Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 2, Episode 19, “The Fish Watchers,” 1/22/1968

Written by: Ted Sherdeman and Jane Klove. Directed by: Charles Barton.

At breakfast in the Davis apartment, the kids ask how long Uncle Bill will be “living at his office.” Cissy explains that he’s not actually living there, and French reassures the kids that Bill’s time away from home doesn’t reflect a lack of affection for them.

We cut to the office where Bill is wearing his Denim Shirt of Manual Labor and Occasional Ass-Kicking.

We cut to the office where Bill is wearing his Denim Shirt of Manual Labor.

We learn that a serious problem is keeping Bill away from home. A thief has been plundering one of his company’s construction sites, getting away with 10,000 feet electric conduit and 100 gross of outlet boxes. (That’s an oddly specific bit of scripting.)

Bill has a plan, though–he’s posing as one of his own workers to catch the thief red-handed. Why this is a better plan than involving the police, he doesn’t say.

Calling home to let French know he’ll be working late again, Bill seems distressed to learn that all the children are out for the evening. Jody and Cissy are each visiting a friend, and Buffy is helping a neighbor with domestic tasks.

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Bill heads to the construction site, where he makes a new friend–a welder who would rather be a draftsman.

They eat together, which Bill probably regrets since this welder likes to announce each food item as he removes it from his lunchbox.

Bill feels inadequate because his main course is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Bill feels inadequate because his main course is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (French must have decided it was easiest to pack Bill the same lunch the kids get.)

When Bill returns home late that night, he frets to French about the way the family is disintegrating in his absence.

He also asks French to make tomorrow's lunch "fancier." Poor French sets his alarm for 4:30 a.m. so he can fry chicken.

He also asks French to make tomorrow’s lunch “fancier.” Poor French sets his alarm for 4:30 a.m. so he can fry chicken.

The next day, Bill learns that Welder Guy is also a parenting expert. Hearing Bill complain about spending so much time away from the kids, he suggests that a shared project would bring the family together. Welder guy’s idea of a suitable project? Tropical fish.

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Bill takes this advice to heart. When he returns home, he presents the twins with a couple of fish in a jar.”

Jody calls the “live sardines,” but Bill explains that they are guppies and they originated in Trinidad.

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Jody gets a cute line here: “Just like our teacher said…everybody but the Indians came from someplace else.”

Bill also tells them that one of the guppies will soon give birth to 60 or 70 babies.

In preparation for the blessed event, they buy an aquarium and Bill dumps the fish in. (I don't think that's how you're supposed to transfer fish, is it?)

In preparation for the blessed event, they buy an aquarium and Bill dumps the fish in. (I don’t think that’s how you’re supposed to transfer fish, is it?)

They also head to the pet store to get a few more occupants for the aquarium.

The pet store clerk lets them pick out various species, based solely on looks, without offering any advice.

The Davis family must have chosen this pet store for its Family Affair green walls rather than for its customer service.  The clerk lets them pick out various species, based solely on looks, without offering any guidance.

The kids find their aquarium entertaining–for a little while. Soon, they want to start spending time with friends again, although they feel an obligation to “watch Uncle Bill’s fish for him.”

The downside of fish ownership soon becomes clear.

For one thing, the twins can only look on in horror as other fish devour the newborn guppy babies.

For one thing, the twins can only look on in horror as other fish devour the newborn guppy babies.

(I love this scene. It sums up my childhood experience with fish perfectly.)

Then Jody discovers a sick goldfish in the middle of the night and has to wake up Uncle Bill for help.

Then Jody discovers a sick goldfish in the middle of the night and has to wake up Uncle Bill for help. (Random note: I like Bill’s bedding.)

Bill remembers that his mother used to put sick goldfish in saltwater, so he gives it a try and averts disaster.

The next day on the job site, Bill’s know-it-all welder friend says the fish would be healthier if they got to eat some live food, like mosquito larvae.

This results in an implausible late-night attack by mosquitoes on every Davis family member.

This only results in an implausible late-night attack by mosquitoes on every Davis family member.

