June 27, 1927 - Bob Keeshan was born on this day. He was the actor behind the iconic character of Captain Kangaroo.
Born and raised in Lynbrook, New York, Keeshan had a happy childhood, but the death of his mother when he was a teenager had a deep impact on him. Later in life Keeshan recalled how his high school guidance counselor helped him steer a course out of that dark period:
When I was fifteen years old, I lost my mother. I was devastated. In months I went from a happy teen to a morose pessimist. My grades dropped off the cliff. From a very fine and interested student I fell to a C average and was just hanging on. I had an advisor, an English teacher, Gertrude Farley. Miss Farley observed my decline, she knew the tragedy I had suffered. She began working on me with the tenaciousness of a terrier. Miss Farley would not let go; she was not going to lose me. She didn't. Thanks to Gertrude Farley, sent to me from heaven, I came out of my tailspin. Anything I have accomplished in my lifetime I owe to Gertrude Farley.
Keeshan's great respect for teachers would be a cornerstone of his approach to children's television.
He started his performing career in 1948 as the horn-honking Clarabell the Clown on the Howdy Doody Show. By the early fifties he was developing new concepts for children's television that blended education with entertainment. CBS liked one idea that played on "the warm relationship between grandparents and children." It launched Captain Kangaroo in 1955 and it would run for 30 years.
The cast of Captain Kangaroo included colorful characters like a friendly farmer named Mr. Green Jeans, a carrot-crazed con artist named Bunny Rabbit, and a knock-knock-telling Mr. Moose.
Keeshan died in 2004 at age 76.