What do you know about the Peace Corps? That it was created during the administration of Pres. John F. Kennedy as a sort of benign sort of American imperialism to counteract the rather malign American imperialism he knew was about to hit Americans in the gut with a big stick called Vietnam? Yeah, sure, there’s that. But there’s so much more to the Peace Corps that you don’t know. Interesting stuff. Wacky stuff, even.
Let’s get right to the wacky, shall we? Did you know that Mister Ed, the titular star of the 1960s TV show about the talking equine, joined the Peace Corps? Well, okay, not really, but when Wilbur, the human that Mister Ed shares living quarters with, hires a Japanese exchange students as his new assistant, the horse gets so frustrated that he threatens to make the title of the episode a reality: “Ed in the Peace Corps.” What this episode that aired when the Peace Corps was literally still in its infancy suggests is that already there was suspicion that it would become a kind of escape clause for those seeking to get away from unpleasantness at home much like the Foreign Legion had earlier.
King of the Hill
On an episode of “King of the Hill” late in the show’s run, Bobby Hill becomes an accidental activist for soft drink vending machine reform all in the name of pursuing a cute little girl. Faculty and staff are frightened that Bobby’s activism is going to put a dent in their plans for a school board retreat until Principal Moss lets them know he’s got it covered. And how does Principal Moss got it covered? By letting Bobby he knows exactly what kind of situation he’s gotten himself into. He then goes on to relate a story about being a chubby kid who join ed the Peace Corps to get girls. Only it turned out all the girls in the Peace Corps were crazy about a seven foot tall African who could run for miles and play the guitar to boot. The lesson this little bit of trivia about the Peace Corps should teach girls: a lot of guys who followed you into the Peace Corps perhaps had something other on their mind than improving the lives of those less fortunate than themselves.
Here’s a bit of trivia about the Peace Corps you may not have known. It was the Peace Corps that brought together longtime couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. Well, to be completely factually accurate, it was a movie they made about their characters joining the Peace Corps that brought Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson together. Even a lot of fans labor under the mistaken assumption that Hanks and Wilson actually met on the set of “Volunteers.” Any true fan of “Bosom Buddies” could wise those guys up; they actually met when Wilson played a devil-worshipping video dating match for his co-star Peter Scolari’s character.
What can joining the Peace Corps grant you? Perhaps a view of a brave new world that becomes so habitual and seems like such a natural fact that your little walnut brain can no longer even comprehend a world in which video on demand never existed. Netflix is a game changer of such spectacular size that only those born around or before the same time as the Peace Corps itself was born can possibly apprehend the enormity of it all. Reed Hastings founded Netflix and in the process did perhaps a greater good for Americans than he never did for anyone as a member of the Peace Corps. Then again, perhaps Hastings first got the idea of video on demand while deep in the heart of Swaziland where acces s to television to catch the new season premiere that answered all the questions left hanging for a summer by a May cliffhanger was about as easy as finding access to the premier airing of that episode in any time in America where a September electrical storm took away the electricity. See, that’s the kind of things yo kids today with your Netflix never have to worry about.
Patty and the Peace Corps
Almost a year after Mister Ed threatened to join the Peace Corps, one of the identical twin cousins on “The Patty Duke Show” (no, that’s not a typo, the show was about identical twin cousins) caught the bug cast by the virus unleashed upon America’s youth by JFK. Patty Lane lied about her age to join the Peace Corp much in the same way that thousands of boys lied about their age to join the military 20 years earlier.