I was watching a PBS (remember PBS?) program yesterday about the Philly hosts of kid shows. You know those oldies like Sally Starr, Chief Halftown, Wee Willy Weber and, my personal favorite, Gene London who did Cartoon Corners General Store.
What I realized all of these hosts had in common, especially Gene London was the permission to use imagination to change your perspective of the world. It was sort of a "if you can dream it you can do it" kind of attitude.
Most kids just watched these shows for the cartoons and to see if school was called off for snow. But I had a much different connection to these hosts. It's funny how we don't remember a seed here and a thought planted there when we grow up. The story segments, fairy tales and sense of beauty in the world were so intensely verbalized to me then, that when they ran the segments, I remembered how riveted and moved I was as a child.
It's a shame that programming like this has changed so much since then. And I have to admit that a lot of it seemed so corny and so unsophisticated now. A flashing light on a still picture to simulate lightening would not get past a lot of kids now, growing up on cell phones, computers and ipods.
But for me it was mesmerizing. I didn't feel very encouraged to use my imagination in school, rules were strict and English was formal and didn't sway much in the land of imagination. But these show hosts opened the way for imagination to allow all sorts of things. I wasn't very good at drawing pictures, it was the stories that kept me there. The fairy tales of unusual places and fascinating far off lands that riveted me. It ignited a spark that my mother started with her collections of poetry and sayings. Her little tidbits cut from the newspaper and magazines were hung up on the refrigerator or glued into books. I would read them over and over and soon began to write my own.
My diary wasn't "Dear Diary, I saw so and so in class today. He is so cute!" Well, okay, some of it was, I wasn't that weird. But other times my diarys and journals were filled with these little beginning specks of my writing to come. How I saw a flower or a cat. How the street smelled after rain, or how I internalized the feeling I had on the beach in the summer with the sand and coppertone and sun baking my skin.
I'm so grateful for these little reminders of those early sparks. How my fascination with words and fiction stories brought me to new places within myself. I am so glad that every now and then I am reminded of what a rich expanse of experiences I had and still have that continue to influence my world and my writing.
So here is to all of those great hosts of Philly TV! Thank you so much for those early sparks and the permission to follow my imagination where ever it may lead.