Fortunately, Bill’s work problems are coming to an end.

He finally catches the thieves in action and gives them a good beat-down.

He finally catches the thieves in action and gives them a good beat-down.

Revealing his identity, he offers his welder friend a drafting position, complete with on-the-job training.

At home, the kids are relieved that they don't have to babysit Bill's fish anymore.

At home, the kids are relieved that they don’t have to babysit Bill’s fish anymore.

He explains that he got the fish for all of them because families should do things together. Buffy suggests that the whole family learn to sew, as she’s doing, and Jody thinks the whole family should play toy soldiers with him.

"We never realized we should be interested in the same things," a puzzled Cissy says.

“We never realized we should be interested in the same things,” a puzzled Cissy says.

Bill admits that they can pursue their individual interests without sacrificing family closeness.

Everyone seems relieved to hear that Bill's giving the fish to the welder guy.

Everyone seems relieved to hear that Bill’s giving the fish to the welder guy.

Normally, I would worry about the Davis tendency to acquire and relinquish pets at a furious rate, but I think the welder guy is getting what’s coming to him.

Commentary

This episode’s writers must have had experience with fish and kids. They did a good job portraying the gruesome learning opportunities an aquarium can provide.

It was nice to see Bill so active in this episode; for the past several weeks, he’s mostly been reacting to the kids.

Guest Cast

Scott Norvell: Ray Baxter. Bookkeeper: Gene Tyburn. Salesman: Gene Barton. Guard: Howard Culver. Driver: Jack Lilley. Helper: Guy Way.

Baxter was in The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! with Brian Keith and Johnnie Whitaker.

Uncle Bill's bookkeeper has a certain geeky charm.

Gene Tyburn as Uncle Bill’s bookkeeper has a certain geeky charm.

Lilley, who plays a driver here, appeared in many episodes of Little House on the Prairie as a stagecoach driver. He also worked as a stuntman and an animal wrangler.

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Spin Again Sunday Extra: The Family Affair Game (1971)

This month, I am honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

This month, I am honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

Several classic TV shows celebrate broadcast anniversaries today–Bonanza, The Bugaloos, The Monkees, Lassie, Family Affair. Choosing which one to focus on was a no-brainer.

Today’s Game: The Family Affair Game.

Copyright Date: 1971.

Manufactured By: Whitman. (Remco made another, much more rare, Family Affair game. After years of trying to acquire it for a reasonable price, I finally purchased it last week. It will get the spotlight in a future installment of this series.)

Recommended Ages: 6 to 10.

Object: Be the first player to find Mrs. Beasley.

family affair box

Box: A lovely pastel-colored portrait of Buffy and Jody playing in the park. Jody’s head looks weird and misshapen, yet it’s still one of the best Johnnie Whitaker likenesses I’ve seen on Family Affair collectibles. In the background, French looks younger, thinner, and somehow more sinister than his TV self. Speaking of sinister…

Bwa-ha-ha! They'll never find me!

Bwa-ha-ha! They’ll never find me!

Game Board: Buffy and Jody’s favorite place, Central Park, comes to life in appealing illustrations. The zoo, a lake, a garden, and a playground dominate the scene.

family affair game board

The board, with closeups of its four park settings.

Disembodied Cissy, French, Buffy, and Jody heads float in the middle of the board.

At least, I think this is supposed to be Cissy.

At least, I think this is supposed to be Cissy.

Game Pieces: These are also Cissy, French, Buffy, and Jody.

family affair pieces

family affair pieces back

We even get to see their backsides, so to speak.

The game also includes a spinner and, as we will see, eight cards.

The spinner.

The spinner.

Game Play: To set up the game, players place the cards face-down in designated spaces. On his turn, each player spins and moves his pawn toward a card space. If he lands on one by exact count, he turns the card over.

Most card images are pretty random. They look like they'd fit in with the artwork at Chez Davis, though.

The card images are pretty random. They look like they’d fit in with the artwork at Chez Davis, though.

The winner is the person who turns over one particular card.

