Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday morning Monday Morning March

I know it's not Monday morning, and Lord knows I'm not a kid anymore. But sometimes you wish it were, and you were, because you'd like to do the Monday Morning March just one more time.
See, if you're of a certain age, and if you grew up anywhere reached by "big, booming, powerful Channel 9" in Baton Rouge, La., you most certainly grew up watching Buckskin Bill.

"Buckskin" was Bill Black,
and he did his kiddie show for something like 35 years until he got canceled in 1990. For most of those years, Black donned his buckskins twice a day -- in the morning for the little kids on Storyland and then after school for the older kids with The Buckskin Bill Show.
IT WAS A Baton Rouge rite of passage for a kid to go before the WAFB-TV cameras -- to actually share the stage with Buckskin! -- on his birthday, with a Scout troop, or in a line of kids doing the "Elephant Walk."

I'm sure no one today would be particularly impressed with a never-ending loop of Henry Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" for a soundtrack as legions of kids filed by a barrel, dropping in their saved-up pennies to buy a pair of elephants for the city's brand-new zoo. Ah, but they forget that magic is made of equal parts simplicity and cheesiness. Yes, it is.

For his first 15 years on the air, getting a zoo for the underachieving Southern city was Buckskin's cause célèbre. For years, he signed off the Buckskin Bill Show with "Remember . . . Baton Rouge needs a zoo!"

A few miles away, the competition on Channel 2, Count Macabre, would spoof this by saying "Remember, boys and girls, Baton Rouge is a zoo!" Both statements were demonstrably true.

Anyway, my turn on the Buckskin Bill Show came in March 1965. It was my fourth birthday. I brought a bottle of Bayer aspirin for Amazon relief.

Buckskin sat me on his lap and started to ask some basic toddler-level questions. The cameras were huge. The lights were bright. I was silent.

My mother was crouched on the studio floor whispering "He's four!" Buckskin, no doubt, was wondering "Who is this woman?"

Why should the fambly be the only ones scratching their heads?

I never did say a bloody word, and Buckskin sent me on my ignominious way -- the redneck equivalent of a dumbstruck Ralphie being dispatched down the Santa slide some decades later in A Christmas Story. On the other hand, he bought us all Coca-Colas after the show.

Even preschool humiliation went better with Coca-Cola. And Holsum Bread.

Why am I writing this? Beats me. I was just thinking about Buckskin Bill -- again -- and how it's sad local television doesn't bother to make magic and memories anymore. Who does?

So there you go, the wistful musings of a middle-aged Southern boy . . . and some vintage video of the Monday Morning March from sometime near my arrival on planet Earth. It seems to me that, during a time when we fear our many crises will overwhelm us, we all need us some Monday Morning March.

Even if it is Wednesday.

Oh . . . one more thing. "Remember, you're never completely dressed until you put on a smile."


Anonymous said...

Great memories. I too went and deposited my pennies for "Penny the elephant." My mom taught preschool at our home in the 60's and 70's and she would have Buckskin (a neighbor) visit the class a couple of times a year. She'd let me stay home from school those days to see him! Remember Senor Puppet? And Hulley-Gulley? Man, I would have killed for some of those miniature Coke bottles he would shake in his hands.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Unknown said...

Thank you all for posting. I too have fond memories of the Buckskin Bill Show. I actually had the opportunity to appear on his show with my 60's rock band. Needless to say, it was for me an opportunity of a lifetime especially for a young teen.
Good luck to all of you.
It is a small world!

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this! I shared the link with my friends who also did the Monday Morning March! It brought back many happy memories! There was a great article about B.B. in the Jan 2011 issue of "Southeast News" - the community news of southeast BR. He's 81 and still going strong.

Anonymous said...

wow i still have great memories as a kid doing the monday morning march i have a photo with buckskin bill and his autograph

Noura Rakasa said...

Ahhhh, the memories! Thanks for posting this walk down the old lane. Another "middle-aged" Southern girl (can that really be true??? I'm middle aged???) appreciates your musings.

Gerl said...

Didn't he also make student ID cards at LSU in the 1980's? He taught instructional television in Himes Hall, which is where student ID cards were made. Buckskin was really busy! Two TV shows, teaching classes at LSU and also making student ID cards! Someone told me the old ID man was really Buckskin Bill and, sure enough, the wavy tufts of silver hair gave him away. (He had a name plate on his desk that said Frank Magers, which made me think he didn't want the extra attention for pitching in to make student ID cards.) Whatever the case, he was a real community servant!