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

Weird Words of Wisdom: A Swing in Your Walk and a Gleam in Your Eye Edition

“Trouble with you thinker types is you are always so SURE people will act the way you think they should logically act. I gather you aren’t really in favor of teen-age hanky-panky, but you believe the boy must exercise as much restraint as the girl. I agree: This would be just peachy keeno, but life isn’t like that. Males are the conquerors and females, the limit setters. I doubt you moderns can ever eliminate this double standard, and if you do, Heaven help the men! When they are no longer the aggressors, they may become slaves, for many women won’t stop at ‘equality.’”

This girl NEEDS help. A creepy guy is following her around and staring at her. (I think he's trying to figure out her hairstyle.)

This girl NEEDS help. A creepy guy is following her around and staring at her. (I think he’s trying to figure out her hairstyle.)

Helen Help Us by Helen Bottel, 1970

About this Book and Its Author: If mid-century advice columnists were colas, Abby and Ann would be Coke and Pepsi. Helen Bottel? She was RC. Her syndicated column, “Helen Help Us,” ran for 25 years in about 200 papers that were apparently too cheap to spring for one of the bigger names.

Bottel entered the advice game on a dare from husband and began writing a column in her local Oregon paper in 1958. Not lacking chutzpah, Bottel sent her work to King Features Syndicate within three weeks of starting her column. Remarkably, they snapped her up.

Her column wasn’t specifically aimed at teens, but she acknowledged that they were her most frequent correspondents. In this 1970 collection, the letters are exclusively from teens and young adults, and Bottel concerns herself mainly with helping them resist the society’s growing sexual licentiousness. Judging from the letters, it’s an uphill battle; most of them seem to be from girls who “gave in” and regretted it.

Actually, the letters are weirder than most of the advice Bottel gives, and the predicaments the writers find themselves in disabuse one of the notion that they date from a more innocent time. Correspondents include a 16-year-old who’s seeking a divorce from her abusive husband; a high school girl who’s dating an alcoholic 13 years older than she; a girl whose 15-year-old friend “ran away to be with the hippies” and ended up pregnant and with a case of VD; and a 19-year-old guy who’s attracted to a 14-year-old girl (“I’m not going to tell you she is mature in looks and mind because she isn’t, but I feel she has the basic personality traits I look for in a girl.”)

Bottel’s own background was troubled, according to a 1986 People magazine article. Her father deserted the family when she was two, and her mentally ill mother died when Bottel was 15. A caring foster mother put her on the road toward success.

She sometimes used the slangy, quip-heavy style that Ann and Abby relied upon in their early years. Generally, she seemed sincere in her efforts to help, however. All those who wrote in—more than 3,500 per year–received a personal response in the mail.

She gave up her column in 1983, explaining, “I was tired of being the third person in a two-person market.” At around the same time, she attracted the attention of the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, which gave her a fresh outlet for her advice and whose readers relished her American perspective.

Bottel died in 1999.

A Note About My Edition: This 75-cent Tempo paperback wasn’t bound with great care. From page 56, it skips to page 89. Then, after page 114, it goes back to page 89 and starts from there again. I’m missing 33 pages of potentially weird wisdom!

When Weird Words of Wisdom Worlds Collide: Bottel recommends a book by Evelyn Duvall.

Extreme Weirdness Alert: Bottel’s book includes a bizarre letter from a girl who befriended a male TV star’s daughter. When the girls returned home 15 minutes past curfew due to a flat tire, the TV star was angry and got into an argument with the letter-writer, who ended up throwing a hairbrush at him. He, then, took the hairbrush and gave her “a real hard spanking.” This letter doesn’t entirely ring true, unless the TV star was Pat Boone.

Quotes from Helen Help Us

“You can’t turn a boy on and expect him not to catch on fire.”

“With immaturity, poverty, jealousy, distrust, an overdose of ‘family,’ and a slight case of mental illness against it, this marriage has as much of a chance for success as the Penguin against Batman.”

“You kids and a ‘real formal’ adult ball would go together like the Monkees and a minuet.”

“One girl’s wet blanket is another girl’s comforter.”

To an 18-year-old male whose parents won’t let him date: “Nothing will solve your problem faster than the draft. The Army may not be the easiest way to cut apron-strings, but it’s the most effective.”

“If a girl doesn’t stand on ‘Three slaps and you’re out,’ she may REALLY strike out on the fourth pitch.”

“Work on your looks and personality so that fellows will see the sparkle first and discover the sympathy as an added dividend. Change that ‘anxious-to-please’ smile to a friendly grin. Put a swing in your walk and a gleam in your eye. Let men know you’re a female-type girl. That’s all it takes.”

“…males being males, and females being forever feminine, ‘equal rights’ will always be shot full of loopholes.”

