Mr. Green Jeans Wasn’t Black and White

Mr Green Jeans & Captain Kangaroo

The Captain Kangaroo Show went on the air just a few months after I was born in 1954. Actor Bob Keeshan wore a bulky jacket with enormous pockets that presumably explained his “kangaroo” nickname. A regular segment on the show was played by Hugh Brannum, appearing as “Mr. Green Jeans”. Mr. Green Jeans would introduce a different animal to each live broadcast and talk about its habits and place in the natural environment of his farm. Before joining the Captain, Hugh was already pretty famous due to regular shows that nurtured his celebrity on radio as a musician and children’s storyteller. I suspect the transition from a strictly audio format (radio) was perfect practice for his audio-visual (AV) role as Mr. Green Jeans.

Although RCA Laboratories had figured out color TV technology by 1950, a new color television set was initially a very unreliable and extravagant purchase, since you could buy a Chevrolet car for the same amount of money back then. Black and white TV screens glowed across the United States well into the 1960s; when networks began using color studio cameras to transmit more and more of their most popular shows. Eventually, the cost of a color TV would become affordable but meanwhile, black and white was the predominant practical viewing mode.

Thinking back to the 50s, everyone was somehow totally enthralled by what they watched on ridiculously small screens and were oblivious to the paltry fact: THAT entertainment format was visually monochromatic. After all, TV was truly high tech after staring for years at a wooden radio cabinet and its fabric speaker cover while you merely imagined the scenes being described on a floating screen within your mind. Cool sound effects certainly enhanced the voices reading their scripts but radio was simply unable to vividly convey more. Black and white TV seems archaic to us now but there wasn’t another viable, national broadcast alternative unless you went out to a public movie theater!

Children didn’t complain about watching Mr. Green Jeans (and the Captain) on those early primitive TVs. The broadcast images were “in” black and white but this was totally irrelevant to young viewers. I easily imagined the green of his coveralls, held up with worn cloth suspenders and bright brass buttons within tan stitched grommets. Innumerable details in a 1956 episode, like the vibrant shades of a Mexican Burro’s fur that he introduced to us as “Cisco” became irrelevant to me, fully mesmerized and empathic as he gently rubbed around its ears. Cisco was “papita” indeed as the Captain agreed although far too few kids realized this Spanish compliment meant having a disposition, “easy as pie”.

Fast forward to 2020, a basic cable TV access “lineup” starts with over 125, High Definition (HD) channels. Who could have predicted that something called “cell phone cameras” would literally create thousands of video takers/broadcasters with an overabundance of screen content for us to consider watching? You don’t even need to own a TV anymore! Subscribing to TV Guide Magazine long ago became useless for helping to sort out an overwhelming volume of streaming images no longer requiring a corporate broadcasting license identified by three bold capital letters. Instead, TV networks now selectively rebroadcast feeds from people usually unaffiliated with a journalistic enterprise. They are increasingly from witnesses that Fate, rather than professional assignment, has obliged by conscience to “shoot live”, and distribute for the common good.

What sort of Joey fool (kangaroo cargo) am I? I thought bended knees were for praying. I thought another name for “law enforcers” was “peace officers”. My parents’ house was never watched over by emotionally empty, callous eyes. My heart is haunted by awful cruelties I can’t unsee. No father’s daughter, Officer or Offender, deserves to be another orphan through depraved indifference. There’s never been a more important time to carefully decipher the MEANING behind all that we witness going on in our country each day. Mr. Green Jeans wasn’t black or white in the adoring vision of innocent children that eagerly aspired to emulate his kindness.

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