When Sally Starr died earlier this week, it got me thinking about a lot more than just one golden-haired cowgirl and her hold over several small generations. Sally was just one of the jewels, a particularly shiny one, in the crown of Philadelphia Kid’s shows. While “Our Gal” was sitting pretty in her corral, Pixanne was flitting through her enchanted studio forest, Captain Noah was guiding a rowdy and colorful ship down the Schuylkill, Gene London was hanging out at Quigley Mansion, Chief Halftown was raising his teepee (at an ungodly hour), Miss Susan was looking at us through her Magic Mirror that penetrated the glass of our old RCAs and even Dr. Shock made horror homey.
Growing up in the Delaware Valley during the 1960s and 70s, you didn’t know that the people who kept you company in the morning before school (and the lovelorn vampire that made you sigh in the afternoon on Channel 6) weren’t exactly ‘educational.’ Later on, Sesame Street taught our younger brothers and sisters how to count, the Electric Company got them spelling with a pre-Oscar Morgan Freeman, Reading Rainbow introduced them to the wonderful world of literature and ZOOM made Boston accents seem almost hip (almost.)
But we didn’t need any of that. We had Sally and the Stooges, Gene and his amazing magic markers, the Captain and his tolerance for our works of art (that poor man must still be getting pictures…sent today…and right away…) and Pixanne, the best example of how short hair can be sexy to a five year old.
More than that, we had a childhood. No one talked to us about hyperactivity and the drugs that control it. No one made us feel incompetent if we couldn’t play the violin (Hey, Uncle Al Alberts loved it when we managed a duet on the harmonica.) And no one asked-or cared-about our sexual orientation as we headed off to first grade.