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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What the Polka Dot Door Taught Me About Myself

It took an incident that happened at my workplace just a few hours ago that made me feel incredibly old all of a sudden.

I was finishing up my shift at work, and I bump into a teenage co-worker of mine.  He's on my Facebook list as well, where I also post my blog entries, so I can only assume that he has read at least one of two of them (at least I can only hope as the whole point of this blog is to get a wider fan base of my work).  Anyway, I was telling him the subject of my blog, and he looked at me like I was talking some foreign language.  He had absolutely no idea what the show I was talking about was, and didn't even remember it.

Made me feel SO old.

Of course, I can't really say that I blame him much.  The Polka Dot Door did end production around the same time he was being born (again, I suddenly feel really old now, even though I just entered my thirties a month ago).

Still confused?  Well, here's the intro for 'Imagination Day'...which technically aired on Thursdays, but since Thursdays are reserved for video games (and to my knowledge I don't recall Nintendo making a Polka Dot Door video game), I thought I'd post it today.

The Polka Dot Door was one of the flagship programs for the Canadian children's network TVOntario (TVO for short).  Would you believe that the show lasted a whopping twenty-two years on the air?  Debuting in 1971 and ending in 1993, the show was a huge hit for generations, and kickstarted the careers of Gloria Reuben (ER) and Tonya Lee Williams (The Young And The Restless), just to name a couple.

The show was loosely designed after the British show 'Play School'.  You had a couple of hosts (one man and one woman), who would sing songs, do crafts, and do all sorts of fun things.  The theme changed each week, as well as the hosts.  I don't have a final count of how many different hosts the show had over the years, but you can bet that it was at least fifty different hosts and hostesses, if not more.

I was a big fan of this show when I was younger.  So big a fan that whenever the Polka Dot Door did their road shows to various towns all over Ontario, I hoped that they would make an appearance in my town.  When they did show up, I was there, and I was excited. 

Really, there was a lot that one could learn from watching the show, because the show itself was one that was educational (I guess because it aired on TVO, which prided itself in educational programming, it kind of had to be).

The show taught you about dinosaurs through song...

It taught you how to tell time...

It even taught you about the outside world by venturing outside the Polka Dot Door...

Okay, sure, none of the episodes were brought to you by a letter or a number.  But the Polka Dot Door was one of the first shows that showed me what kind of a world we really had...just how much bigger it was than just our backyard, or our school playground. 

The show also taught me how to take care of pets.  There was a pet shed in the backyard of the Polka Dot Door house, and inside, they showed you how to take care of a guinea pig, a rabbit, a budgie, and two goldfish named Freida and Fennel.  Sadly, I think the show probably went through a hundred Friedas and Fennels, unless they happened to find a super-goldfish that lived for a little over twenty years.

It happened to that one goldfish in the Guinness Book of World Records!  Times two!  Not impossible.  Unlikely, but not impossible.

And, yes...the show never had any talking Muppet characters like they did on Sesame Street.  They still made it work.  Humpty, Dumpty, Bear, and Marigold certainly filled the void left behind by the lack of a Big Bird or an Elmo.  Sure, their mouths were sewed onto their faces, but they still interacted with the hosts.  In fact, in later years, the show brought in some bilingual flavour with the introduction of the French-Canadian cat, Minou.

I'll never forget the day that the television blew up when I was younger, and I was upset that I couldn't watch Polka Dot Door that day.  So, my sister rounded up four stuffed animals, and pretended they were the four toys in the show.  She even got a mouse and made a Story-Time Clock out of a shoebox and construction paper, so I could play Polka Dot Door whenever I wanted.  It was really a cool experience.

Oh, and how can I have a blog entry about the Polka Dot Door without one of the most influential, if not the main character of the show?

Ah yes...Polkaroo.  The gigantic seven foot tall hybrid between a kangaroo and a bullfrog.  (Actually, does anyone actually KNOW what Polkaroo is supposed to be?  I'm just guessing).

Anyway...this is where the Imagination and Fantasy theme this week kicks in.  You see, Polkaroo seemed to be very much a real creature.  The catch is that in 99% of the episodes of Polka Dot Door I've ever seen, the female hosts were the only ones to ever see this mystical being. (There was one episode where the male host has seen him, but that was a rarity)

Was Polkaroo afraid of men?  Did he not like men?  Was he Gloria Steinem in a yellow polka-dotted jumper?

(Or was it the fact that in most cases, the male co-hosts were 'lucky' enough to have to don the life-sized costume while the women remained costume free?)

Whatever the reason, Polkaroo was quite the secretive friend.  He wasn't evil or mean-spirited.  He just wanted to have some fun.  He kind of reminded me of Drop Dead Fred, only more G-rated. 

The guy could have done more work with his speech patterns though...there's only so much one can do when the only word you know is 'Polkaroo!'

And, Polkaroo definitely had a lot to do.  In fact, Polkaroo's imagination was probably the most vibrant out of anyone else on the show.  Here's just one example.

I think that Polkaroo taught me something in that clip too.  Maybe the Space Program wasn't accepting Polkaroos in space back in the mid-1980's.  But as long as you had your imagination, you could go anywhere you wanted.  Polkaroo certainly did.

I almost wish that TVO would either repeat old episodes of this show, or put the show on DVD, because I think the kids of today are missing out.  Sometimes the simplicity of the show was all that I needed, because it brought forth the information at a level I could understand. 

And really, the show was wholesome, fun, and entertaining.  What more could a kid and a parent want?

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