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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gumby memorabilia collector Ken Boyd is shown with his Gumby clock. 
See some dear old friends again when you visit “Gumby and Friends,” the new Niagara History exhibit featuring TV’s beloved stretchy green fellow and his bendable pals. You can also re-connect with buddies from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “The Big Comfy Couch,” plus favorite Fisher-Price toys from the company born in East Aurora.

Gumby and his horse, Pokey, delighted generations of children from the mid-1950s through the ‘90s with their flexible fun and the innovative clay-figure animation of creator Art Clokey, an Episcopal priest skilled in
photography and clay sculpture. The growing retinue of malleable characters, including sister Minga, dinosaur Prickle, gently villainous Blockheads and more, enjoyed adventures with an underlying message of friendship, kindness and caring for others. The show’s philosophy was summed up by its theme song, proclaiming, “If you’ve got a heart, then Gumby’s a part of you!”

Throughout the program’s long run, Gumby merchandise filled toy shelves and video stores and was sought by not only children, but adults who also loved the characters and stories.

History Center volunteer Ken Boyd was one of those grown-up Gumby fans, acquiring memorabilia as both a parent and collector, and has loaned his large assortment of Gumby treasures for this exhibit. Boyd, a Harrison Radiator retiree, Navy veteran and active professional photographer, combined his love of television animation with history as he collected Gumby items spanning the series’ long television run and beyond.

Boyd’s Gumby memorabilia includes the stretchable toys, stuffed figures and videos commonly found, but also Gumby slippers and tee shirts, a Gumby phone, radio, wristwatch, package of Freezer Pops, lighter, wind sock and more. A life-size, blow-up Gumby served as a mascot for his daughter Kim’s high school gymnastics team. Gumby merchandise is still popular, available in stores and online, and Boyd received a Gumby clock as a birthday gift last year.

Gumby’s television run began on “The Howdy Doody Show” in 1956 and continued in various series through the late 1980s. “The Gumby Movie” was released in 1992. The television series continued airing on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network channels.

Over the years, comedian Eddie Murphy portrayed a satirized Gumby on “Saturday Night Live,” and the Art Clokey documentary “Gumby Dharma” aired on PBS and the Sundance Channel, winning an Emmy for Best
Documentary. Today, schools and the military use Gumby as an icon for healthy stretching and flexibility.

Gumby will celebrate his 60th Gumby will celebrate his 60th anniversary this year. He continues to entertain and make new friends through the on-demand children’s TV channel Kabillion, comics, video games, apps and a Gumby website,

Local Gumby fan Ken Boyd is an all-round volunteer photographer for the History Center, taking photos used for public relations efforts such as the newsletter, press releases, Facebook/Twitter and website. A Niagara Falls resident, he also photographs images depicting the changing face of Niagara County and maintains archival records for the History Center.

The “Gumby and Friends” exhibit will run until May 30. For information, call the History Center at 434-7433.

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