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Philadelphia Local TV shows
:FROM OUR VIEWERS:

Gene LondonGene London was on CBS in Philadelphia, Pa. I think he started out on Saturdays and then went through some shifting between Sat. & Sun. and sometimes both. Maybe repeating Sun's. show the following Sat. I had forgotten all about him until I saw it mentioned here.

Sally Starr and Chief Halftown were part of the WFIL ABC lineup. I remember getting to see Chief Halftown after bugging my folks to take me to the Buster Brown Shoe Store where he was making an appearance. That was also a major learning experience for me - when it was time to go to see Chief Halftown, I was watching something on TV that I didn't want to miss. I thought that when I turned off the TV to go see the Chief, that the show would be on where I left it when I got back. Man, was I ticked off!! :)

I heard Sally Starr had been a Burlesque dancer in her prime (not true), and then moved into the Kiddee show TV market. I always watched that show to see the Three Stooges and Popeye. I remember seeing lots of Cocoa Marsh commercials on that show.

There was Bertie the Bunyip - I liked that show even though most of my friends had outgrown it. It was a friendly show, I like the storyline of the characters. The cartoon fare was the older stuff that most of the other shows had given up on.

Another show in the Philly area that I haven't seen mentioned is the Lorenzo Show. Lorenzo was a Hobo. It started out as an early evening kid's program (right before prime-time). The introduction show was unique, the fella who played Lorenzo came on without makeup, introduced the show to the parents as well as the kids and explained what he hoped to accomplish with the program. As the introduction continued he would slowly get into makeup and transformed himself into Lorenzo.

- Ed Justice


When Sally Starr was ill her place was taken by Rex Morgan, whose gimmick was a bassett hound. Happy the Clown gave special children rides on Chippy the Chipmunk - and does anybody remember watching Bill Webber (WFIL weather) in the morning before school, where he received mail from Elmo - a small toy that rode a tightrope?

- VW Rizzo


Bill WebberBertie the Bunyip's playmates included Fussy and Gussy and Sir Guy de Guy. The show was interspersed with NTA cartoons. The showed aired on Sundays (WRCV-Channel 3 / NBC). There was also a weekday version starring Humphrey the Rabbit

Pete's Gang's set was much like the Our Gang playhouse, and Peter Boyle would draw pictures for the kiddie audience between the Our Gang shorts. (WRCV-Channel 3 / NBC)

Pixanne was every 8 year old boy's heartthrob. Dressed in a very short pixie costume she would converse with a puppet owl. She came on at about 7 am just before Gene London. (WCAU-Channel 10 / CBS)

Gene London's show was originally called Cartoon Corners General Store. The scenario had London working in this store which was next to a confetti factory. He was paid 8 1/2 cents a week by Mr. Quigley. He would draw pictures that were too hard for Pete Boyle. There were Deputy Dawg cartoons and often sneak peeks at the latest Disney offering. (WCAU-Channel 10 / CBS)

- Dennis Bingham


I remember a Philadelphia WCAU-TV kid show staple named Carny C. Carny. Anyone have any stories about him? The thing I recall is that at Christmas he'd recite the "Night Before Christmas", and he'd say "He went to the window, and threw up!" He'd pause while the crew cackled, then would add "...the sash."

Also, going way back to the early '50's, does anyone remember a local bible puppet show that was on Sunday mornings? Gimme a break... no cable and three channels back then, for cryin' out loud!

- Lou Brooks


Who could forget Pixanne and her magic pixie dust? If I remember correctly, her show was on around the same time as Gene London's show, because she & Gene were my absolute favorite TV personalities. I still remember the green tights she wore (ala Peter Pan).

As a kid, I got to go see the taping of Gene London on a few occasions (once I even got a one-liner on the show) and I can still remember how disapointed I was to realize that Quigley Mansion was no more than a portrait!

I have moved away from the Philadelphia area, but recently met a woman at my job who also grew up in Philly. You should see the looks we get as we challenge each other to remember the theme songs from these shows!

- Robynne Jacoby


When I was a little living in the Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy sections of Philadelphia, I remember how the street would clear out come 3 PM to watch the Wee Willie Weber show on Channel 17.

I remember watching as the camera zoomed over the peanut gallery, as Bill would come out to play the games with the kids, like musical cars or the shell game. On the wall of the set would be "cutouts" of the cartoon charecters of the cartoons that would be shown (Spider-man, Rocket Robin Hood, Marine Boy.)

Another show on Channel 17 was the Doc Shock Show, where classic and mostly B horror movies were shown. I remember how envious I was of Doc's daughter Bubbles as she would pound on his "coffin" with a plastic hammer to wake him up.

Philly kids had the best: Gene London, Sally Starr, Capt. Noah and of course the aforementioned.

