Bluey, Bluey

1960

The TV camera at KPIX Channel 5 in San Francisco zoomed in to get a close-up shot. Mayor Art plunged his hand down into a mass of post cards, twisted his wrist back and forth, and pulled one out.

Over on Mayfield Drive, 40 miles away, I sat like a little soldier in front of our black and white television screen. Although only ten, I dreamed of fame. Not fortune. Just fame. My little brother Stevie sat next to me. We were watching The Popeye Show, hosted by Art Findley whom I knew as Mayor Art.

Boys and Girls. I have the name of the child who will join me next month to host The Popeye Show. {The camera zoomed in closer to the post card}

The handwriting on the post card looked familiar. Mayor Art pushed the card closer to the camera so the TV audience could read the letters. There on our screen were two of the sweetest words my eyes had ever seen: CHERI BLOCK. Instead of inhaling with shock, I exhaled and then screamed a scream that drew every living thing in the house to me in an energetic gravitational pull: my younger siblings, Cindy Lou and Jimmie, our two German Shepherds, Dickens and Galaxy, and my mother, Joan, ran into the den to see if Cheri had killed Stevie.

Now Boys and Girls, I’m going to take my saltshaker here (the microphone) and end tonight’s show by saying Bluey Bluey. And Cheri, I hope you are home because I will be calling your phone number in about 30 minutes.

Over on Mayfield Drive, hysteria had set in. Our phone rang and rang.
Does Cheri know that Mayor Art selected her card???
When will Cheri be on the show?
Mom, hang up! Mayor Art is supposed to call in 30 minutes.

Our doorbell rang. Neighborhood kids, from Sissy Hill to Big Steve Parlato and from Jack Zwissig to Jimmy Burnsides, crowded into our house to touch the new celebrity—-Cheri Block. Petie and Chris Gullick arrived, followed by their cousins, Jan and Cori Rasmussen. Chris, a 6th grader, yelled out, Bluey Bluey.

Mayor Art did call, confirming with Dad that I would be the show’s child host on March 7, 1960. So began my fame.

That week at school, good friends became best friends. My popularity, especially among 6th grade boys, rose like a rocket ship. Everybody wanted to know me. Even the Principal, Mr. Peacock, knew my name and interrupted the lunch hour in the cafeteria to announce my celebrity status. My friends clapped as I made my way to the stage.

Boys and Girls, we have a special person here at Glenmoor School: Cheri Block. This Friday, she will be on the Popeye Show. Cheri, we all will be watching and then he said, Bluey! Bluey!

With that, the 6th grade boys roared with laughter, yelling out randomly, Yeah…Cheri…Bluey,Bluey! This insensitive act would not go by unanswered.

My big day arrived. Dad and I left in the Ford for San Francisco. Dad coached me on etiquette, practiced my joke with me, and gave me pointers about stage presence.

Once on the set, I became a different person. I was no longer a dorky 4th grade girl, the subject of insensitive jokes and taunting by 6th grade boys. I was CHERI BLOCK, Assistant to Mayor Art, and personal friend of Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oil.

I was privy to inside television secrets. The Washington State Apple Commission, the show’s sponsor, used a neatly stacked pyramid of large flawless red apples to promote its product. That stack of apples turned out to be fake. Plastic fresh Washington State Apples.

Mayor Art didn’t look as spry as he did from my Mayfield Drive vantage point. In fact, he seemed a little crotchety and looked a bit old. Like about 40 years old instead of 25. Still, his energy infected my already hyperactive body and mischievous mind.

The moment for MY JOKE arrived. I looked furtively at Dad, who was sitting in a darkened part of the set on a white plastic chair. Dad looked a bit like The Joker that day, beaming his permanent smile to me on my stool.

Dad telepathically sent the joke to me.
Joke: What is the smallest room in the world? Answer: A Mushroom.

Maybe my transgression happened because I knew a posse of 6th grade boys waited to tease me back at Glenmoor School. Maybe it happened because I sought fame at any cost. Or, maybe it just happened.

