After watching the excellent documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, about US children’s television producer and presenter, Fred Rogers, I’ve felt compelled to reshare a mini memoir I wrote for the website Stereo Stories a few years ago. It’s an ode to Sesame Street, in particular, the musical genius of Walt Kraemer.
Sesame Street’s Pinball Number Count
The electronic babysitter had fulltime employment at our place. Married in 1971 at the age of 17 – with the shotgun firing behind her – my mother was the one who needed the babysitting. She’d gone from a household of six to the solitary confines of a flat, so the box acted as a constantly yammering family of a different kind, even if she wasn’t paying attention to it most of the time.
As the progeny of this pop-cultural upbringing, I followed my mother’s lead and took up a cross-legged position approximately three feet away from the television most afternoons. The routine went something like this: Playschool (for the sake of it), Doctor Who (for the love it) and then, scheduled in-between those two programmes, Sesame Street.
I adored Sesame Street. Rather than gravitate to the familiar, I was romanced by its differentness to my suburban Australian reality – the urban decay of its ‘70s New York City setting; the ethnicity of the regulars with their Hispanic names, flares and large ‘fros; and the cast of misfits including a misanthrope, Oscar the Grouch, who lived in a rubbish bin (or ‘trash can’ as Sesame Street taught me, not to forget the pronunciation of the letter ‘zee’ that earned me a slap on the wrist from my primary school teacher – “But Miss, if I say ‘zed’ then it doesn’t rhyme with the rest of the ABC song!”).
And then there was the music.