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O Captain! My Captain! By Sal Moriarity

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.  Henry David Thoreau

In the late sixties, my morning custom was to get up, toast two chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts, get a glass of water, and plop down in front of the TV to watch Captain Kangaroo. There was Mr. Green Jeans. Dancing Bear. I loved the Captain Kangaroo show. It was the only time in my life I met the day joyfully.

Then, on one seemingly normal morning in 1970, my mother stirred me from sleep singing Que Sera, Sera (a prescient choice, it would turn out). I went to the kitchen, retrieved my box of Pop-Tarts, and began my morning routine. I then noticed it was not ten till eight in the morning. It was seven in the morning. I asked mother what the heck was going on. I was informed this particular day would be different. We were going to go on an adventure.

Fine,” I said. “Right after Captain Kangaroo.”

No, I was told, there would be no Captain Kangaroo today. We were going to go to...kindergarten. Now, I was only a child, but knew instinctively hearing German that early in the morning was not a good sign.

I was then introduced to two words I would hear for the next decade-plus: school clothes. I put them on in something of a daze. We got into our Ford Galaxy and headed off into a world I knew nothing of and, more to the point, wanted to know nothing of (some things never change). When we arrived, there were lots of annoying people around. They were called children. Quite loud and obnoxious, with a strange inability to control their bodily functions. They looked funny. talked funny, smelled funny.

All the mothers were there. In retrospect, I guess they thought they were doing a good thing.

There was napping. I liked that, and I seem to remember the cinnamon rolls at lunch being delicious. I met Miss Britton who, unbeknownst to me, would be – more or less – my constant companion in the coming months. I liked her. I wasn't sure why. Now, of course, I know. She looked like Lynda Carter (TV's Wonder Woman, several years later). So kindergarten had that going for it, but Wonder Woman was no Captain Kangaroo.

The next day, the horrific events of the previous one a distant memory, I was awakened early yet again. I was going back to kindergarten. This time, without mother. What seismic shift had occurred without my knowledge that was now hurling my quiet, Pop-tart intensive existence into chaos? I was not prone to tantrums, but my dad had to be brought in to explain things to me. He had his own particular style of communication. It was highly effective.

So, I learned, there would be no more Captain Kangaroo. I could watch the show when summer came, I was informed, but it was never the same. Amazingly, those charged with my welfare thought it a good thing for me to spend hours sitting next to germ magnets, finger painting. Madness!

I didn't know, of course, but much worse was coming. Algebra. Teachers hiding hooch in desk drawers. Cursive writing. Acne and, of course, The Great Lice Scare of 1978. At some point, our family started going to church. Good lord!

To think, it all began on a seemingly innocuous day in 1970. Paradise lost.

I believe whatever faults I possess (and they are many) are largely due to the trauma of losing, forever, Captain Kangaroo and his merry cohorts. Now, when I look in the mirror at my fallen, haggard countenance, I can't help but think it could have all been different. The VCR came too late to save me.


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