Thursday, November 22, 2018

An Underdog Thanksgiving

When I was a child, I was a big fan of "ace reporter" Sweet Polly Purebread.  As an adult, I occasionally find myself singing the "Oh, where, oh where has my Underdog gone, oh where, oh where can he be?" when I am roaming around parking lots trying to remember where I left my car.

Admittedly, it I cannot say with certainty it has ever helped me find my car; and a flying dog wearing a red union suit never showed up to guide my way, but it did pass the time until I found it.

Underdog was always my favorite hero: brave, gallant, extremely humble and well-mannered, and spoke in rhyming couplets.  If he were real, I would have asked him to marry me.

When he became a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1965, my world was complete.  He remained my favorite part of the parade until he was retired in 1984.  I still miss him.

The series Underdog ran from 1964 through 1967, and then in repeats in syndication for a few more years after that.  He did not outlive my childhood, and yet, he lives on in golden memory.  

Wally Cox voices Underdog, and Norma MacMillan is the career-woman, Sweet Polly Purebread.  She did a number of voice roles in cartoons, some television shows, but you may also remember her from Vaughn Meader's 1962 hit comedy album parodying President John F. Kennedy and his family, The First Family, where she voiced the children, John-John and Caroline Kennedy.  (The 22nd of November will invariably bring to mind other memories today.) She was also the mother of Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie on Little House on the Prairie.

The above episode is a Thanksgiving-themed adventure where one of show's villains, Simon Bar Sinister (whose speech is meant to mimic Lionel Barrymore. Another villain in the series, gangster Riff Raff, is meant to parody George Raft), tries to take over the city in another evil plot, but he can't get through the Thanksgiving parade.  So he invents a time travel device "a time bomb" - how clever is that -- to go back to the First Thanksgiving and cause discord between the Indians and the Pilgrims.

Of course, the Pilgrims do not sound like the Pilgrims of 1621, and their "fort" is rather grand; and the native Wampanoag people did not have teepees or sound like Jay Silverheels reading the part of Tonto on The Lone Ranger.  Still, it's a masterful plot with modern lessons of not so much brotherly love as the more practical advice of not allowing your enemy to divide you.  It's a lesson for our times (and pre-dates any elaborate plot on Pinky and the Brain by decades).

When you watch the above episode, you will not be transported, like Simon and his toady, Cad, to 1621 Massachusetts; you'll be sent back only as far as the mid-1960s of my early childhood.  

Happy Thanksgiving!


Caftan Woman said...

A very happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for the episode and sharing your memories of Underdog which ignited the embers of my own.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you, CW. Perhaps I should have mentioned as well that Norma MacMillian was Canadian, another gift to my country from yours for which we have many reasons to be thankful.

Will McKinley said...

I was a second generation Underdog fan (1970s reruns) but loved it so much my mom made me a aid of jeans with Underdog drawn with Vogart ballpoint paint tubes. And I still have them!

Great post!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Your mom is officially swell, and it warms my heart to think that there was even a second generation of Underdog fans.

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