I think at this stage in my life, most of my collecting OCDs are under control. Back in the day I felt I had to add to my various collections whenever the opportunity arose, with little regard for my finances. I remember once in my twenties spending the only money I had in the world on a beautiful MontBlanc fountain pen and another time committing my last few hundred bucks to restore an original 3-sheet poster from the 1939 MGM film “The Hardys Ride High” (the sixth film in the Andy Hardy series). I don’t regret any of those decisions although I’m glad my obsessions tapered off and I wasn’t taking food out of my child’s mouth to support my antique inkwell habit or losing the roof over my head to buy another rare book about Anne Boleyn. I don’t think any of my old collections are all that weird. In fact, though some have been packed away for years, I still appreciate every item, even if I’m no longer trolling eBay and antique malls to find missing items. Most of my collections relate to some aspect of history that I’m interested in or the old movies that I love.
One slightly more modern collection has the added bonus of providing hours of entertainment for me and my family. Above is a photo of Leah checking out the rules for the newest item in this collection: my pristine copy of Howdy Doody’s TV Game, also billed as "A Visit to Howdy's Own TV Studio!"
Kendall thought I was insane when I purchased this item at a collectibles shop in Riverside (for a song I may add) and I thought she was out of her mind for questioning the acquisition of such a rare treasure. Who wouldn’t want to play this game in which you get to be part of the exciting new world of television production? What thinking person wouldn’t want to take on the roles of Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob Smith, Clarabell the Clown, Flub-a-Dub, or Phineas T. Bluster? And if you’re feeling a little lazy? Just hang out in the Peanut Gallery! “Howdy Doody” was revolutionary for its time, debuting when the TV schedule began at 5:00 pm (during the day only test patterns were shown) and finally ending when I was a tot. Check out this great ‘Howdy Doody” site for lots more information about the show. You can even watch actual episodes.
It's Howdy Doody Time.
It's Howdy Doody 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 come on, let's go!
Leah and I also recently enjoyed a rousing match of “The Patty Duke Game” in which we got to take on one of the identical cousins: Patty (“a hot dog makes her lose control”) Lane or her snooty Scottish cousin Cathy (“who’s lived most everywhere, from Zanzibar to Barclay Square”). While Patty was just a normal red-blooded, frug-dancing, Paul Anka-loving teenager living in Brooklyn Heights, I secretly had the hots for the more intellectual Cathy who “adored a minuet, the Ballet Russes, and crepes suzettes.” I didn’t know what any of those things were but as a budding snob she seemed way more sophisticated and interesting than the rockin’ Patty who reminded me of my sister. The world later found out that young Patty Duke suffered terribly from bipolar disorder and was practically a slave to her managers, John and Ethel Ross. During the run of the popular show, Patty had no control over her earnings, and the Rosses plied her with alcohol and prescription drugs. She later claimed that both of them sexually abused her. Yikes.
Still, they're cousins,
Identical cousins and you'll find,
They laugh alike, they walk alike,
At times they even talk alike—
You can lose your mind,
When cousins are two of a kind!
Next up on game night was a trip to Walton’s Mountain, Virginia, for some down-home fun with John, Olivia, John-Boy, Mary Ellen, and the entire Walton clan. My history with the Waltons goes far and deep and Leah is already well versed in the show, identifying most strongly with Elizabeth. I still relate to John-Boy but as I get older I'm finding new connections to the steadfast John Walton and stubborn-as-a-mule Grandpa.
We also feel intimately connected to the gang in Fernwood, Ohio, since Kendall’s parents both had staff positions on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” I remember seeing their names on the credits long before I met Kendall. The nightly show nearly put star Louise Lasser in the loony bin, but it was 1970s TV dementia at its best. Leah insisted on having Mary Kay Place’s Loretta Haggars as her playing piece. My favorite episode of the series was when the career of saintly country music singer Loretta implodes during an interview on Dinah Shore’s talk show. Loretta is so thrilled to be visiting Los Angeles on tour for her hit single “Baby Boy” that she starts telling Dinah how she’s never met so many Jews before. She then extols the virtue of Dinah’s Jewish producer. “He was so nice,” she says with a big smile, “I just can’t believe that his was the people what that killed our Lord!”
In all collections, whether it’s stamps, coins, Pez dispensers, or prosthetic limbs, there is always some kind of Holy Grail, some impossible to find rare item that collectors may spend a lifetime searching for. In the world of TV show games, the Holy Grail is the game that was based on the Emmy Award-winning “Dick Van Dyke Show,” surely one of the top five sitcoms of all time.
I had once seen a photograph of this game in a book about the show and had been searching for it ever since. I went to every memorabilia show and contacted every antique collectibles store and vintage game shop across the country. No one had ever even seen a copy of this game. Many collectors told me that they’d been looking for it themselves and would pay any price for it if they could get their hands on a copy. I started wondering whether that photo I saw was of a mock-up that was never actually produced. I told my friends that if they ever saw this item to get it for me no matter what the cost and I’d reimburse them later. I had a permanent search for it going on eBay, and after years and years of coming up empty, one day it suddenly appeared on the online auction. I didn’t hesitate for a second, and immediately put down an inflated bid that was sure to land me the most sought-after prize of my life as a collector.
To be honest, it’s not exactly a fun game to play. Leah was bored by the time I finished reading the convoluted rules, although she did insist on being Laura Petrie and not spinster Sally Rogers. Did you know that Rose Marie was only 38 when that show began? Good lord, at the time we thought she was about 100! I have to admit there’s something a little sad about finally obtaining the most cherished missing item in a collection. The search is over, the mystery solved, the nervous tension (“will this be the day?”) gone.
Anyone interested in a board game set in 1960s New Rochelle, New York, and the offices of “The Alan Brady Show?” Going cheap!