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Gary Green

Saturday, July 01, 2006 

...When The Blind School Burned Down and I Had Nightmares for Months

Stuck at home with a sore throat that's keeping me from sleeping, I was tooling around the dial and came across a Michael Landon marathon on TV Land the other night. I was not a regular watcher of Little House on the Prairie when I was a little kid (I'm lying, I totally was), but everyone my age remembers this episode called "May We Make Them Proud," which was the talk of the playground the day after it originally aried.

Yes, everyone in their mid-thirties. I'm talking about the blind school fire.

Generally, this show was a sweet, old-fashioned confection, always topped off at the end with a lovely Landon-ized moral, most often something along the lines of "it's not nice to make fun of fat kids," "it's not nice to make fun of stuttering kids," "don't cheat on your math test," "it's not nice to make fun of kids with one leg seven inches shorter than the other," "progress is bad bad bad!," or "never hide in an ice house that has a trick lock on the outside."

But every so often, Landon would slap us viewing sheep upside the head with some perectly repugnant horror story, like a little girl getting raped by a mask-donning psycho, morphine addicts blowing chunks on camera, ma going crazy and trying to gnaw off her own leg, or parents rolling off a fifty foot cliff and crashing into a ravine as their newly orphaned kids wept in the panic of total abandonment.

Also, on occasion, one of the Ingalls kids would get shot in the head, suffer a stroke, get mauled by a pack of wild dogs, or drown in the local lake.

But all of those pale in comparison to the infamous blind school fire.

Television wasn't promoted to the extent it is now, where you're pretty much told all week long what to expect on the next episode. So kids in the seventies would plunk themselves down to watch their favorite shows, bowl of chocolate chip ice cream in hand, expecting nothing more than the ultimately upbeat Little House morality plays they were used to seeing, week after week.

Then this crazy shit goes down, and none of them slept for the next month.

Let's take a frame-by-frame look at the scariest-ass piece of 80's television this side of Gary Coleman getting his cornhole fingered by Gordon Jump On Diff'rent Strokes.

Butt-Ugly Ingalls Foster Child and Anonymous Day Player are toking up in the basement of the blind school. Okay, so far the episode is shaping up to be nothing more than a cautionary tale on the dangers of tobacco and disobeying ma and pa.

Several minutes later - oops! Okay, but everyone will make it out safely and it will be like that episode of Happy Days where Chachi accidentally burns down Arnolds. A cautionary tale on fire safety and owning up to one's mistakes. After all, this is family hour television. Nice production work, though.

Adam: "Mary, the blind school is on fire. We need to save all the blind orphans."
Mary: "Okay, let me just tuck in my baby. He rolled over for the first time tonight. I wish one of us had vision."

Mary: "Be sure to grab the backgammon set. It's worth five dollars."

Good-hearted long-standing third-string character Alice Garvey hears crying and busts into the room to get the baby. Oh, thank god. All will be saved, and this will be a cautionary tale on rescuing crying babies from fires, or something like that.

Finding it difficult to make an exit down the burning staircase, Alice heads for the upstairs window and uses Baby Ingalls as a battering ram. But apparently a single pane of 1870's glass proves too much for her, and she and the baby go down in flames accompanied by a distrubing amount of screams. Meanwhile, blind Mary and Adam and all the blind orphans sit outside and watch... well, not so much watch as point their faces in what they hope to be the general direction of the conflagration, proving that while stutterers, hobblers, and fat-asses can still make positive contributions, blind people are basically useless drains on pioneer society.

Okay, what the fuck is going on here? Is this Little House or an Irwin Allen disaster flick? I signed up for an hour of light-hearted wilderness merrymaking. Where's the lovable drunken frump Mr. Edwards? Where's that half-witted gork Carrie? Why couldn't she get torched? Where's the prairie bitch? Where's Manly? Where's Half Pint for god's sake?

