This post probably won't mean much to those of you who didn't grow up in Wichita, Kansas our the surrounding area, and I guess it's a result of us being back there for the high school reunion several weeks ago.
Since we don't get to Wichita much any more, and since Jane and I both were born and raised there it's probably natural for us to drive around the city and try to find the old hangouts and to revive memories of those days when we were kids. I mean the days before we even knew each other. Days when we were in elementary school. (Jane and I met in high school).
Well, as we drove around I had the radio on. I ALWAYS have the radio on. And instead listening to XM I tuned to some local stations and started to reminisce about the days when I rode standing up in the front seat of a 55 Ford (seat belts? who had seat belts?) that my mom was driving to pick up my father from work. She always had the radio tuned to KWBB or KFH. I started remembering names that I should have long since forgotten. Characters from those radio stations. Names like Lee Nichols and Herkimer P. Pushbroom.
And as we drove, more names of radio and then television personalities that were part of my childhood kept popping into my mind
I used to rush home after elementary school to watch Deputy Dusty as he introduced the old black and white western that would be screened each evening.
And a guy named John Froome, a local guy with big city talent, would be The Old Cobbler and introduce cartoons. John was also the evening weather man and hosted a mid-day show with live audience.
Bill McClain used to do a show where he was called Captain Bill. He had Popeye as a sidekick and they (what else) showed cartoons. He also did a show for a while called "Just For Laughs" that was really pretty good a quite a bit ahead of it's time. Bill was another who also served as the weather man. Remember him saying "It's a BEAUUUTIFUL day in KAKEland?"
Ah, but who could forget Freddy Fudd. He was supposed to be Elmer Fudd's cousin. He sat in a tree house and introduced cartoons as he sought to capture Bugs Bunny. What's really sad is that I remember the song he used to sing.
"I'm Freddy Fudd the forest ranger
Come on in and say 'Howdy Stranger."
I look for fires, and that ain't funny,
But my biggest job is to catch Bugs Bunny."
Freddy was played by a local guy named Henry Harvey. Henry was another jack of all trades when it came to broadcasting. He was a graduate of Friends University and lived just a few blocks from the campus. He had a great singing voice and was often used in community productions. But in my young heart his greatest roll started every year on Thanksgiving Day. Late on that afternoon, on channel 10, KAKE, he would become Santa and kids across the city would park in front of the TV to watch Santa (along with a really lame puppet called KAKEman) as they counted down the days until Christmas Eve. Then we would watch him load the sleigh and blast off to deliver toys to boys and girls all over the world....and we knew it wouldn't be long before he hit our place. ("are you serious about that Clark?")
And who could forget Major Astro. He was played by a Tom Leahy and was another multi-talented local guy who donned the uniform of an astronaut and made us believe that he was actually one of the guys with The Right Stuff. He introduced cartoons and we watched.
My favorite character that Tom portrayed was The Host. The show aired after Johnny Carson on Friday nights. This was on when I was in college and was for a more "mature" audience. His task was to introduce one of those old black and white horror movies. The Host was a Frankenstein sort of character who couldn't do anything right. He thought he was much smarter than his co-host Rodney. Rodney didn't speak and The Host had a bit of a Boris Karloff accent. You can actually find clips of this show on YouTube. It's a hoot.
And does anyone remember Mack Sanders? He was a country-western guy with a band who hosted a show once a week in the evening. I can't remember much about it except that it was on his show that I first saw Roy Clark. Mack Sanders bought up a bunch of radio stations, moved from Wichita and did quite well. I know....I remember the most useless stuff.
And Cecil Carrier? Does that name ring a bell? Cecil was one of the weather men who reminded us that we lived in Kansas and tornado's really were an option.
Most of these guys have gone on to that great broadcast studio in the sky but they had an impact on a generation of kids growing up in Wichita. The product that they created was good clean fun. The kind that parents didn't worry about when we were sitting so close to the TV screen that our noses almost touched it.
I had an idyllic childhood and discover the older I get, the more I enjoy reflecting on the fabulous 50"s