Casey Jones, Axel and Carmen, T.N. Tatters, Clancy and Willie, Joe the Cook and Roo Roo the Kangaroo, Dave Lee and Pete the Penguin, Sheriff Sev, Sgt. Scotty, Boots and Saddles, Rocko Dyne, Horror Incorporated, Roundhouse Rodney, Skipper Darl, J.P. Patches, Romper Room and Miss Betty, Grandpa Ken, Wrangler Steve and Chuck Wagon Chuck, The Happy Hour, Captain 11, Commodore Cappy, Johnny .44, Grandma Lumpitt’s Boarding House, KartoonTime at NoonTime, Bozo the Clown, Dr. Paul Bearer
You remember all of them don’t you? Or some of them. Between 1953 and 1977 (or so), there were dozens of local children’s shows on the four commercial stations – WCCO, KMSP, KSTP and WTCN. Some shows lasted 15 years or more. Others came and went in a season. And they changed their names and time slots constantly. KartoonTime at NoonTime on channel 9 became Popeye and Pete on channel 11, and eventually was just The Dave Lee Show. Clancy the Keystone Cop became Clancy the Space Cop and then Clancy and Willie, though it was also called Clancy and Company. But it started with John Gallos as Commodore Cappy. Lunch with Casey started as Noontime Express. And there was Wake Up with Casey and Roundhouse, and Grandma Lumpitt’s Boarding House. J. P. Patches with Daryl Laub on channel 11 was called Carnival Clown and moved over to channel 5 and became Circus Sideshow with T.N. Tatters. Yet J. P. Patches continued on channel 11 with Chris Wedes.
But what about Rocko Dyne? Or Sheriff Sev? Anyone remember Sgt. Scotty? How about Cousin Lem? Do you remember Chuck Wagon Chuck? Some of these are fleeting names in old TV listings. Some are remembered vaguely by people that watched them. Some are known through photos buried in dusty file cabinets. Trying to find information about these programs, these personalities, is challenging and difficult. Do the names Jimmy Valentine, Bob Montgomery or Dale Woodley bring back memories? Sometimes a fragment of a memory brings back all sorts of questions and prvokes new research.
I was born in 1962 and my earliest TV memories are watching Casey and Roundhouse perhaps in 1965 or 66. I never saw Joe the Cook, Roo Roo the Kangaroo, T.N. Tatters, J. P. Patches, or even Axel. So when people started talking about them in some newsgroups back in the late 1990’s, I was intrigued. I posted my memories of Lunch With Casey and people began to send me their memories. Out of this came the Lunch With Casey website. I soon met Julian West, the authority on Axel and Clellan Card and he was a wealth of information. Together we started to work on this Minnesota Kid Vid site.
What did we have to work with? Not a lot. Many of these shows were 50 years ago. These programs were broadcast live every day. Videotape was not available. In those earliest days of television, if you wanted to save a program, you pointed a 16mm film camera at a television screen and made a “kinescope.” When video tape became available in the early sixties, it was bulky and expensive. If something was recorded, chances are it would be erased and taped over at a later date. Video tape was very expensive and used over and over. What exists today are several hours of Axel shows that were actually filmed on 16mm for Sunday broadcasts, a couple hours of Casey and Roundhouse clips from the late 60s, single kinescopes of Captain Daryl and T.N. Tatter shows. There is one taped copy of the Dave Lee show, and one known tape of Grandpa Ken. The surviving clips of Clancy and Willie and Carmen come from thier last week of broadcasts in 1977. There are a couple rare kinescopes of early WCCO shows like Commodor Cappy. We have a few scant minutes of J.P. Patches in Minneapolis. We have one film clip of Joe the Cook and Roo Roo standing on their set. There are even a few rare holiday reels prepared for Christmas parties that preserve the only known footage of some of these programs. The earliest Casey footage seems to date to 1962, meaning nothing exists of the programs that aired between 1954 and 1961. Nothing exists of Dave Lee’s shows at channel 9. No footage exists of Steve Cannon as Wrangler Steve or Sev Widman as Sheriff Sev.
We have photos. Some shows, like the earliest version of Romper Room on channel 11 are preserved in a handful of photos in the files at the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting in St. Louis Park. We have a few pictures of Wrangler Steve and Captain 11. Some photos survived because they were distributed as trading cards. There are occasional newspaper articles from the Minneapolis Tribune or St. Paul Pioneer Press. There are advertisements in old TV Guides. And there are lots of TV listings. To find all this material requires research and time and access. I live in Atlanta, Georgia these days, so researching Minnesota TV schedules and old newspaper archines is not the easiest thing to do.
Fortunately, we have resources like the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting that is available when I have time to visit. Julian West is a wealth of knowledge thanks to his incredible research into the life of Clellan Card. I’ve been able to interview Dave Lee, Pegge Forest, Chris Wedes, Daryl Laub and director Al DeRusha and they have shared their stories and rare photos from the early days of television. Tim Hollis wrote and incredible book called “Hi There, Boys and Girls! America’s Local Children’s TV Programs” which has some information about some of these obscure shows. Another interesting book is “Media Tales” by Sheri O’Meara and Martin Keller. “J.P. Patches Northwest Icon” is a wonderful book. I’ve had help and support from the families of Roger Awsumb and Lynn Dwyer. Other collectors and writers in Minnesota like Joel Rasmussen and J.R. Lonto have lots of information. There are a couple great video collections on YouTube that includes surviving clips of Axel, Cappy, Casey and others. Even Ebay has proven to be a good resource for old collectibles such as postcards, buttons, magazines and even Axel dolls!
The internet is a very frustrating resource if you are trying to research any of this material. There are some good websites for J.P. Patches (Chris Wedes) and Grandpa Ken (Ken Wagner). Unfortunately, the memory of the internet really only covers the last 10 years. Newspapers and news websites don’t even keep much of their archives online. When you can locate an obituary, you have a great deal of information, but even those are hard to locate. I’ve found some old issues of Billboard magazine available on Google Books, but those only seem to bring us up to 1954 or so. And about 95% of the Google search results lead right back to the Minnesota Kid Vid and Lunch with Casey websites, or Wikipedia’s listing of children’s shows.
But the best resource of all are the visitors to the website. Larry Iverson shared his photos and stories about appearing on the Casey Jones show. Barbara Kline passed along her photo from when she appeared on Popeye’s Clubhouse. Gary McDonald shared his stories and photos of Casey and Roundhouse. Mary Herzog told memories of her father, an engineer at channel 11. Your photos and memories are what helps bring these websites to life.
Julian and I still have a lot of stories and photos to share here. Casey and Axel will be remembered along with Dave Lee and Pete, J.P. Patches and Joe the Cook, Captain Daryl and T.N. Tatters, Clancy and Willie and all the rest as best we can.
So if you have any stories, photos, old films or tapes, or audio recordings, please share them if you can. Did Casey or Axel come to your birthday party? Did you record their TV shows on audio tapee? Did you take a trip to Wisconsin Dells with Casey? Did you see any of your TV heroes at a shopping mall or maybe Como Zoo or Excelsior Amusement park? We’d really like your photos! Did your family shoot any home movies? Did your parents work at these stations and save any printed materials? Maybe 16mm films?
I’m looking for information about Jimmy Valentine, Bob Montgomery, Sev Widman and Dale Woodley from the 50’s. Do you haev any thing on Steve Cannon from his early TV days, before he was on WCCO radio? Do you have information on Jack Hastings? How about when Jim Lange was Captain 11?
You can drop me an email at CultTVman@aol.com ro use the contact form on this site.
All my thanks