Come and play, everything’s A-OK

Earlier this week marked the 40th anniversary of the first episode of “Sesame Street,” which made me stop and think about kid TV. It also made me realize that, much to my chagrin, I’m older than Snuffleupagus. (Interesting fact: the strange wooly mammoth-type guy’s full name is Aloysius Snuffleupagus.)

Snuffy didn’t appear on TV until November 1971, while I made a first appearance in the Parenteau family in June of 1967. Go ahead, do the math. I don’t mind.

When I was a kid, we had a “Sesame Street” album (greatest hits?) and I can still sing most of the songs to this day. While I love the one in which Big Bird tries to pronounce the alphabet like it is a long word, a huge favorite in my house is the “C is for Cookie” song. And I just realized the other day that I can still sing Ernie’s “Rubber Ducky” song from beginning to end.

There was also the great little ditty I still sing every now and then when I see one thing very different than others surrounding it. Know which one I’m talking about?

“One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong. Can you tell me which thing is not like the other by the time I finish my song?”

A few years ago one of the kids gave me a t-shirt with the characters from Sesame Street on the front and the words “Representing the Street” on it. I love that shirt. I love those old Muppets.

I will admit, however, that I am not much of an Elmo fan. I find him rather annoying. I prefer the cranky Oscar the Grouch, the silly Grover and the funny Cookie Monster (who apparently claims his real name was Sid until he ate his first cookie). Oh, and Guy Smiley!
The puppet used as Elmo made his first appearance as Baby Monster in 1972, but didn’t become the annoying little Elmo until 1985. As a child, I could identify with being grouchy like Oscar, wanting an extra cookie like Cookie Monster or misunderstanding something like Grover. I can’t identify with perpetually happy Elmo with his squeaky voice and bad grammar.

After moving to southwest Minnesota, I realized many of the people my age were not very familiar with the songs and characters I grew up with because Public Television was not available in the area when they were young. Bummer! No Mr. Rogers, no “Sesame Street,” and no “Electric Company.”

Does anyone out there remember the Adventures of Letterman from the “Electric Company?” He was a superhero that solved problems by ripping a letter off his shirt and changing a word, for example, he turned a fiend into friend.

“Faster than a rolling O, stronger than silent E, able to leap a capital T in a single bound. It’s a word, it’s a phrase, it’s Letterman!”
The skits were narrated by Joan Rivers, and Gene Wilders generally did the voice-overs for Letterman. I loved them. I kept watching to see if someone would put those on video so I could share them with my kids, but it never happened.

Maggie wasn’t a huge “Sesame Street” fan when she was little, preferring a big purple dinosaur who shall remain nameless. She liked to watch the same movies over and over, and once had a four month love affair with the Macaulay Culkin version of the Nutcracker. We had visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads for quite some time.

Nick loved Thomas the Tank Engine, and I was constantly amused watching George Carlin as The Conductor. Every time I watched it I had visions of Carlin breaking into the “Seven words you can’t say on TV” routine.

The boys and I liked to watch “Blue’s Clues,” and I still hear the mail song in my head whenever I wander out to the mailbox, but then Steve (the host) got busted for cocaine use and was pulled from the show. He was replaced with his “little brother” Joe, who never had the same energy (I wonder why?).

Matt wasn’t a huge boob tube watcher as a little guy. We would often settle in to watch something as a family and he would quietly wander off into a corner and play with cars or building blocks, entering his own little world of make-believe. Later he became a fan of all things Power Ranger, Ninja Turtles and other cute action characters who beat people up on a regular basis.

All things considered, I’d rather be on my way to where the air is sweet…can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?
 

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