||If you didn't grow up in Canada or don't
know what the CBC is, then this article isn't for you. There's a whole
Internet out there to browse -- maybe you could check it out while the
rest of us have a quiet moment to remember Ernie Coombs, better known as
I spent an afternoon in the CBC Broadcast Museum a
couple of years ago. For all they've done in the last 60+ years, the space
they use to show off their own history is modestly small. There's a part
of the floor devoted entirely to childrens' programming. There's a record
of Chez Hélène which I'm told I watched fervently, but have no
recollection of today. If you look up, way up, you can see the Friendly
Giant's tunic and boots.
And on a pillar behind some glass, a handwritten copy of
the theme piano theme music to Mr. Dressup. Take a second and see if you
can hum it out loud.When I hear it its light lilting melody, I can see the
animated opening to the show -- a small aeroplane putters by, piloted by
Mr. Dressup, trailing the name of the show behind. Can you see Mr. Dressup
giving a wave? Or working with a toilet paper roll, some felt, white glue
and a sprinkling of sparkles? Can you see the picture of the owl on the
wall saying a few words before falling back to sleep? Finnegan's gray-brown
fuzziness. Casey's red cheeks and freckles?
I might have been 5 or 6 when I saw him on stage, live.
It's only a dim memory now, but I remember being in some kind of
auditorium. The floor was covered in young kids, all sitting cross-legged.
There was a piano player, Mr. Dressup, Casey and Finnegan, and a woman I
didn't recognize. The talked out to the crowd which shouted back its
replies. After, Mom asked if I enjoyed it, and I think I did, once I got
over wondering, "Is it really him?"
You've probably got your own favourite memory of the
show. Or more likely, you can remember where you lived when you watched
it, the friends you had then, a house or apartment now long gone. Should
you run into Toronto singer Chris Whiteley, ask him to do "The Week
That Ernie Died." I heard a demo tape of it played on "The Vinyl
Café" in September, and I think he got it about right.
Mr. Coombs died on Sept 18, 2001