Yikes! If I'd seen this as a kid, I'd still be having nightmares.

If I’d seen this as a kid, I’d still be having nightmares.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Gomer Pyle Game

Laverne & Shirley Game

Emily Post Popularity Game

My Five Favorite…Gunsmoke Radio Episodes

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Over the next month, I will be honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

The classic Western Gunsmoke launched its 20-year TV run on September 10, 1955. To observe its anniversary, I’m cheating a bit and focusing on the radio version that pre-dated it. I always enjoyed TV’s Gunsmoke, which I discovered while in my teens. (Mostly, I enjoyed watching for little shippy moments between Matt and Kitty.) The radio version, though, blows me away with its darker Western vision. Bill Conrad conveys an especially wide range of emotion as Matt Dillon.

I’m also cheating a bit in naming favorite episodes because I haven’t listened to the entire radio run. (I dread the day when I have no new episodes left to discover.) Furthermore, I love so many episodes that my “favorites” list could change from day to day. These five episodes are excellent, though, and each evokes a different mood.

1. “Home Surgery,” September 13, 1952

“I rolled a smoke and looked out across the flat distances of the prairie. And I wondered how anyone could survive in all that emptiness.”

When Matt and Chester come upon an isolated homesteader suffering from blood poisoning, Matt takes desperate measures to try to save him. Conrad’s performance is appropriately tortured, especially in the scene just following surgery.

2. “Kitty,” November 29, 1952:

“She was like a seventeen-year-old on her first date. She was like all the women you’d ever known or loved–soft and innocent.”

Matt asks Kitty to be his date at a benefit for the school. She appreciates the problems this will cause, if he doesn’t. This episode gives us a giddy and romantic side of Matt. He even sings at one point!

3. “There Never Was a Horse,” September 19, 1953:

“I sure don’t like the idea of dying…but I got over being afraid of it a long time ago.”

A gun-fighter rides into town, bent on challenging the marshal. Matt’s not sure that he can win a confrontation, so Conrad’s performance is a believable mix of vulnerability and strength.

4. “Fawn,” September 26, 1953:

“I never heard of sending a woman to Dodge, for her to be better off.”

A woman held captive by the Cheyenne for 10 years gets her freedom and travels to Dodge to wait for her husband. The daughter she had in captivity is with her, and they face hostility from many quarters. This episode has a good message, a sweet ending, and a nice supporting performance by John Dehner. It’s also a radio Gunsmoke rarity–an episode with no deaths.

You may remember Helen Kleeb, who plays the former captive, as Mamie Baldwin from The Waltons. Mamie was the darker-haired Baldwin sister who wasn’t obsessed with Ashley Longworth.

5. “Marshal Proudfoot,” July 20, 1958:

“Chester bordered on being ignorant, I think. I can’t imagine how he ever got to be a marshal.”

Chester’s father shows up looking his son, whose letters home have exaggerated his position in Dodge. This is a hilarious outing. (For personal reasons, I also like the PSA that mentions the land-grant act.)

Bonus Feature

Turning back to the the TV show, I present this article about James Arness from TV Star Parade, May 1963. As fan magazine stories go, it’s a dramatic one, and it would have sad echoes–Arness’ first wife later died of a drug overdose, as did his daughter.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Those Magnificent Cats in Their Flying Machines

A Snapped-Worthy 1920s True Story

CSI, 1940s Style

Spin Again Sunday Extra: The Flying Nun Game (1968)

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This month, I am honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

The Flying Nun premiered 46 years ago today, on September 7, 1967. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the show. I’m kind of bitter than it ran for three seasons while Sally Field’s other show, Gidget, only lasted one. Now, Gidget was a cute show. And, despite its short life it spawned two games. Take that, Sister Bertrille.

Today’s Game: The Flying Nun Game.

flying nun box

Copyright Date: 1968.

Manufacturer: Milton Bradley.

Recommended Ages: 8 to 15.

flying nun board

Object: “Be the first to place Flying Nun cards on changing board spaces.”

