“Ben, meet Howdy Doody”

Late afternoon  May 26, 1983 I was assigned to photograph world famous puppet Howdy Doody that was at the time on display at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.  The famous western-clad marionette played Buffalo Bob Bob’s sidekick during the immensely popular 1950s NBC children’s show of the same name – The Howdy Doody Show.   Growing up in Tacoma in the  fifties I was a devoted fan of the show and in my heart a member of the show’s Peanut Gallery in New York.

Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody
Studio photo of Buffalo Bob Smith with Howdy Doody and Flub a Dub from the children’s television progam Howdy Doody – circa 1949.

Our 8-year old son Ben was out of school that afternoon so I thought he might want to meet  Howdy as much as I did.  The encounter turned out to be a wonderful father son experience. The curator and puppeteer who traveled with Howdy on its nationwide tour met Ben and I near the exhibit. He was a pleasant enough guy and both Ben and I liked him immediately.

“So,” he asked rhetorically, “You both want to meet Howdy Doody?” He left for a few minutes and then walked the marionette toward Ben and I seated nearby. I thought a valuable marionette like Howdy would show up in a glass case. “This is the real, original Howdy Doody used in the show as Buffalo Bob’s sidekick,” he said.  Ben and I were all smiles. The curator explained that during the show’s 13-year run a look-alike puppet named “Photo Doody” substituted for the on-air Howdy at promotional events and advertising appearances. He again reminded us that the Howdy Doody marionette was the real deal.

The curator then  maneuvered  Howdy near Ben and tweaked the strings so Howdy leaned on Ben’s arm.  He graciously allowed me to photograph the setup. It was a special moment in my career. By the way, Howdy had 48 freckles, one for each state in the union at the time.

Howdy Doody puppet
Benjamin Larsen and the original Howdy Doody puppet and a nice moment at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry in 1983.

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Jeffrey Larsen

Retired photojournalist from Seattle Washington.