by Buffalo Bob Smith
This paperback is lavishly illustrated with black and white photos, and contains Buffalo Bob's own account of life in Doodyville.

The program that would become Howdy Doody first aired on NBC in late 1947, and its original explosive season (including a presidential campaign by Howdy tied in to the 1948 American election), was not seen in the Pacific Northwest (since there were no TV stations here then). Until September 1951 when the network coax reached the West Coast, any Howdy Doody episodes seen here were kinescopes.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)



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