Post-apocalyptic bookmobile PSAs from Mississippi

Matt sez, "When I was in fifth grade, Mississippi Public Broadcasting decided to introduce a series of short films to educate children on how to use the library. For some godforsaken reason, the people at MPB decided that the best way to do this would be through a post-apocalyptic science fiction serial with children roaming the blasted earth in a… bookmobile… like a cross between 'Reading Rainbow' and 'Damnation Alley.' Confused? So was I. I loved the library and post-apocalyptic movies and television programs, and even I was completely nonplussed. Apparently someone has uploaded the entire run onto YouTube. The music still gives me the creeps!" Link (Thanks, Matt


  1. I’m thinking of Natura naturans, the idea that the world keeps on chugging without us. Look, I’m three sheets to the wind right now and I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense or doesn’t contribute to anything meaningful, but when “the world ends” what’s going to be important? Bottled water on a plane? Sunscreen at Yankee stadium? Who gets to say? Who gets to argue that?

    I’m drunk, but I care about the beat of my heart, the blue of the sky, and every other thing that’s living or not.

    As far as I’m concerned, I’m the first boingboing Drunk dial, but I’m too drunk and angry to care.

  2. I’m pretty confused. Other than “books are all we have,” and “vaporizing puppies will help,” I can’t really figure out what the message here is. I guess the Dewey Decimal System works, and that’d probably be good after we get messed up by dudes in the ‘Dark Star system’.

  3. Michael Stipe of REM says he has always dreamed in a post apocalyptic environment somewhere between Children of Men and Bladerunner.

  4. #3: It’s kids’ education. There is now message, only knowledge. They’re explaining how to use a (1970s) library in a truly weird but wonderful way.

  5. Aww, I wanted to see the part where they go flying around the universe in the bookmobile like the Magic Schoolbus.

  6. Oh wow, we had to watch this entire series in library class when I was in 5th or 6th grade(about 12-13 yrs ago), and I remember it being ridiculously out of date even then, and everyone making fun of it.

  7. This is like A Bookmobile for Leibowitz.

    They should have had Burgess Meredith do a cameo about the importance of having an extra pair of reading glasses for the apocalypse.

    There’s even strange Web Apocrypha about this show; some people in Internet message threads about it seem convinced that the librarian Ms. Bookhart was played by Adrienne Barbeau (She wasn’t; it was a woman named Niki Wood). Doubtlessly because at some point some fifth-grader watching this in class leaned over to his friend and said, “Dude, I think that’s Adrienne Barbeau!”

  8. We had to watch these in school. This has been the ONE HUGE remaining inexplicable thing from childhood that never showed up on the internet. I have literally been looking for this for years. Now the whole world can see what happened to a generation of southern children!

  9. Man.

    That’s a flashback I didn’t expect to have at 8:00 AM. What an odd trip down memory lane it is, too!

  10. I am stunned. For decades I’ve tried to remember what this thing was, and anyone I tried to tell would always roll their eyes… but here it is. I saw it back in 2nd grade and remember LOVING it. I will now watch it and destroy yet another brick in the foundation of my childhood. *presses play*

  11. I remember watching this in the early 1980s in elementary school, probably around 4th grade. I’ve looked for years to find it through the public library and the local school district. KET hasn’t shown it for years. As cheesy as this program is, it introduced me to the genre of post-apocalyptic fiction which still intrigues me 20 years later. I even remembered the electronic opening theme for some reason.

    I remember that KET used to show all of the education series in one long marathon over the summer for teachers so they could record them all for their classrooms in one swath. I’d sit on the couch and watch entire runs of a series since only bad soaps were on TV before afternoon cartoons.

  12. Holy shit…*stares off, mind blown*…that was one of those things, ya know?, that you’re never really sure you saw and other people can’t remember, and you were so young your descriptions of it are like impressionistic art.

    Ok, so heres the last great enigma: it was a cartoon, and the bad-guys were these featureless glob-like creatures, who, if they touched you, made you one of them. like the featureless-ness slime got on you. What the fuck was this? I was horrified by it and seem to have repressed every other detail.

    Hey, thanks Cory.

