Robert Temple - Author of The Sphinx Mystery

This is a photo of ‘Buffalo Bob’ (Bob Smith) and Howdy Doody, who were great favourites of mine and all American children of the era. At the age of four, I had the privilege, which was granted to but a few, of being in the audience at the Howdy Doody Show in New York. What thrills! What excitement! So many squealing little boys and girls! All of us jealous of one another and sharing hysteria! The sponsor of the show was Three Musketeers, who made my favourite chocolate bars of that name. At every show, Buffalo Bob threw free candy bars into the audience, and all the children scrambled for them and fought over them. This was televised to great effect! I was mortified that I was too far back to get one of the Three Musketeers which in my fantasies I had always imagined catching and eating, which would have been thrown to me by Buffalo Bob. I remember complaining to my mother that ‘It isn’t fair’ (which is the complaint of all children!) that Buffalo Bob always only threw the candy bars to the kids in the first few rows, so that no one as far back as I was could ever get one. This was of course wholly irrational, since I ate as many Three Musketeers as I liked at any time, as I was always demanding them and getting them. But what mattered was to be the lucky catcher, to get one of the ones that was thrown, and to enact the fantasy of success as a catcher of candy bars in a live audience. I remember tastes and smells very well, and I can assure you with absolute conviction that Three Musketeers tasted different in those days. They were far less sweet. Today, they are so sickly sweet that I don’t know how anyone can eat one without being sick. There is no doubt in my kind that the large food manufacturers have consciously raised the sweetness level of all foods, indeed changed the actual sugars which they use, even in sweets themselves, in order to pervert the taste buds of the public and try to achieve sugar addiction in order to increase their sales. When I was four years old, the world was still in a state of innocence and no one had yet thought of turning Americans into a nation of sugar junkies for money. This is, of course, one of the reasons for the disgusting obesity epidemic of today: people get fat so that corporations can make money. I prefer to put aside these thoughts, however, and dwell with happy memories on the delightful little puppet Howdy Doody, of his girl friend Princess Summerfall Winterspring, of Clarabelle, and of all the other wonderful characters of that delightful children’s television programme. And most of all, who of us who were keen on the show could ever forget the mindless jingle of the show’s opening song, which we all sang along with: ‘It’s Howdy Doody Time, It’s Howdy Doody Time, It’s Howdy Doody Time, It’s Howdy Doody Time.’ That may sound repetitive, but we loved it. Kids like repetition. It makes them feel secure. So that was one of my thrills, actually to be in the audience of screaming children and be a part of history (which was, frankly, how all of us kids who went there thought of it).

© Robert Temple 2009-2022