The Associated Press reported today that Edward Kean, the primary writer for the Howdy Doody Show passed away at the age of 85. Kean died in a nursing facility in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan from complications of emphysema.
Kean, a native of New York City was the primary writer for the show and penned the theme song to which millions of American children sang along each week during the show's run on NBC from 1947 to 1960. He wrote the song "It's Howdy Doody Time," which was sung during the show's opening. He is credited with creating the exclamation, "kowabunga," made popular by one of the show's characters, Chief Thunderthud.
That’s sad news for anyone over the age of 55 who may have seen the Howdy Doody show. I was a bit too old for the show’s content but my younger brother grew up with the show. We got our first television set; a little 7 inch screen Motorola, in 1949 and Howdy Doody was already a popular national show and kowabunga was a much used expression.
Howdy Doody was a red haired, freckled face puppet that would sit in Buffalo Bill’s lap and ask questions of the various characters. The human stars of the show was Buffalo Bob Smith (Yes, his real name was Bob Smith) and Clarabelle Hornblow a clown played by Bob Keeshan. The show also featured a Peanut Gallery populated with children who would scream when asked, “What time is it –its Howdy Doody time.”
Probably the most popular television shows of the time were the Howdy Doody Show, The Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle and the Show of Shows staring Imogene Coca, Howard Morris and Sid Caesar. The Show of Shows was no doubt one of the most humorist shows of the day. A weekly feature was when Coca and Caesar would do parities on foreign films speaking a makeshift foreign language. One of the funniest skits was their interpretation of the Italian film the Bicycle Thief.
In those days TV comedy shows were funny with good family humor. No foul language, no overt sexual jokes, no political commentary and no people bashing just clean, good fun. Lenny Bruce changed all of that.