Charles goes dead-baby hunting and hey! He comes up a winner. Another Ingalls kid bites the dust, but at least the horses will eat tonight.

As the camera winds through the smokey wreckage, nine year old Gary Green is torn. Do I run out of the room and admit to my parents I'm being terrified by an epsiode of fucking Little House and need a re-assuring hug, or do I suck it up? My trust in television has been irrevocably shaken. What's next? Jennifer Hart getting anally raped by a hot hair iron? Captian Stubing gutted like a salmon by guest star Barbi Benton?

Poor actress playing Alice Garvey asked Heir Landon for a pay raise, and now she's been Fajita-fied right off the show. Husband and son gawk at wrapped up body. The way this episode was going, why bother with a sheet? Why not just show the two of them hugging and kissing Alice's steaming, roasted loins? Instead, husband curses god and asks for directions to the neareat pine box outlet store.

Baboon-faced Ingalls Foster Fuck overhears the fire was caused by a pipe in the basement.

Mary wakes up from a ten day morphine-induced praire nap, "Oh, I'm so refreshed! You know, I'm so fortunate. I've survived scarlet fever. I've lost my vision, but I can still look on the sunny side of life. Hey... where's my baby?"

"Uh, Mary, sit down. I have some news. I hope you take this well."

Unfortunately, Mary does not take it well. Jesus Christ! Am I actually seeing the slit-open wrists of Melissa Sue Anderson? Is that Ingalls blood spilling down the facade of Nellie's family restaurant? That definitely won't be good for business.

Mary ends up going bananas. Blind and bananas. Good thing she's already landed a man.

At least we get to see Prairie Bitch for a moment. She's a hoot! And no amount of tragedy will keep her from donning that oversized donkey bow.

Yay, though I walk through the shadow of death, yadda yadda yadda. I hope the Ingalls' get a family rate at that cemetery.

Then suddenly it's just over. I've soiled my pj's, and I get abruplty smacked out of it with the traditional end credits, snappy upbeat music, and Melissa Gilbert skipping through the fields and pretending she's a bird? Hasn't she heard the news? Is she just in denial?

Of course the biggest question of all is, do I have ANYTHING better to be doing on a Saturday afternoon than create this post? Couldn't I be reading a book? Getting some fresh air and exercise? Hey wait, aren't I currently unemployed?

Well, I suspect that other people out there were as disturbed by this episode as I was back in the day. This is a way for all of us to come together and share our grief, take comfort in one another's bosoms. Fajita Alice Garvey and Bar-B-Que'd Baby Ingalls would have wanted it that way.

What's in THE BOX?? (13 secs)
Find out by clikcing below! If you like what you see, click the ad at the end and send thirty cents into the pocket of my boyfriend, Michael Granberry, and his one-man animation company, Red Hatchet Films! Enjoy! (needs Quicktime)

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God I laughed my frickin ass off at this post. Was that a real episode?!?!?! I used to (grudgingly) watch LHOTP as well, but I never remember anything seriously freaky going on...

Oh yeah. Way real episode. Just ask anyone between the ages of 30 and 40 "Where were you when the blind school burned down" and watch how fast they give you their story!

perfect 4th of july weekend post. lol @ point their faces.

You are such a great writer! Glad you took the time on this post, babe. You brought up a well of childhood angst over watching Hersha Parady reduced to a cinder...

Not to split hairs or anything - but the crispy critter was actually a Kendall baby, not an Ingalls baby.

Remember when Mary was going to marry Adam and she called it off for one episode because she got all freaked out about two blind people having babies? She was worried cause their babies would most likely be able to see, and how on earth would two blindies be able to take care of sighted kids?

Adam and Ma and Pa were able to pat her on the head and "silly Mary" her back into submission - Mary and Adam got married and went on to have the Kendall baby.

I'm sure it was small comfort to Mary after she woke up from her ten day morphine induced prairie nap to be able to say "I told you so!".

