Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A few memories about children's television shows

(The following is my column is my column in this week's Newton County News.)

I can't recall the name of the show, but Ozarks Public Television recently had a program which recalled The Children's Hour, not the adult Lillian Hellman play, but the children's program which ruled southwest Missouri for three decades on KYTV in Springfield.

Aunt Norma Champion, who spent 13 years as the program's host (and who is now a state senator) was interviewed, as was the man who voiced the programs two puppets, Skinny and Rusty.

That brought back plenty of memories, especially of the daily squawking of Rusty (a chicken) to "blow out the candles" when it was time to wish happy birthday to Springfield-area youngsters.

The early 1960s, when I was in the single digits agewise was the time when every local television station had a children's program, with a host, perhaps some puppets, and definitely cartoons.

On KOAM-TV, Channel 7, in Pittsburg, Kan., it was The Fun Club with host Roger Neer and his cohort Slim Andrews, the 49er, who somehow came to Pittsburg from Hollywood where he had appeared in several Westerns in the '40s. I know others were hosts of the show besides Neer, including Andrews himself for a time, but it was the Neer program that I first watched.

The show I remember most, however, was on KODE-TV, Channel 12- The Bar 12 Ranger with Ranger Ed. For a time, I watched the program every day, but that ended when I was about eight years old.

At the time, my dad, Bill Turner, was working for Neosho Nurseries and was doing some landscaping work at KODE, along with my mom's brother, Bob Clark. I wasn't much help to the two of them, so I was pretty much wandering about outside and I even managed to wander away from Dad and slip into the station.

One of the first people I ran into was Jim Lobbey, later the Jasper County Clerk, but at that time an on-air personality at KODE. The only thing I could think of was to say was "You're Jim Lobbey."

Apparently, he already knew that, and walked right on past me without saying anything. I was somewhat disillusioned by my first meeting with a star, but I plowed on ahead. I did not run into any more celebrities so I returned to the Neosho Nurseries truck and was reading when I spotted my hero. Ranger Ed (Ed Wilson) walking out of the station. I was surprised to see him without his cowboy hat and outfit, but I couldn't wait to see him hop on his horse and ride away from the station. Imagine my surprise (and further disillusionment) when he climbed into a little red sports car and sped away from the station.

By this time, I was fed up with all of the fakes in the world of television so I remained in the truck waiting for Dad and my Uncle Bob to finish. A few moments later, I looked up from my book and staring me and smiling through the window was a man I recognized immediately. I didn't have a chance to say anything before he introduced himself. "I'm Gerry Henson," he said. "Would you like to take a look at the station?"
I did and I followed him back in for a brief, but memorable look at what at the time seemed quite glamorous. Gerry Henson, the host of the popular Teen Hop program at the time, talked to me almost as if I was an equal and answered every question I asked (and I had a lot of them).

I don't remember much about Ranger Ed or The Fun Club, or even The Children's Hour, but I do remember that trip to KODE and Gerry Henson. That was the day I learned that the magic of television had nothing to do with cheap, interchangeable programs, but with those TV personalities who remembered the eight-year-olds who watched them from afar.


Anonymous said...

Randy, it is interesting that you had the experience you did with Jim and Ed. As a kid, I was one of the many who worked at KODE in the early sixties. There were three people at that station that always took the "kids" under their wing and taught them not only about television but also about life in general. Those three men were Bob Brown, Jim Lobby and Ed Wilson. They make working at the station fun while maintaining a professional standard that was a hallmark of that station during that time. I, like many others, gravitated out of the area but did visit the station from time to time on my infrequent trips back to the area. They always made time for me. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Ed Wilson shortly before his death and found him to be the same funny and dignified gentleman that he had always been. I don't presume to know what happened during your visit but I do know that Jim always cut his "mike time" to the split second and he may have been due on the air and I know Ed would have made time for you had he known you wanted to meet him. This is a case of a snapshot in time and it is unfortunate that you were left with the impressions you were because I feel previleged to have known all of these men.