Game Box: It’s visually appealing, with a pink background, jovial cartoon children, and a photo of Sister Bertrille flying over their heads.

Game Board: Colorful and cute, if a little busy. I like the flowers in the corners and the illustration of Sister Bertrille’s convent.

flying nun cards

Game Pieces: The games uses standard plastic pawns. Each player also gets six Flying Nun cards. These show Sister Bertrille playing baseball, playing the accordion, flying–typical nun activities.

flying nun board closeup

Game Play: As they say on Facebook, it’s complicated. Each player has her own track. On her turn, she can either roll the dice and move her pawn around the track, or she can play the top card in her deck of six Flying Nun cards. She can place her card on any board space that matches it but ONLY if someone’s pawn is in the lettered circle beneath that space. Each player also has a penalty card–playing that allows her to remove one of her opponents’ previously played matches. The first player to unload all her cards wins the game.

Bonus Feature:

Here’s an article about Sally Field from TV Radio Show, November 1967. The story itself is not quite as silly as the headline.

Family Affair Friday: Season 2, Episode 18, “The Great Kow-Tow,” 1/15/1968

Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Uncle Bill is entertaining some friends, the Changs, when Buffy and Jody enter the living room to say good night.

Mr. Change praises the twins for their "genuine Oriental kow-tow."

Mr. Chang praises the twins for their “genuine Oriental kow-tow.”

His own children, Tommy and Susie, want no part of old Chinese customs, Mr. Chang sighs. They are afraid to do anything that would classify them as “foreigners.”

Mrs. Chang offers to tuck Buffy and Jody into bed.

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Tommy and Susie are 20 and 15, and Mrs. Chang misses having young children.

(Davis guests sure enjoy putting the twins to bed. It’s never occurred to me to tuck in someone else’s kids.)

Mrs. Chang tells Buffy and Jody a lovely story about the Land of…Fusang? (That’s the best I can come up with based on the pronunciation and my Googling. Someone please correct me on this or any other Chinese reference that I get wrong.) In this land, every day is a holiday, falls don’t result in skinned knees, all girls are pretty, and all boys are strong. When it rains, it rains lemonade, and it snows strawberry, chocolate, and peppermint stick ice cream.

May I pause here to say that I love, love, love Mrs. Chang's gown?

May I pause here to say that I love, love, love Mrs. Chang’s gown?

As the Changs prepare to leave, Mr. Chang invites the Davis family to spend Chinese New Year at their home.

Mrs. Chang mentions that her father-in-law has been feeling ill, but Mr. Chang thinks company will do him good. (Again, I just love that gown.)

Mrs. Chang mentions that her father-in-law has been feeling ill. (Did I mention how much I love that gown?!)

Mr. Chang thinks hosting company will do his father some good.

Enter the dragon. (Wait--are those Mickey Mouse balloons in this Chinese New Year stock footage? What the...?)

Enter the dragon. (Wait–are those Mickey Mouse balloons in this Chinese New Year stock footage? What the…?)

When the Davises arrive at the Chang’s house, they learn that Tommy and Susie are attending a basketball game and won’t be joining in the celebration.

They also meet Liang, who seems to be the Chang version of Mr. French.

They also meet Liang, who seems to be the Chang version of Mr. French.

As we’ll find out later, she’s more like the Chang version of Aunt Fran.

While Liang takes the twins to meet Grandfather Chang, Mr. Chang explains that his father is physically fine. Emotionally, however, he feels he has nothing left to live for. He’s stopped eating and is just marking time, “waiting for it all to be over.”

It amuses me to see Cissy's discomfort during this depressing conversation--she's probably wishing she was at the basketball game with Tommy and Susie.

Cissy’s discomfort during this depressing conversation amuses me. She’s probably wishing she was at the basketball game with Tommy and Susie.

Meanwhile, Grandfather is in the other room, showing Buffy and Jody his bird.

Wait...that didn't come out right.

Wait…that came out wrong.

He tells them that birds are good company for someone as “old and useless” as himself. The kids find Grandfather anything but useless, however.

