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Nostalgia For Sale As Captain Kangaroo's Pals Are Auctioned Off

May 20, 2013
Originally published on May 20, 2013 10:38 am

The classic children's show Captain Kangaroo aired on TV for nearly 30 years, starting in 1955. After its creator and star, Bob Keeshan, died in 2004, his estate donated a few of his beloved hand puppets to the Smithsonian.

But if you're like me and grew up in the 1960s and '70s, you have hazy memories of Captain Kangaroo telling stories, drawing pictures and palling around with a whole cast of sidekicks, including the bespectacled Mr. Bunny Rabbit, a dancing bear, farmhand Mr. Green Jeans and Mister Moose, who told corny jokes and made pingpong balls rain down on the captain's noggin. And all of them are due to be auctioned off Tuesday in Los Angeles.

I got all nostalgic seeing Captain Kangaroo props and costumes on display in the garden of the Nate D. Sanders auction house — including, yes, Mr. Moose and the dancing bear. Auction manager Laura Yntema says more than 500 items are being auctioned, most with starting bids of $250. Up for grabs are pairs of Mr. Green Jeans' denim overalls. And Dancing Bear's furry man-sized costume held together with Velcro. "He's a little dingy," Yntema says, "but he's not ripped or anything. I mean, the quality of this stuff is really, really great."

Also on the auction block are scripts and awards, and Captain Kangaroo's iconic red and blue peacoats. "They have the deep pouch pockets like kangaroos. So he would, you know, have little treats in there for all his characters," Yntema says. "You really don't need all this computer animation and gimmicks to really entertain kids, you know — just need some imagination."

Yntema says Bob Keeshan's idea for the show was to make Captain Kangaroo a grandfatherly figure for children. "He was pretty young when it started, so he had a full head of hair. And they actually made him older looking in the beginning. But then as time went on, obviously, he lost his hair and then they had to make him younger looking. So we have like five toupees of that kind of like floppy mop top."

"He was just this kind, bubbly, weirdo man," says Stephanie Beard, who stopped by the auction house to view some of the items she plans to bid on, like the ring of keys to Captain Kangaroo's treasure house. Beard may sound like she's 5, but she's actually 31 years old and lends her voice for cartoons.

"I'm kind of a third-generation Captain Kangaroo fan," she says. "You know, my pop showed my dad growing up, and they passed it down to me, and it was kind of a really big deal for us. My grandfather made us a set of those treasure house keys, and we would play Captain Kangaroo growing up. I have a very close fondness to this stuff. And this just brings back floods."

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The classic children's show "Captain Kangaroo" premiered on TV in 1955. It aired for almost 30 years. After its creator and star Bob Keeshan died in 2004, his estate donated a few of his beloved Bunny and Moose hand puppets to the Smithsonian. Now hundreds of other items from the show are being auctioned off in Los Angeles. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, THEME FROM "CAPTAIN KANGAROO")

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: If you're like me and grew up in the 1960s and '70s, you have hazy memories of Captain Kangaroo telling stories, drawing pictures and palling around with hand puppets. He had sidekicks - the bespeckled Mr. Bunny Rabbit, a dancing bear, farmhand Mr. Green Jeans and Mister Moose, who told corny jokes and made ping pong balls rain down on the captain's noggin.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "CAPTAIN KANGAROO")

COSMO ALLEGRETTI: (as Moose) You know what that reminded me of Captain?

BOB KEESHAN: No, What did it remind you of?

ALLEGRETTI: (as Moose) Niagara falls. Yeah. Yeah. Yes, yes, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF PING PONG BALLS FALLING)

BARCO: So I got all nostalgic seeing "Captain Kangaroo" props and costumes on display in the garden of the Nate D. Sanders auction house.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUCTION HOUSE)

BARCO: I remember this little kitty puppet. That's so cute. And there's Mr. Moose. You have Dancing Bear here.

LAURA YNTEMA: Yeah.

BARCO: Auction manager Laura Yntema says more than 500 items are being auctioned, most with starting bids of $250 dollars. Up for grabs are pairs of Mr. Green Jean's denim overalls. And the Dancing Bear's furry man-sized costume held together with Velcro.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUCTION HOUSE)

BARCO: The Dancing Bear. It seems like he's seen better days.

(LAUGHTER)

YNTEMA: He's a little dingy but he's not ripped or anything. I mean, the quality of this stuff is just really, really great.

BARCO: Also on the auction block are scripts and awards, and Captain Kangaroo's iconic red and blue pea coats.

YNTEMA: They have the deep pouch pockets like kangaroos. So he would, you know, have little treats in there for all his characters. So, you know, you really don't need all this, like, computer animation and gimmicks, you know, to really entertain kids. You know, just need some imagination.

BARCO: Yntema says Bob Keeshan's idea for the show was to make Captain Kangaroo a grandfatherly figure for children.

YNTEMA: He was pretty young when it started so, you know, he had a full head of hair. And they actually made him older looking in the beginning. But then as time went on, obviously, he lost his hair and then they had to make him younger looking. So we have like five toupees of that kind of floppy mop top.

STEPHANIE BEARD: He was just this kind, bubbly kind of weirdo man.

BARCO: Stephanie Beard stopped by the auction house to view some of the items she plans to bid on, like the ring of keys to the Captain Kangaroo's treasure house. Beard may sound like she's five, but she's actually 31 years old and lends her voice for cartoons.

BEARD: I'm kind of a third generation Captain Kangaroo fan. You know, my Pop showed dad growing up and they passed it down to me, and it was kind of a really big deal for us. My grandfather made us a set of those treasure house keys, and we would play Captain Kangaroo growing up. I have a very close fondness to this stuff. And this just brings back floods.

BARCO: Online, by phone and in person bidding for the Captain Kangaroo auction ends Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "CAPTAIN KANGAROO" THEME)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.