Clowns — scary? They weren’t always! Clarabell wasn’t. Bozo wasn’t. T.N. Tatters wasn’t.

Then & Now
Funny (?) Business Division — including: Know thyself!
(responsorial) — plus: Joy of Juxtaposition

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff writes: “Subject: Why Clowns Got Scary in America (responsorial).

“First of all, I would like to thank Tim Torkildson for his many stories of what it was like being a clown. Having never had much contact with clowns myself, I find his tales of clownhood to be fascinating, funny and sometimes frightening, but always interesting.

His latest entry, about how clowns were scary long before Stephen King’s ‘IT,’ got me thinking about why I was never afraid of clowns as a child even though I grew up at the same time as Tim. I came up with a few reasons.

“First, I had almost no personal contact with clowns except for those that I would see in the Rice Street and Payne Avenue parades. Fortunately those clowns were well behaved. However, I did witness an event similar to what Tim experienced. About 20 years ago I was at the grand opening of a senior residence and saw two little kids screaming and running in terror from a female clown in her electric wheelchair chasing after them. Those things have remarkable speed — both the kids and the wheelchair.

“Second, there were the clowns on TV who gave kids no reason to fear them. The first one who comes to mind is Clarabell on ‘Howdy Doody.’ He was mischievous but never scary. He never raised his voice — because he didn’t speak except in the final episode, when he said ‘Goodbye, kids.’ The end of ‘Howdy Dowdy’ was a traumatic event at the time, but kids were tough back then, and we moved on to other Saturday-morning shows.

“Locally, I remember Bozo the Clown on WCCO-TV, who I recently discovered was played by Roger Erickson of future WCCO Radio fame. Apparently Bozo was sort of a syndicated franchise operation where local stations each had their own Bozo — and if they were all like ours, they didn’t scare kids.

“There was also T.N. Tatters on KSTP-TV, another nice clown [Bulletin Board notes: played by the late Daryl Laub]. Not only do I remember watching him, but my brother and I sent in a joke that he read on the air, which resulted in our getting a prize. It was some sort of hoop-and-stick thing — not exactly a major award, but it was a big deal to us. The joke, provided by our dad, was a classic: ‘When is a tiger a different animal? When he is lion in the grass.’

“Finally, I remember a few kid-friendly clown items I grew up with.

“When we were very young, my brother and I each had a clown doll, with hard-plastic but very friendly painted faces. They wouldn’t scare anyone. I found them in my parents’ garage many years later.

“I also found a couple of Bosco clown heads. They came with jars of Bosco chocolate syrup — or ‘milk amplifier,’ as it was called back then. These would replace the regular lid on the jar. Who could fear clowns when you could pop off their little red hats and pour chocolatey goodness out of the top of their heads? They could also be used to turn the empty jar into a coin bank after someone, preferably not a child, cut a slot in the back of the head.

“As I grew older, I never gave clowns much thought until the scary ones started appearing in books and movies — although personally, I think the first scary clown was that well-known corporate shill, Ronald McDonald.”

Babe of Burnsville: “Thanks to Tim T. for his explanation of why at least some people are afraid of clowns. I guess I was a lucky one: I saw them only from a distance, at the circus, never up close, so I just laughed and enjoyed them. But I can certainly see how what Tim described would not only scare one, but also ‘scar’ one. Plus, it seems that now the faces they create are scary-looking, threatening even, not sad or funny.

“I also had to share a recent Joy of Jux. This was like a double one, so seemed even more interesting. On a recent night, I watched a rerun of a ‘Poirot’ mystery on PBS. I had seen it before, pretty much remembered ‘Who dun it,’ but I find these British mysteries so well done that I can, and do, watch them again. Well, there was a scene about a Bugatti car which was to be found at that time at Broadlands. The next evening, I continued reading a 1951 mystery by Margaret Erskine — so, different author from the ‘Poirots’ — and she had characters involved with a Bugatti, at Broadlands. I suppose it wouldn’t be surprising that the Bugatti, a race car, should be at Broadlands, which I now know is a race track. But to have both mentioned, and within 24 hours, and even in different media, gave me Joy.”

