Saturday, September 18, 2010

Remembering... Ernie Coombs


Seeing as most of us Generation X-ers were virtually raised by television, I would be remiss if I failed to observe the anniversary of the passing of one of my favourite babysitters growing up, Ernie Coombs. Alongside gender ambiguous tyke Casey and mute dog Finnegan, Coombs entertained and educated several generations of Canadian children. For five years at least his show Mr. Dressup was appointment television for little me; even when I was an older kid, if I found myself home sick from school and channel surfing, I would stop and watch what was going on in that lovely, calm world of his - even if, following the retirement of Judith Lawrence and the inevitable disappearance of Casey and Finnegan with her, there was for me an insurmountable emotional void in the show.

Although born in Maine in November 1927, Coombs moved to Canada after understudying another famous children's entertainer Fred Rogers; it's a little-known fact that Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was developed in Canada before moving to PBS. The two giants even worked together from 1964-7 on a CBC show called Butternut Square, before Rogers relocated his neighbourhood south and Coombs took on his more famous persona. In no time at all, Canada embraced Coombs as one of its own, and he officially became a citizen in 1994, which he was when he died on this day in 2001.

Many of my lifelong manias developed as a result of Mr. Dressup, including creative play, wearing stylin' outfits, a fondness for puppetry, and the desire to live in a treehouse.
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