Mack Williams: The kid in the forest

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mention the name Brooks Lindsay to people on both sides of the Medicare threshold, and you get the usual memories of his portrayal of WSOC-TV’s Joey the Clown on the show “Clown Carnival.” In a previous column, I wrote about my neighborhood friends and me celebrating my sixth birthday on that show and my first-grade, little boy eyes (and mind) being attracted to the “fishnets” (nothing aquatic) of Joey’s assistant, Miss Ginger. Back then, at Granite Quarry School, they gave us tests for advanced placement to see if there were subjects in which we were “beyond our years,” but none for that one.

In addition to Clown Carnival, Brooks Lindsay had another show, short-lived, on WSOC; and I’m not sure, but I want to think this was after Clown Carnival left the air. The show’s title was “The Man in the Forest.” In it, Lindsay sat on a stump in a forest clearing introducing cartoons, telling stories, and talking about grade school science.

Brooks Lindsay’s forested surroundings consisted of a backdrop of pictured trees, with similarly illustrated rays of sunlight illuminating the scene where he sat on a tree stump (I think the stump may have been real).

In our yard, and all around our house on the Old Concord Road, were great trees. Near the forest’s edge could be seen the “real life” versions of Mr. Lindsay’s set, where rays of sunlight broke through the forest canopy to illuminate the forest floor’s covering of dead leaves and acorn-sprouted treelets. There was also “stump seating,” similar to that upon which he sat; but whereas his TV station stump stopped at floor level, those in the actual forest floor continued underground to still-attached roots in varying states of decay.

Brooks Lindsay’s show, being broadcast over the airwaves, called for the use of a microphone, and that microphone caught my attention and imagination. I think his microphone may have been of the portable kind, because I don’t recall any attached cord being camouflaged by “sprouting” leaves for forest realism (a vine-like version of the Pope’s staff in “Tannhauser.”)

Since where there are trees, there are sticks on the ground, my “microphone” was fashioned from an appropriately sized stick of microphone width picked up from my yard. To its “business end,” I wrapped several thicknesses of my father’s electrical tape to give it more realism. (That wrapped, black tape was the only thing “electrical” about my microphone.) On one fairly recent occasion when I sang the national anthem for the Danville Braves baseball team, the batteries in the portable microphone went dead, so I might just as well have had  my old “microphone-stick.”

Under the influence of youthful inspiration in those years, I took my seat atop a forest stump and, just like Mr. Lindsay, presented my lineup of stories, cartoons and interesting facts of grade school science. He was “The Man in the Forest,” so I became “The Kid in the Forest.”

Brooks Lindsay’s broadcast went out from his professional, but faux “woodland” over a powerful transmitter in Charlotte, spanning a radius which included Salisbury, Statesville, Greensboro, etc.

My broadcast went out on my childhood breath, going not much further than the tree-lined radius of that real woodland clearing, my “studio.”

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