When the world reaches out to you!

Bill Gates once called Winky Dink and You “the first interactive TV show.”

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RICK WHELAN

AS I WAS SAYING

It’s probably no longer true in this day and age of helicopter parenting, but when I was growing up, young people were treated with what I recall as “benign neglect.” In most cases, the basic needs of food, water and reasonable doses of affection were administered. But if memory serves me correctly, our every request was not immediately catered to. The world was a big and fascinating place and very rarely did the gods therein personally reach out to me.

And then came Winky Dink and You! For those of you who are too young to remember, Winky Dink and You was a CBS-TV show that aired in the mid-1950s. It featured the adventurous exploits of a cartoon character named Winky Dink (gender undetermined – Winky looked like a boy but was voiced by a woman, Mae Questel the original boop-boop-a-doop girl, Betty Boop!) Winky had an enormous head in comparison to his body, he had a star-shaped head of blonde hair (does this explain Donald Trump’s surprising popularity?) and gigantic eyes. Winky also had a dog named Woofer.

The show featured TV host Jack Barry and his incompetent sidekick Mr. Bungle, played by veteran voice-over actor Dayton Allen – the “Why not?” guy from Steve Allen’s man-in-the-street segments. (Can you tell I’m hooked on early television trivia?)

Anyway, Winky Dink and You’s gimmick was its “MAGIC DRAWING SCREEN,” which was a piece of vinyl plastic which, thanks to static electricity, would stick to your TV screen with a few quick rubs.

For 50 cents, you could send away for an Official Winky Dink Starter Kit, which contained the aforementioned piece of vinyl and an assortment of Winky Dink crayons with which you could draw on the vinyl screen once you stuck it onto your TV.

(I can imagine how many kids got into a whole bunch of trouble when they neglected to send away for the Winky Dink screen and just drew with their regular old Crayola’s onto their TV screen. (“Jimmy! What on earth have you done?!!!)

At the climax of every show, Winky would get himself in a jam … in desperate need of a bridge to cross a river … or a cage to trap a dangerous animal … and the kiddies at home (me!) would draw the needed addition onto the screen and Winky would be saved!

Also, coded messages would appear with only the vertical lines displayed. We’d trace these lines onto the screen, after which the horizontal lines would magically appear and the message would be revealed!

Bill Gates once called Winky Dink and You “the first interactive TV show.”

So at last, here was a force from “out there” that directly reached out and touched me … up close and personal. Winky Dink and Me were best buds!

Flash forward to high school. It’s been a while now since the great beyond signalled they were aware of my measly existence. And then … The Bristol Stomp came along! Remember that song?

The kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol

When they do … the Bristol Stomp!

The next town over from my hometown was Bristol, Conn.! We often attended dances at Bristol’s high schools looking for Bristol girls whose names we could add to our little black books!! Could it be? Was The Bristol Stomp dedicated to us duck-tailed, peg-panted, greasy little Connecticut boppers who were, apparently, sharp as a pistol?

From then on, whenever I travelled afar and someone asked me where I was from … I’d tell them “a little town near Bristol!”

Then they’d smile and point their finger at me at go “The Bristol Stomp! Right?!” And I’d go “Righto daddy-O!”

The Bristol Stomp gave us kiddos in central Connecticut a feeling that we were in with the in-crowd! We were close enough to Bristol to taste the glory! Once again, the gods “out there” had winked at us … we were the cat’s meow!

And then the startling spectre of truth hit me like a slap in the face when I discovered that when The Dovells recorded The Bristol Stomp in 1961, they were actually singing about an altogether different Bristol! They were singing about a new dance invented by teens called The Stomp and the location of these teens? A Bristol far away from the friendly confines of central Connecticut! …

The only good thing about my recent discovery is that it waited until I was an old man before it presented itself. Otherwise, I would have been devastated. I would have dug up my old Winky Dink vinyl screen and drawn a rocket ship on my flat screen TV which would have magically transported me to Bristol … Pennsylvania … a blue-collar suburb of Philadelphia!

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