Also marks the only time Mary was ever right during the run of the show.


Love you, Lucy.

Ohmigawsh, I don't even know you but I had to say how brilliant that whole summary was. BRILLIANT!! Little House gave me many a nightmare growing up but I just could not stop watching. Like the time Albert died of cancer and blood kept pouring out of his nose. Ewww, blood. Anway, great post. You're hilarious.

Thanks. I worked very hard to block that episode out, and now its all for naught. At least you made me laugh.

Ahhh...Little House. I have loved it ever since I wore a drab brown dress in my fourth grade school pic so everyone would mistake me for Laura Ingalls. Hell, I do have red hair, a big mouth, and a smart, pretty older sister, after all!

Anyway, I loved that "blind school burning" (wouldn't that be a great name for an alt-rock band?) episode, and most of the other two-hour specials. Remember when Laura went to the top of the mountain after baby-boy Ingalls bit the dust? Those popcorn-munching parents squeezing in that prairie bed, the treks Pa took to earn money blasting rock and panning for gold, the incredibly dorky Manly refusing to let his lib'rul wife work, the suddenly grown up Laura sporting a matronly updo and a permanent "these kids today" smirk... don't you just love all that crap??

Actually, Mary's baby did indeed die in that episode.

This post is wonderful and so spot on!

Have you seen the “Sylvia” episodes of Little House? They are even more disturbing than the blind school burning down: Albert’s girlfriend is raped by a mime in a mask, ends up pregnant and then dies because the mime comes back and chases her. Seriously.

To this day, I fear mimes and clowns and I place that blame squarely on Michael Landon.


Blind School Fire was on TVLand last night Aug 22.

Awesome recap!

OMG at the mention of the "Sylvia" episode above...the blind school fire was traumatic enough, but that raping mime? JESUS! I thought I'd crossed out of prairieland and into an episode of Night Gallery.

Gary, that is BRILLIANT. Do you (and the commenters) know about Television Without Pity, the snarkiest place on Earth? Go here:


And scroll down to the "Little House on the Prairie: Ma, Pa and That Mime That Raped Sylvia" forum. There are some Jezebels (cf episode "Whisper Country") you'd fit right in with.


This was fucking hilarious! Thanks for an entertaining recap of one of the most disturbing episodes of my favorite show!

While this was truly a horrifying episode, I agree with Kathy. The mime episode was really the most outrageous. There was absolutely nothing heart warming about the mime raping Sylvia (and you thought it was her dad???) and then one had to imagine the 14 year old Albert impregnating someone. The dirty looks that came his way!

Seriously funny post! Laughed my ass off to the point of tears as it all came back to me...this episode left me unable to eat meat for at least a week when I saw it as a kid. My all time favorite episode is the one where the dead girl's mom locks laura in the root cellar and makes her dress up like the dead girl, even made her a birthday cake. And the whole town spent 55 minutes of the episode chasing down the village idiot thinking he had taken Laura.
You have made me want to start buying the DVD's of this show.
Like your writing and I will be back :)

Very nice! I like it. samsung sph n400

My God. Only 20 minutes ago I found this episode on tivo, and saw the horrible baby battering-ram part for the 20th horrid time. Your post made me choke on my pop-tart - seriously. It's fun to laugh now at a show which, as a child, traumatized me regularly. Not only is this episode the worst case of child abuse ever, but it portrays Walnut Grove having an 1880s chili party. I'm surprised Hester Sue and Alice weren't sitting down to a glass of Tang pre-fire. Thanks for the choking incident.


Was anything creepier than Mary humming during 3/4 of that episode? And funny how Pa never once, even after all the trouble Albert causes (Baby BBQ, pregnant clown-raped girlfriend, etc.), thinks "Hey, maybe I shouldn't have brought that bastard city kid back to live with us?"

You also might enjoy this take on Michael Landon's masterpiece: http://www.dwanollah.com/blather/030304/index.html

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