Sunday, September 17, 2006


Howard (if that's his name) Eats

Well, about a week after taking up residence here, and I suspect a week after taking up residence anywhere outside an egg, the turtle has eaten. This isn't unusual -- they subsist for a week or two on yolk. But yesterday he snapped at some turtle food and since then has eaten a few pieces, which, for someone his size, is probably enough. I'm always surprised at how rarely reptiles eat, but I suppose if you aren't burning a lot of energy regulating your blood temperature, that makes sense.

I'd try to post a movie of him eating but one of the things I learned in reading about these animals is that they need a place to hide. So I gave him a piece of broken earthenware and now I have the thrill of a pot of water on my kitchen counter with occasionally a foot or the tip of a tail in sight or, on good days, a glimpse of his head. This is not very much like owning a dog.

Ronnie asks if he has a name and he doesn't appear to, but if he did, it would be Howard. That's Howard the Turtle, between Al Hamel and Michelle Finney. They starred on a fondly remembered CBC kids show called Razzle Dazzle. I've mentioned it to Canadians in the past with no particular response, and when I looked it up, I found out why. It was only on the air for about four years and you'd have to be at least 45 to remember it, and 10 years older to have been in its target age.

However, in looking it up, I realized why my friend Chris Morphy and I were so in love with Michelle. All these years, I've assumed she was a young-looking young woman. No, she was our age -- she was 11 the first year the show was on, 12 the second year, and replaced the third year, at which point we quit watching it anyway because we were high school freshmen and had other things we needed to be doing.

The show was a mix of things, including Howard, who was a sock puppet sticking out of a turtle body on a pedestal. The puppeteer who did Howard also did the puppets for The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup, so you have to think Burr Tilstrom rather than Jim Henson.

They showed serials, mostly "The Terrible Ten" which was Australian and since we didn't get to see the show every day, a little confusing -- mostly kids with funny accents running around. And they read viewer mail, and had a segment where they would choose an invention from a viewer and make it. Chris had one that got on the air, a kind of sombrero with a poncho rolled up on the brim so that, if it rained, you could just pull it down. They made it, Michelle modelled it and Chris was supposed to get the prototype in the mail, though I don't know if he ever did. I know it didn't show up right away.

Howard would dress up, as in this picture, or he would come up with some wonderful idea that wouldn't work, or a combination of the two. The only one I remember specifically was the time he bought an island that was going to make him wealthy because it produced so many potatoes. It was called "Potato-Eating Island" but on the map he was given, they just used the initials.

This would have been one of the more sophisticated jokes on Razzle Dazzle. Michelle would groan and say, "That's a real groaner!" but she loved Howard and I think that's why we loved Michelle. She was just what every seventh grade boy wants: A really cute girl who likes really stupid jokes. (Viewers also sent in groaners. The show was very well targeted to our age group.)

I couldn't find any information on whatever happened to Michelle Finney. A few years after Razzle Dazzle went off the air, she had a role in a CBC drama in which she played a young pioneer, and she was competent without blowing everyone out of the water. And I found evidence of a reunion show with Al and Howard in 1978, but that was it.

Anyway, this turtle doesn't seem to have a name, but, if he had a name, it would probably be Howard.

3 comments:

ronnie said...

Oh. My. God.

Razzle Dazzle...

It must've continued into the 70s, 'cause I remember it well... but I don't remember Michelle... I remember Miss Trudy... and I distinctly remember a Howard the Turtle.

I am not having much success, either, at finding much online about it. (Although it pops up now and then at the CBC archives site, in reference to other performers who guest-starred on it, they don't have an entry dedicated to it.) But you definitely injected a HUGE dose of nostalgia into ol' ronniecat tonight...

Mike said...

According to Wikipedia, it was on air from 1961 to 1966, so five years rather than four as I wrote. It could be that someone was rebroadcasting it when you were a young sprat.

Or, y'know, "4 o'clock, 5 Atlantic Time and 10 years from now in Newfoundland .. "

Anonymous said...

Was a guest on the show for my 12th birthday. Met Hal Hamel and Michelle Finney. Sat front row beside them in the audience. Met "Howard the Turtle"(John Keogh),in person for a private performance. What a rush for a kid! Tiny studio a long time ago with memories that were larger than life and will never be forgotten. Needed to share. Thanks!