Actually, Grandfather looks like someone dipped his head in a barrel of talcum powder to make him look older than he is. I suppose that's because Keye Luke was only 12 years older than the actor playing his son.

Actually, Grandfather looks like someone dipped his head in a barrel of talcum powder to “age” him. I suppose that’s because Keye Luke was only 12 years older than the actor playing his son.

Grandfather and the twins hit it off so well that, the next day, Mr. Chang arrives at the Davis apartment bearing a gift.

Oh, boy. A bird. Uncle Bill can hardly contain his delight.

Oh, boy. A bird. Uncle Bill can hardly contain his delight.

Mr. Chang says his father has had a new sparkle in his eye since he met the twins, and he requests that they visit again.

In the episode's funniest scene, French reacts to "the feathered creature" that Buffy and Jody have re-gifted to him.

In the episode’s funniest scene, French reacts to the “feathered creature” that Buffy and Jody have re-gifted to him.

Since Grandfather said birds are excellent company for lonely people, the twins thought Mr. French should have their feathered friend!

When the twins visit Grandfather again, Buffy brings Mrs. Beasley with her. Grandfather calls the doll “most beautiful lady” and Buffy makes her bow–cute!

Grandfather tells the twins a story about his own childhood.

Grandfather gives Mrs. Beasley a Chinese name that sounds like “Yin Ze” and means “Lady Philosopher.”

He tells them a story about his own childhood. His grandfather also kept birds, and together they would carry the cages out into the woods. The would hang the cages in the trees, and his grandfather’s friends would join them and do the same with their bird cages. “The trees were filled with singing birds,” Grandfather remembers.

The twins tell him that they have no grandparents.

“Will you be our grandfather?” they ask.

Touched, Grandfather shows the kids his ancestor shrine and tells them that they are now members of his family.

Touched, Grandfather shows the kids his ancestor shrine and welcomes them into his family.

At home, the kids’ enthusiasm for Chinese culture affects everyone.

French has even taken to greeting people with a bow.

French has even taken to greeting people with a bow.

The kids are wearing adorable Chinese clothing, and French is using a gong to call everyone to dinner. Both the clothing and the gong are gifts from Grandfather Chang.

"It's like living in an old Charlie Chan movie!" she exclaims.

“It’s like living in an old Charlie Chan movie!” Cissy complains.

Wow, Cissy is culturally insensitive. She’s also more right than she knows–see the Guest Cast section.

Grandfather is even teaching the twins to write Chinese characters.

Grandfather is even teaching the twins to write Chinese characters, though the kids are somewhat daunted when they learn that there are more than 50,000 of them.

Buffy has a secret weapon, though–her tongue.

She says sticking it out helps her to keep her hand steady.

She says sticking it out helps her steady her hand.

Jody tries it and finds it helps him, too.

Jody tries it and finds it helps him, too.

(I like this scene–my daughter used to stick her tongue out whenever she was concentrating on something.)

Everyone is just as happy as happy can be. Well, almost everybody.

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“Today’s wisdom spawns tomorrow’s despair,” Liang announces cheerfully.

While Grandfather naps in the next room, Liang complains that he is just living for his visits from the twins. She doesn’t believe the twins are sincere in their affection for him. Grandfather awakes to overhear her saying, “No good can come from having strangers invent reasons for him to stay alive.”

Grandfather awakes to overhear her saying, "No good can come from having strangers invent reasons for him to stay alive."

Random observation: Liang, who’s been rocking the talcum powder look like Grandfather throughout the episode, apparently dipped her head in a barrel of pancake makeup before this scene.

Grandfather confronts Liang, who tells him that the twins’ attention to him has been a “cruel trick.” Believing her, he slips back into his funk.

Mr. Chang tells Bill about this turn of events, and he hustles the twins off to see Grandfather right away.

Mr. Chang tells Bill about this turn of events, and Bill hustles the twins off to see Grandfather.

“We’re not playing a game–we missed you,” the kids tell Grandfather. They talk about how they want to bring their friends over to meet him.

"Now, when they talk about their grandfathers, we don't have to just listen," they say.

