FTLComm - Coaldale, ON - May 3, 2000

"Once upon a time, not long ago, not far way"

"I'll hurry over to the castle and go in the back door so
I can let the drawbridge down and open the big doors for you."

"Are you ready?"

"Here is my castle."

"One little chair for one of you, a bigger chair for two more to curl up
in, and for someone who likes to rock, a rocking chair in the middle."

"Look up, look wayyyyy up, and I'll call Rusty."

Robert Homme lived until he was eighty - one when he died today. He originally created his children's programme for radio in Madison Wisconsin and moved to Canada when invited to create a television version of his show, "The Friendly Giant". It first went on CBC in 1958 the year we got our first television, I was thirteen.

The fifteen minute show was designed for primary children but I was certain that neither Rusty, Gerome or Friendly would object to me looking in with my mom and brother. The formula of the show was and is considered today as perfect the dialogue was predictable and memorisable, each show had a theme and Friendly would hear of Gerome's latest adventures which sounded like a simple conversation. The reason it sounded so normal was that Rod Coneybeare (the voice of Gerome and Rusty) and Bob Homme pretty much ad-libbed that portion of the show then Friendly would read from a book that Rusty pulled up out of the book bag.

The music was an important part of the show, but it had to be simple, Friendly played his recorder, the background was a harp that Rusty was supposedly playing and one a week the two really ugly cats would show up to play violins. The music was deliberately set in such a way that you felt that you too could learn to play just like them and of course you could and many did. Recorders were used in school music programmes for years and what kid did not learn to play "Early one morning". (I really had to hold back and not dig out the recorder and record the theme to play and put on this page, but restrained myself because of the time it takes to get a good QuickTime recording that will stream for you so maybe another time)

As a teacher for almost thirty years it was Friendly whom I relied upon to get the "story" told and every class of mine would respond just as I did to Friendly when I would say "Once upon a time, not long ago, not far away" as his simple but effective means of talking to children as thinking individuals worked each and every time. As my children grew they always expected to hear their father call them, on a playground or in a department store with a slightly out of tune whistle which would be responded to with an equally but slightly lower pitched response (Gerome's reply).

When those short fifteen magical minutes at the castled were over Friendly would reposition the chairs and the set would fade as the draw bridge was pulled up the castle darkened, the moon would rise and a cow would jump over it. Every single episode the same, a spot of wonder in a television world of confusion. In 1965 the CBC cut the show in one of its many drives to reduce spending but several generations of children have had better fuller lives, appreciating the mystery of reading a book and playing a song, inspired by Bob Homme.

Bob Homme will not be missed, because what he gave his viewers, and all whom they meet, lives on and on and on

References: I could only locate two references to Bob Homme or the Friendly Giant both of them are related to the CBC
A children's history of radio and television reference to the Friendly Giant and it already showed Bob's death today.
This reference includes information on CBC programming in the past but has details on the producers and critical discussion on the merits of this show.