Say, kids! What time is it? It's Howdy Doody time!

TJ Fisher once shared her home with the world's most beloved All-American icon — Howdy Doody — a vivid holdover from television's early infancy and one of the three original 1940s marionettes. TJ says the magical (Photo Doody) Howdy casts a classic spell over everyone who comes in contact with him.

Wistful baby boomers, especially those who recall early television, will appreciate that TJ's Howdy took top honors over an international array of prominent art, antiques, jewelry, artifacts and memorabilia named by Art & Antiques Magazine as one of the world's "Top 100 Treasures" for 1997.


This annual featured profile of 100 "best of the best" distinguished fine and decorative art objects sold in the preceding year is chosen by the magazine's editors based on the criteria of rarity, provenance, beauty and historical importance. Information is gathered through auction houses and art and antique dealers, scholars and museum curators.

Howdy, made of meticulously-carved wood, features a hypnotic hand-painted face with big blue limpid eyes and 48 freckles. He wears 60-year-old boots of wood and leather accented with a classic red bandana, tan cloth pants, a tiny flannel shirt and hand-embroidered cloth gloves.

As TJ laid claim to this nostalgic TV memorabilia through Leland's Sports auction house (specializing in sports and Americana memorabilia), Howdy was purportedly one of the most important pieces of television memorabilia ever publicly sold. TJ purchased Photo Doody for $133,432. The Howdy Doody sale made international print and broadcast headline news. Prior to TJ, the puppet was owned by and resided with Roger Muir, executive producer of The Howdy Doody Show. When the auction block gavel actually fell more than a decade ago and the lovable redhead suddenly became a member of TJ's household, it signaled America's renewed, misty-eyed love obsession with a '40s and '50s era of innocence gone by.

The idyllic half-hour The Howdy Doody Show — legendary as the first children's program to appear on TV and a pioneer in children's programming that set the pattern for many shows — aired for a near-record 2,343 episodes during its 13-year NBC national TV stint from 1947 to 1960. The voice of Howdy was performed by the program's host, the beloved "Buffalo Bob" Smith, who created the Howdy character. This original children's show also helped establish marketing and advertising as it is still practiced today. During the show's heyday, Howdy received 1,500 pieces of mail a week.

Howdy Doody mural

A landmark pioneer in early TV color production, the show was also used by the network to help promote the sale of color TV sets. Beginning in 1954, the NBC test pattern featured a picture of Howdy. TJ's Howdy was the model for the NBC test pattern.

With hundreds of thousands of children in the television viewing audience glued to their TV sets at 5:30 p.m. weekdays, each show opened with Buffalo Bob asking — "Say, kids, what time is it?" The children in the studio audience "peanut gallery" responded in unison, "It’s Howdy Doody time!"

Buffalo Bob did commercials for Wonder Bread, Campbell Soup, Hostess Twinkies and other sponsors that were new to television; it taught marketers the strength of marketing to children.

TJ’s Howdy, nicknamed "Photo Doody," is the particularly photogenic Howdy figure that was used in all of the Howdy Doody still photo sessions, for magazine covers and newspapers, including stand-alone promotional shots for The Howdy Doody Show and the publicity pictures taken with Buffalo Bob.


When one of the Howdy triplets came to live with TJ, "I’m happy for her," Buffalo Bob told the press. "We called him Photo Doody."

This Howdy is the near-stringless marionette that was also used in personal appearances and parades. His arm joints and legs were specially built so he would hold a pose for advertising and marketing photography. Since each of the three marionettes appeared slightly different in facial feature, TJ's marionette is the one that remains the most lingering in history, and in the mind of the public. Thus the ongoing celebritydom and cult status of Howdy is forever indelibly ingrained in the hearts and minds of America and is often mentioned or imitated in modern-day films and TV shows.

TJ has been profiled for taking puppet Photo Doody around town in a convertible and dining out with him in a high chair at South Florida restaurants.

According to the Howdy websites that clog the Internet, the phenomenon of Howdy Doody mania runs rampant among baby boomers. Fans and collectors scour the net searching for offerings on commemorative "Howdyabilia." For those on the puppet trail tracking a variety of today's Howdy collections, a slew of specialty companies cater to a host of Howdy cultists offering such popular Howdyabilia as dolls, tapes, ceramic banks, etc., and there's even an official "Doodyville Historical Society." Surprisingly enough, among lifetime fans many Howdy "Alumni" remember their all-time favorite childhood Halloween costumes as being Howdy outfits.

Captivated by Howdy's beguiling charm, TJ admits, "Like the generation before me, once I laid eyes on Howdy I fell instantly, madly and wholeheartedly in love with him and everything that he's come to symbolize." TJ says she's especially appreciative of the landmark contributions that Howdy, Buffalo Bob and the entire cast of Doodyville characters have made to national television, either directly or indirectly. As the original prototype springboard for latter-day children's TV characters for more than half a century, Howdy Doody has been a major influence on all generations since the late '40s.

Similarly, children's TV shows from the '60s to the '90s have taken their cue from the founding predecessor and "grandfather" The Howdy Doody Show.

TJ Fisher's is the first and only Howdy marionette to be in private hands; the other two original puppets are museum property — the original one used in the show is on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts; and the other ("Double Doody") resides at the Smithsonian.

Over the years the acclaimed Howdy has also managed to melt hearts oversees and in foreign-speaking countries, and even today retains his status as a legend in many Spanish-speaking countries, especially Cuba since that country remains in a virtual late '50s time warp. Of course Howdy's popularity is one thing Cuba shares with the U.S. and the international community.

TJ has lobbied the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) for an official enshrinement of the tiny little sliver of a wooden cowboy named Howdy Doody, his iconic image and legacy, for his contributions to early "TV Americana" — as anyone who knows and appreciates the history of modern-day television would agree, Howdy is long overdue to receive an Academy "honorary" Emeritus membership, as well as inclusion in the ATAS Archive of American Television...! Irreplaceable Photo Doody was insured for more than a million dollars.

For more on Howdy, read TJ's Page.