Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Good Bye Mr. Dressup

Twelve years ago today, I was working in the newsroom. I had finished the morning show and was preparing our noon show. It was one week after 9-11 and things were still surreal. There were so many stories coming out of NYC and all over the US. Stories of tragedy. Horrific images that I never expected to see.

I'll never forget when I heard the little "alert" notification go off on the computer and our producer Chris say "Mr. Dressup is gravely ill." Before I had time to process what she said, I heard her say "Mr. Dressup has died."

Mr. Dressup was my absolute favourite childhood TV show. His show was full of a great cast of characters, music, crafts and imagination. Even as I got older, I would still enjoy an episode if I happened to turn on CBC at the right moment.

My mom had taken me to see him at Petrolia Playhouse when I was six and it was beyond my comprehension that I could say hello and get an autograph from my hero. I nearly wore out that cassette tape Wake Up Mr. Dressup (and could probably still sing all the words to all the songs!)

In my college years, I was fortunate enough to score an interview with him when he retired. What a highlight!

And yet, here I was, in the middle of a working newsroom when I heard of his death. A newsroom that really could care less about the passing of a Canadian icon, given the situation happening around us.

During the days that followed 9-11 my emotions were on alert. Swinging from panic and fear to sadness and disbelief. It was a traumatic event for everyone. When I heard about Mr. Dressup, my eyes welled up. I had to get out of the newsroom before anyone saw me. So, I went to the staff lounge and called my mom. (really, who else would you call in such a time?) I had a little cry and it felt good to release some emotion.

What really surprised me was the reaction from my coworkers when I went back to the newsroom. Everyone knew of my fondness for Ernie Coombs and expressed such kind words. Even when I got home that day, I had several messages on my answering machine. Everyone had thought of me when they heard the news.

As I realized today was the anniversary of this event, I wanted to share my thoughts on a man that inspired so many children. A Canadian legend that taught us songs, talked about feelings and asked advice from an owl hanging on the wall :) A time when children's television didn't have to be loud and obnoxious and last 2 minute intervals. A time when the tickle trunk opened a world of possibility. Thanks Mr. Dressup.


Anonymous said...

yes, I remember the day ...and the call....

Terry McManus said...

A very nice tribute Janice and I know Ernie would have been pleased that you wrote it especially after all these years. Traveling across the country with him and making that record, you learned that he was exactly what you saw on TV... with a bit more wicked humor for us adults. We need more people like him for our kids these days.

It is impressive how many people still speak of him and miss him.

Peace and Love