“Now, when they talk about their grandfathers, we don’t have to just listen,” they say. Awww.

(By the way, Grandfather has a nice ripple afghan. We crocheters notice these things.)

Grandfather is touched, and all is well again.

Grandfather is touched, and all is well again.

(And Liang, I hope, will channel her hostility in a more productive direction–like bitch-slapping Tommy and Susie for ignoring their grandfather.)

Soon, Grandfather and the kids are heading to Central Park for a good, old-fashioned bird hanging.

Even French gets dragged along.

Even French gets dragged along–though he admits that he dreads telling his friends that he’s out walking his bird.

Everyone has a good laugh, unaware that French’s bird will disappear before the next episode. I’m guessing that French put the cage on the terrace and “accidentally” left the door open.

Commentary

Once again, Family Affair explores one of the cultures in New York’s melting pot. Though the show over-relies on stereotypes at times, its heart is clearly in the right place. This episode is sweet, and it makes sense that orphaned children and a lonely old man could forge a strong bond.

Only one person fails to cover himself with glory during this episode.

That's right Stanley J. Smith--I'm looking at you!

That’s right Stanley J. Smith–I’m looking at you!

Guest Cast

Grandfather Chang: Keye Luke. Paul Chang: Benson Fong. Betty Chang: Lisa Lu. Liang: Beulah Quo.

Luke was a major Chinese-American actor. He first came to prominence playing “Number One Son” Lee Chan in the 1930s Charlie Chan films. and had small parts in dozens of movies right up until his death in 1991. (His last role was in Woody Allen’s Alice.) On Broadway, he appeared in Flower Drum Song. He voiced Charlie Chan in the 1970s cartoon The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. He was Master Po in the TV series Kung Fu and made frequent guest appearances on M*A*S*H. He was also an accomplished artist; it was while working as a commercial artist that he first came to the attention of movie studios.

Benson Fong’s career parallel’s Luke’s in many ways. He played “Number Three Son” in several 1940s Charlie Chan films. (A fun review of one of these recently appeared at Silver Screenings.) He had a role in the movie version of Flower Drum Song and appeared in several episodes of Kung Fu. Family Affair creator Don Fedderson must have liked him because Fong had a recurring role as Ray Wong in Fedderson’s other show, My Three Sons. He would appear in two more episodes of Family Affair, and two of his children also played guest roles on the show–daughter Lisa in Episode 1.23 and son Brian in season five. Benson Fong was also a successful restauranteur. He died in 1987.

Lisa Lu had a recurring role in the TV series Have Gun, Will Travel. Most of her other roles have been small, but I’m happy to report that she’s still alive and working.

Beulah Quo worked steadily in television until her death in 2002. Like Fong, she had a recurring role on My Three Sons. 

H.R. Pufnstuf and the Best School Library Book Ever

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Over the next month, I will be honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

At the school I attended in fourth grade, the “library” consisted of several shelves lining the end of a hallway between the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms. I didn’t mind the lack of atmosphere, though, because one of those shelves held the best school library book ever–Kids on TV by D.J. Arneson.

From the book’s cover, kids from The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and other shows smiled out at the reader. The psychedelic colors that tinted their portraits made the book irresistible to the eye.

The book took a catholic approach to its subject, both in terms of the shows featured and the actors it labeled “kids.” (Lou Gossett Jr., for instance, featured as a cast member in The Young Rebels, was 35 when the book hit shelves.) It also included young actors from daytime soap operas, as well as stars from shows that had been cancelled well before its publication, such as Gentle Ben.

Cast members from 24 shows appear in the book’s pages. Because I was reading the book almost a decade after its 1971 publication–and because some of these shows didn’t exactly stand the test of time–some of its entries confounded me. Arnie? The Double Deckers? The Smith Family?

The shows I recognized, however, were shows I adored. And even the entries on the unknown shows provided a fascinating glimpse into the exotic world of child actors. (The book strives to make these young people seem down-to-earth, though. In almost every case, it tells us that they earn straight As in school and enjoy riding their bikes.)

