by Ronald L. Smith
He made people look stupid.
He laughed at "squares."
He perfected "mind control" and "subliminal suggestion" before the Cold War era began.
He jeered authority and cheered humorous disobedience. He only had kind words for his cult followers:
"Hiya kids, hiya hiya."
While Moe had Larry & Curly, and Spike Jones had his City Slickers, Froggy the Gremlin worked alone. That's part of why he has such a unique one-to-one appeal in our memory. He was the lone class clown,
the one "bad apple" in the barrel, the one wart on the helping hand.
Remember when you were a kid, and adults kept giving you another chance to be good and behave? On "Andy's Gang,"
Andy Devine, that big symbol of authority,
invited the Gremlin to come out and behave himself...
"Plunk Your Magic Twanger, Froggy!"
In a puff of smoke, Froggy appeared, laughing, hopping from side to side, that fixed and evil grin on his face.
Andy thought THIS TIME, Froggy might behave like a responsible adult. But the kids in the audience knew better! Froggy relished practical jokes, dirty tricks, and interrupting any "guest" who was giving a lecture that involved learning something! In the audience, kids screamed with delight, half of them howling and trying to get out of their seats.
The history of Froggy the Gremlin is a swamp of mystery. Nobody paid much attention to kiddie shows, so there aren't any newspaper clippings about Froggy. By the time people realized how warped Froggy was, the program was over, the damage was done and the perpetrators long dead.
The legend began on radio.
Froggy made his debut in a kiddie show hosted by Smilin' Ed McConnell. He was pleasant, jolly and full of fun and fantasies.
For more details on the Father of Froggy, just
click here for
where he was born, what radio shows he did, and other vital information
When Smilin' Ed unveiled his "Buster Brown Gang" show in 1944, audiences didn't know what to expect. Buster Brown had been the subject of a brief 1929 radio series on CBS, and that was now a dim memory. And so was R. F. Outcault, who had died in 1928.
Outcault (1863-1928 was the cartoonist who created the Buster Brown strip in 1902. It debuted in the New York Herald (say, didn't Oscar Madison write for them???) For more on Outcault and how he connected with the Brown Shoe Company, click here.
OK, if you haven't clicked that link, then you really don't care much about corporate licensing agreements of artistic creations. You want me to get back to the story of Froggy. OK. Smilin' Ed's show was a hit. He'd be sure to open every episode with a subliminal shoe reference ( "Come running") and pepper the show with references to his one and only sponsor.
Frank Ferren was the producer and Hobart Donovan was the officially credited writer. He definitely wrote the long "adventure" scripts that took up most of the show's half hour. But it seems that the novelty songs were written by Smilin' Ed, and the comical segments with Froggy the Gremlin were done by Harry Stewart, a struggling cornball comedian who was slowly beginning a career as a novelty singer and character comic under the name Yogi Yorgesson.
The characters of Froggy the Gremlin, Midnight the Cat and Squeaky the Mouse were not in the Buster Brown strip; they were all invented for the radio show.
"Smilin' Ed's Buster Brown Gang" took to the airwaves on September 2nd. His long run on NBC radio would continue every Saturday morning at 11:30 through April 11, 1953.
(More details on the radio show are on the Smilin' Ed page.)
The Buster Brown comic books, given out free, eventually began to feature not only adventure stories, but funny adventures involving Smilin' Ed and his Gang.
As with the latter TV show adventures (featuring Gunga Ram) the radio and comic book adventures involving kid heroes, genies and pirates were not exactly riveting. Today it's Froggy the Gremlin that accounts for most of the interest in the radio show, comic books and TV series.
For many kids, a sign of puberty was getting sick of that Buster Brown label inside your shoe and wanting to wear a normal brand of footwear.
Into the harmless world of radio adventure stories and Buster Brown comic books came a certain amphibian-poltergeist. He was dressed, mockingly, in a red jacket, white shirt and black tie. But he had no pants on.
Was he a ghost, space creature or leprechaun? A little guy with a frog's head?
Was he a frog that became a gremlin? A gremlin that had become a frog?
Where exactly was his "twanger" and how did he "plunk" it?
Nobody really knew much about the magical, mysterious......
FROGGY THE GREMLIN.
He was the star attraction. Eventually he appeared on many Buster Brown comic book covers, and.....
By 1948 the Rempel Company began to market a Froggy the Gremlin. Yes, he was now infiltrating homes.
For more on the Rempel company and the immortal rubber version of froggy, Click right here.
While the Froggy doll remains the most sought-after item for Gremlinphiles, there is a lot of other stuff out there. It can cost up to $50 or $100 for...
Ha ha ha...a game of paddleball with Froggy....
If you'd like another look at a froggy paddle, just hop over here and click! .
This is the very rare Froggy Paper Whistle!
If you'd like a close-up on the feet... clickity-click! And for children who want to actually BE the mischievous gremlin, a paper Froggy mask...
$50 for the mask is not uncommon. What would a simple piece of cardboard with a "froggy flicker" image on it cost at an Internet auction? Click to see it and find out!
Those who visited a Buster Brown store may have been confronted by a bizarre "in store" display. Three dimensional, motorized so that the figures actually moved, the wooden stage (five feet by three feet) must have made kids gasp and parents cringe. Let's test your reaction...
Highly prized: the box the shoes came in, because Froggy was on the box (he was, he was)...
You'd like to see a different box, with Andy Devine on it? You would, you would? This'll do it, it will, it will! . And this click will show you the $35 to $60 froggy tab-pin premium!
In the days before VCR's, you could only play with a "Froggy Flicker" toy...
Unless you caught the TV show on your ghosty, flickery tiny black and white TV set!
For great photos of both Smilin' Ed and Andy Devine, and amazing stuff about Froggy's television
career (pix of Midnight and Squeaky, too!)
click here for
comments, just e-mail ol' CyKottick at hotmail...
comments, just e-mail ol' CyKottick at hotmail...