I was sitting in a staff meeting earlier this week when the topic of Duane and Floppy came up. Three of us were laughing and reminiscing about this wonderful duo who delighted so many children in the late 1950s through the early 1980s. Three of us told stories about our favorite jokes and memories. And the other three looked at us with blank stares.
Obviously, there was a bit of a generation gap there. My three young co-workers had never heard of the little balsa wood dog puppet and his bearded sidekick. They couldn't tell you why the man threw the clock out the window or what the biggest pencil in the world is. They didn't know that you could touch Floppy's nose and make it beep. Because of their youth, they had never know the joys of the Duane and Floppy Show.
Of course, until recently, people could learn about this dynamic duo at the Iowa State Historical Building in Des Moines. An exhibit just inside the facility was dedicated to Floppy and his handler and featured the iconic dog himself along with photos and film clips. Now, that's been cleared away and put in storage to make way for a display on cycling.
Don't get me wrong - the history of bicycling is a fine exhibit and worthy of display. But Floppy is Floppy. Along with countless other Central Iowa children, I would race home to see the Floppy Show every afternoon. We'd get to hear kids tell jokes, watch some cartoons and the snappy banter between Floppy and Duane. It was great. Children clamored to attend be a part of his audience and perhaps have the chance to tell Floppy a joke or beep his nose.
Floppy was the guest of honor at a carnival in my hometown when I was really young. Duane Ellett and his dog puppet were stationed on a flat-bed trailer where he patiently sat and listened to jokes from just about every kid in town, including myself. What a great day for a kid.
Since the display came down, the public outcry has been incredible. A Facebook page is devoted to Save Floppy. Picketers took to the streets to protest the removal of the exhibit. Talk show host Jimmy Fallon has taken up the cause, with brief glimpses of t-shirts and a few shouted "Save Floppy" comments from himself and his guests.
Well, now the demands to save Floppy seem to have been heard. Word has it a new display will be featured at the Iowa State Fair. Floppy will be there in all his glory with the photos and film clips. The best part is, the display will be in a location that will bring in many more people. A whole new generation of kids will have the opportunity to meet Floppy.
Floppy probably won't be able to compete in the minds of today's children whose lives are filled with video games, texting and Facebook. Floppy comes from a much simpler time, especially to those of us who played outside all summer until dark, rode bikes until the tires wore out and were thrilled with the three channels our little black and white television received. Duane Ellett knew just how to talk to kids and make them feel special. Even though he heard the same tired old groaner jokes day in and day out, it didn't matter. Floppy would chuckle every time. I'd like so see Spongebob compete with kind of personal connection.
So, if you get a chance, go see Floppy at the State Fair. His exhibit will be located in Governor's Office Fair Booth. And ask you child or grandchild if they know why the man put his car in the oven.