As a child, of the late 60s early 70s, I was well and truly part of the television generation. In fact, my father was forever chiding me for watching too much TV. He'd say, "You keep sitting in front of that thing, and pretty soon you're going to end up with just one big eye right in the middle of your forehead!"
At the time, I thought that sounded pretty cool - becoming a Cyclops, but he didn't agree. There was plenty of shows of watch. I had "The Willy Whistle Show", a local program that featured a clown who didn't talk - he just whistled - hence the name. There was "Major Mudd" - the astronaut - and his faithful robot companion. I even remember his little catchphrase: "I'll be blasting you!" Huh, I guess today that wouldn't be a very PC thing to say, would it? Sounds far too violent.
Of course, there were the network shows like "Captain Kangaroo" and "Romper Room." One time, when I was home sick, the "teacher" looked into her magic mirror and even said hello to me! I got so excited and told my mother, and she said maybe my teacher had called in my name. Of course, now I know that the "teacher" was just going through a variety of names. I even remember seeing the premiere of "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?"
I was never much into "Sesame Street"; I think I kind of jumped passed it - developmentally - it just seemed too juvenile; sorry, Bert and Ernie. Ah, but I did love "The Thunderbirds." Oh, man, now that was my show. The only thing I hated about it was the cliffhanger endings. Goodness, having to wait a whole day to see the end? Pure torture! Still, I was - somehow - able to survive, and watched it every chance I got. Looking back at that show, I realize how improper it would be today - so many of the main characters smoked and drank! There's no way we'd tolerate those sorts of things in a children's show now.
And then there was "Davey and Goliath." First off, I thought it was cool because it was that claymation stuff - which was just so awesome! And then the shows were short, just fifteen minutes, and they would have two together to make a full half hour. That to me was so great - getting two for one. Nowadays, I know that the show had a tie-in to the Lutheran Church, and was intended to teach good values. Back then - being five, six and seven years old - I didn't know that. To me, it was just a cute show - I loved that Goliath, Davey's dog, could talk to him - and I loved some of the escapades that Davey would get into.
In the early shows, they were simple things; I even remember one teaching that God created gravity to keep us on the ground, and He regulated the tides. In another, Davey got into danger because he felt that God would never let anything bad happen to him, and his Dad had to explain to him about free will. Sometimes the references to God were very simple, the cop on the beat asking God to help him get to a building rooftop in time to save someone.
There were several episodes where they did hit the "Religion Button" rather hard, but it was justified; there were Christmas and Easter, both full half hour shows. The latter was the one that really hit home for me. In it, Davey spends time with his grandma, a real feisty old gal who is so much fun to be with - she even helps Davey practice baseball. Well, then Davey gets word that grandma has passed away. Naturally, Davey is devastated, and grieves terribly. Now, at the time, my grandma was old, but in good health. Yet, I recognized that there would come a time when she would be gone too. So, I wanted to see how Davey would deal with this loss.
Initially, he did not do well. He kept hearing her voice as he visited places they'd been, and he couldn't concentrate at his baseball game. And then came Easter. Davey and his family go to church, and they see a re-enactment of the Resurrection. Davey's dad explains that this is what essentially happens to all of us. At that moment, Davey is filled with joy; it means that someday - when he's old and grey - he'll get to see his grandma again. That was all he needed to know, in order to help him get over his grief.
I took great comfort from that episode, and thought it was such a sweet way of teaching children about grief, loss, and dealing with the death of a loved one. I was saddened to see the series end, and now that they're out on DVD, I've even rented a couple of the old shows. Yeah, they're primitive and simple, but they're still a delight to watch.
Little life lessons tied to faith. Is that really such a terrible thing? Today, with so much religious animosity and intolerance, maybe we should all take a lesson from Davey and his faithful dog Goliath.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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