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June 8, 2010

Classic Children’s Television Programs, Chicago Style

By Sablemable aka Jan

All over North America beginning in the Fifties, local television stations were broadcasting original programs for children in the morning, at noon and after school.  Since we lived only 90 minutes from Chicago, each weekday we would tune in to WGN-TV Channel 9 to watch our favorite shows.  Remember when you had to turn, or rotate, the antenna to receive the signals of a certain channel?  For us, the antenna had to point west for the Chicago stations.

Bozo came on every weekday at noon and we would hurry home from school for lunch and some laughs.   The ringmaster, Mr. Ned, dressed in a top hat and cutaway, would blow his whistle and announce in a booming voice, “Bozo’s Circus is on the air!”  Later, he would announce, “It’s time for the Grand! Prize! Game!”  Although we  watched the Bozo show from Chicago, every major city had their own version of Bozo’s Circus.  Here’s the Chicago cast.

From left to right:  Sandy the Tramp (Don Sandburg), Mr. Bob (Bob Trendler), the music director, Bozo (Bob Bell), Oliver O. Oliver (Ray Rayner)  and Mr. Ned (Ned Locke).  Later, Cooky the Cook (Roy Brown) would replace Sandy.

Cooky the Cook

Bozo, Mr. Ned and a cameraman circa 1960s.

The Grand Prize Game circa 1970s.

Another of our favorites was Garfield Goose and Friends.  Garfield, who thought he was the King of the United States, held court in his castle along with Romberg Rabbit, Macintosh Mouse, Beauregard Burnside III (Bloodhound) and Frazier Thomas, the creator and host, was Garfield’s Prime Minister.  Other members of the kingdom were Garfield’s nephew, Chris (short for Christmas) Goose and Mama Goose.  Since Frazier was the only one who spoke, he would interpret the clucks and sign language into English for the audience.  Cartoons were shown in between the skits.  One skit I remember clearly was when Macintosh Mouse disappeared one Christmas season and everyone was in a panic!  We all wondered what could have happened to Macintosh Mouse?  Each afternoon we were glued to the television set until he was found, right before Christmas.  Where was Macintosh Mouse all that time?  He had mistakenly been placed into the cargo area of a UPS van and had traveled all over America until he was discovered.

From left to right: Romberg Rabbit, Beauregard Burnside III, Garfield Goose, Macintosh Mouse, Frazier Thomas, and over Frazier’s shoulder, Chris Goose.

Another afternoon program we enjoyed was The Dick Tracy Show, hosted by Ray Rayner who portrayed Sgt. Pettibone.  He and his trusty police dog, Tracer, were headquartered in the Crimestopper Cruiser.  In between Dick Tracy cartoons, Sgt. Pettibone and Tracer would work on a case which would result in another cliffhanger to keep the kids riveted.  It did.

Tracer and Sgt. Pettibone (Ray Rayner)

And in the mornings, The Ray Rayner Show!  Ray, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, would announce the weather and sports scores, have an arts and crafts segment, perform skits.  Ray’s sidekicks were an yellow-orange stuffed dog named Cuddly Duddly and an obnoxious duck named Chelveston, who was always trying to attack Ray’s ankles.  Ray solved that by feeding lettuce to Chelveston on a continuous basis!   Often the stage crew were included in the skits; once when Ray was telling the children to be sure and wear their snow boots that morning, the entire crew threw their boots and shoes at Ray’s feet.  Ray’s jumpsuit had notes pinned to it and whenever it was time to announce a cartoon or commercial, Ray would pull the note from his suit and read from it.  It was a great show!

From left to right: Chelveston the Duck, Ray Rayner (with puppy) and Cuddly Duddly.

All of these shows were first broadcast in black and white, then color and also endured through the Sixties and Seventies, even the early Eighties.  The shows died when the actors retired.  I really hesitate to call these talented people actors, as they held down a variety of positions on television, radio and the stage.  They were dedicated and were very conscious of their on and off screen behavior.  I don’t believe I have ever read or heard anything negative about these men.

Thank you, gentlemen, for all of the wonderful memories!  It sure was fun!

What were your favorite childhood television programs, readers?

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9 Responses to Classic Children’s Television Programs, Chicago Style

  1. Sara in AZ Reply

    June 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I never saw any of these programs, as I was in Tennessee and Texas in the 70s and 80s. I do remember watching a lot of Captain Kangaroo though! It was funny reading through all the realllly elaborate names they gave all their characters. Macintosh Mouse, Chelveston the Duck – love it!!!

  2. Lorie B. Reply

    June 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Holy Cow, Jan…you are taking me on some major walks into the past. I so remember all of those shows. I recall watching Ray Rayner when he would write the school closings on his chalkboard, and he would run out of room and write all around the edges. HAHA We thought we were really something if our school (Lakeshore) would get a mention. And once in a while, it would.

    Cookie the clown was always my favorite. I also remember watching Captian Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers…though they were not so area specific. There was something like a 7 year waiting list for tickets to see Bozo at one point. People would sign up as soon as their kids were born.

    BTW, thanks…my brother and I were talking a while back abot Ray Rayner and what that goose’s name was…couldn’t recall for nothing…


  3. sablemable Reply

    June 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Lorie! LOL@Ray writing the school closings! I don’t seem to remember if Benton Harbor School District ever made the list. Remember when he would wear that fedora, like he was a newspaper reporter?

    I have to say that Garfield Goose/Friends was my favorite! Macintosh Mouse was so cute with his little saddle shoes. I had forgotten all about Beauregard Burnside III, the little cutie!

    Saraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!! Every area had some kind of original kids’ shows way back when. Yep, we also watched Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans!!

  4. AE Reply

    June 8, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    We lived in a suburb of Chicago. I was able to attend what was at that time called, Uncle Ned’s Lunchtime Theater. Thanks for the pictures. Aw Memories!

  5. sablemable Reply

    June 8, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    AE, I take it Uncle Ned was Ned Locke. I hadn’t heard of that show. Happy to know some of the readers were watching WGN back then!

  6. AE Reply

    June 9, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Just looked it up. It was actually called Lunchtime Little Theatre. Was actually the start of the Bozo Show. Yes, Ned Locke was Uncle Ned

  7. sablemable Reply

    June 9, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Great minds work together, AE! I looked it up, too!

  8. Debbie Reply

    June 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Does anyone remember the show that the Ray Rayner show replaced? I remember his first day…He had all those notes on so he could remember what to do.

  9. John Grace Reply

    February 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    That was a great time for TV and what a time to be a kid! I remember being in kindergarten and only having to be there mornings. Running home to make sure I didn’t miss anything and then having the afternoons off. When I went into 1st grade my Mom had to drag me back to afternoon class!

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