I can let the passing of the chief writer of "Howdy Doody" go by without comment, but I can’t be quiet about the death of Penny.

I always wondered what it was like growing up without TV.  My parents told me about the great radio shows, but I couldn’t help feeling they were deprived, unable to live a complete life with television.  And now I’m in the same situation.  I love the Internet, but it came late in life.  What’s it like to have grown up with computers, the Internet and smartphones?  Hell, I remember when everybody got VCRs and Walkmen, even iPods.  Nobody buys an iPod anymore, they get a Touch…that ain’t an iPod, that’s a smartphone without the phone!

Anyway, I grew up with a TV.  A black and white set in the playroom.  It was encased in wood.  It stood on four spindly metal legs. There was no remote control.  And every night at five, I sat there with my sisters and watched the "Mickey Mouse Club".  Not the jive color remake with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, but the black and white original, with Cubby and Darlene and Annette and…Spin and Marty.

We had this little table.  I’d say it was covered in Formica, but that hadn’t been invented yet.  It was a low-slung affair, with four small chairs.  My mother would serve us pasta, with butter and salt.  Although back then we didn’t call it "pasta", we called it "noodles".  And occasionally french fries.  I always saved them for last.  I wanted to savor them.  Even though these crinkly slivers tasted terrible even when hot and I never got to them until they were cold, or at least lukewarm.

After the "Mickey Mouse Club" there was Claude Kirchner.  Yup, a circus show.  I hardly ever watched it, but I considered kids wimps if their parents made them go to bed when it came on at seven.  My mother never went to bed before midnight, I started following in her footsteps early.

And eventually we graduated to dinner upstairs.  With tomato sauce on our pasta and "Beaver" on the TV.  But in those early years in the single digits we’d spend time on the bottommost floor of our split-level, watching shows on the original black and white TV.  Eventually, my father won a color Admiral set in a raffle at the Jewish Community Center and all my friends came over after school to watch the World Series, at least until they got their own sets, but I remember watching the "Flintstones" downstairs. And "Sky King".

"Circus Boy" too!  When Micky Dolenz resurfaced in the "Monkees", I remembered him!

But there was something special about watching "Sky King".  It was sophisticated.  We were children, but it seemed to be made for adults, at least it felt that way.  And we related to Penny.  She was who we wanted to be, a modern teen who wasn’t locked in the basement playing board games, but out in the wild west of Arizona, facing danger, living on the edge.

At least it seemed that way from far away Connecticut.

I admired, I looked up to, I alternately felt like the younger brother and the wannabe lover of Penny.  And now Penny’s dead?

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