Howdy Doody

From Academic Kids

Howdy Doody was a children's television program that aired on NBC from 1947 through 1960. The show was extremely popular and is a fond memory for many baby boomers. Originally an hour on Saturdays, the show moved to Monday through Friday, 5:30-6:00 pm EST in 1948. In 1956, it returned to Saturday in a morning timeslot. Beginning in 1954, the NBC test pattern featured a picture of Howdy.

The show's host was "Buffalo Bob" (Bob Smith, 1917-1998), who wore cowboy garb. A distinctive feature was the peanut gallery, on-stage bleachers seating about 40 kids. Each show began with Bob asking, "Say kids, what time is it?" and the kids yelling in unison, "It's Howdy Doody Time!". It was thus one of the first shows to make audience participation a major part.

Howdy Doody himself was a freckle-faced boy marionette, and was voiced by Bob Smith. Other puppet characters included Heidi Doody (Howdy's sister), Mr. Bluster, Dilly Dally, Princess Summerfall Winterspring, and the curious Flub-a-Dub (a combination of eight animals).

There also were several human characters, most notably Clarabell the clown, who communicated by honking horns on his belt and squirting seltzer, and Chief Thunderthud, who originated the cry "Kowabonga!". Princess Summerfall Winterspring, originally a puppet, was later played by the actress, Judy Tyler. The characters inhabited the fictional town of "Doodyville".

Clarabell was first played by Bob Keeshan, who continued in that role until 1949. Keeshan later became Captain Kangaroo. At the end of the final episode, Clarabell (then played by Lew Anderson) broke his series-long silence to say with a sad expression, "Goodbye, kids".

The New Howdy Doody Show aired from August 1976 to January 1977 in syndication.

In 1954 Canadian and Cuban spin-off shows were licensed using local casts and duplicate puppets.

The Canadian Howdy Doody show starred James Doohan and later Peter Mews as forest ranger Timber Tom who corresponded to Buffalo Bob in the U.S. version. That Robert Goulet played this part is an error that sometimes appears. However, it is listed among his credits on the official Robert Goulet website in his TV-Ography- #31-1957). It was also mentioned by Buffalo Bob Smith at one of his concerts. The show looked much cheaper than the U.S. counterpart and seemed watered-down with less raucous plots and less villanous villains. Yet some of the stories were very evocative, almost stepping into high fantasy, often with Dilly Dally as an everyman hero who muddled through and did the right thing. It ended in 1959.

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