‘Mr. Dressup’ Ernie Coombs celebrated by Google on what would have been his 85th birthday

North Stars

Google got dressed up for Mr. Dressup's 85th birthday. The November 26 Google Doodle is celebrating Ernie Coombs's birthday, more than 11 years after the Canadian TV star's passing.

Originally from Maine, Coombs hosted CBC's "Mr. Dressup," one of the longest-running Canadian children's television series, from 1967 to 1996. He filmed the last episode of the show in 1996, five years before he died of a stroke at the age of 73 in Toronto.

Coombs, who studied to be a commercial artist, traveled to Canada in 1963 to work for another children's TV icon, Fred Rogers, at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. On "Butternut Square," which ran on the CBC from 1964 to 1967, the duo premiered the characters that would eventually make each of them famous.

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Though Rogers moved back to the U.S. after the series ended (and went on to host "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" starting in 1968), Coombs remained and developed "Mr. Dressup," which premiered in 1967.

As the series' host, Coombs spent every weekday morning guiding his young viewers through songs, stories, games, and arts and crafts. His partners in crime were two puppets who lived in a tree house -- a child named Casey and his dog, Finnegan -- both of whom were voiced by puppeteer Judith Lawrence.

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"I think the kids feel we are real people, even the puppets are real people," Coombs said in an interview with the CBC in 1996 of the show's success, prior to filming the final episode.

Mr. Dressup was named for the various costumes he would don from his Tickle Trunk during make-believe skits. The trunk was so named because it would often get stuck, and Mr. Dressup would have to sing a song and then tickle the top to open it.

In 1994, two years before he filmed the final episode of "Mr. Dressup," Coombs became a Canadian citizen and was awarded the Order of Canada two years later. According to the CBC, he continued to appear in character even after the series ended.

Though "Mr. Dressup" was in reruns for a decade after Coombs went off the air, it closed shop entirely in September 2006. But for those of us who still want a piece of the Tickle Trunk, there's a way to remember it: Both the costume trunk and Casey's tree house have been on display since 2010 at the CBC Museum in downtown Toronto.