Randy said...

I did have the chance to get to know Jim Lobbey later on. In fact, he was nice enough to come to speak to a couple of my classes in Diamond shortly before he died. As for Ed Wilson, I never did really approach him that day; I was just disappointed that he did not actually leave the TV station on his horse.

Anonymous said...

OMG, the Fun Club! Slim Andrews and "Jot" cartoons! What a wealth of memories that brings back. My older brothers and sisters and I were on that club, as was probably every kid growing up in the 1960s in Southwest Missouri. I'll always remember his kazoo playing "Bye, Bye Blues."

Unknown said...

I remember the fun club very well. I was on that show as a cub scout in the 60's and actually played my dad's guitar with the 49'er on the show. Something I will never forget

Unknown said...

I remember the Fun Club very well. I'm 52 but in the 60's I was a cub scout and I played my dad's guitar with Slim Andrews on the show. It was the most exciting thing for me. I actually wrote a letter asking permission to play and Roger Neer read my letter while I watched on TV. The good ole days ! Roger said it would be ok if it was ok with my dad to bring his guitar. lol Pete Troxel

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this story! My mom is from Seneca, and was telling me about the Ranger Ed show that she loved when she was a kid. I promised her I could find something about it through google, and you didn't disappoint! She was so happy to hear some other memories :)

Unknown said...

I remember the Fun Club very well. In fact, I was in Rogers, Ark. over the weekend and recalled that the 49er drove to Pittsburg each day from Rogers to entertain the kids of the 4 state area.

Anonymous said...

I remember Teen Hop, with Gerry Henson, very well - always Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. In 1967, my dance partner, Jo, and I won the contest from Commerce, OK, and returned to win the champion dance-off from all the schools in the 4 state area. It was a lot of fun and the prizes were great - remember S&H stamps, Bunny Bread, H&W Potato Chips, Newton's Jewelry with Bunny Newton advertising his store to name a few? Most of all, Gerry Henson made the programs a lot of fun and conducted great interviews with all the students from all the schools. One interview he had with one of my classmates, Leanna, was when she told him she was a pom pom girl and he asked what a pom pom girl did. Leanna replied, we are the girls who march out in front of the marching band and shake our pom poms! That got a BIG laugh - corny now, but funny for that time in our lives. The next year, 1968, my dance partner, Claudette, and I won again from our school, but at the dance off we did not win the championship, but got second place runnerup. It was a great time in my/our lives and one we will never forget. I wish I knew if they had video tapes of those contests/programs to give to our kids. If anyone knows if these programs were video taped and knows Gerry Henson or anyone at KODE-TV who might know, I'd appreciate knowing who and how to contact them to get a copy. Knowing this is on-line, I will see if KODE-TV still exists up there and write the station to hopefully find these programs were video taped and get a copy. If anyone knows, I'd appreciate you letting me know, and if I find out, I'll post it here for others.

Bill Fogleman

formerly of Commerce, OK
currently of Edmond, OK

Anonymous said...

WOW! I stumbled across this article. I lived int SE Kansas & also remember watching the Ranger Ed show on KODE back in the early 60's. Also remember having a membership card. Think I remember also having a picture taken with Ranger Ed! Also remember the other shows Teen Hop! Bunny Bread Yea!!! LOL!

Joseph said... Here's a picture with me and the 49er Lloyd "Arkansas Slim" Andrews who was one of Hopalong Cassidy and Tex Ritter's sidekicks. Oh and Josephine is in the pic too.

Anonymous said...

We went to this show in the 60's, my 2 older sisters were on stage and I wash on my mom's lap in the audience. When the camera panned the audience, I was picking my nose 🤣 I'd love to have that footage

Anonymous said...

I was on the Fun Club with my cousin...he got a crown cause it was his birthday. I remember the donkey puppet " Josephine".