Sesame Street, one of the first television shows I ever became invested in. It’s a childhood memory for most kids growing up post ’60’s and is still leaving a hefty impact on youth today.
I don’t remember what time the show aired, what channel it was on, or how often it ran, but I remember tuning in, mom adjusting the TV antennas, and my little body lounging on a couch to catch the colorful characters sing and playing. I was a child of the 1990’s Sesame Street. But it had a long history before it made it’s way to me.
A man named Lloyd Morrisett attended a dinner party in 1966 at a New York event and had mention that the TV test patterns kept his daughter glued to the tube with fascination. This sparked up the conversation on how TV could be a vehicle for knowledge for kids and that it could be done in an interesting and fun way to hold their attention. Joan Cooney, a public TV producer took this idea to the streets and that’s when Sesame Street became a reality, airing November 10th, 1969.
The stage for Sesame Street was set in New York inspired neighborhoods like the Bronx and Harlem. This was to make it relatable to ‘underprivileged’ youth. Cast was also chosen with minority in mind. The show introduced Jim Henson’s Muppets with the classic characters of Big Bird, Kermit, Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie, Gover, and Oscar. They were accompanied by their human counterparts of the show and guest celebrities. Of course, I remember characters like The Count, Elmo, Snuffleupagus, and Zoe too. These characters were introduced in later seasons of the show.
Topics of the show touched on everything from your basic letters and numbers to more complex feelings and ideas like compassion, empathy, and pride, all backed by Garold S. Lesser, a Harvard professor, who was put in charge of the educational objective of the show.
And what’s with the name? Inspired by a New York Street? A child? Nope. The Preschool Educational Television Show was a place holder until the last minute when people finally came to a desperate agreement and choose Sesame Street, sesame being the magical phrase Ali Baba speaks before a spell.
The show has seen it’s fair share of struggles through the changing times, but has made adjustments to keep children entertained and educated. So it’s no wonder the show celebrated it’s 44th anniversary (yesterday, November 10th, 2013).
Some key images I remember from my early childhood of watching Sesame Street:
Letters and numbers growing out of the streets during the show introductions.
The set with a stoop. Since then, I have always wanted to live in an apartment with a stoop.
The rubber ducky song sung by Bert and Ernie.