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Fri June 25, 2010
Richard Crowson: Safe Travels, Major Astro
The recent death of Tom Leahy Jr., better known as Major Astro to Kansas baby boomers, caused my mind to rocket into the past. The good major wore his astronaut jumpsuit while hosting a daily afterschool kiddie show on local TV from 1962 to 1973. Wally Gator, Touche Turtle and Felix the Cat cartoons were beamed earthward to all the little tykes watching their rabbit-eared TV sets. Many were, no doubt, clutching their membership cards to the Major Astro Club.
I was raised in a different TV market, as they say, over in Memphis, Tenn., but it was the same sort of deal: local hosts with cartoons and hand puppet sidekicks, giving kids a thrill by reading their names out and giving away prizes like the one I personally coveted the most: a five-dollar bag of nickels!
Plus there were constant opportunities to meet the hosts at their frequent public appearances, usually a supermarket opening or a charity event of some sort. Those are sweet memories for lots of us. Maybe the X-Box and YouTube and TiVo kids of today are making their own happy memories after school. But I find myself wondering if at least a small sense of community may have been lost with the end of the local kiddie show era. And there was definitely something special about having to be stationed in front of the TV at the exact time the broadcast aired. I think our inability to TiVo and DVR our programs made the viewing of them a special event.
So anyhow, now that Major Astro has been launched into his greatest adventure, let’s all wish him as he used to say, “A happy orbit.” And an endless supply of “five-dollar bags of nickels.”