- Marty


Thank you for all your great memories of our local children's programming. I love them all.  I also remember Willie the Worm who I believe was part of Wee Willie's show, but I definitely remember the Worm with the glasses. I grew up in Allentown and of course we needed our antenna on the roof to get those 'foreign' channels from Philly.

My mother took my two brothers to a Chief Halftown show and they banged those darn marching sticks all the way on the ride back home!!!  There was a red side and a blue side, but I don't think there was really any difference in the sound.  Both sides were equally annoying!

Happy Trails to you, Ardda Hersh (now of AZ)


I remember Bill "Wee Willie" Webber, on weekday afternoons on Channel 17. I'd like to tell your readers though - for those who don't know (or don't remember), in the '70s he moved to another local station, channel 48, where he was an announcer for a short time. Then, in the 80s, he was on a local radio station on Saturday mornings (by that time, no one called him "Wee Willie" anymore). I think I read or heard that he's still alive, and now he's retired.
By the way; he got the nickname "Wee Willie" when he bumped his head once while going through a station doorway.

Joe Kienlen
 
Both my sister and I used to watch the Willie the Worm show more than any other that you have listed, on weekdays during the same time period (around 1951-54). I'm surprised it wasn't listed along with the others. I believe it came on (at one point in time) just after the Kate Smith show (after the Moon Came Over Kate's Mountain).

Willie the Worm, a hand-type puppet, would chat with us in-between showing us cartoons. Down below his stage was his sidekick "Newton the mouse." We didn't generally get to see Newton (I think I saw him appear once. . . it was a great occasion). Newton was in charge of putting on and running the cartoons, you see. Willie would turn his head and call down to Newton, asking him if he was ready to run the next cartoon.

A little related/more personal information: For approx. one year, "TV Time Popcorn" sponsored a name-the-dog contest, both on Willie's show AND on the "Patches" Saturday morning show (another show I didn't see mentioned in your list; I think Patches would sometimes have Chief Halftown on his show too). Anyway, those who won the weekly contest would appear on TV and would receive a dog as their prize.

In the fall of 1953 (I think) my father, sick in bed with a heart-attack at the time, had the TV in his room. He (patiently, I guess) would watch "Willie the Worm" along with us. He got interested in the contest and, while at bedrest, worked on a name for my sister and I to submit. That name won: "Kernel Poppinpup." We hoped to go on the Willie the Worm show and meet Willie, but instead (I guess because Willie was a puppet) we appeared as winners on the "Patches" TV show, had a little TV Time Popcorn (on camera) as a snack, and had our dog Kernel delivered to us at a later date.

Meanwhile, my dad recovered, and got to enjoy Kernel along with us. As it turned out, the dog outlived my father by about 3 years. And so, Willie the Worm brings back lots of memories to my family.

- Sincerely, Rob B


How can I ever thank you for such an uplifting and enjoyable website! I have been following it for the first time since 11:30 a.m. (it's now 1:45 p.m.) and cannot get enough of it.

I wanted to respond to your question about the gentleman who used to fill in for Sally Starr. It was Sawdust Sam a.k.a. Howard Ennis, a guy from Delaware who used to fill in regularly for Sally.

He wore a big cardboard handlebar mustache, had his hair parted in the middle with two curlycues going in opposite directions on his forehead, and wore a loud, plaid, Gay Nineties-style suit. His trademark was being able to make his eyes as wide as saucers (Jackie Gleason, eat your heart out) and roll them around uncontrollably while strains of Mel Blanc's Porky Pig character played in the background ("th-th-th-that's all, folks!")

I remember him moving to his own show on Channel 29 when it was WIBF-TV in the early days of UHF and the studio was in a little gazebo-like building behind the old Benson East Apartments in Jenkintown. I remember in 1966 that I was 16 years old and I took my two nieces on the show twice, the oldest (age 5) performing a go-go dance (complete with white boots and psychedelic pantsuit) to "I Like it Like That," which was such a big hit that they chose to run it again on the taped Saturday morning show. The original show aired at 6:00 p.m. on weeknights.

For the life of me, I don't remember the name of the show, only that it was hosted by Sawdust Sam and in the tradition of the old Chief Halftown/Sally Starr cartoon shows, complete with special guests from time-to-time.

Recently, an article appeared in our local newspaper, the Bucks County Intelligencer, where the columnist ran an article on Sally Starr, Gene London and Pixanne. It was great.

Wee Willie Webber is still around, as are Pixanne, Gene London, Sally Starr and Chief Halftown. Happy the Clown died some years ago. My mother took me on that show once, too, and I remember getting a ride on the little tractor around the studio and seeing the birthday cake with the candles that would come back on when you blew them out.

The guy that played Happy the Clown unfortunately, was a miserable s.o.b. He was not very nice to us at all, but I still had a good time and I relive that day as if it were yesterday. It's a shame that there are no clips of those shows available so that we can show our kids.

