My mother loves television, so it should come as no surprise that all of her children grew up spending at least some of their time in front of the big brown box. Mom knew who many of the actors were, and often told stories about them, making them appear larger than life. She always favored comedy to drama, and one of her favorite TV personalities was Paul Lynde, perhaps the best “funny man” of his generation. I remember watching “Bewitched” with my mother, and every time “Uncle Arthur” (played by Paul Lynde) appeared in an episode, we would both howl with laughter.
Minot had two television stations while I was growing up, so there wasn’t an overabundance of programs to choose from. In 1969, a cartoon called “The Perils of Penelope Pitstop” debuted, and because there weren’t a lot of children’s shows available, I watched it. When my mother heard Paul Lynde’s voice being used for one of the characters, she watched the show with me.
In the show, Penelope had inherited a large sum of money when her parents died, and had gone to live with her guardian, Sylvester Sneekly, who stood to gain Penelope’s fortune if something should happen to her. Every episode saw Sylvester Sneekly disguise himself as a villain called “The Hooded Claw” and attempt to do Penelope in. Penelope would scream “HELP” hundreds of times until she was eventually rescued by her friends. Paul Lynde provided the voice for both Sylvester Sneekly and The Hooded Claw, making him our favorite character.
I was an impressionable six year old at the time, so of course I liked to pretend I was “The Hooded Claw.” I would don my improvised costume, made from items from around the house, and leap out from behind doorways to terrorize my younger sisters. At first they would scream “help,” just like Penelope did, but after a few times they just yelled for Mom to tell me to stop bothering them. Just like “The Hooded Claw,” I would mutter “Curses: My plans are foiled again!”