Childhood Remembered: Captain Kangaroo

When I was a child, Captain Kangaroo was the man! Before Electric Company, before Mr. Rogers, even before Sesame Street, there was Captain Kangaroo. I wish they still showed reruns of his show on television today. Of course, I suppose he would be a bit outdated compared to the Doodlebops or Wiggles, but I would still like to see the show again.

Bob Keeshan starred as Captain Kangaroo in the longest running network children’s show. It ran from 1955 until 1984. Along with the Captain, we got to see his sidekick Mr. Greenjeans and the puppets Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit. You may not know this, but before Keeshan was Captain Kangaroo, he played another famous role – that of Clarabell the Clown on the “Howdy Doody Show.” Rumor has it that Keeshan and Buffalo Bob did not get along well, so Keeshan was fired in 1950. Apparently the kids could tell there was a “new” Clarabell and called complaining. The producers rehired Keeshan, but again fired him in 1952 (along with most of the supporting cast) when he led a mutiny for higher pay – right before a live broadcast.

In 1955, Keeshan and producer Jack Miller developed Captain Kangaroo. It was the first children’s show on television that ran at a slower pace and with a gentle nature. With the Captain Kangaroo show, children could look forward to visiting zoo animals and the regular prank of ping-pong balls on Mr. Moose. By the 70s, stars like Marlo Thomas would visit and by 1980, Bill Cosby had become a semi-regular on the show.

But, the 80s also signaled the end of Captain Kangaroo. The show was shortened from an hour to a half hour to make more time for the morning news. After being moved from 9:00 to 8:00 to 7:00 then 6:30 am, the show was removed from the weekday schedule, but was shown on Saturdays and Sundays on CBS until 1984. After being cancelled by CBS, the show was picked up by PBS and remained on the air for another six years. Bob Keeshan passed away on January 23, 2004 at the age of 76.

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Bob Keeshan “Captain Kangaroo” fact: Despite his gentle onscreen nature, he served in what many perceive to be the most gung-ho branch of the military – the United States Marine Corps.

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