“I think the simple story of the imagination of children and then growing up, I think the sadness of it too, there’s a streak of sadness, of kind of seriousness, even in the playfulness in, I think in my family’s life, especially my father’s life. I see there’s an austerity even in all the kindness and the generosity and the goofiness and seriousness about the integrity and about what we’re doing in life. So as much as Puff is a fun story and as much as it also is a sad story, it’s an important lesson I guess about growing up and growing older and also believing in things.”
- Christopher Yarrow, son of Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary,
talking about their hit song “Puff the Magic Dragon”
What does the 1960s band Peter, Paul and Mary have to do with Minnesota? That’s what we will be exploring in our episode of Postcards with Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) and his family Sunday, July 1 at 7:00 p.m. on Pioneer Public Television.
Personally, I have heard of Peter, Paul and Mary but until recently had no idea that they were responsible for writing the song I loved so fervently as a child. When I heard “Puff the Magic Dragon,” it always conjured up images in my head of happier times in a land vastly different and more exotic than my own. Most children at some point in their lives unfortunately get bullied, and I was not exempt from this torture. Instead of playing hopscotch with the girls at recess, I would go by myself and catch frogs and grasshoppers in the woods. I even tried to sneak them back into the classroom to show my teachers—to their horror. A land where dragons lived seemed much more inviting and comfortable to me than trying to understand my fellow schoolmates at the time.
Years later I still feel nostalgia for the innocence of childhood. There is a sense of sadness and loneliness sometimes of being a kid, which Christopher, Peter’s son discusses, but also a yearning for the past I think most of us can relate to. Peter, Paul and Mary’s ability to capture this timeless feeling resonates today and into the future. You can hear a special performance of “Puff the Magic Dragon” with Peter and his son on July 1 at 7:00 p.m. on Postcards.
Speaking of nostalgia, I think back to a favorite childhood movie as I watched over and over again with my father, the 1988 film Field of Dreams. “Yeah, but what’s it got to do with baseball?”
What do Peter, Paul and Mary have to do with Minnesota? As you know Postcards consists of art, history and cultural heritage of western Minnesota and beyond. I don’t want to give too much away about this wonderful episode, but I will say that Peter met his wife, Mary Beth, when he helped to campaign for Minnesota senator, Eugene McCarthy, who was also Mary Beth’s uncle. Mary Beth, a true Minnesota girl, lived out her summers with her family on the lake near Willmar. They continue their lake tradition today and share with us on Postcards what the area has meant to the Yarrow-McCarthy family. Their story is an important reminder to us all of the importance of our small Minnesota communities and keeping close ties to family and political activism.
Take a trip down memory lane with the Yarrow-McCarthy family and experience Minnesota and the timeless classic “Puff the Magic Dragon” in a new way Sunday, July 1 at 7:00 p.m. on Postcards.
by Andrea Singleton, Postcards producer