May 9, 2023

The Land of Ziggy Zaggy


When I was in kindergarten, first, and second grade, we lived in Racine, Wisconsin, 70 miles north of Chicago.   I have only a few memories from that period: going to the beach a few blocks from our house, going to the zoo, marrying the boy next door, my second grade teacher making me stand in the corner for refusing to square dance (she wouldn't believe that it was forbidden for Nazarenes, and at the age of 7 I was in no position to ask the preacher to telephone her).

And a very weird memory of my Dad being proud of me for watching a children's tv program.

Dad was in his late 20s, just out of the Navy, rather athletic, a stalwart Democrat and an avid Nazarene.  He worked on the assembly line at the J. I. Case Company, a job he would keep for the next 30 years.

The memory is vague:  Dad is sitting on the couch, half reading the newspaper, half snoozing, so he must have just gotten home from work, around 4:00 pm.  My brother and I are watching tv.  

Mom comes in from the kitchen and asks "What do you want to watch now?  Romper Room?"

"No," I say.  "The Land of Ziggy Zaggy."

Dad looks up.  "Ziggy Zaggy?  What kind of kookie show is that?"

Mom changes the channel, and we see a woman walking onto the stage, singing about the mystical land.

Dad laughs.  "Ok, I get it now!  You're starting early, just like your old dad!  A chip off the old block!  Come up here and sit by me."

I sit on the couch, and he puts his arm around me.  I'm thrilled.  Dad is usually kind of critical,but today I'm a chip off the old block!  I did something right, something that made him proud of me. But what?

50 years later, I don't remember anything about the show except for a woman singing an invitation to visit "The land of Ziggy Zaggy."  That title doesn't exist, but after a few searches on alternates (zaggo, zongi, zuggi), I found it:

It was a local Chicago children's program, The Land of Ziggy Zoggo. Also called The Nancy Berg Show, after the host.  Short lived, 1963-65.  We only moved to Racine in the summer of 1965, so I must have watched at the end of the run, just before I started kindergarten.

There's a full episode on youtube.  Very amateurish, painted backdrop for a set, only one performer.  Three sketches, about 5 minutes each.

1. Miss Nancy visits a Middle Eastern country, where she meets a Go-Go Genie (herself) selling magic carpets in a parody of talky used-car salespeople.  She buys the carpet, but it doesn't fly!  She criticizes herself for being conned, then kicks the carpet.  Now it works!  She then flies through the clouds while singing. 

2. The kimono-clad Miss Sukayaki (Nancy again), with a stereotyped "Ah so" accent, goofs on the  "ancient Japanese custom of flower arrangement." 

3. Miss Nancy flies a balloon to the African jungle to show film footage of various animals: a rhinocerous, a lion, a leopard.

No beefcake, no buddy-bonding, actually no male characters, but the exotic locations must have been appealing to me as a kindergartener.  And maybe the hint of social satire: you may get conned by a fast-talking salesperson.

But why was Dad so pleased?  Why was I "starting early" and a "chip off the block" for wanting to watch The Land of Ziggy Zoggo?

After watching the episode, I conclude that he was pushing heteronormativity at  me.  He assumed that, at the age of  4 1/2, I was crushing on Miss Nancy.  
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