  13. “some people in Internet message threads about it seem convinced that the librarian Ms. Bookhart was played by Adrienne Barbeau”

    That wasn’t Adrienne Barbeau! That was a Barbeau-bot! With the strength of five gorillas!

  14. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting this. I have been trying to figure out what the hell I watched in Library way back when for YEARS, but I never knew it was just a Mississippi thing! God bless my home state.

    Damn. This is so awesome.

    Now if I can just find the claymation “frog and toad” videos from PBS.

  15. It wasn’t just a Mississippi thing, or even just a Southern thing. I remember my elementary school library in Maine showing us this series.

    The librarian took special care to reassure us kids that the puppy they dematerialized was just being transported elsewhere, and was perfectly OK.

  16. Speaking of ITV, I had a crush on the science teacher in one of the shows they used to show us in 4th grade. I don’t know the name of the show, but I know she would always close by saying, “this is Miss Matson, your science teacher, saying ‘goodbye for now!'” Totally can’t Google her up or anything.

    Closer to the content of this show, however, I also remember a miniseries or one-off we saw in class, where we (fictionally) sent a probe to terraform Venus. I’m sure it was to teach us how conditions were different on other planets. At the end of the show, it had an Outer Limits-like twist, where it was discovered there had been an intelligent civilization living on it, which the terraforming had destroyed. I think the beings had been silicon-based. Anyway, would like to find that, too.

  17. One of the most incredibly weird and great things I’ve seen in a long time. Do kids still get to watch Reading Rainbow at all? I have really fond memories of Levar Burton hanging out at a Renaissance Faire and a bunch of folks dancing around to a funky song about going to the library (“Check it Out”, complete with a large black woman singing a gospel/Detroit house-style bridge).

    But since we’re on the subject of strange films shown to us in school, is there a website out there that serves as a clearinghouse for these fuzzy memories? Because I’ve been wondering about a live-action flick I saw in second grade about a kid lost in a forest being chased by a boogeyman dressed in a cape and putty make-up. Just typing about it gives me the super creeps.

  18. We watched this in our 4th grade class – it was *awesome*.

    And apparently aliens are afraid of horses.

  19. Haha, excellent! My mom was the school librarian for my elementary school, and she showed these on classroom TVs in the mornings. All the other kids were weirded out, but I thought it was great.

  20. I became a librarian specifically to become a hero of the postapocalyptic world; you can imagine my disappointment.

  21. #22, Shakespear:
    Can you hook me up with a copy of “Tomes and Talismans?” I actually keep a collection of post-apocalyptic media at my house.

  22. Oh WOW.

    I was in the MS public school system back then, and I remember this! So much that I’ve always wondered what the hell it was that we had watched back then.

    I remember one episode they used a dictionary to figure out what a watermelon was, teaching how descriptive words can change perception.

  23. I loved that, that’s great! It doesn’t seem to incorporate teaching kids about being polite much. (The librarian orders everyone around without saying “please” or “thanks”.) If ever there’s an appropriate time to be polite, it’s during an apocalypse, ha ha.

  24. i remember this show and used to watch it when i was home sick during elementry school. it was an addictive little show, but very kinda creepy. there was also a show that was very similar in creepiness.. it was a show that was based on old classic fables and american stories. thanks for the memory

  25. WOW–like everyone else is saying–WOW.

    I had begun to doubt that I had ever had to watch this (in Library class, in my elementary school in TN).

  26. “I became a librarian specifically to become a hero of the postapocalyptic world; you can imagine my disappointment.”

    What, you can’t wait six months?

  27. Well, I’ve been waiting longer than that, and actually, now that I have an iPhone, the prospect of a world cleansed by fire is, at best, a mixed bag.

  28. Wow. Flashback circa 1993ish, Bichwood Elementary(NJ). Just like everyone else is saying, a portion of my (and yours) past that you were just barely clinging on to the fading memories of finally has a name and a face.

    I think there needs to be a special section of BB(or somewhere else) where people can go to talk about these shows/cartoons that they barely remember anything about. In hopes of giving some sort of closure to that show you’ve been trying to name for 12 years.

  29. @#18 Corriander, hell yeah I remember this from growing up in Maine, too! And I totally loved it!

