Bob Keeshan, television's beloved Captain Kangaroo, entertained and educated millions of children for more than 30 years.
Launched by CBS in 1955, the live, hour-long "Captain Kangaroo" quickly captured a huge following. The 8 a.m. show became as much of a morning staple as a bowl of corn flakes for young baby boomers.
As the grandfatherly captain, Keeshan presided over his Treasure House, which an early CBS publicity release described as a "private wonderland of childhood."
Keeshan was joined by Treasure House regulars Mr. Green Jeans (actor Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum), various puppet friends, including Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit, as well as Dancing Bear and the venerable Grandfather Clock.
The captain's gentle and calm demeanor and the low-key atmosphere of the Treasure House contrasted sharply with that of most other early children's shows. As a review in Newsweek pointed out, "There is, mercifully, no studio audience of hyper-stimulated youngsters."
A television pioneer who had been the original Clarabell the Clown on one of the medium's first big hits, the "Howdy Doody" show, Keeshan had his own ideas about children's programming.
The "Tom Terrific" cartoons that aired on the show were nonviolent, for example. And Keeshan made a point of teaching his young viewers — his primary audience was children 4 to 6 years old — lessons in values such as kindness, sharing and honesty. He read a book a week to his audience.
Keeshan believed he knew the secret to staying on the air a long time and it was not violence.
"Violence is part of life, and there is no getting away from it," he once said. "But there is also gentleness in life, and this is what we have tried to stress on our shows."
Keeshan was just 28 when he first donned a bobbed wig, walrus mustache and makeup to make him look the part of Captain Kangaroo — along with the uniform with the deep pockets, like kangaroo pouches, which gave him his name.
Over the years, he needed less makeup to play the part, and his own hair turned gray, then white.
As he liked to say, "I have grown into the part."
Keeshan's TV image was so convincing, he wrote in his 1995 memoir, "Good Morning Captain," that his youngest daughter, Maeve, once visited the set and sat in the captain's lap for a chat. When Keeshan returned to the set out of costume, his daughter told him, "Daddy, Daddy, you just missed Captain Kangaroo!"
The show, which ran for 29 years on CBS and later on PBS for six seasons, won five Emmy Awards and three Peabody Awards.