Till death us do part
Including: Know thyself!

The Mambo King: “Subject: Making the Most of a Good Buy.

“Having recently turned 68, my wife, the lovely Ms. Goody One-Shoe, is concerned that she is losing a bit of mental acuity. However, on a recent trip to Costco she proved that she is still functioning at a high cognitive level.

“They were having a sale on steelhead salmon filets: $4 off on each package. I surveyed the available packages, most of which contained either one or two filets, and figured that a package of two filets would yield four or five meals for the two of us. I grabbed a package and put it in our cart, at which point the lovely wife suggested that if we got two packages with a single filet each, we would get $4 off on each of two packages instead of just the one. Brilliant! And I had totally missed it.

“Guess I’ll have to start doing the daily puzzles along with her!”

The kindness of strangers

Omaknits reports: “Subject: Cross-country skiing at Como.

“There’s a steep hill near the back of the Como golf course. It’s so steep that when you stand at the top and look down, there’s a section of the slope that disappears from sight.

“That hill scared me so much that I had turned aside to skip it the last three times I’d skied there.

“This time, I was determined to go down that hill. There I stood at the top, looking down and feeling scared, when along came a friendly-looking woman with a beautiful dog. She was trudging through the deep snow nearly up to her knees. I told her that her dog was pretty. She said that she should have snowshoes.

“I blurted out that I was scared to ski down the hill. Without hesitating, she looked me right in the eyes and said: ‘You can do it! Just snowplow your skis, and if you feel like you’re going to fall, just sit down and lean to the side.’

“I said: ‘OK, if I fall and don’t get up, send help.’

“And down I went. I skied that scary hill perfectly without falling. It wasn’t that hard. I looked up to the top to thank her, but she was gone.

“So now I say ‘Thank you’ to that encourager. It meant a lot to me to conquer that hill, and next time I think I can do it again.”

’Tis the season . . . always?

Email from Donald: “Subject: It’s never too late — or early.

“While reconciling my credit-card receipts, I came across this one from a McDonald’s from January 25th: ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!’”

Keeping your eyes open
Leading to: CAUTION! Words at Play!

Dennis from Eagan: “Subject: Southtown oddities.

“My wife and I visited the Jimmy John’s shop in West Bloomington (I-494 & Penn) for sandwiches on February 4. I noticed that their restrooms [Bulletin Board muses: Jimmy John’s johns?] are apparently only to be used in an emergency or just by dancers (according to the posted signs, anyway). LOL.

“Then we went across Penn Avenue and saw the big mountain in Southtown’s parking lot.

“Thank goodness the 2023 Treasure Hunt medallion wasn’t hidden in that ‘hill of month-old snow,’ as the clues suggested . . . you dig?”

The Permanent Family Record

John in Highland: “I grew up in a turn-of-the-century two-story Victorian house on Ashland Avenue. It had hot-water heat, with an old coal furnace that had been converted to natural gas. My mother loved the house because it was the first one she had ever lived in where she did not have to shovel coal in the winter.

“My step-grandmother grew up on a farm in Iowa. She told us that she loved it when they first got electricity. She was able to do her homework by electric light, not by candlelight.

“The coal shovel came with the house on Ashland and has been in our family for as long as I can remember. It comes in handy when chopping away at the icebergs that the city snow plowers leave behind.”

Then & Now

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: News didn’t travel so fast back then.

“This was the lead item in a recent online post from the Washington Post: ‘On this day in 1848, carpenter James Marshall reported finding gold at Sutter’s Mill, northeast of Sacramento. This ultimately triggered the gold rush of 1949.’

“Just in time to name the football team.”

The verbing of America

A coinage from Joan in Roseville: “Squirreling: that abrupt change of direction, as in pushing your Target cart down Aisle 6 when you suddenly remember you need something in Aisle 3. I watched squirrels dart in front of the car and suddenly change direction, and I realized I do that when shopping.

“As when driving, when shopping . . . Beware!”

Band Name of the Day: Ronald McDonald and the Shills

Website of the Day:

%d bloggers like this: