I was in fourth grade in 1955 and I couldn’t wait to get off the school bus, run to my house, sit down with a snack and turn on the local Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania ABC affiliate to watch the Mickey Mouse Club. That show premiered in October, while its famous Mouseketeers had appeared earlier, on July 17th at the official opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. I finally got to Disneyland in 1988, thirty-three years later. I guess I was a slow learner.
ABC cancelled the show after four seasons (the fourth season was repeats of past programs that were recut into half-hour segments) and three hundred and sixty episodes following a conflict with Walt Disney. ABC wanted to run more advertising, but Walt refused. He was contractually restricted from shopping the show to another network. ABC reran its episodes during the 1960s, immediately after American Bandstand, another show that captivated my attention.
The head Mouseketeer was Jimmy Dodd, a songwriter (he wrote the anthem) and moral leader. There were a total of thirty-nine Mousketeers, who appeared in one of three casts, appropriately named “Red,” “White” and “Blue.” The oldest Mouseketeer was born in 1939 and the youngest in 1947. While I’ll bet you can remember and name some of the more famous cast members, I’ll also bet you didn’t know that neither Paul Williams nor Candace Bergen were selected after auditioning. Both of them did pretty well in the future, though.
Each weekday had a particular theme. On Monday, that theme was “Fun With Music Day.” Tuesday was “Guest Star Day,” Wednesday – “Anything Can Happen Day,” Thursday – “Circus Day,” and Friday was “Talent Round-up Day.”
I particularly liked the show’s serials, especially Spin and Marty and The Hardy Boys. I dreamed of living on a dude ranch, riding horses and solving crimes. In reality, none of those things ever happened. Maturing is such a bummer.
By the way, who taught you how to spell E N C Y C L O P E D I A?
“See you real soon.” “Why … because we like you.”
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