Boomers Watched A Show About A Talking Horse

Mister Ed was a TV show that ran from 1961 to 1966. The movie and TV rating site IMDb describes the series as, “The misadventures of a wisecracking talking horse and his human owner.” Boomers will always recall the talking horse, and Mister Boomer bets a good many can still sing along to the theme song from the show’s opening:

A horse is a horse
Of course, of course
And no one can talk to horse, of course
That is, of course, unless the horse
Is the famous Mister Ed!

The series begins as newlyweds Wilbur and Carol Post move into their first house, a country home. They discover the previous owner left a horse behind in the backyard barn. While Carol thinks they should sell the horse, Wilbur quickly takes a liking to him, and wants to keep him. The horse agrees.

George Burns financed the original pilot episode in 1958, which failed to gain a network sponsor. After retooling and a change of cast, it was put into syndication by Filmways with 100 TV stations in 1960. After 26 episodes had aired on syndication, CBS saw the show was well-received, and it was picked up. The first national broadcast aired on October 1, 1961.

Alan Young played Wilbur Post, Mister Ed’s owner, and Connie Hines was his wife, Carol. The man voicing the horse was never credited on the show. Rather Mister Ed is listed as playing “himself.” However, the man behind the horse was Allan Lane, a Western film actor. Mister Ed mainly spoke only to Wilbur, but he could speak to people over the phone. Mister Ed was often pictured as listening in on phone calls through the extension in the barn, where Wilbur, a freelance architect, had constructed his office. In one episode, Mister Ed speaks to a burglar, telling him he was surrounded by cops and should give himself up. In another, he whistled at another horse, but the woman riding the horse heard him instead.

Mister Ed’s real name was Bamboo Harvester, a Palomino show horse born in El Monte, California. The horse was originally trained by Lester Hilton, who had apprenticed with Will Rogers. He also worked with the mules in the Frances the Talking Mule movies from the 1940s and ’50s, the horse in the Fury TV series, and the horse that played Flicka in the My Friend Flicka series. Pumpkin was Ed’s stunt double horse, and was used for Ed’s live appearances. Bamboo Harvester had to be put to sleep in 1968, at the age of 19. The show was still in syndication, so news of the horse’s death was not released so as not to upset boomer children who watched the show.

Here is a video of Mister Ed playing baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Leo Durocher and Sandy Koufax, and another on how they got Mister Ed to move his mouth.

Mister Boomer’s family watched every episode. Mister B was fond of the way Mister Ed would say, “Oh Wilbur!” chiding his owner about so many things. Wilbur was the naive, klutzy one, while Mister Ed was more of a “man of the world,” in tune with what was happening.

Did you watch Mister Ed, boomers?

Boomers Witnessed “Politically Incorrect” Halloween Costumes

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since boomers donned costumes and ran door to door in pursuit of as much candy as they could possibly gather. It seemed a simpler time, yet whether kids made their own costumes or wore the manufactured masks and apron-like coverings that their parents bought, lurking beneath the costume practice was a fair measure of cultural insensitivity at best, bigotry at worst.

Costumes that did not on the surface seem objectionable then would not be acceptable now. The Boomer Generation appeared right after World War II, so boomer kids were not going to be wandering around the neighborhood dressed as Nazis, or in black face, either (at least in Mister B’s neck of the woods). Nonetheless, Japanese Geisha costumes, Mexican sombreros and mustaches, and most prevalent of all, “Indian” princess and hobo costumes, were fairly common.

Cartoons from the 1940s and earlier perpetuated cultural stereotypes, and boomers watched them on TV all the time. In movies and TV Westerns, Native Americans were portrayed as “the Indian problem,” and the villain. That is why, in Mister Boomer’s estimation, girls wore Native American costumes more than boys; the boys generally preferred to be the cowboy “good-guys.”

By the mid-1960s, though, hobo costumes were popular with both boys and girls, possibly because it was a fairly easy do-it-yourself project. Every house kept old clothes for rags, so ill-fitting, worn-out clothes were on hand. Old shoes and perhaps one of dad’s old hats were added to it. Grab a bandana or dishcloth to tie up “belongings” and slip the knot over a stick, and the costume — a direct interpretation from cartoons — was complete. In some case, moms would toast a cork over the stove flame and smudge it on the child’s cheeks to simulate dirt or a four-day beard.

The movies (like Charlie Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” vagrant) and cartoons, if anything, romanticized a life where men (almost exclusively) set campfires to warm cans of soup before hopping trains from town to town. In that stereotypical portrayal, the idea of a homeless person was lost.

Store-bought costumes held their own degree of cultural appropriation and insensitivity. Ben Cooper, Inc., was the largest manufacturer of kids’ costumes in the boomer years. The company was among the first to license cartoon and movie characters from their beginnings in the late 1930s. While the company, and others like Collegeville and Halco, produced TV character costumes that included Zorro, Donald Duck and Davy Crockett, they also made Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto, and “squaw” costumes for little girls.

This year there is a continuing discussion concerning Disney’s Moana and Pocahontas costumes for little girls. While the girls want to picture themselves as Disney princesses, others see cultural disrespect and insensitivity to a distorted historical record. In fact, in 2016 Disney removed a costume based on the character Maui, from the Moana movie, from store shelves. The objections raised said the costume promoted “brown-facing.”

Recent events have produced dozens of stories of people in prominent positions who had more than a few skeletons in their Halloween closet, and the pictures to prove it. However, despite the record of insensitivity in the boomer years, Mister Boomer can’t help but notice that in this latest rash of revelations, the named offenders were not children at the time they made their costume choices, and were not of the Boomer Generation, but later generations. These revelations prove that we still have a ways to go to live up to boomer-era sentiments of, “C’mon people now/smile on your brother/everybody get together/try to love one another right now.”

How about it, boomers? Did you wear costumes 50 years ago that wouldn’t pass scrutiny today? How would you feel about your grandchildren wearing these types of costumes today?