Keep up the great writing, Bill, and thanks again! If I think of any more I'll be sure to let you know!

- Yvonne Taylor


'The Candy Apple Newsletter' was a successful and popular kids TV newsmagazine with Philadelphia, Pa. kids, airing on WCAU TV Ch. 10 in Philly. That was when WCAU Ch. l0 was still an affilliate of the CBS TV network (WCAU is now an affilliate of The NBC TV Network).

Mat Robinson was the show's host/ narrator/ educator/ producer and scriptwriter. This was before Mr. Robinson moved to NYC and to WNET TV Ch. 13, where he went onto greater kids TV fame as the first performer to play Gordon on PBS TV's Sesame Street.

- Kevin S. Butler


Could you please provide some information on "The Candy Apple News Company" (1979) and "Starstuff" (1980)? Both were produced by Channel 10, the local CBS affiliate (nowadays channel 10 is NBC). They were both great.

Candy Apple News Company starred Sesame Street's Matt Robinson. The show is set in the office of the Candy Apple News, a children's newspaper. The two human regulars are Matt and a pretty young woman named C.B. The rest of the cast are puppets: Sparks, Boris Bat, Morgan Mole, and Radio (literally a sentient, old fashioned wooden radio, who served as the show's announcer).

Boris was the book reviewer and would recommend a different children's book each week. There was a regular routine in which Matt donned a Canadian Mountie's uniform as "Rick of the Mounties and his pal, Yukon Thing!" the latter being a genial yeti.

Each episode also included a segment lifted from the children's news show, "Kidsworld." Larry Kane of the channel 10 news made a cameo in the first episode. Candy Apple News was fun, but Starstuff is one of my favorite TV memories from childhood: Chris is a 10 year old boy with his own homemade computer, which he discovers through some fluke of physics can communicate with a computer which will exist thirty years in the future on a space station, that computer being owned by a 10 year old girl named Ingrid.

They treat it as their secret and develop a close friendship even though they can never meet face to face. We meet both their families, with Chris's more "down to Earth" problems and Ingrid's exciting futuristic world.

It's all very educational, full of astronomy information as well as ideas of how space stations might realistically be run. In the last episode, Chris's family prepares to move, and he knows the link between their computers won't work in a new location.

Their farewell is so terribly sad. They promise to meet again, but of course Chris will have to wait for decades. I remember the moment when he pulls the plug out of the wall with tears in his eyes and the connection is lost forever. The show also had a puppet segment called "The Edge of Space," about a pair of aliens (Commanders Krickles and Zornad from the twin planets of Corg-Vanok, and their robot Giz), who have come to explore Earth.

Commander Krickles's panic when he winds up in the middle of the Mummers Parade with no idea what's going on is priceless. There were also segments of old Laurel and Hardy film shorts, the rationale being that Chris was a big fan and had all the films on tape, and he liked to share them with Ingrid. The show's theme was Gustav Holst's "The Planets," which remains one of my favorite pieces of music.

The whole series was clearly produced for very little money (Ingrid's futuristic computer disks were obviously 45 LP's), but it was brilliantly done. Could you please post some info about these shows? (I certainly don't mind if you reproduce this letter or portions of it, although please give my name if you do.) I've looked on the web, and there seems to be no record of them at all.

I wish tapes of them were commercially available for my nephews. The shows originally aired in 1979 and 1980, but were rerun on Saturday mornings one season several years later (1986-87, I think).

Thank you, -- Jim Cleaveland


Joseph E. Bresnan asked for information about a local Philly kid show that featured, "a family of rabbits that were puppets and we would follow them down some steps to their rabbit den. Any idea?"

Kevin S. Butler has the answer: "The show he's thinking of featured a group of animal puppets that were not rabbits but some fanciful creatures known as "Tottles."

Tottle was the creation of a talented,versatile and sweet gentleman named Marshall Izen. Marsh was the creator, host/performer and instructor of a show that dealt with the problems all kids have in their lives. Unlike Mr. Rogers, Marsh didn't make the show pabulum, he genuinely recreated the problems of children and made it all honest, warm and funny.

He was also a talented singer, musician, songwriter, cartoonist, scriptwriter, puppeteer and storyteller and appeared at the start and end of the show with the puppets.

Tottle was seen on WCAU TV 10 (then a CBS affiliate) in Philadelphia during the early 1960s. The series was also seen Sunday and Saturday mornings on WCBS TV 2 in NYC from 1962 to 1963.

I was lucky enough to meet and to interview Marsh Izen and he was the nicest and most engaging person that I was lucky enough to deal with. Tottle was briefly revived on WBBM (the PBS affiliate) in Chicago during the 1970's as The Adventures of Coslo. Sadly, there are no surviving episodes of Tottle or The Adventures of Coslo.

