December 26, 2009

Life on the "Street"

Well, another Christmas has come and gone, amazing as that is.  It's hard to believe another year is almost behind us!  I'll do a 'year in review' next week but in this entry, let's travel back in time....

Forty years back to be exact. 

Yesterday, I received many wonderful gifts from my mom and sister Jen and her family.  MANY wonderful gifts.  One of them is a book that Jen gave me called "40 Years of Life on the Street", which chronicles the 40 years (!) that Sesame Street has been on the air.

I have, for literally my entire life, been a huge fan of Sesame Street.  In fact, it debuted the day that my sister was born - November 10, 1969 (I was 13 months old).  I was talking about the show with my mom yesterday and she said that from the get-go I was completely mesmerized by it all.  It gave her a much-needed break, too - after lunch and before my nap, she would have me watch it while she fed Jen.  According to Jones family legend, when I was about 18 months old my uncle Jim was visiting us and we went outside to the parking lot (we lived in an apartment).  I pointed to a letter on one of the car's license plates in the lot and said, "C!".  My mom and uncle were astounded.  I also learned how to read the newspaper when I was three.  I'm sure there was no comprehension there, but I never had a problem reading anything and everything.  My mom credits Sesame Street for both my sister's and my reading skills at such an early age.  I think I do too - the show left an indelible print on my very young brain.

The "40 Years" book is fantastic for so many reasons, but one of the best is that it came with a DVD of the first episode ever.  Jen and I watched it, along with my nieces, who are 10 and 12.  I'm sure it seemed like ancient history to them.  To put it in perspective, it would be like me watching a show from 1940 or '42 with my parents - totally old-fashioned!

If any of you reading this blog are over forty or at least 35, you would probably recognize most of the things on that first show, especially the "commercials" (that's what the show's producers called those segments in between the live action stuff - like the awesome pinball "1-2-3-4-5, 6-7-8-9-10, 11-12" short films).  Remember the chef that says stuff like "ten...chocolate layer....caaaaaakes!!", and then falls down the steps?  That's on there.  Do you remember the "Wanda the Witch" cartoon, where she "washes her wig on windy winter Wednesdays"?  That's on there.  It was amazing - and I couldn't believe how much of it I had retained, even after not seeing it for almost 30 years.

About a year and a half ago, I started seeking out my favorite bits from the show on You Tube.  I couldn't believe what I could find!  I don't know if the segments are still being shown currently or if they're from old VHS tapes or what, but check them out sometime.  Here are some of my favorites:

"We all live in a Capital I" & "Lowercase N"

"Fat Cat Sat Hat"

"Mystic Twenty" (English & Spanish)

"Two Little Dolls in a Little Dollhouse" (was I the only one who was pissed at those cats?)

This is a very small sampling of my favorite clips.  If you search with keywords, I'm sure you'd be able to find your own - there are a LOT out there.

I sometimes wonder, a la "It's a Wonderful Life", what life would be like had "Sesame Street" never been created.  According to this book and another wonderful book called Street Gang - the Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis, the show almost didn't make it on the air.  But thanks to visionaries Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett and a handful of others, their tenacity brought the show to NET (the predecessor to PBS) where it was instantly critically acclaimed and beloved by an overwhelming majority of viewers and their parents.

I hope reading this entry brought back some fond Sesame Street memories for you - if you'd like, please feel free to share your favorite moments in the comment box!  I'd love to hear them!

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