Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 25, 2007

Romper, Stomper, Bomper, BOO!

By Kerry Blair

I must admit I’ve found a few of the posts and comments this week frightening. I never got in trouble in school. I was one of only two people in class on Senior Ditch Day. (Yes, the other was teacher.) Frankly, I was a teacher’s pet worthy of a monogrammed collar and flea dip. I blame Miss Nancy. Robert Fulgham learned everything he needed to know in Kindergarten, lucky guy. I was indoctrinated by Romper Room.

I’m here to tell you that what Night Gallery, Dark Shadows and Twilight Zone were to adults, Romper Room was to us sixties-era preschoolers. I never missed it. In fact, I learned to tell time in the pre-digital clock years (sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages) so I wouldn’t be a minute late turning on the TV. Good Do Bees were never late to Romper Room, and I was so scared of the teacher, Miss Nancy, that I was the undoubtedly the best Do Bee in fifty contiguous states.

The first thing we did each day was stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I still put my left hand over my right lung because that’s how I thought Miss Nancy did it. (Turns out televisions and mirrors are not exactly the same technology.) Next we sang the Do Bee Song. Do be a good Do Bee. Don’t be a bad Don’t Bee . . . The lyrics weren’t much and the melody wasn’t catchy, but I sang it fervently. It was during this lesson that my core values formed. Do Bees were turn-takers. Don’t Bee were friend-shakers. (I only sang it; I can’t explain it.) In short, Do Bees are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.* And Don’t Bees? Well, there simply weren’t any Don’t Bees on Romper Room.

That was Terrifying Toddler Truth Number One: Good Do Bees who went bad went away. I swear. Many days I sat with my pudgy little palms pressed to my cheeks crying, “Be a Good Do Bee!” to Robbie or Jeffy or Johnny, little boys who insisted on taking an extra cookie or stomping around too enthusiastically on their Romper Stompers. (Romper Stompers were yellow plastic buckets with green nylon ropes attached. All the true-blue Do Bees owned at least one pair. I had two.) I almost fainted when a kid sassed Miss Nancy . . . and without raising his hand! Saintly Teacher never scolded, but one side of her lips turned down while the opposite eyebrow rose. I knew what that meant and despaired. Sure enough, after the next commercial Jeffy was gone, replaced without explanation by a Do Bee with no cowlick and better manners. For years I've searched cornfields and studied the backs of milk cartons, hoping for a clue to what happened to all those little boys. Alas, only Miss Nancy knew, and she probably took the secret with her to her grave. (Let's hope that's all she took there!)

As hard as it is to believe, I hated snack time. In the first place, the blessing on the cookies really bugged me. God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Excuse me, but even a Dumb Bee knows that good and food don’t rhyme. In the second place – and speaking of bugs – my mother served oatmeal cookies with raisins. Everybody knows that raisins are pickled flies, but I ate them anyway. That’s what Do Bees did on Romper Room because if Do Bees didn’t they were Don’t Bees and even home-bound Don’t Bees quailed before the second terrible truth.

Terrifying Toddler Truth Number Two was that you didn’t have to be in the Romper Room itself for Miss Nancy to see you and send you away by remote! I’m not making this up. Miss Nancy possessed heck’s cheap imitation of the urim and thummim. At the close of every show she raised the device, narrowed her eyes, and chanted this incantation: Romper, Stomper, Bomper, Boo! Tell me, tell me, tell me, do! Magic Mirror, tell me today: did all our friends have fun at play? Then began the appalling litany: I see Stephanie. I see Julie. I see . . . By the time she’d said “boo” I’d already scurried for cover under the table or behind the couch. There I crouched with the newspaper and two pillows over my head, praying that Miss Nancy wouldn’t see me, or if she did, wouldn’t discern that I watched Romper Room only out of mortal terror. Every time she’d say “Gary” or “Cheri” or similar near-misses, I’d fall into a paroxysm of panic. That was silly of course. Nobody was safe. Miss Nancy’s last words to us were always: And I see YOU too!

I believed that with all my impressionable, pounding little heart.

As a first school experience, Romper Room affected me profoundly. (“Scarred me for life” is another way of putting it.) I carried Miss Nancy’s code with me to Kindergarten and beyond. While I never actually saw a Don’t Bee disappear from the public school system, I wasn’t willing to take the chance. After all, boys were taken into the principal’s office, weren’t they? Sometimes they were gone for hours at a time, right? What if Miss Nancy and her ilk had advanced from Magic Mirrors to Stepford technology? I wouldn’t it past her, nor could I take the chance.

Although I’m long out of school I’m still a very good Do Bee. I’d like to credit goodly parents or the gospel of Jesus Christ for keeping me on the straight and narrow, but I suspect I owe it all to Miss Nancy. For sure I still raise my hand, drink my milk, and pick up my toys. After all, I can only assume Teacher has retired. What if she's still out there? What if she’s still sitting in a black-and-white Romper Room somewhere, squinting into her Magic Mirror and just waiting for me to finally screw up?

Anybody want to share half my oatmeal cookie . . . just in case?

*You only thought that was Boy Scouts. They probably got the oath from Miss Nancy.


At 5/25/2007 1:44 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I never realized Romper Room was so frightening! I've seen snippets of it on tv but I guess they deleted the child-terrorizing elements of it. I wonder if you could sue?

At 5/25/2007 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crikey! I'm glad I skipped over all that pre-school television and went right to Star Trek!


At 5/25/2007 4:33 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

The unfortunate part of your post is that IT IS ALL TRUE!

Never a coordinated child by anyone's stretch of the imagination, you can guess how I fared on my Romper Stompers. I hated those things.

That non-rhyming prayer always bothered me too. (the first sign that I would grow up to work with words; my siblings didn't get what the big deal was.)

And Do Bee, Don't Be, and Magic Mirror? Them's the stuff nightmares are made of. I feel your pain.

At 5/25/2007 5:12 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

I don't remember watching Romper Room, although I remember hearing about it at a young age.
I think what traumatized me into behaving at an early age was watching my 1st grade teacher break a yardstick over a classmate's rear end. This took place out in the hall---I was sharpening a pencil at the time and just happened to look out into the hall as poor Brenda whats-her-name got hit. This teacher picked up a piece of the broken yardstick and continued to beat the tar out of this young girl. I was never the same . . .

A couple of months later, when I accidently stapled the back of my thumb while trying to staple 3 papers together, I didn't make a sound. Instead, I crawled under the row of desks that led out into the hallway, and dashed to the girls restroom to stifle the bleeding. I was terrified of Mrs. Raymond.

But she did show me some TLC later that day when she found out what had happened. (A janitor had to use pliers to pull out the staple) I learned Mrs. Raymond was actually pretty nice . . . when you didn't tick her off. =) She is the woman who taught me to read, so I owe her a lot.

At 5/25/2007 8:51 PM, Blogger Jon said...

So, out of curiosity, what are the other two states in your 50 contiguous states? (State of Shock? Solid State? State of Confusion?) ;)

I'd be happy to share half of your cookie. My weird upbringing tic is that I can never bring myself to eat the last one of anything. My wife has to explicitly grant it to me - "You can have the last brownie" - or it'll sit there untouched by me.


At 4/29/2015 7:14 AM, Anonymous Mark O. Hammontree said...

Wonderful writing approach! Thanks for writing it and sharing it. :)


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