Saturday, May 17, 2014


Rosemary Novellino-Mearns
© 2014

“Say Kids! What Time Is It?” …..That’s the way the Howdy Doody show always started and, being a Baby Boomer, I was devoted to this show in the 1950s.  Buffalo Bob Smith  was the MC of this very popular children’s TV show.  He was a very nice looking man and he wore a fringe enhanced western costume. He had a beautiful smile that lit up the television screen.

The cast of characters on the show were marionette puppets.  The star, of course, was Howdy Doody, a cute freckle faced, redheaded little boy, dressed like a cowboy in blue jeans with a red plaid shirt, a bandanna around his neck and he wore red and white cowboy boots.

We children of the 1950s had no idea what color his costume was because none of the TVs were in color…….everything was in Black and White.  Did we care…….we used our imagination.  It was a wonderfully innocent period of time.  Eisenhower was the President, the hit song on the radio was Patti Page singing “How Much Was That Doggie In the Window,”  “Mr. Potato Head” was the biggest selling toy, and Elvis Presley hadn’t happened yet.

There were a few human members on the show, which included a clown named
Clarabell who did not speak but honked a stupid horn that was part of his costume. He was a perfect foil for Buffalo Bob.

 One of the more interesting members of the cast was the Indian Chief Thunderthud
and there was the beautiful Princess Summerfall Winterspring

The puppet cast of characters were Phineas T. Bluster, the Mayor of Doodyville who was a cantankerous senior citizen.  There was Flubadub, a mixture of eight different animals…..he was very strange, but funny, and Dilly Dally, a good friend of Howdy’s.  
Mr. Bluster                Flubadub                     Dilly Dally

 Buffalo Bob would get things started by sitting at his piano and playing the melody of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay” which now became “It’s Howdy Doody Time, It’s Hoody Dowdy Time, Bob Smith and Howdy Do, Say Howdy Do To You.  Let’s Give a Rousing Cheer, Cause Howdy Doody’s Here, It’s Time to Start the Show, So Kids Let’s Go.”

The audience was ALL children, and Only children, about thirty total and they were called “The Peanut Gallery”.  They sang along with Buffalo Bob and on the last two words of the  song “Let’s GO”…...they would really yell and cheer.  They all seemed immensely happy to be there.  I was So into this show that I wanted nothing more then to be a member of that Peanut Gallery, but alas….it was not to happen.  You don’t always get what you wish for……..or Do you?

I finally grew up and became a professional dancer in New York City and did a little acting, as well.  After my dancing days were over, when I was in my late thirties, I started to write musicals with my husband Bill, who is a singer, musician and composer.  We struggled along doing extra work in films and part time jobs to keep body and soul together.  Doing extra work was not a glamorous job, by any means and I was always rather blasé about working with any of the movie stars.  It was interesting to watch how they worked, but I never got excited about seeing or meeting any of them.  It was just a job to pay the rent.

Bill and I also worked with conventions that came into New York City, and one year we were asked to work the Annual Toy Fair.  When we got to the Convention Center and settled into the registration area, we found out that Buffalo Bob Smith was going to be in one of the Exhibitor’s booths.  Cool, I thought …..maybe we could go into the show on a lunch hour and see Buffalo Bob.

We quickly looked him up in the program to see where the booth was located. We assumed the booth had something to do with Howdy Doody, after all it was the Toy Show.  Well, no…….he was in a booth just helping out a friend.  It had nothing what so ever to do with Howdy Doody.

My thought was, “who cares”…..I still would like to meet Bob Smith, so on the second day of the show, Bill and I made a plan.  We skipped our lunch and went right into the exhibit hall. We found the aisle, and rather excitedly, walked as fast as we could to find Him.  When we reached the booth, it looked rather sparse.  There were no flashing lights or music or anything special like some of the other exhibitors had, and I couldn’t tell you what type of toy they were trying to sell but “There HE Was..the One and Only Buffalo Bob.”

He looked exactly the same except he had white hair.  He was in his Buffalo Bob Costume, fringe and all, sitting at a table signing autographs.  There weren’t too many folks on line….only two other people were there when Bill and I joined the queue.  I felt bad that there weren’t more groupies waiting to see him.  Hey, it’s Buffalo Bob Smith….what’s the matter with everyone.  Don’t they know WHO he IS?

We waited for just a short amount of time, and I remember thinking that this was really cool.  Here I was a mature woman, almost fifty years old, and I am finally going to get a chance to meet one of my childhood heroes.

At last, it was our turn. We proudly walked up to the table where he was seated.  He looked right up at me and said, “Well, what’s your name young lady”……...His voice was the same voice that I had heard soooo many times emanating from my TV set while sitting crossed legged on the floor of my parent’s living room, and in an instant, as if I were in some kind of a time warp, I turned back into a 7 year old little girl. That voice……..his voice…….I was startled, stupefied and completely paralyzed.   I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t think…..I just stood there saying something like…..  ”Ahhh….  ahhh…. ooo…. ahhh… oooo”….. completely dumbfounded.  My name…..I don’t have a name….what’s my name?  It was unbelievable what was happening to “Miss Blasé.”  Luckily, Bill saved me and said, “Her name is Rosie.”