  30. It’s the 22nd century and they’re using card catalogues? I guess learning how to use those things was a really useful skill that will never become obsolete.

  31. This was also shown in Michigan schools in the early to mid 90’s. I was in elementary school, and all my friends to this day maintain that we never watched anything like this. I was enthralled.

  32. oh yea michigan elementary school i remembered enjoying video time in the library. god they were desperate for us to know the dewey decimal system. pretty funny how most people still don’t know how to use it.

  33. #28 posted by Matt Staggs

    We have DVDs available. Nice ones taken from the original 1″ masters.

    Put in a request through

    They will be coming to itunes sometime too.

  34. Reminds me of “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank”.
    MST3k did it.

    There was a similar educational show that had a super creepy ending.

    A lone kid was on a computer in a basement that had a big weird electronic eye and was typing questions to the A.I. inside it.

    He typed some question and the monitor screen started freaking out and a little door in the wall opened and smoke came out and the kid FREAKED!

    And then they freeze frame, CLIFFHANGER!

    There might have been a mini Dalek/jawa droid scooting around too.

    Any idea what the name of the show was?

  35. I was a senior at Mississippi State University when this video aired and I remembering thinking how cheesy it was.

  36. Ugh… even future Americans will be subjected to boring and drab Powerpoint slides!

    [See video supra @ 3:15 re: Discussion of Dewey Decimal System]

  37. Just had to throw another “WOW” entry into the thread. I’ve been looking for these for years, too, but couldn’t remember the name. I remember being subjected to them in 3rd or 4th grade (1985/1986 time frame) at my elementary school in rural western Ohio. Apparently they were fairly new at that time, too– zow!

    Nobody really seemed to like them (I did, of course, being that I had a love of science fiction and– erm– learning things), and I recall a teacher threatening “If you don’t quiet down I’ll make you watch ‘wipers’.”

    Now I just need to find time to watch them. (I have to say, though, that this is making me feel damned old…)

  38. The Onion AV Club has a weekly feature called “Ask the AV Club,” and a lot of the questions involve “Here’s this half-remembered show from childhood…”

    More often than not, the answer seems to be something made by Canadian TV.

  39. YAY
    I contacted my elementary school library a year or so ago, in hopes of finding someone who still worked there that remembered the series. I had no idea what it was called, and her ability to not only decipher my description but offer the series name made me want to send her roses. I wasn’t able to aquire copies or find it but I do believe I’ll have to sit here and watch all of these over and over again now.

  40. To BAYOU MAHARAJA: The movie you remeber about a kid being chased around in the woods by an orange faced, caped bogey man was called “The Magic Sneakers!” These ‘magic sneakers’ enabled the kid to stay one step ahead of the caped dude, who ends up being kicked into oblivion while hiding in a cardboard box! In the end, the kid returns the magic sneakers to the abandoned train car where he found them. And, it seems Google, Facebook, and the employees at the video stores have no idea what-or-where a copy of this movie my be available! But, now you at least know the title! Good luck in your search!

    To MARK ZERO: I too have been searching for that PBS movie about terraforming Venus and accidently killing the native inhabitants. I do remember that the name for the mission was called “Project Sabre.” I also remember the hero scientist arguing with his fellow eggheads about wrapping the space probe in “acid resistant plastic!” Maybe that can help in your search. I still havn’t found anything…yet!

    Also- Does anybody remember the following movies we were subjected to in elementary school:
    1.) A post apocalypse movie involving some guy in a space suit wandering around a museum and eventually powering-up an old film projector and watching a movie about the ecological disater befalling mankind…?
    2.) A rather strange movie entitled “People Soup” starring Alan Arkin’s young sons who invent a potion (made from common household chemicals) that turns them briefly into animals(!)
    3.) A movie about a young boy and his single mother who move to a house in the country and find that an old witch is living in the attic! Appalled by the articles she reads in the newspapers that the boy brings to her, the witch decides to bring happiness to the world with her “magic pancakes!”
    4.) The classic bus safety scare film “And Then It Happened”, showing quite graphically what NOT to do on a school bus
    5.) and finally, a scare fest entitled “The Fear Machine”, involving sight-gags and sound effects meant to scare you half to death before you realize there is nothing scary about them at all!

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