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Superman Never Had Sandy’s Sly Smile

October 19th, 2018 by dk

The 1960s version of me took it in the not-yet-shaved chin this week. The retailer who shaped my suburban upbringing gave up the ghost. So did a favorite daytime television character who had only recently become a Springfield neighbor.

Sears announced this week it would be closing its remaining stores and was declaring bankruptcy. Likening the Sears catalog to Amazon today is an apt comparison, except that today we expect everything to be available whenever we want it. Back in the 1960s, it was considered miraculous.

How many Halloween costumes from your childhood do you remember? I have only one such memory. I wanted to be Superman. My mother promised me I could be Superman. She must have figured it wouldn’t be a difficult promise to keep. Superman was a popular TV show at the time.

We went to every store we could think of, but nobody had the costume. I suggested Sears, singing the advertising jingle in my grade-school voice, “Sears … has everything!” They did. The day was saved, miraculously. I had a polyester Superman outfit, complete with cape.

Ten years earlier or 40 years later, and I might have insisted on having blue hair. Black-and-white television kept certain things simpler. Color television was reserved for the rich. Television manufacturers used the phrase “in living color” to convey exactly this difference. For those of modest means, there was only one way to have that technicolor experience. You had to be there.

Bozo’s Circus was televised live every weekday at noon on WGN-TV. Every kid in Chicagoland dreamed of someday being in the audience for this show. The waiting list for tickets approached ten years, making the dream for most of kids untenable. (Sorry, but the show was filled with jokes at least that bad.)

Some parents were smart enough to order free tickets as soon as their children were born, but most were not that forward-thinking. Others resorted to graft, including my father. He was a salesman downtown. I never learned how he scored tickets, but he did so more than once.

I was forced to sit “on the crack” between two sets of bleachers during my first visit to the show. That made quite an impression on me. By my third visit, I knew the routine and got myself picked for the show’s carnival-style game. I lost.

Bob Bell, a.k.a. Bozo the Clown, was the star of the show — always bigger than life. (I peeked around a corner and saw him smoking a cigarette once. It nearly destroyed me.) His sidekick was the modest and mute Sandy. Shy children identified with the show’s second banana — myself included.

So I was shocked this week to read Don Sandburg’s obituary in The Register-Guard. Had his family not included a photo of his television character, I would never have learned that he retired near family in Springfield in 2000.

I can still strike that shy, sly smile that I learned from Sandy more than 50 years ago. I’ve gotten more use from that grin than I ever got from that itchy Superman outfit.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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