10.25.2012

Look up...Waaaaay Up!

Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty
the Rooster with Friendly...
I grew up in the farthest northwest corner of Minnesota.  Our homestead was part of the village of St. Vincent, but it was on the north side, behind some woods, and looked out onto farmland.  Unless you knew otherwise, it was pretty much like living out in the country.  To our west, just across a small field, were the river woods, and just behind them, was the Red River of the North.  It was the border between us and North Dakota.  To the north, just two miles away - and in our flat river valley, within view of our own eyes - was the Canadian border.  We were so close to Canada, in fact, that the little town just across it - Emerson, Manitoba - had the closest hospital to us, and therefore, I was born there.

There has always a close relationship between Canada and our little corner of America because of our geographic location. One of the things we shared was television.  In the early 1960s, there was no Sesame Street or Nickelodeon.  But for those lucky enough to have access to the CBC, there was the Friendly Giant.

The Friendly Giant was a beautifully simple program, consisting of Friendly the Giant, and his pals, Jerome the Giraffe, and Rusty the Rooster.  There were a few other friends like the Jazz Cats who would come by and jam with them for a few songs.  Friendly himself not only told fun stories and joked around with Jerome and Rusty but also played the flute.  The show always started with the camera slowly panning from right to left across a little village, until it came upon a very large boot, Friendly's boot.  All the while, you were hearing off-camera a comforting baritone voice saying it was a beautiful morning today, and so on.  Once the boot showed up, the voice would say, "Look up...Waaaaay up!", and up the camera went along with our eyes, until we saw the smiling face of Friendly.  He'd say he would go on ahead to open up the drawbridge so we could come in for a visit in his castle, and in the meantime we should start walking there to meet him.  As we imagined ourselves going to the castle, onscreen we saw it, and the big drawbridge being let down for us to cross; all the while, a gentle song was being played on a harp.  Once inside, we were escorted to the fireside where Friendly put out some chairs in front of the fire (one big one "...for two to curl up in..."), as well as a "...rocking chair for those who like to rock."  I always imagined myself in the rocking chair.  Then the show would begin!

At the end of the show, we would say our goodbyes to Jerome and Rusty (who lived in a book bag - how cool is that!), and Friendly would put the chairs away until next time.  Then,  he would say goodbye by  showing the palm of his big hand in front of the fire, and saying "Goodbye...Goodbye."  The drawbridge would slowly draw itself up to close for the day, the credits would slowly roll by, and then, if you watched carefully, the moon would rise...and just a bit after that, a surprise - a cow jumped over the moon!  The very cow many of us had heard stories of in our nursery rhymes!  That made me smile and giggle with delight every time I saw it.

The Friendly Giant taught me the love of friendship, stories and reading, music, and imagination.  They are lessons I have never forgotten.

To learn more about Friendly, and the man behind him, Robert Homme, be sure and check this wonderful page about the show...