Since its October, I’ve decided to devote some of this month’s posts to things that have really scared me. My first thoughts went to television programs and movies. And I decided to start with one of my earliest memories of something scaring me. And that is Dick Van Dyke.
Maybe it’s not him. Doesn’t everyone love Dick Van Dyke? He always played lovable characters. Mary Poppins came out when I was 2 but was in theaters regularly when I was young. Who couldn’t love him as Bert? I was 6 when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came out and his face was familiar to me from Mary Poppins and The Dick Van Dyke Show. And who couldn’t love his TV show? Singing the theme song to the show and stumbling over living room furniture was a favorite past time at the Wheeler home. I was probably too young to remember the airing of any of the original episodes but some of my earliest memories of watching anything on TV were seeing these re-runs in syndication. I would have had fond memories of this show if it wasn’t for one episode that scared me.
The episode called “It May Look Like a Walnut” originally aired on February 6, 1963. I wasn’t even 1 at the time so I know I that my memory isn’t from that airing of the show. I seem to remember watching this episode at my grandmother’s house one morning when she was babysitting me. In this show, Dick Van Dyke’s character watches a science fiction program on TV that his wife doesn’t want to watch. She hides her eyes and he makes fun of her. In the program he watched, the earth is attacked by walnuts. The walnuts remove everyone’s thumbs and imagination. Later, Dick finds walnuts scattered throughout his living room. In a particularly memorable scene, he opens a closet next to their front door and hundreds if not thousands of walnuts pour out. I will not spoil the ending of the show because I do not remember how it ended although I know that I watched it all. The memory that stuck with me is the walnuts pouring out of the closet. Before I started investigating details of this episode for this post, I seem to remember ping pong balls instead of walnuts. But I’m sure that I probably confused this with the ping pong balls that Mr. Moose dropped Captain Kangaroo.
Even if I didn’t originally see this episode while staying with my grandmother, I remember being at her house soon after seeing it. The bathroom was in the back portion of her house, through her bedroom and down a short hall. There was a bedroom next to the bathroom and the door to that room was always shut. At the time I don’t think I knew what was behind that door. In the imagination of a young child, that door could have easily been a closet filled with walnuts. I remember that I didn’t want to go down that hall to the bathroom for fear of walnuts. I preferred to wait to get home to use the bathroom. In my young mind, I could also see similarities in the layout of the living room of our own house and the one on the TV show. When I was singing the theme song reenacting the opening of the show, I always came from our front door and stumbled over the chair sitting next to it. We also had a closet right next to the front door that I didn’t like to open for fear of being covered in walnuts. This fear was short lived and I never stopped watching Dick Van Dyke. I’m sure that it was relatively soon that I became afraid of other things in my closet.
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