The Wizard of Ahhs

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Mention the word "wizard" today and kids automatically think of Harry Potter and his magic wand-toting pals at Hogwarts.But in my generation there was only one Mr.Wizard and he made Saturday morning television magical in millions of homes across America in the 50’s and 60’s.Don Herbert was born in Waconia, Minnesota but went to college in LaCrosse, Wisconsin where he studied acting and science. Both of which he would put to good use in his life.He volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps and flew 56 bombing missions in Europe during World War II.  Herbert wound up in Chicago working in theater and on the radio. Then when TV came along, he came up with an idea for a science show aimed at kids. NBC loved it and "Watch Mr. Wizard" began a 14 year run..39 shows a year..all done live.The premise was simple. An actor kid named Rita or Buzz or somebody would come over to Mr. Wizard’s house to be amazed at the experiments he had set up to demonstrate that science was interesting and fun.I’ll never forget some of when Rita’s hair stood straight up after placing her hand on this silver sphere full of static electricity. Or when Mr. Wizard showed Buzz how to make a mini-volcano out of baking soda and vinegar.Oh it was great TV. I still have the Gilbert chemistry set I got for Christmas so I could do experiments like Mr. Wizard.I don’t suppose kids today would sit still for such a slow moving program that actually took the time to teach and explain things like how to make a hot air balloon out of a dry cleaning bag. But we were spellbound.Mr. Wizard did make a comeback with a similar show on Nickelodeon during the 80’s but then he pretty much retired and disappeared from the public eye.Now, he’s gone forever. Don Herbert has died just a few days short of his 90th birthday and I feel like I’ve lost one of my favorite teachers. 

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