Monday, December 20, 2004


Kiddie TV in its early days was cheap, live and local.

The “King” of kid-vid when I was growing up was a man named Clelland Card. His show was called Axel’s Tree House. It was, even by the standards of the day, humble. A tree trunk painted on canvas was the set. A goofy mustache, a railroad engineer hat and suspenders over a striped t-shirt was his minimal costume. He had two puppets (just furry arms with paws): Tauser the dog, and Talullah the cat. He had Carmen the nurse, who was... a nurse. He delivered a disjointed monologue in a fractured Scandinavian accent, and told corny jokes and nonsense poems. We loved him. We copied him, we dressed like him, and when he came to my neighborhood theater, we went to see him (Axel’s TV show never had a studio audience, but he did make a lot of personal appearances.) When he hit the stage all of the kids went nuts. I was sitting in the front row, off to the side. I remember how old and frail he looked, how he trembled. He did his routine, told some jokes, and was off, probably to visit another matinee at another theater.

Years later, I learned some of the details of Clelland's life. He had lost two of his children in separate accidents in the same year. He had been fighting cancer (that eventually took him) for many years. He was fighting it the day I saw him. He continued to perform and appear until he was too weak to continue. I cried the day that Carmen announced on his show that he wouldn't be coming back.

Some saints have lived lives of example. Some saints have performed miracles. Some saints have written words of inspiration that have lasted the ages. Some saints have told corny jokes on a hokey local TV show to a bunch of kids.

"Birdie with a yellow bill,
Hopped upon my windowsill...
Cocked his shining eye and said...
'Look at the orange mama laid - BEEBOOP!'"
- Clelland Card

By Professor Batty


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Christmas, Stephen.


Blogger Our Fanny said...

Axel was one of the happiest memories of my childhood, just after wrestling with my brother. For a terrific picture of Axel, go here:

Post a Comment