I will never forget an act of kindness from Mrs. Miller, my third grade teacher. I also consider Bob Keeshan, who played Captain Kangaroo, as a teacher. He taught me and the rest of his audience how to be kind, creative and fair. The following story is where Mrs. Miller’s life intersected with Bob’s.
The Captain and Me
The death of Bob Keeshan, better known to millions as Captain Kangaroo, was very sad on many levels. It was not only the loss of a childhood idol for most people my age, but it served to remind us all of a greater loss…a loss of innocence. For 30 years, Keeshan’s gentle manner with stories and songs helped those of us who sought comfort and guidance in the black and white glow of the family TV.
For me, Captain Kangaroo was more than just a television host. When my third grade teacher asked everyone in class to write an essay about their fathers, I sat in my seat for a few minutes and finally began to cry. Mrs. Miller, an excellent educator, quietly ushered me into the hall to determine the cause of my tears. “My father died when I was 2 years old,” I told her. “I don’t remember anything about him…I have nothing to write about.”
She reassured me that I could still participate in the assignment. “You can have the best essay in the class,” she said. “If you could pick anybody in the whole world to be your father, who would you choose? Once you decide who that person is, write your report about him.”
I didn’t hesitate, I looked right at her and said “Captain Kangaroo.” She smiled and, once she made sure the class was busy with the assignment, we went to the library together to find out everything we could about the Good Captain.
I found out his real name and that he had portrayed the original Clarabell the Clown on the Howdy Doody Show. It was probably this incident that triggered my lifelong passion for research and writing. I remember getting an “A” for my paper and receiving applause from the class when I read it aloud.
Almost 40 years later, I interviewed Bob Keeshan on QVC about his book Growing Up Happy. We sold over 5,000 copies in a few minutes and I told him this story at the end of the presentation. He began to cry and put his arm around me as the camera faded. It was a very special moment.
Bob and I remained in touch for several years before he passed. He was a very talented man with a genuine love for children and a real concern for the violence and lack of family values in today’s children’s programming. His social activism after he left the airwaves helped to greatly improve the world of children’s television.
We may never again witness the mild-mannered interaction of Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Green Jeans, Bunny Rabbit and, my favorite, Mr. Moose. Still, perhaps one day, another TV Treasure House will be built and occupied by figures of fact and fancy who truly love and care about children…people like Bob Keeshan. He will always be a father figure and a great teacher to me.
© 2018 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.