Remembering “Captain Kangaroo”

This post is written in honor of National Arts and Humanities Month. We are highlighting different humanities topics that we are passionate about and hope you’ll share your passions with us too!

Last summer’s SUPER institute on World War II was a huge success. I don’t know what the evaluations revealed, but I sure liked it. Led by scholar Alan Brown from the University of West Alabama, the three-day institute had a full enrollment of teachers fascinated by an in-depth study of “the last good war.” I snuck in for a couple of sessions and found myself reminiscing about many things ranging from family members who fought in the war to my early childhood days.

Among my favorite childhood memories was watching Mr. Green Jeans and Captain Kangaroo. Grandfather Clock, Dancing Bear and Mr. Moose also were popular co-stars in the pre-Sesame Street television show. It was the longest running children’s television show of that time ending in 1984. Most of us would remember the group, The Statler Brothers, and their hit record back in 1966 with the unforgettable lyrics “smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo….”

Captain Kangaroo passed away in 2004 at age 76. Life in the Treasure House was over for all of us kids, both young and old.

The Captain’s death touched people of all walks of life, including Hollywood’s Lee Marvin, who would be considered by many as quite the opposite of Captain Kangaroo. Personally, I was never a big fan of Lee Marvin, although I did like his role as the mean leader, Major Reisman, in the war movie “The Dirty Dozen.”

Lee Marvin wasn’t your typical Hollywood actor who only did war bond commercials. He actually fought in World War II and was a genuine war hero. He won the Navy Cross in the initial landing at Iwo Jima when he was severely wounded.

Mr. Marvin was proud of the Navy Cross but he credits his sergeant with an even greater show of bravery. Sergeant Bob, which he called “the bravest man I ever knew,” received the Cross on the same day. During very heavy fire Sergeant Bob actually stood up on Red beach and directed his troops to move forward and get off the beach. Bullets flying by and mortar rounds landing everywhere put Sergeant Bob in harm’s way, but he stood his ground as the main target of gunfire so his men could get to safety.

Following the intense battle in which both were wounded, Lee Marvin and Sergeant Bob became lifelong friends. The Sergeant’s full name was Bob Keeshan. You, and I, and the rest of the world would come to know him as Captain Kangaroo.