The Friendly Giant
By Bill Fairchild
When I was a young boy in North Carolina in the early 1950s, my brother and I used to watch a children's TV program called "The Friendly Giant". A man dressed up in a Jolly Green Giant suit, pretended to be a giant, acted very friendly, told nice happy children's stories, and had a hand puppet named Gerome Giraffe on the set with him. Gerome called him "Friendly" for short. There were also Miss Melissa and the Romper Room, Howdy Doody, Winky Dink, Beany and Cecil, Mighty Mouse, and plenty of other children's programs to watch on TV.
I liked watching the Friendly Giant because he and his pal Gerome had such soft, soothing voices and nothing bad ever happened during their program, unlike the Howdy Doody show which had the mischievous Clarabell the Clown and the mean old Mr. Bluster to mess things up. Buffalo Bob was the adult in charge who was powerless to prevent bad things from happening, but when they did then he would chase Clarabell around the stage while the kids in the Peanut Gallery squealed with delight, and eventually everything was back to normal. One of the very worst things that ever happened on the Howdy Doody Show was when Clarabell the Clown squirted someone with seltzer water. But nothing bad EVER happened in the Friendly Giant's little kingdom.
As I got a little older, my taste in entertainment changed. I grew tired of The Friendly Giant precisely because nothing bad or exciting EVER happened. Howdy Doody was more fun to watch because of the chaotic, unpredictable Clarabell and the mean Mr. Bluster.
Then I grew up and things changed even more. When I had young children of my own in the late 1970s I watched The Howdy Doody Show a few times with my children. For some reason when I was 35 I found myself unable to take my eyes off of Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring. I hadn't cared very much about her when I was 6. But that is another story.
The Friendly Giant wasn't on TV anymore in the late 1970s, at least not in Maryland where I was living then. I think it was produced on a local station in North Carolina rather than being nationally syndicated. But in the 1970s there were other programs like Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. We watched these programs as a family and we all laughed the sweet, innocent laughter of little children.
Children's TV shows are exactly like going to church. They give the viewer a nice, warm, happy feeling, or in modern pop psycho-babble-speak, you can get a soft fuzzy. Happiness is watching a Mighty Mouse cartoon. Happiness is hearing the priest gently drone on about how everything will be all right. Happiness is a warm puppy. Santa Claus will bring you lots of presents, and the Easter Bunny will bring you a big chocolate egg. The Tooth Fairy will put a quarter under your pillow. The Great Pumpkin brings happiness to all the boys and girls. And so on.
I used to be an avid fan of The Kingston Trio. I was horribly disillusioned in 1962 when Dave Guard, the founder of the group, dropped out and was replaced by John Stewart. How could Dave do such a thing? Had he lost his mind? The Trio was obviously such a happy group, singing, laughing, commercially successful. What was going on? A college friend of mine whispered to me one day "drugs". According to my friend Al Prince, the real reason why Dave Guard dropped out was drugs.
I was devastated. One of my heroes had let me down.
I was also only 18 years old at the time.
Since then I have learned the real reason for their breakup, which was a clash of personalities over the future musical direction of the Trio. Drugs had nothing to do with it, but I had accepted my friend's rumor as the truth in my youthful naiveté. I was too busy back then to investigate and learn more for myself. The fact that they did break up was disillusioning enough, but as I thought the real reason had to do with drugs I was doubly disillusioned. This is another facet of life's disillusioning process, which is that it is often very hard to learn the real truth about others and that we should not blindly accept what others tell us. This naive trust in others was to bite me very badly when I started listening to the WWCG's radio program a few years later.
About 15 years later I was in the Worldwide Church of God, and I found myself reminiscing with another member named Robert Dahms. He was much older and wiser than I, but I remember remarking to him that I had learned that one definition of maturity was being able to deal with ever increasing doses of disillusionment. He sadly nodded his head in agreement with me.
In the last few years I have learned that my church leaders lied to me repeatedly. I have also learned that the President of the United States has lied not only to the American people but also to a grand jury, has obstructed justice, pardoned criminals for personal profit or to keep his own criminal activity covered up, started wars for personal profit or to distract the American public's interest in his own personal problems, and even had people murdered. But that's another story.
I have been so badly disillusioned by all things human that I must be getting pretty close to real maturity. Now I can truly understand what the scripture meant about "every brother will utterly supplant." That goes for our pastors, pastor generals, lawyers, doctors, bankers, senators, generals, ambassadors, supreme court justices, presidents, popes, kings, emperors, and Nobel Peace Prize winners.
I also understand now why people go to church. They need desperately to hear a so-called expert preach to them smooth things, to tell them everything is all right, that the United States will keep getting bigger and better and more fun and last forever, and that everything will be happy happy joy joy after they die. All they need to do to make things better is pray.
Unfortunately, the message the expert preaches is useless. Things don't get better when you pray. God does not stop the plane from crashing into the building when people pray. God does not help you find a parking space when you ask for one. God did not intervene and stop Adolf Hitler from starting a world war that killed a total of 40 million people and destroyed almost two whole continents.
When I think about going to church, I remember the soothing pabulum that I will hear flowing mellifluously out of the mouth of the spiritual shepherd more drivel about how things will work out. And then I also remember how much more fun it was to watch Mighty Mouse knocking the evil cats all over the place. Or how there were never any problems in the land of the Friendly Giant. The reason we adults can feel so comfortable remembering Mighty Mouse and Howdy Doody is because when we were watching those shows we were about six years old, very impressionable, and we had loads of happy, safe fun watching the shenanigans. So now the ancient memories in our brains are associated with safe, happy fun. And priests droning on about prayer and God's great love rekindle the same warm, fuzzy kinds of associations in our memories.
These solutions hearing a bland sermon and watching Mighty Mouse whip the evil cats are all equally valid. And equally invalid. We are on our own now, folks. God is not bailing us out. And neither is Mighty Mouse. The people in the planes on September 11 might as well have prayed to the Great Pumpkin.
I sure wish I could find my gentle pal The Friendly Giant on the TV again now that we really need him.
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:
Email The Painful Truth
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright © 1997-2003 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.