Oct 2, 2012

Captain Kangaroo's Treasure House

Gay kids struggle to learn the rules of this new world they've been cast into.  They find hints and signals wherever they can.

They latch onto any evidence that there is more to life than the boy-meets-girl stories the adults are alway droning on about.

Any hand on shoulder, any shared smile, any pair of men living together can suggest that there is more.

In the early morning in the 1960s, Mom often parked us in front of the kid's program Captain Kangaroo (1955-1984).  Bob Keeshan, who played the Captain, was actually in his 30s, but he had shaggy white hair and a white moustache, like a grandfather.  Every morning he invited kids into his Treasure House for an hour of "fun."








His program predated the frenetic energy of Zooboomafoo and the sly pop-culture winks of Sesame Street: it was slow, sometimes glacial, and decidedly old-fashioned.

There was some 1960s countercultural subversion: Mr. Moose tricked the Captain into being pummelled by pingpong balls, and Bunny Rabbit, who didn't speak, managed to nevertheless trick him out of carrots.   But mostly the "fun" involved petting baby sheep, listening to stories about circuses, and watching a man in a bear suit dance.  I grew bored with it quickly.



Except for one detail: the Captain lived with a man.

Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum) was a lean stringbean in farmer's overalls whose physique contrasted with the Captain's portly frame. Mostly involved with farming and displaying cute animals, a precursor to the nature show hosts of the 1990s, his personality, stoic, taciturn, and sometimes demanding, reminded me of a father, while the Captain's genial nurturing reminded me of a mother.






Like a father, Green Jeans was responsible for the outdoor chores, such as mowing the lawn, so he only came into the Treasure House occasionally, to show off his latest animal acquisition or mechanical apparatus.  Neither he nor the Captain ever mentioned a lady friend.




When the cameras dimmed, did they cook dinner together?  Sleep together?  Call each other "honey" and hug and kiss?

I didn't extrapolate that far.  All that mattered was that they were together, a couple.

Like Yogi Bear, they offered a hint that the world didn't consist entirely of men and women marching side by side into the future.  Sometimes men walked with men and women with women.