Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Few Old Favorites, Rediscovered...

I grew up in Buffalo, NY, right on the Niagara River. When you're a kid, you don't always realize the most obvious facts of your circumstances; after all, you've had no experiences to tell you what is extraordinary (or not) about the place you're growing up in. For instance: I would never have guessed how formative it could be to grow up on the border of another country.

Canada was this vague notion, at best, or maybe just those nice people across the water who really aren't all that different from us. This elephant in the room of my childhood, though, presented itself in a really subtle way - all my favorite programs, the ones from which I derive my very first memories, were Canadian. I went through my whole life without realizing that; until this morning, when a friend of mine became a fan of Mr. Dressup on Facebook. Can of worms!

Mr. Dressup was a kindly gentleman with a pair of puppet friends, Casey and Finnegan, and a magical trunk full of costumes which he would occasionally have to coax open with a song and some tickling. He always had some craft or other, making any number of accessories for his costumes out of cardboard, markers and the like - always something you could do at home if you had the materials on hand. I've always carried fond memories of that program, but never realized he was based in Toronto.

Naturally, this set me off on a Google frenzy, and suddenly I'm recalling the wonderful songs of Fred Penner (who lived in a log) and Sharon, Lois and Bram (before their Skinnamarink fame): all got their start on the CBC, and I got to see them because I lived right on the edge of another nation.

All this nostalgia was really great, and reminded me of what it was like to be a child, in love with the magic that comes with stories and songs. So, this morning, story time was dedicated to the memory of Ernie Coombs, aka Mr. Dressup, who taught me (and probably many thousands of other children in Canada and Western New York) how to pretend I was someone else, make accessories out of just about anything, and always wake up with a smile.


Lindsay H said...

Great minds think alike! The other day somebody told me I was the next Mr. Rogers. I said no way. More like Mr. Dress Up!

I grew up in the UP of Michigan and we got the CBC in crystal clear. I grew up watching all the same stuff you did. Mr. Dressup was my fave fave fave!

Awesome post!

Nicholas Hirsch said...

It's also funny to note how much of Nickelodeon's early line-up consisted of Canadian shows (You Can't Do That on Television!). Maybe they're just good with kids up there... ^_^