:PHILLY LOCAL KID SHOWS:
Bertie the Bunyip
/ Fabulous Sally Starr
Dickery Doc and Adam Android

Happy the Clown / Chief Halftown / Joe Early
Gene London
/ A Letter From Gene London
Rex Morgan / Magic Garden / Captain Noah
Pete Boyle
/ Tottle / More Philly Shows
Philadelphia Local TV Memories

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Local shows: Gene London, Chief Halftown, The Pete Boyle Show, Happy The Clown, Bertie the Bunyip, Willie the Worm, Tottles and more.


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TNBeth47 writes: "I grew up in the 50's in Audubon, right across the bridge from Philly. I remember spreading this green oilcloth on the TV screen and a show would come on, a cartoon, and we would have to draw a door to help them escape, or a window. Everybody says I am nuts... got an ideas?"

I can't imagine what she's talking about. An interactive cartoon from the 1950s? No wonder her friends think she's nuts. It's a bit far-fetched. Except it's real - Winky-Dink and You. Read about it and watch it here. The series was seen, not just in Philly, but all over the USA.

 


Chief Halftown

Chief Halftown until recently was on Channel 6, Saturday mornings from 6:30-7:00. He is in his 80s and performs in Lancaster at Dutch Wonderland on week-ends during the summer. Gene London has moved to New York, where he owns a costume shop in Gramercy Park.

Another network show that originated from Philadelphia in 1953-54, was a western seen Monday through Friday on CBS- Action In The Afternoon. The theme music was from Aaron Copland's "Billy The Kid". This live show was done outdoors (maybe someone remembers the town where the show originated) and supposedly took place in Montana in the 1800s.

- Jim Douglass


I grew up in Philadelphia in the 50s and 60s watching all of the shows you featured in Philadelphia Kid shows.

One show that isn't mentioned is Pick Temple. It was the only show I was actually on (I think about 1962). He was a singing cowboy type who played the guitar, sang western songs, and introduced cartoons (what this format was doing in Philadelphia I have no idea). I think it was on saturday mornings on WFIL.

For offbeat shows you might mention the Larry Ferrari show from Philadelphia. It featured a half hour every sunday of this fellow playing selections on a huge concert organ. It ran for many years and my mother, who still lives in the ares said it only went off with the death of the host.

- Ralph F

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:VIDEO CLIPS:
Another well-known Philly personality over the years was WPVI's weatherman Jim O'Brien. Jim O'Brien's daughter is Peri Gilpin, who played Roz on FRASIER.

Dialing For Dollars ran for many years on Channel 6. Bob McLean was the host, seen here from the early 70's. Before Dialing, Bob had a talk show on Ch. 3 - with the theme from the Who's TOMMY.

(Audio clip) - Joe Early starred as a popular kid show host, Mr. Rivets. This audio clip comes from a 1982 Channel 3 (Philadelphia) tribute to local personalities.


"Thanks for the Jim O'Brien clip from WPVI-TV in Philly. What bittersweet memory of a truly great on-air personality.

"The day Jim was killed (September, 1968) in an skydiving accident is etched in a lot of Philly viewers minds. The sadness on Action News that day was palpable -- I'll never forget seeing anchor Jim Gardner trying to contain his tears as he gave the news about his friend and co-worker."

- Tad R, Bronxville, NY


"Right off the bat, a missing host is Carol Corbett, who hosted Gumby middays on WPIX New York- the lineup included, as noted elsewhere, Captain Jack McCarthy (lame) with Popeye and Officer Joe Bolton' s Three Stooges show.

"McCarthy also hosted WPIX' coverage of local parades, as when my town's Little League team- Wayne, NJ won the Little League World Series in 1970, and Corbett had a syndicated Saturday morning show for very little kids that ran on CBS O&Os in the '70s.

"There was also Wee Willie Webber on Philadelphia's channel 17, WPHL- he was a local DJ on WIP- and Captain Philadelphia on channel 48-WKBS, now defunct, played by later-to-be-sort-of-well-known L.A. sportscaster Stu Nahan.

"And then there was the long-running Captain Chesapeake on Baltimore's WBFF-45, a cheapjack show indelibly etched on the minds of kids from there- ask one and see.

"And there are whole tribute pages and even a very nice hardcover book chronicling KPHO Phoenix' legendary Wallace and Ladmo, which briefly also ran in New York (WPIX) and Los Angeles (KTLA).

And Boston's Rex Trailer and the Boston version of Bozo, which ran in New York as well for some reason, and the ultra-cool Uncle Floyd on Newark's channel 68. Now you've gotten me started. Damn!"

- Perry Michael Simon


:MIKE PENTZ' PHILLY
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