When I was a young kid in the 1960s, I hated most children’s television.
I did love the cartoons and remember my earliest ideologically-driven fight being with one of my four-year-old friends over which cartoon to watch: Popeye the Sailor (my choice) or The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show (his). Captain Kangaroo also was okay, but only because he had a bowl haircut that looked much like my own and had a friend named Mr. Green Jeans. And Bozo’s Circus was great, mostly because it aired from
But Romper Room creeped me out. I could deal with saying the Pledge of Allegiance with a wild-eyed hostess and with the snack-time prayer, but I knew not to trust the Magic Mirror. The hostess would stare through an empty plastic ring and chant like one of Shakespeare’s witches,
Romper, bomper, stomper, boo.
Tell me, tell me, tell me, do.
Magic Mirror, tell me today,
Have all my friends had fun at play?
Then, of course, the hostess would claim to see the children in “Televisionland”: “I can see Billy and Tommy and Debbie and Susan . . . .” In later episodes, the kind of spiraling special effects that used to represent hallucinatory and mesmeric experiences in films would accompany the appearance of the Magic Mirror. I remember feeling relieved when the hostess failed to see “Michael.”
My mother claims that I liked Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but it aired only from 1968 when I was already seven, so I’m pretty sure that she either is mistaking me for my younger brother or is the victim of one of those swirly, spirally things you could get sucked into on Romper Room.
I like to believe that I had good taste as a little kid. I still prefer Popeye over Rocky & Bullwinkle, though flying squirrels have risen in my opinion. Bozo now scares me as much as Mr. Rogers, and I only wish I still had enough hair to wear it like Captain Kangaroo.