My eight-year-old tried to tell me the classic elementary school joke “how do you know an elephant was in your house?” (“there are footprints in the peanut butter”, of course) and after I dutifully laughed I said “that’s also how you track house hippos”.
You know when you refer to something that has etched a permanent groove in your brain and the person you say it to just stares blankly? And you realize you’ve dated yourself yet again because the reference is at least 25 years old?
So off to YouTube I went, and lo, it delivered. I showed my kids the House Hippo PSA, and they were as enchanted as I was every single time it aired during the Saturday morning cartoon rotation:
The House Hippo
If that little bit of whimsy left you feeling sad that house hippos are impossible, you are not alone. An entire generation of Canadians now trusts nothing and no one because if you were a certain age when you saw that for the first time, your heart remains just a tiny bit bruised that you will never find a hippo in a nest made of dryer lint.
A forgotten casualty of the million-channel age is the child-focused PSA. They were in heavy rotation in the 80s. No problem was too serious that it couldn’t be addressed by a 30 second spot marked by low production values, punchy taglines, and weirdly-aggressive characters.
Canadian Fire Prevention
There was a whole series of fire-prevention PSAs starring the old lady who lived in a shoe. I could only find one on YouTube, but it’s a doozy:
Everything about this is delightful. Her “horrified scream” sounds like a gasp. She almost calls the kids dummies. She has an entire cupboard full of cookies and candy because we hadn’t all decided junk food was irresponsible poison! I love it.
Another one that ran every commercial break during the entire Saturday morning block was this trippy bit of weirdness from the WarAmps:
I MEAN. I know the 80s were a more dangerous time, what with the free-range playing and whatnot, but where in the hell were we supposed to be finding the opportunity to jump off of buildings and monkey-climb through some sort of factory that makes rotary saws?
This one was one of the first PSAs I ever saw. I had a sticker for my lunchbox with the two aliens, and “I agree, Smedley” still flies out of my mouth fairly regularly even though the spot hasn’t aired since 1985.
When I was brainstorming this post, Nicole suggested “give a hoot, don’t pollute!” I don’t think it aired on CBC (the one channel I had) because I don’t remember this bug-eyed nightmare fuel at all… on the other hand, maybe I just blocked it out of sheer terror. WHY IS THIS OWL WALL-EYED.
Don’t poison yourself, or something
This, friends, is the nadir of Canadian childrens’ PSAs. If you have never seen it, prepare to be amazed. If you have, I apologize in advance for embedding this damnable earworm in your brain.
I still remember most of the words to that wretched jingle. I have been known to say “yes, that berry might look good to eat” and then whisper “like a muffin or a beet” when I take small children on nature walks. When I was in high school, many of us had younger siblings who still watched children’s programming and so naturally, “don’t you put it in your mouth” took on a whole new significance. (Listen to it again, pretending you’re a 16 year old boy. Hilarity will ensue.)
Do you remember any of these? Were there others? Bonus points for sharing links in the comments!