06/30/03
Happy Birthday Recess
    by John Cech

Today we've reached a milestone: one thousand shows! When we began producing "Recess!" four years ago, we didn't know if we would still be around to jump for joy at crossing this magic line. The worlds of radio and childhood can both be particularly ephemeral, and the sounds of each can disappear like a morning mist when the sun finally gets up.

But we knew from the beginning that we wanted to do something to remember and to celebrate the diverse, unique, and eternal qualities of childhood, no matter how long those sounds might linger in the air. Our very first program was about the earliest school books that were given to children in Ancient China to teach them lessons of pious respect for their parents. That same month we covered the arrival of the third of the Harry Potter books in America, as J. K. Rowling was well on her way to becoming one of the wealthiest and, arguably, one of the most influential women in the world.

Over these four years, we've looked at the origins of yo-yos, marbles, hop- scotch, and the kazoo; we've traced the lives of mythic figures of childhood: Johnny Appleseed, St. Nicholas, Dr. Seuss; we've listened to the music of child geniuses like Mozart and Thomas Wiggins, the African-American pianist who was the most popular performer in 19th century America. We've located the starting points of Peter Rabbit, the Barbie Doll, Monopoly, Valentine's cards, Halloween, the Simpsons, and Maurice Sendak's Wild Things. We've explored the domains of lullabies, counting out rhymes, penny candy, and video games. And with commentators like Shelley Fraser Mickle, we've gone back to Arkansas in the 1950s, for unforgettable stories about Rascal Soup, Aunt Filene, and laconic boy poets.

Childhood itself, we know, will be here four years from now -- or four hundred. That means we'll have plenty more stories to tell -- another thousand or two at least. We thank you, deeply, for listening and hope you'll keep visiting our audio playground and sending us your ideas and questions and comments. And always remember to keep the things of childhood close, like old friends or new discoveries, like the smell of the Hundred Acre Wood, or that first miraculous taste of ice cream.

Copyright 2003 John Cech

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."