Puppet Up.

When I was a kid I went through a period of being obsessed with puppets. I don’t remember how long it went on—it really doesn’t take much to say “I’ve been into something my whole life” when you’re five or six. I know it was partly inspired by The Muppets and Sesame Street, but really I didn’t discriminate. If it had puppets in it I would watch it. I think it was also at least partly inspired by the fact that I had an imaginary friend named John. For a long time John didn’t have any corporeal form, leading to an unfortunate incident when he jumped out of the window of a moving car on a long road trip. John wasn’t around for a couple of weeks but then one day he showed up again, having walked home. He would have arrived sooner but had mistakenly taken interstate 44 out of St. Louis, but that’s another story. One night I was with an aunt and uncle and saw a dilapidated puppet flopped out on a shelf in a store. Having done some digging I’m pretty sure it was what was sold as “The Anything Muppet”.

Source: Mikey’s Muppet Memorabilia Museum

It had been unboxed, however, so the associated pieces were missing. My mother sewed on some eyes and the puppet became John.

What started me down this particular memory lane is the fact that the Nashville Public Library has started offering curbside pickup and they put together an amazing puppet video to explain how it works. And that took me down a parallel memory lane to the puppeteer and children’s book author Tom Tichenor, also a Nashville native, who put on puppet shows at the public library. I remember being absolutely fascinated by a production he did of Grimm’s Three Little Men In The Woods, mostly with marionettes. He also worked on the TV show The Letter People—a fact I didn’t know the one time I met him. I wish I could have talked to him about that, but we did talked about his book Sir Patches And The Dragon, which is a great fairy tale too. Or at least I tried to talk. I was kind of tongue-tied.

Anyway the Nashville Public Library still has puppeteers on its staff, part of Tichenor’s lasting influence. Here’s the curbside pickup video.

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  1. mydangblog

    I have so many great childhood memories related to puppets, especially Casey and Finnegan from Mr. Dressup (not sure if you know that show).

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’d never heard of Mr. Dressup before but I did a quick look and the first thing that came up was a picture of Ernie Coombs in what looks like a patchwork shirt that I really want. It looks like that was a fun show.

  2. Ann Koplow

    Always something great to pick up here, Chris.
    Ann Koplow recently posted…Day 2765: StonedMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

  3. M.L. James

    My kids used to have a Barney the Purple Dinosaur that would talk when you pulled the string or sometimes when it just felt like talking without pulling the string. Neat trick, huh? Yeah. One of those. We figured that because he could talk just like a real dinosaur, that’s all he needed to do well in the world. We got rid of him, but not before he traumatized the kids. I’m sure he’s a multimillionaire dinosaur by now. However, none of us like Barney anymore. Wish they had curbside service to pick him up back then. Mona
    M.L. James recently posted…David: Thursday, June 18, 2020My Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m pretty sure toy stores used to have a special section of toys specifically to give to the children of people you didn’t like, and that’s where that talking Barney toy was kept. I’m sorry to hear it traumatized your kids, though. That reminds me of Denis Leary talking about how someone gave his kids a talking Darth Vader coin bank. It would talk whenever you put money in it…for about three days and then it broke and would go off randomly in the middle of the night. At least his kids slept through it.


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