Mayor Art said, OK Cheri, did you bring a joke to tell?

Yes. I did, Mayor Art.

Give me your hand, Mayor Art.

Give me your hand, Mayor Art.

Give me your hand Mayor Art. He placed his hand in mine.
I drew an imaginary line across his palm, as the cameraman hurried over to zoom in.
OK. This is a river and you are on one side and a bear is on the other.
Which way do you go?

I glanced over at Dad whose big smile had become a pursed line.

Mayor Art studied his palm. Why, Cheri, I would run this way, very quickly. (He pointed toward his thumb.) He seemed to be having a marvelous time with this interactive joke.

I caught his eyes in mine and, in a moment of raw defiance, glanced up at his grey Top Hat with its exaggerated wide white band.

With a bear behind???

There. I’d done it. Told a dirty joke on a TV set.

Mayor Art laughed, sorta, scrambling for a clever retort.

I laughed so hard that my dad had to yell Bluey Bluey from the across the room.
We broke to a cartoon. Mayor Art quickly moved to the wine barrel and the selection of a new name, a new little angel, to host next month’s show.

On the way home, Dad lectured and scolded me.

The next day at school, I became the celebrity I had always wanted to be.

The 6th grade boys had new respect.

Bluey, Bluey.

Photo by Dr. Hugh Block. Mayor Art (Art Finley), Cheri Block, and an unidentified boy. San Francisco, 1960.

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34 Responses to Bluey, Bluey

  1. Kathy says:

    What a great story!! You were awesome in the 4th grade too!

  2. lakeviewer says:

    Cheri,
    And I thought you had always been a goody-two-shoes! This is a beautiful, heartfelt story.

  3. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Once again, thanks for the feedback, Kathy.

    And Lakeviewer, as an educator yourself, you will remember the “Outwardly compliant and Inwardly defiant kid, right?”

    I had (have) my moments of defiance….

  4. adam says:

    How bout them apples? Great story.

  5. Dina says:

    Oh my gawd, thanks for the laugh! I can’t wait until I have to give my 2-year-old daughter the pursed lips look someday, because I know it’ll be followed by a great story to tell.

  6. andreaskluth.org says:

    That’s your best post yet. I’m LOLing…

  7. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Well, dang it. I had to remove my own comment because of a lousy grammatical error. Let’s try again.

    Adam and Dina–thanks for reading and commenting.
    Andreas–I am flattered. Thanks for your kind words. Perhaps my readers will visit your Hannibal Blog to learn who the Greatest Thinker of all time is. Bluey, Bluey!

  8. Sailing Past Maturity Straight into Senility says:

    I love it. Never play it safe. You rock, my friend.

  9. cw2smom says:

    Love this story!! Brings back memories of watching Hobo Kelly, Romper Room and Captain Kangaroo! How I wished to be on one of those shows, especially Hobo Kelly’s since she would put nuts and bolts and junk in a machine, crank it up and out would come toys! LOTS of toys! It was magical!! I am glad you had your opportunity to appear on that show and I hope you received some gift, besides your 15 minutes of fame! Again, I love your writing and stories! Blessings, Lisa

  10. Kathy says:

    Cheri,

    Thank you so much for your comment on my blog. I wrote you a note today if you have a chance to read it. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. It meant more than you know.

    ♥ Kathy

  11. ClaireMontgomeryMD says:

    i loved this story!

  12. Douglas says:

    Cheri, you struck a blow for us all. And they thought the Free Speech Movement started at Berkeley…. humph!

  13. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Hey, Claire. Thanks!

    Douglas, as you know Berkeley is just across the bay from San Francisco.

  14. Douglas says:

    Of course, I know that. Having spent a few bits of time there in the late 60s… courtesy of the USN. A few weeks during the People’s Park uproar, a few other visits here and there. I have more than a few stories in my head about the area.

  15. Sunny says:

    What a lovely story!

  16. Sunny says:

    Catch an award :)

  17. Queenie says:

    That was HYSTERICALLY FUNNY! Good for you, for having the gumption to tell a naughty joke on TV and in front of your father and the whole world! I love it!