Buffalo Bob picked up a small black & white picture of himself and Howdy Doody and signed it “Hi Rosie, Hugs from Howdy and Buffalo Bob.”  He handed me the photo; I took it and just stood there feeling like a complete idiot.  Bill, said my Thank Yous and gently guided me out of that booth.  When we had walked about fifty feet away, I came to my senses.  “Oh My God” was the first thing to come out of my mouth.  “I acted like such a jerk…...what in the world did I do?”  I asked Bill, “should I go back and apologize for being SO stupidly star stuck…..he must think I’m out of my mind.”

Bill, lovingly squeezed my hand, guided me out of the hall and said, “you don’t have to explain anything to him.  He get’s it, believe me, he get’s it.”


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

SOCKS.....Our Homeless Neighbor

Illustration by Nino Novellino

Our Homeless Neighbor
Rosemary Novellino-Mearns

© 2014

Seeing someone living on the streets of New York City is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence.  You somehow become immune to reacting to these people and sometimes you even become visionless and don’t even see them.  This is a case that made all that resistance impossible……

My husband and I live on the Eastside of Manhattan and our apartment windows look out onto Second Avenue.  For a few years, there was a homeless man that lived right across the street from our apartment, in full view of our secure and safe high rise, doorman building.  The distinctive trait of this individual was his voice.  He was a small man, about 5’6” which was a little hard to determine because he would spend much of the day in a squatting position while he yelled at everyone that walked by him, in a voice that was bizarre.  It was a low, guttural sound that was so piercing you could hear him a block away.  You could not understand what he was saying, most of the time and it had an almost cartoon sound to it.  It was truly strange and early in the morning or late at night, when the city is quiet, you could hear him in your apartment. 

Every morning as I would open our drapes to greet the morning sun, there he would be squatting and yelling.  No one said anything to him.  The busy city travelers would just walk by and not even react to his berating, probably because you really could NOT understand a word he was saying.

In 1982 my father passed away and, as with many families, some of his personal items were given to me.  Shortly after the funeral, I was helping my mother clean out some of my father’s clothing.  She came across some brand new dress socks that she had purchased for my father just before he gotten sick and asked me if my husband, Bill, could use some socks.  I, of course, said yes…..who wouldn’t want eight pair of new black dress socks?

A few days later, as Bill was putting these new socks into his drawer, I was standing in our living room looking out the window and my attention went directly to this homeless man across the street.  It was cold outside and he was wrapping his feet in newspaper and putting his paper wrapped feet into his worn out shoes.  My immediate reaction to seeing this, was sorrow for this poor human being.  My heart began to break as I witnessed this desperate attempt of survival against the City’s wintry morning. 

My sad spell was broken by Bill announcing to me that he now had too many socks.  He couldn’t even fit them all in his drawer.  Once my senses were back in my apartment and not on the street, I asked Bill to come to the window and see our poor homeless neighbor.  As he looked out the window upon this sight, his sadness turned positive and said, “why don’t we give HIM some of my older socks?”  Wow, I thought, what a great idea. 

We immediately went into our bedroom and started to pick out any socks that were slightly used.  They were still in pretty good shape, but when you have eight new pair, why not part with the old.  We filled a plastic grocery bag with Bill’s socks and decided we’d deliver them on our way to work.  We began to feel pretty good about doing this, and thought that, maybe my father would think this was a good thing, too. 

So, out we went to make our delivery.  Our homeless neighbor was in his usual squatting position and he was yelling up a storm.  Bill and I stood about 10 feet away from him, trying to figure out how we were going to present our donation to this man.  It was as if we were seriously looking at him for the first time and what we saw was a sad, filthy human being.  He was so grubby that he was literally encrusted with dirt. It looked like you could chip the dirt off of him.  I had never seen anyone in this condition before and we were a bit taken a back.

I remember Bill saying to me……”you give it to him….you’re better at these things then I am.”  I just looked at him and said “OK, give me the bag.”  As I approached the man, I decided to kind of squat down to where he was so that he could hear me.  Since we couldn’t understand him, I was a little concerned about whether or not he could understand me.  So, I walked over and got myself into a bending / squatting kind of position and held the plastic bag out like a gift and said, “excuse me, but would you like some socks?”  He said something like…..”Huh?”  I repeated my offer with….”would you like some socks?”  I looked right into his eyes and he looked right back at me with two of the most beautiful piercing blue eyes I had ever seen, and said in his gravely strange cartoon voice….”are they CLEAN?  I’m not wearin’ em’ if they aren’t clean.”

I was stunned to say the least, and in my head I myself thinking…..”what did he just say to me?”…...but trying to be a good, understanding and giving neighbor, I remained undaunted, still in my squatting position, probably blinked a few times and replied, “Yes, sir…..they are very clean.” 

He took the bag with his unwashed, grungy dirty hand and said “thanks.”  I replied, “you’re very welcome.”  I stood up and walked away shaking my head.  “Wait until I tell you what he asked me,” I said to Bill.  I repeated his words to Bill and we both just shook our heads, but as we walked away, we knew that this man, who from that moment on was referred to, by us, as SOCKS, had held on to his own dignity, and isn’t that what everyone wants.