“Wild parties make you ‘in,’ all right—TROUBLE!”

“Nice girls don’t advertise—they wait to be discovered.”

“This ‘Pill for All’ bit is something like letting girls visit in men’s dormitory rooms. Much drumbeating, but where it’s allowed, who visits? Almost no one.”

“A kiss shouldn’t make promises a girl doesn’t plan to keep, and if it’s lacking in ‘technique,’ so much the better. As I’ve said before, a kiss is like a salesman’s spiel: If it’s too perfect, you suspect he’s had so much practice he couldn’t possibly be sincere.”

Other Weird Words of Wisdom Posts You Might Enjoy:

“Take It on the Chin, Gal” Edition

Swearing, Shouting, and Backslapping Edition

Twin Sister Smackdown Edition

Spin Again Sunday: The Senior Prom Game (Circa 1950s)

senior prom box

Senior Prom–the game for girls whose parents were too cheap to spring for Barbie’s Queen of the Prom game.

In this week’s installment of Spin Again Sunday, we’re going to experience “all the thrills of a social season”–or at least as many of those thrills as a poorly made board game can provide.

This Week’s Game: The Senior Prom Game.

Copyright Date: Unknown, but the game appears to date from the 1950s.

Manufacturer: Warren Paper Products Company of Lafayette, Indiana. The company used the designation “Built-Rite” on their games (and jigsaw puzzles). If this game is any indication, they used the label ironically.

Object: To attain the status of prom queen.

Recommended Ages: 7 to 12.

Game Board: Actually, “board” is a bit of an overstatement for what is a flimsy piece of cardboard. In an unusual move, the manufacturers printed the game directions right on the board. I’m sure they did this to save money, but it does eliminate the possibility of losing the directions.

senior prom board

Game Box: The graphics are cute, with prom-goers depicted against a star-filled sky. The fact that the box brags about the “Large 15 x 18 Playing Board” may be be a hint that there’s not much here to brag about.

I can see why this would be worth a 6-space movement. Why would a "T.V. idol" be at your sock hop?

I can see why this would be worth a 6-space movement. Why would a “T.V. idol” be at your sock hop?

Game Markers: Square pieces of cardboard folded and inserted into round pieces of cardboard. These are supposed to represent crowns. Uh-huh.

Crowns? Really?

Crowns? Really?

Other Game Pieces: The colorful spinner has a metal arrow. Players try to collect cardboard circles marked with the words Date, Formal, Grades, or Dance.

IMG_2192

The cards players must collect.

Game Play: Players move along the board and try to collect the cardboard circles mentioned above. (I give the manufacturers credit for making good grades a pre-requisite for prom queen coronation.) With those cardboard circles in hand, a player can move to the inside track and try to land on a “Selected Candidate for Prom Queen” space. Each candidate places her marker on a numbered star; the first to make it that far and spin the number that matches her star space wins.

You can see more Warren “Built-Rite” games at the very cool Board Game Geek web site.

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy:

What Shall I Be? (1972)

Barbie Miss Lively Livin’ (1970)

The Bride Game (1971)

Weird Words of Wisdom: Clean, Humorous, and Sprightly Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom is back, bringing you more sage advice from vintage teenage advice manuals!

“Have the greatest of respect for girls. Some will lose their heads and be foolish at times. Retain your poise and judgment and keep them in their place.”

Advice for Boys, 1947 (1954 printing)
By the Rev. T.C. Siekmann

About This Book and Its Author: Advice for Boys offers exactly what its title promises. The Reverend Theodore C. Siekmann was a Catholic priest, so much of the book deals with specifically Catholic topics—the Mass, the rosary, and sainthood. Fortunately for us, Siekmann includes a smattering of weird advice on more typical teenage preoccupations.

I haven’t been able to find much information about the Rev. Siekmann. He served at St. Joseph Church in Prairie Du Rocher, Illinois, from 1956 to 1968, and at St. Luke’s in Belleville, Illinois, from 1968 until retirement in 1982. He also did missionary work in Guatemala.

His book’s jacket indicates that he taught physical education and served as a sports coach as well as a religious educator. This background may explain his touching faith in athletics’ ability to keep people out of trouble. (Ask Aaron Hernandez how that’s working for him.)

Siekmann also wrote a book for girls. I haven’t been able to get my hands on it, but it sounds awesome.

Quotes from Advice for Boys

“If you are not happy, then something is wrong with you.”

“Athletics is good, very good…When you are all absorbed in a game, you think of nothing else, you want nothing else. Evil can wait.”

“Say a word of appreciation to your mother occasionally. Compliment her on her pie or cake. Praise the roast. Notice and mention the neat ironing she does for you.”

“At all times there is a supply of current slang expressions that are clean, humorous, and sprightly. A sprinkling of these innocent phrases will add zest to your conversation, without giving offense.”