    I was always outwardly compliant and inwardly defiant (Catholic school alum) but I wouldn’t have had the guts to do that on TV.

    Huzzah!

  18. Chourou says:

    Hi,Cheri.

    <…my mother, Joan, ran into the den to see if Cheri had killed Stevie>

    hahaha(^o^) I always like your exression like above.

    I really enjoyed. Thank you!

  19. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Queenie,
    Yes, I have many friends who tell tall tales of the nuns. Thank you for your comment!

    Chourou,
    I printed out your good wishes for my sagging business and have it under the glass on my desk. A Japanese Yoda, I call you! Thank you.

  20. BruinFan says:

    This is a fantastic story! I was howling with laughter. You really brought the story to life. And, I love the photo!!

  21. Chourou says:

    Hello,again,Cheri.Yoda strikes back! LOL
    Oh,you did that? I’m very very….honored and that does my ego good. If you are all right and have no problem to keep writing articles to your blog as is, I am very happy.

  22. Jan Bigotti says:

    Cheri,
    You were always ahead of us all with your quick wit. I can picture your Dad’s face when you told that joke on TV. Hope you and your are well!
    Jan (WOW) do you remember that is what you and Cori called me?

  23. NorCal History says:

    Cheri –

    I was recently touching up the Wikipedia article about Mayor Art, and after a pretty thorough search, it looks like this picture of Mayor Art and you may be the only picture available of Mayor Art on the internet. It would be great to use this picture in the Mayor Art article, but under Wikipedia’s rules, the picture cannot be used there with the permission of the owner of the picture.

    If you would like this picture to be able to be used in the Wikipedia article, you can contact me at the email address I’ve provided, and I can explain the simple process to allow use.

    Thanks!

  24. Cheri says:

    Dad, you see?

    Even though you are now a magnetic field moving around somewhere in the Universe, the picture you took of your favorite child and her favorite TV host is going on the Internet.

    Bluey, Bluey, Hugh!

  25. NorCal History says:

    Here is the link to the Wikipedia article with the picture of Cheri Block and Mayor Art:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Finley

    Enjoy!

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  29. Steve C. says:

    Cheri, that’s a great story that brings back dormant memories of my own appearance on The Popeye Show in 1959. I was six at the time and was incredibly excited when my postcard was drawn, my name read on the air, and the phone call came a few minutes later. I remember practicing for the show with a REAL salt shaker until the fateful day of my appearance.

    When that day came, I wasn’t the shy little boy I later became. I talked on camera every chance I got and even tried to grab the microphone away from the little girl who was the other guest. For over a year afterward, people came up to me and asked if I was on the show, and I was always proud to tell them I was.

    That was a live TV show, from what I recall, and I don’t suppose they filmed or videotaped (if they even had videotape back then) the episodes. And even if they did, I don’t suppose they still have them stored anywhere. But how wonderful it would be to see that episode! It would be the only video record of me from back then.

  30. ctw says:

    What a great story, Cherie!
    Grew up in the bay area, still here, and got to go on the Popeye show when my sister’s name got pulled from the barrel. What pandemonium reigned when we got that call!

    btw, Mayor Art was on KRON channel 4
    Years later as a young married couple we spent many an evening listening to the Art Findlay show on KGO radio. What a grand man
    cheers from the Peanut gallery.
    Carol in marin

  31. Cheri says:

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for reading!
    Those were the days.
    I’m sure your whole family went as crazy as the Block family.
    My ego was never the same.

  32. Dan OBrien says:

    Great Story, I loved Mayor Art. Could not beat feet home fast enough to watch the show.
    Mayor Art was the very first Kid show most in out town ever watched… We did not have TV until we had it translated to us on UHF.
    I spent weeks learning how to make a pop with my tounge…. If I had a full set of teeth today, I would still do it….
    Thanks again for your story.

  33. Cheri says:

    Thank you Dan. You picked my favorite post.
    Those days are vivid for both of us it seems.

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