Every country is filled with amazing people, the kind who really make a difference in the world. Ernie Coombs was just this for Canada. He did not land on the moon or find a cure for some great disease, no he didn't do any of this. What he did was touch our hearts. Ernie Coombs is an idol to us all, a childhood hero, a symbol. Though most probably do not recognize his name, the chances that they don't know who he is are pretty slim. Most would probably know him better as Mr Dressup.
Though many Canadians think that Ernie Coombs was always a Canadian himself, this is not true. Ernie was born in Lewiston Maine, and came to Canada working as a understudy for Fred Rogers. Together they worked on the show Mr Rogers Neighborhood, but after just one year Fred left Canada. Ernie however decided to stay and landed a job on a children's show called Butternut Square. When the show ended three years later Mr Dressup was born.
The show began in 1967 and quickly became one Canada's most beloved children's shows. When it began there was only two characters besides himself named Casey and Finnegan, but through the years more of our favorite characters were born such as Chester the crow, Truffles, Annie, Alex, and Granny.
The characters may have changed but Ernie's idea of the show always remained the same. *CBC television describes his show as this "Daily, Mr. Dressup invites children into his creative world, and makes them feel safe, important and valued. Mr. Dressup teaches children about morality and tolerance, and opens up a world of imagination for them to enter and explore." Ernie's goal was to aid children in using their imagination, he did not want alot of special effects, just something simple and fun for kids. What he created was so much more then simple and fun, he created a symbol of our childhood.
There is not many Canadians you can ask who would not know who this amazing man is, most will be able to tell you their fondest memories of him. I still distinctly remember the sound his scissors made when cutting paper for his crafts, and no matter what I tried I could never get mine to do the same. And you can not forget the tickle trunk! I'm sure every other kid in Canada was just like me, sitting there in aw and amazement waiting to see what would come out of the tickle trunk today, and wishing more then anything in the world we had a tickle trunk of our own.
Ernie's show was so popular that even though the final show was taped on February 14th 1996 his loyal following of viewers were not quite ready for the end, as a result CBC ran the show for 10 years after its final taping, finally airing for its last time on September 3, 2006.
After taping his final show Ernie Coombs went on tours called "Tales from the Tickle Trunk" where he would share stories about the show, how it was made, its origins as well as many other interesting tidbits.
Ernie officially became a Canadian citizen in 1994 and just two years later was named a member of the Canadian Order. Ernie was also actively involved in many charities and could often be seen as a spokesperson promoting his many cause'. He also preformed in different family-oriented acts in Toronto after retiring from Mr Dressup, some of these would include Aladdin and Peter Pan.
On September 10th Ernie Coombs had stroke and was hospitalized and just eight days later the horrible news spread that Ernie, our dear Mr Dressup, had passed away. This was a sad day for Canada, many people I talk to today can name exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. His death was a very powerful blow to alot of us, the man we had grown up with, who we spent every weekday morning with, was no longer with us. This symbol of our childhood days was gone. Of course he could never really die in our hearts, there tucked away deep inside us he will always stay. Thousands of Canadians (and even some Americans) gathered for memorials in Ernie's name paying our respects and thanking him for everything he had done for us.
No he did not cure cancer, what Ernie Coombs did was touch our hearts in a way few other have. He taught us right from wrong and he told us to treat each other with respect, what he did was teach us life lessons. He may not have walked on the moon, but to us he has achieved what few others have, and he has earned the love and respect of Canadians across our country. He will live on forever in our hearts.
*CBC TELEVISION http://www.cbc.ca/parents/dressup.html
Mr. Dress Up may no longer be on television but you can still watch some of the original episodes on the season DVD's. Buy one for yourself from amazon by clicking one of the images below.
Mr. Dress-Up: Tickle Trunk Treasures
Mr. Dress-Up: Blue
Mr. Dress-Up: Green