“One girl among your present acquaintances may be yours till death. At any rate, she will probably be someone’s wife. Treat her even now as God’s noble gift to man, as a mother-to-be. Protect her virtue; guard her innocence. Keep her good for her future husband, whether it is you or Jack or Jim.”

“Personality may be summarized by three words: truth, cleanliness, and a smile.”

“When a room is cold, do not complain. Suffer it in a spirit of mortification. When the summer is hot and humid, smile and bear it for God. When you do not like food, do not complain.”

“Raising chickens is a fine hobby, and supplies fresh eggs for the table. If the location of your home permits, you might raise rabbits, pheasants or foxes, or other fur-bearing animals. All this will be at a considerable profit, in addition to the wholesome enjoyment which you will derive from your activity.”

On becoming a priest: “In short, almost all that you need to do is to enter a seminary and be willing to do what you are told.”

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

Mugging, Smooching, and Flinging the Woo Edition

Embracing our Nature and Destiny Edition

Big Splendid Manhood Edition

Spin Again Sunday: The All in the Family Game (1972)

af boxHonesty, I have mixed feelings about the TV series All in the Family, probably because my family let me watch it at much too young an age. On a regular basis, the show assaulted my sensibilities with such concepts as cross burning and attempted rape. I can’t imagine letting my 10-year-old listen as a stream of racial epithets pour forth from the TV–but, thankfully, she doesn’t live in a world where she hears those words on a regular basis from relatives, as I did. Along with my parents’ guidance, All in the Family did reinforce to me how ridiculous racism was, and for that, I’m grateful.

Though most of the show’s characters creeped me out to varying degrees, I always loved Edith. She reminded me a lot of my beloved maternal grandmother–naive, confused, but kind-hearted. As a child, I was shocked when I first heard Jean Stapleton interviewed and realized she didn’t talk like Edith. It produced an early epiphany about how convincing acting can be.

I’m featuring this game in Jean Stapleton’s honor.

af answer

This Week’s Game: The All in the Family Game, Milton Bradley

Copyright Date: 1972

Recommended Ages: 10 to Adult

Object: “Guess Archie’s Answers”

Game Play: One person acts as “the MC” and asks questions from the game booklet. Players write their answers down on slips of paper and pass them to the MC. When the responses are read aloud, players earn points by guessing which player gave each answer. The MC also reads Archie’s answer to each question (or, in some cases, Edith’s answer). Players who matched that answer get an extra point.

af question

“Clever or unexpected responses often throw the party into peals of laughter,” the game box assures us. I can imagine that might be true, but the “official” answers from Archie and Edith aren’t exactly uproarious. Some examples:

How do you feel about being a sex symbol?

Archie: If the shoe fits–why take it off?

With my background, I should be a…

Archie: Boss over something.

What’s with hips?

Archie: They should be watched.

What do you think of Bangladesh?

Edith: I never played that game.

Spin Again Sunday: What Shall I Be? (1972)

what shall i be box

Spin Again Sunday is back! After a long hiatus–for which I apologize–I return with a game that explores the full gamut of careers available to women–ballerina, airline stewardess, teacher, model, nurse, and actress.

Actually, by 1972, even the good people at Selchow and Righter (who also brought us The Bride Game and The Emily Post Popularity Game) realized that their game was slightly retrograde. They could have opted to redesign the whole the game, but that probably would have cost a lot of money. Instead, they reissued their 1966 game board but added this disclaimer to the inside lid:

what shall i be disclaimer

I suppose they figured that would keep Gloria Steinem off their backs.

This Week’s Game: What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game of Career Girls

Manufactured: 1972, Selchow & Righter

Recommended For: Girls ages 8-13

Game Board: Drawings on the board–copyright 1966–show somewhat more conservative versions of the career girls than the full color photos on the 1972 box.

what shall i be board

Game Pieces: The pawns are your basic colored plastic items. The game also involves three kinds of cards. School Cards represent the formal training needed for each career.

what shall i be cards

Players also need to collect round Subject Cards and heart-shaped Personality Cards that support their career ambitions. (As you can see, cards can also work against success in certain careers. No fat chicks need apply for stewardess!)

what shall i be cards 2Game Play: Players move around the board and collect cards according to the spaces on which they land. The first player who collects four school cards for one profession, plus two Subject Cards and two Personality Cards that support that profession wins.

My Verdict: As silly as it seems now, this game would have appealed to me when I was 8 or so. Remember those cheap toy doctor’s and nurse’s kits that you could buy anywhere? My mom was always trying to raise my consciousness by buying me the doctor one, but I always wanted the nurse version.

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy

The Waltons

Barbie Miss Lively Livin’

Patty Duke Game