When I was a kid, back in the heyday of television before cable and when local stations actually produced some of their own programming, my mornings before school were dominated by three guys: Wallace, Ladmo and Gerald. The Wallace and Ladmo show was basically a time slot of cartoons interspersed with live action hosts and their comedy buffonery. A little bit Captain Kangaroo, a little bit Romper Room, a little bit vaudeville all rolled into one show which became a local institution for thirty-six years. Multiple generations of kids grew up with them and they currently hold the distinction of being the longest running, locally produced daily children's television show ever. Since networks don't produce their own children's programming any more, it's probably a record that will never be broken.

Title sequence:

Wallace and Ladmo were the background score to my eating breakfast and getting dressed activities every morning before school. A big feature on the show were the rare and elusive Ladmo Bags (which was basically just a paper lunch sack with the words "Ladmo Bag" written on it and stuffed full of Twinkies, candy, coupons and other crap -- it was brilliant in its simplicity). Kids lucky enough to come to a taping of the show got seat numbers and might have their number picked out of a hat to get a Ladmo Bag and sit on the bench on camera. You could send also write your name on a postcard for entrance in the big raffle barrel they'd pick from every day and you might be lucky enough to receive a Ladmo Bag in the mail after having your name announced to the entire viewing area. As a teenager and young adult we used the expression, "I never got a Ladmo Bag" to indicate that we were somehow the recipients of a deprived childhood. *I* never got a Ladmo Bag. *I* never sent my name in on a postcard, but *I* felt deprived just the same.

Wallace and Ladmo were accompanied by a number of other cast members over the years, but the ubiquitous Pat MacMahon was the most memorable. He had dozens of regular characters, Gerald the prissy brat everyone hated, Aunt Maud who read stories that always seemed to be just a little bit off, Boffo the unhumorous clown, Marshall Good, Captain Super... those are just the few I still remember. In addition to Pat (who they only called by the name of the character he was playing at that moment, but if you were a really savvy kid, you knew his real name and what he looked like with no mask or wig), they had local and sometimes national celebrities visit, a few regularly occurring guests like the local animal shelter, representatives from the police and fire departments, and even bank managers who wanted to teach kids to start a savings account. But mostly, they just did their schtick was brought the Funny. Local celebrities, these guys showed up everywhere, the state fair, local parks, holiday parades, running Ladmo Bag giveaways, signing autographs and doing little improvised stage shows. I once saw them perform at some local event and it was the highlight of the year... I did not win a Ladmo Bag there either. *sniff*

The show was silly and low budget and created very much in the tone of a vaudeville stage show with twenty year old jokes, prat falls, old tymey movies, and recurring characters. But we kids loved it. I think the best part about these guys was that they never talked down to the kids watching and therefore you could get caught up in deep philosophical conundrums like this one:

Or pick up on some of their more irreverent humor like this:

Sadly, the show was retired in 1989 and Ladimir Kwiatkowski died a few years later. Bill Thompson (Wallace) is no longer performing, but I recently read he still makes appearances - in a sense at least. He shows up at a restaurant every Thursday and holds court as people come to shake his hand, bring their kids to chat with him, and ask for his autograph. Pat MacMahon always had a side gig on the radio and is still doing that. There's never been anything like it since - and probably never will be again.

As an adult, I can't say I'm a better (or worse) person because of the influence of Wallace and Ladmo. Their overwhelming goal wasn't to teach me critical thinking, spelling, or math skills. There was no finding the clues to figure out the puzzle, no guiding manta of "We're here to help," no final song about how you can be a hero by picking up trash in your neighborhood, just like the garbage collector. They were just there to entertain kids; nothing more, nothing less. They dedicated their whole lives to that. As aspirations go, I'm sure there are more lofty ones, but when I sit down and think back on these three guys who wanted nothing more than to make kids laugh, I can't come up with a better use of time.

I wish my kids could get to grow up with them too.