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Historically Speaking

COLUMN: Blame it on 'Winky Dink'

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Our ofttimes clueless bliss

David Christy

Yep, I admit it.

I was a "Winky Dink" kid oh those many years ago.

But, when I really sit down, slow down, stop spinning off into time and a 50-hour work week, it doesn’t really feel all that long ago I was sitting in front of our black-and-white Zenith TV and watching "Winky Dink," "Howdy Doody," "Buffalo Bob" and "Clarabell the Clown."

OK, I agree, these names sound pretty goofy in today’s vast expanse of sophisticated TV entertainment, on digital media or whatever Facebook/YouTube you may be watching.

Video games? Nope, didn’t have ‘em.

Snapchat? Again a big no.

FaceTime? Are you kidding me?

History to some sounds like a dirty word when you are in school. Unless you are in love with it like I was — and still am — you didn’t think that history was being made every moment of every single day you were alive and growing up.

History is not just a chronicle of the rich and famous, great events, great battles, or even the worst things you can imagine, like war and famine and death wrought by nature.

What we do every day of our lives is our history.

How we were shaped to think and feel and act as we do today.

No, when I was a little kid growing up in Waukomis, my sister and I would watch "Winky Dink" every Saturday morning — back when there were just 3 TV channels — 4, 5 and 9.

I’m not even sure we had a Channel 13, because if the round dial we used to change channels ever went to 13, it was by mistake.

I even remember when TV stations signed off the air at night and went to the old test pattern.

Yep, back in the days before the Civil War — LOL!

"Winky Dink," for the uninitiated, was a show well before its time. I hadn’t thought of it being innovative, I just liked writing on the TV screen.

What, you say? I wrote on the TV screen and I didn’t get my rear-end busted?

Nope, this truly was innovative for the years 1953 to 1957, as I transitioned from no school to first grade.

The show “Winky Dink and You” was a children’s TV show developed by CBS, that aired on Saturday mornings here in our time zone at 9:30 a.m., and I don’t think I ever missed a show.

It was hosted by Jack Berry and featured the exploits of a male cartoon character called Winky Dink, voiced by Mae Questel, along with his dog Woofer.

I had to look all this up, but the show featured Barry and his sidekick, the incompetent Mr. Bungle, voiced by actor Dayton Allen. They introduced clips of Winky Dink, who was noted for wearing plaid pants, tousled star-shaped hair and huge eyes.

Yeah, I know.

The central gimmick of the show, praised by Microsoft’s Bill Gates as the first interactive TV show, was to use a magic drawing screen.

OK, it was just a piece of greenish really-thick vinyl plastic that stuck to the TV screen with static electricity (a new concept for me back in the 1950s).

Your parents had to buy you a kit containing the screen overlay and Winky Dink crayons for 50 cents.

Yep, I know.

That kit would cost you $19.99 today.

So, I was a fan of interactive media, long, long before I had a clue what the heck interactive media was.

To me, it was just "Winky Dink" and the fact I got to use big old crayons on a TV screen.

Winky would appear in a short film clip that contained a connect-the-dots picture that would be navigated by the viewers.

Winky Dink would then prompt us at home to complete the picture, and the finished result would help him continue the story.

According to my Google research, examples of the story lines included things like drawing a bridge over a river, using an axe to chop down a tree and creating a cage to trap a dangerous lion,

I don’t remember those examples, because I was in it for just drawing with a crayon on the TV screen.

I have a special friend who always says about me, I am easily entertained.

The interactive (OK it was cheap vinyl) screen also was used to decode messages, and not “drink your Ovaltine” a la Little Orphan Annie and her decoder ring.

By today’s standards a grainy, out-of-focus object would display, showing only vertical lines of letters in the secret message. Viewers would then quickly trace onto their magic screen, and a second image would display the horizontal lines, completing the text.

Don’t believe me? Google www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5TdRhNLOPk/.

So, with this early-age background, how did I turn out?

Blame it on "Winky Dink."

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Christy is news editor in charge of the layout desk and a columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. He can be reached at davidc@enidnews.com.

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3rd-generation journalist, Univ. of Oklahoma School of Journalism 1968-1972, OU Sports Information Office, sports editor Sherman (Texas) Democrat, editor weekly Waukomis Hornet, news editor Enid News & Eagle. Retired 27-year volunteer firefighter and EMT.