Once upon a time in 1976, Margaret Hamilton reprised her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from THE WIZARD OF OZ (’39) on Sesame Street. It didn’t go over so well; the episode freaked out many a child, there was a barrage of complaints from parents and the episode was pulled from future airings. Interestingly, the previous year, Hamilton appeared on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood where she explained to the delight of children everywhere that her role as the witch was only make-believe. For some unknown reason, the folks of Sesame Street decided to throw all that goodwill into Oscar’s trash can by suggesting that kindly Hamilton, sans green make–up, was in fact the evil witch in deceitful disguise; a witch who threatens to turn Big Bird into a feather duster! You can watch the unearthed Sesame Street episode HERE & the Mr. Rogers episode HERE and please don’t mind me if I utilize this occasion to tell you about the time when as a kid, I met a horrifying witch myself!
I’m guessing I was seven or eight when I was sent to sleep-away camp. It seemed exciting at first and I could not get my head around the fact that some of my fellow kids were crying and homesick. Were they crazy or just babies? I assumed both. I was pretty happy to be somewhere new and unfamiliar and I had recently learned a new sport that I was actually good at called “bumper surfing.” Ya see, cars drove real slow as they passed through the campgrounds so if you saw a truck go by, you just jumped on the back bumper and rode it for a spell. What could possibly go wrong?
One day I was talking to a camp counselor when the perfect truck with a fat bumper drove by. With the arrogance of an ignoramus, I cut the counselor off mid-sentence and basically advised them to “hold that thought” as I ran toward the vehicle, jumped on the back, and took it for a jaunty ride. I returned to the camp counselor to find a look of complete horror on their face about what they had witnessed. They asked if I knew the people in the truck and I shrugged and said no. Their eyes widened. I was told my actions were so severe that a demerit would not suffice; I had to go speak to the head of the camp!
I was taken to a large tent and instructed to wait outside. I watched the silhouette of a hunchback hag scramble about within and it was straight out of SUSPIRIA even though I hadn’t seen that movie yet. Eventually, I was summoned by the decrepit woman with glassy eyes and harangued for what seemed like terrifying hours. I remember none of her grizzled gobbledygook except her closing sledgehammer statement, “If I wanted to kill myself then I should go ahead because nobody would miss me when I was gone.” Hmmm, ok, that stung. I held it together until I made it back to my tent and then I lost it. I started crying just like those crazy babies I had previously looked down upon. The old witch was right! I could feel it in my bones. Nobody would care if I lived or died. The world would keep turning and it’s possible my parents would be nothing but relieved. The witch had cursed me with this terrible knowledge that was always there but I had been pathetically blind to before. I would never be happy again!
Yet somehow I eventually got over it and camp wasn’t so bad after all. Once during a hike, we saw nude sun-bathers on the beach! Incredible! I also painted an owl on a smooth, round rock and I can still see it in my mind’s eye today. That owl was wise and understood everything. That owl was a sage symbol of my inner fortitude and my recently obtained ability to drag myself out of psychological quicksand. That owl rock had divine power! I’m pretty sure my dad threw it away.
NOTE: Witches are like bats and opossums and are actually really great and don’t deserve negative stereotyping. This tale takes place very long ago so I hope all the kind witches reading this will forgive my youthful ignorance and not curse me.