There isn’t a kid from the 70s that doesn’t remember a kindly old gentleman named Captain Kangaroo. Portrayed by actor Bob Keeshan for three decades, the enormously popular children’s show of his own design was there waiting for us every weekday morning without fail. Looking back, we were all richer from our childhood encounters with Captain Kangaroo.
Bob Keeshan was certainly no stranger to children’s programming. In the early 50s, he was the silent sidekick of Buffalo Bob on The Howdy Doody Show, portraying Clarabelle the Clown in the early years. After working on a few other children’s shows, he eventually came up with the concept of Captain Kangaroo and successfully pitched the series to CBS in 1955.
The show debuted in October of that year, and ran continuously for the next three decades, making it one of the longest running children’s shows of all time.
The Captain was never lonely on his show, thanks to a steady stream of humans and puppets that paid regular visits to his television residence “The Treasure House.” Most memorable perhaps was his trusty sidekick, Mr. Green Jeans, played by Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum (who, despite persistent rumors to the contrary, is not Frank Zappa’s father).
Though Mr. Green Jeans was there from the beginning, it wasn’t until 1966, when the show was first broadcast in color, that any young viewers could tell that his overalls were actually green. Brannum portrayed many regular characters on the show over the years, such as The Professor, The New Old Folk Singer, and Mr. Bainter the Painter.
On the puppet front, the Captain was regularly visited by Mr. Rabbit (who had a bad habit of eating too many carrots) and Mr. Moose (who loved nothing more than to shower the host in an avalanche of ping-pong balls).
There were also a number of recurring cartoons on the show, including Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, The Toothbrush Family, The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo, and a pair of short segments called The Most Important Person and The Kingdom Could Be You.
A number of Hollywood celebrities also made guest appearances over the years, including such 70s names as Phil Donahue, Penny Marshall, John Denver, Bruce Jenner, and straight from The Electric Company, Rita Morena. In the late 70s, each show would begin with a number of cameos of celebrities wishing the Captain a good morning.
Keeshan, who was born in Lindenhurst and lived most of his life in Babylon, believed that the most important time in a child’s development was during the first six years, and was a lifetime proponent and supporter of quality children’s television. For his efforts, he received five Emmy Awards, three Peabody Awards, and a number of citations, honorary doctorates, and other awards.
He left the show he created in 1984, but continued to remain active, always championing his cause throughout the remainder of his life. Bob passed away in 2004 at the age of 76. He is buried on Long Island in Babylon, NY.
I know there must be a few of you 70s kids who remember waking up and watching Captain Kangaroo. I’d love to hear all your recollections of this iconic children’s show in our comments section below.