Monday, March 03, 2008

Fun Time with Uncle Bunky

One of our formerly semi-regular "innanet" crowders has recently stepped up to full-on regular status. He's a guy I call Cleveland, who now comes in at least once a week to spend several hours with us at a stretch. Cleveland is a mentally handicapped man, at least to some degree. He's pretty functional but is clearly in some way just not quite right. I call him Cleveland because he strongly resembles the character of the same name from Family Guy in both look and voice. What makes Cleveland stand out beyond appearances, though, is his penchant for using our patron computers to do nothing but watch old video clips of the 1980s cartoon, She-Ra: Princess of Power.

You remember She-Ra, right? It was a spin-off of the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, with She-Ra being He-Man's sister from another dimension. (And for you trivia buffs, He-Man was the cartoon on which writer J. Michael Straczynski got his start writing for television, before moving on to the Real Ghostbusters, Captain Planet, Murder She Wrote and a little show that he created and for which he wrote most of the episodes called Babylon 5. But I digress...)

From the time Cleveland arrives to the time he leaves—which, if recent visits are any indication, can be upwards of five hours—he sits at our computers and watches clip after clip of She-Ra. Often he watches these clips sans headphones, which means he's only getting the visuals. One might assume he was getting some kind of sexual thrill from this, and perhaps that's the case, but I somehow don't think so. He simply sits and stares and, presumably, is entertained. At the end of his broadcast day, he always thanks us, wishes us a good day and heads out, on foot.

I haven't had any real reason to even think of the character She-Ra in years. In fact, the only other reason she has popped up on my radar at all was a recent appearance on Robot Chicken in which She-Ra decimates most of her arch-villains and several of her friends because they dared to disturb her while she was on the rag. But, as a child of the 80s myself, I was a big fan of He-Man's show and I remember She-Ra from that time period.

Where I grew up, in North Mississippi, She-Ra: Princess of Power was not broadcast on its own, like He Man's show. Rather, it was broadcast as a sub-section of a locally-produced afternoon kid's show called Fun Time with Uncle Bunky. Uncle Bunky was Robert "Uncle Bunky" Williams, a big, friendly, rolly-polly sort-of-guy, who I believe was actually a local policeman in Columbus, MS. He came out, wearing a Fun Time with Uncle Bunky T-shirt and entertained a small peanut-gallery of local kids. After about 15 minutes of that, he'd cut to a half hour episode of She-Ra and then back for another 15 minutes of entertaining at the end. Cutting out the commercial time and She-Ra, Uncle Bunky probably only recorded about 20 full minutes of show per day. And, usually, he would pass that 20 minutes by drawing bizzare animals for the kids on a big paper pad mounted on an easel. I say "bizzare" animals, but even as a kid I used to refer to them as "abominations," for they were like something out of a Hugh Lofting fever-dream.

Uncle Bunky would start by asking the kids what sort of head the creature should have. They'd shout "Elephant!" or "Mouse!" or some such and Uncle Bunky would draw it on the board. Then he'd follow with the kids' choice of animal body, legs, tail, wings (where applicable) and any other odd-assed body parts necessary, (though rarely actual odd asses). Soon there would be some kind of a crazy mythological beastie on the board, at which point Uncle Bunky would rip the page off and give it to a kid and then they'd start all over. He wasn't the greatest artist in the world, but it was entertaining enough for the peanut gallery.

I hated Uncle Bunky's act. It was way too babyish for me and my ever-so-mature middle-school mindset, so I quickly learned to find something else to do for the first 15 minutes of the show and would tune in only for She-Ra, (which was the far more mature thing).

Cleveland seems to like She-Ra pretty well, though I have seen him branch out to other cartoons on occasion. Whatever he's watching, he seems so mesmerized by it that we often can't get any sort of communication through to him. This becomes a problem when he's been on for more than an hour and we need his computer for a new patron. Mrs. B tried on and off for twenty minutes one afternoon to get him to relinquish his computer. I don't know if he simply wanted to finish his episode or genuinely didn't understand the situation, but no matter how she explained it he would just smile and nod and continue watching. When I went over to give it a try, he did get up, but it still took me nearly a minute of spelling it out in triplicate, with him nodding understanding the whole time, before he actually rose from his seat.

Maybe if I'd promised to draw him an animal abomination he'd have left sooner?


Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I don't get why your library has such problems getting patrons to get off the computer. It seems like the way it goes is, you ask people to get off the computer, and if they don't, you...just keep asking. Like those parents who are shouting at their kids in the mall, "Come back here right this minute!" but the kids ignore the parents and the parents don't do anything to actually make the kids obey them.

What you need to do is, after giving sufficient warning, just plain turn off the computer in the middle of what they are doing. Obviously you first give them a chance to get off on their own. But if it's more than a couple of minutes, you tell them, "I'm sorry, you have to get off now," and turn the d@mn thing off.

Leapin' Lipid said...

Uncle Bunky was a Clay County, Mississippi Sheriff's deputy for many, Many years. If I recall correctly, he just passed on a few years ago.

Kelly said...

I remember Uncle Bunky very well and he did lots of other good things for the area besides just the show. Thanks for taking me back!

Julie said...

This may seem out of left field...

Has your library every considered using open source software for PAC control? It would save you from having to kick patrons off (for one). It would also prevent you from having to keep up with the internet queue. I found this program which, as open source, is free:

I can't attest to how well it would work since I haven't used it myself, but it may be worth looking into.

You can also check out this article for other info on open source software for libraries:

As with any software, you would need your local geek to set it up and instruct the staff.

Just a random thought. Love your blog BTW.

Juice S. Aaron said...


Turning computers off in people's faces is actually stated policy at my branch and is posted by every computer. However, I don't think we've ever had to go quite that far, though we have wanted to back in the days when the Dufus and Parka were regulars.

For the most part, we don't usually have problems getting people to get off of the computers. We usually only have to tell them once and they get off. In cases such as Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, we tell them once, then we wait for them to get off until we're so annoyed at the amount of ass they're dragging in doing so that we start to go tell them a second time only to have them stand up and leave before we can even get around the desk.

Cleveland, being mentally handicapped, is a special case. We don't want to traumatize the poor man by turning off his episode of She-Ra in his face if we can at all avoid it.

WolfDreamer said...

Haha, this is brilliant. I'm thinking of using my experiences at the movie theater to do something like this, to write about some of the people I deal with every weekend and how certain types of films bring in certain crowds.

I agree that you should just walk up and turn the computer off. Our local branch has some sort of program where they log on using their library card number and it gives them a time limit of 30 minutes. However, some of them log back on as soon as the time limits run out.

And by the way, I was totally into She-Ra back in the day.

Anonymous said...

I greew up in Nort Mississippi and rememeber not only Uncle Bunky's abominations but his Golden Flake association. If you saved up so many golden flakes bags and were the highest bidder of packages you might get a free bike. Or so I recall.

Ben Swampfox said...

Uncle Bunky is still alive. you guys are mistaken. hes my grandpa

Anonymous said...

Ben, Is Uncle Bunky still visiting schools? I'm librarian at Aliceville Middle School, close to Columbus, MS. If so, could you tell me how to contact him?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if he is or isn't. i live in south carolina :P. If you want to add him on facebook, there is a funtime group there and he is a part of it. It's just kind of discouraging to see people assuming the worst about your grandpa when he is just fine

Ron said...

Couple of Ben said, 'Uncle Bunky' is alive and well (and still drawing animals for children at his church..he's now 78). And, Bunky was a 'Lowndes County' deputy for many years, not Clay County...thanks

An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.