Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mr. Dressup

Ernest Arthur Coombs was born in Lewiston, Maine, on November 26, 1927. Initially trained as a commercial artist, Coombs later graduated from the Pittsburgh Miniature Theatre. Among his classmates was Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood fame.

In 1963, Ernie Coombs came to Canada to work as a puppeteer on Fred Rogers' children's series Misterogers, broadcast on CBC television. Within 1 year, Rogers returned to the U.S. and Ernie Coombs got his own show. (History tells us that Fred Rogers went on to great success as the host of the beloved PBS children's program Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.)

Ernie Coombs starred in Butternut Square from 1964-1967, and upon it's cancellation, he presented an improved version called Mr. Dressup. On February 13, 1967, Mr. Dressup premiered on CBC and enchanted children with it's magical world of make-believe.

Through Mr. Dressup, Ernie Coombs developed an intimate connection with his audience by talking directly to the camera. Children watching were encouraged to use their imagination as Mr. Dressup pulled colorful costumes from his Tickle Trunk and showed them how to make crafts from ordinary household items. (I remember making stuff inspired by Mr. Dressup.)

Throughout my early childhood, I had a standing 10:30 am appointment with Mr. Dressup and his puppets Casey, Finnegan, Alligator Al, etc. Just the sound of the little piano intro takes me right back...

images: (1) (2-3)

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