When I was a kid, my favourite show was Polka Dot Door. It ruled.
One of my Mom’s favourite stories about me is also about Polka Dot Door, thanks to many, many weekday afternoons of watching it with me. Polka Dot Door was a kid’s show on TVO, a channel in Ontario, Canada that, in the 1970’s, was starting to take a sharp look at the format of children’s programming. A team of writers, directors, and educators combined forces and created a giant 7 foot tall kangaroo, covered in multicoloured dots, named Polkaroo. By the 1980’s, Polka Dot Door was one of the most popular programs for kids in the province – and with good reason: it was a well designed, brilliantly executed, creative show that expanded the imagination of a generation.
And at the age of 4, I had discovered its biggest secret.
The show worked like this: there were always two adult hosts on screen, usually a woman and a man, and at one point during the show, one of them would quietly disappear*. Seconds later, after the remaining adult asked “Where’s Host #2?!?”, Polkaroo would appear out of nowhere, and act out silent clues to get the audience to guess a word based on the day’s theme. Once successful, Polkaroo would disappear, the other host would return, and would always say “The Polkaroo was here? And I missed him again?”
At which point I would turn to my Mom and say “You know Mom, I think that guy is the Polkaroo.”
My Mom claims that is the point she knew I’d be trouble going forward. I like to say it was clearly an example of how brilliant I was at a young age. These days we split the difference. I like to think I was a smart kid, and that I was picking up on the inner workings of a show designed to blow the minds of 4 year olds. I also like to think I wasn’t the only one – I had the pleasure of watching an improv group do an incredible sketch based on the very concept Polka Dot Door used to disguise the comings and goings of a giant polka dot kangaroo. It was magical – even after I had to explain it to the Irish Lad sitting beside me, it somehow made the whole thing more hilarious.
I still get excited when I see the Polkaroo – and when I think back on time spent with my Mom, I remember learning songs and games that helped me challenge my brain at a young age. Who knew a giant mostly yellow kangaroo would be such an inspiration.