When I would find this book on our library shelves, I’d check it out immediately and renew it to the limits of our librarian’s patience. Finding it on the shelves wasn’t easy, however–other kids loved it as much as I did.

I found my current copy on Ebay, and it also started life in a school library–Pewaukee, Wisconsin, represent! Looking at its cover, you can tell that it passed through many young Wisconsinites’ hands.

About the Author

I didn’t expect to find out much about D.J. Arneson; the authors who wrote these old books aimed at libraries and school book clubs don’t usually leave much of a trace. As it turns out, however, Arneson also edited Dell Comics for almost 10 years. Collectortimes.com published an informative Q&A with Arneson in 2010.

H.R. Pufnstuf

Over the next few weeks, I will share some entries from Kids on TV with you.

I’m starting with H.R. Pufnstuf because today is the 44th anniversary of its premiere–and because I’m sure you’ve always wondered what Jack Wild’s hobbies were. (For the record: Swimming, sculpting, and building model cars.)

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Spin Again Sunday: H.R. Pufnstuf

Wonder Women of the 80s

Weird Words of Wisdom: Prize Pigs in the Cafeteria Edition

“Don’t show up looking like a beatnik!”–Gay Head

That Freshman Feeling by Judith Unger Scott, 1960
Hi There, High School by Gay Head, 1953 (1972 printing)

About These Books: In honor of back-to-school season, I present these two books about fitting in and standing out as a new high school freshman. Each book’s cover artwork accurately represents the tone its author takes toward readers.

that freshman feeling

These teens are approaching their new school with confidence and just a touch of awe.

hi there high school

This pair is having a nervous breakdown in the high school hallway.

Scott’s book, published for the library market, provides sensible advice about career planning, study habits, and friendship.

The Head tome, a Scholastic Book Club selection, doesn’t trust its readers to walk down the hall properly or to eat ice cream without plunging into the dish head-first.

Guess which book we’ll be concentrating on today?

(Adding to the Head book’s weirdness is its editors’ failure to update it after 20 years. I wonder what 1970s teens made of its references to jalopies, Nat King Cole, fountain pens, dance bands, and Bob Hope.)

Bad Examples

To show us what not to do in any situation, Head invents a gaggle of social misfits.

Consider, for example, the way these “traffigoons” handle something as simple as walking down the hall:

  • Breezy Jones “doesn’t mind bumping into people. He’s big and tough, and he acts as if it’s the Other Person’s fault for getting in the way.”
  • Buzz Newton “weaves in and out of traffic, whoo-whooing like a train whistle.”
  • Jessie James elbows people and bangs doors in their faces. “Bang-Bang Jessie. Still playing Wild West, when the rest have put away their pistols.”
  • Gertrude Gates “keeps everybody guessing, herself included,” by making sudden stops.

What’s in Jessie James’ messy locker? “Two library books; six textbooks containing notes, pictures, and papers; three ancient and tattered copies of the school paper; two fountain pen tops, no bottoms; one bottle of ink, no stopper; a stack of notebook paper splotched with ink; two and one half pencils; an old notebook cover; a battered violin case containing a wadded-up sweater and a worn-out gym shoe; a couple of smashed ping-pong balls; one glove; a cracked bottle of nail polish; a comb with three teeth in it; four dirty handkerchiefs; a stale sandwich and a banana peeling from yesterday’s lunch.” Except for the fountain pens, ink, and handkerchiefs, this sounds a lot like my car.

Questions that Head suggests students ask about their new school: “Must you have a school permit to park your bike or jalopy in the school parking lots? Is it all right for boys to wear jeans or dungarees? Shirts without neckties? May girls come to school with their hair in curlers?”

Fashion Tips

“A boy’s pressed suit and clean shirt, with harmonizing tie and socks, will fetch up more favorable comments than the latest craze in wild combinations.”

“One suit—plus changes of sweaters and shirts—equals many costumes. One dress with different accessories (collar, scarf, belt, or jewelry) can double for school and dates. Team up your wardrobe so that it works as smoothly as a well-trained backfield. You’re calling signals!”

