Captain Kangaroo -
The host of the classic children's program CAPTAIN
Bob Keeshan played the role of Captain Kangaroo, an elderly man with
graying mustache and an oversized uniform with big pockets.
Debuting at 8:00 AM on October 3, 1955, CAPTAIN KANGAROO (according
to a CBS advertisement) "recreates the private wonderland of
childhood in his Treasure House." The program reigned supreme for 29
years on the CBS network and was the forerunner to such educational
programs as MISTEROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD/PBS/1967-2001 and SESAME
The Captain was assisted by Mr. Green Jeans, (Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum),
a talented and inquisitive handyman who came to the Captain's
Treasure House with all sorts of interesting items, including
Other residents of the Treasure House were Dennis, the
bumbling apprentice (the show's puppeteer, Cosmo "Gus" Allegretti);
Dancing Bear, (Cosmo "Gus" Allegretti in a bear suit); the quiet Mr.
Whispers; the curious Miss Frog; the wriggling Mr. Worm; the amusing
Mr. Bunny Rabbit a hand puppet with black-rimmed glasses who got
scolded for stealing carrots from the Captain;
Mr. Moose, a brown,
antlered puppet who asked knock-knock jokes and poured ping-pong
balls over the Captain; and
Grandfather Clock, a sleepy-eyed
timepiece who talked to the Captain in rhymes.
Later in the series, additional human characters appeared including
Larry Wall as Mr. Baxter; Debby Weems as Debby; the talents of
comedian Bill Cosby (in the 1980s); and John Burstein as Slim
Goodbody from Nutri-City, who taught proper health tips. The series
also featured THE ADVENTURES OF TOM TERRIFIC, an animated cartoon
about a magical boy who could change his form into anything and his
sidekick the Mighty Manfred, the Wonder Dog.
Before his stint on CAPTAIN KANGAROO, Bob Keeshan played the mute
Clarabell the Clown on "The Howdy Doody Show" from 1947-52; starred
as "Corny the Clown" on the WABC-TV program TIME FOR FUN in 1953
where he narrated 1930s cartoons; and then starred in TINKER'S
WORKSHOP, a local New York children's program on WABC-TV (the
inspiration for the CAPTAIN KANGAROO program).
During the 1964-65 season, the CAPTAIN KANGAROO show was replaced by
MISTER MAYOR, a 60-minute CBS educational series hosted by Bob
Keeshan as a mayor of a small town who interacted with such live and
puppet community members as Aunt Maud, Dudley, Miss Melissa, and
Rolio the Hippopotamus. The following year Bob Keeshan returned to
CAPTAIN KANGAROO which then aired on Saturday mornings. The program
finally left the air on December, of 1984.
"It is my contention that most people are not mugged every day, that
most people in this world do not encounter violence every day. I
think we prepare people for violence, and I think just as
importantly we prepare people for the definition of being gentle." -
In the 1970s, Bob Keeshan hosted a weekday morning news magazine for
older kids on CBS TV called WAKE UP! It featured Hugh "Lumpy"
Brannum as Mr. Green Jeans, Cosmo "Gus" Allegretti as "Dennis",
Carolyn Minyoni, as well as the puppets of Kevin Clash and Jim
Martin. During the 1980s, Keeshan also hosted and narrated the
Saturday morning cartoon series THE CBS STORYBREAK!
On August 21, 1981 CBS broadcast an evening tribute to Bob Keeshan
called "Good Evening, Captain" with Barbara Mandrell, Mike Farrell,
Lumpy Brannum and Jean Stapleton. In 1987, Bob Keeshan and former
Tennessee governor, Lamar Alexander (now a U.S. senator) co-founded
Corporate Family Solutions, an organization that provided day-care
programs to businesses around the country.
The Captain Kangaroo character returned to TV in 1997 with actor
John McDonough as the new Captain Kangaroo for the syndicated
revival of the show THE ALL NEW CAPTAIN KANGAROO.
Sadly, a few years later, Bob Keeshan, the original Captain Kangaroo
succumbed to a long illness and died in a hospital in Windsor,
Vermont on January 23, 2004. He was 76. Keeshan had moved to
Hartford, Vermont in 1990, the same year his wife, Jeanne died. Born
June 27, 1927, Bob Edward Keeshan is survived by a son, two
daughters and six grandchildren.
Counting flowers on the wall
That don't bother me at all
Playing solitaire 'till dawn
With a deck of fifty-one
Smoking cigarettes and
watching Captain Kangaroo
Now don't tell me I've nothing to do.
-- Flowers on the Wall (sung by The Statler Brothers)
TRIVIA NOTE: Supposedly the persona
of Captain Kangaroo was derived from his role as a guard in a museum
(which then became "The Treasure House") and because one artist's
conception of the character looked like a kangaroo.
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