More Wisdom from Hi There, High School

“The sophomore wags who try to sell you locker tickets, elevator permits, and season passes to the swimming pool are not to be trusted. But if you fall for one of their gags, take it with a grin. Your fun will come next year!”

“You’ll really be in the swing of things at Central High this year if you start by learning all you can about your school.” She recommends boning up on school history and tradition. That stuff actually interested me when I was in high school, but somehow my knowledge didn’t catapult me into popularity.

“Don’t make the cafeteria a circus ring for showing off some prize pig tricks!” Are there prize pigs in the circus? Sounds more like the county fair.

“Eat ice cream a spoonful at a time. Licking and lapping are kittenish tricks.”

On dance conversation: “If you converse, talk about the music and your favorite dance bands or vocalists, or ask your partner a leading question about his favorite sports, entertainment, or hobbies. This is neither the time nor place to display your knowledge of atomic energy, guided missiles, or supersonic speed.”

“Constipation, unless due to organic causes, can be controlled by proper diet. Don’t get the pill habit!

“Don’t wear your feelings on the outside. If they stick out like a porcupine’s needles, they’re going to bump into plenty of trouble.”

“A shrill voice grates on the ears. A squeaky voice makes everything you say sound silly. A guttural voice creates the impression of harshness. A whiny voice sounds ill-humored. A booming voice alienates listeners. A monotone puts them to sleep.” Sheesh–you can’t win here.

“Are you a Mumbler, a Word-Swallower, a Word-Mixer? You may be as wise as Einstein or as “wisecrack” as Bob Hope, but people won’t listen to your witticisms unless they can understand what you say.”

“Imagine that it’s New Year’s Eve in the year 1999! In a few minutes, the bells will ring and the year 2000 A.D. will be ushered in. That will be a big event in your lives, for most of you will be alive to celebrate the beginning of the new century. You’ll be the parents or grandparents, then, shocked (no doubt!) about the ‘wild ways’ of teen-agers. You’ll be running the factories, the stores, and the offices. Some of you will be mayors, governors, and senators. One of you may be the President!”

Wisdom from That Freshman Feeling

“If your friendliness and good manners extend only to a small, accepted social group, you’re a snob! ‘Wait a minute,’ you may say, ‘am I supposed to make friends with a collection of all the odd characters?’ No, of course not. But you shouldn’t ignore or reject them.”

“Delicious stuff to eat makes any party a howling success.”

“Every few years a new fad hits the high school. For no reason at all—it seems to come out of the atmosphere—the boys develop a passion for red sweaters or the girls wear green nail polish. Next year it may be crazy haircuts or dinky hats.” Dinky hats seem to be berets. See, for instance, this wonderful headline from 1931–“Gay berets sit atop male heads: Dinky hats in wild colors rage at Palm Beach.”

“In some families, a telephone timing system is worked out and it can be very successful for young people and grownups alike. A ten-minute timer is purchased and set at the beginning of every telephone conversation. When it goes off, the talk is terminated and the party cannot be re-called for at least a half hour.”

“Some girls whose goal is to be a wife and mother use these inherent talents in their job selection. They prepare themselves for a job that will make them more efficient in homemaking. For instance, the girl who has the money and ability to go on to college may study to be a home economist, or she may enter a hospital for nurse’s training.”

About the Authors: The semi-mythical Gay Head is an old friend of this blog. Scott was one of many writers who specialized in advice books for teenagers. Hers have especially nice titles, including Lessons in Loveliness, Pattern for Personality, The Art of Being a Girl, and The Bride Looks Ahead. According to her dust jacket bio, she also hosted a radio show for teenagers and “conducted classes in personality, beauty, and manners.” She once worked for Ladies Home Journal, a launching pad for many of our Weird Words of Wisdom authors. Scott died in 2001.

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

Speak Softly and Carry a Hot Breakfast Edition

Where the Boys Are (You’d Better Wear a Skirt) Edition

Betty Betz and Vintage Teen Etiquette That Rhymes Edition