WEEKDAY HEROES

From Bruce:This was a special I wrote and directed for KABC TV in 1985.  It was my fond tribute to the LA kiddies' show hosts of the 50s, and I had as our stars, Sheriff John, Chucko the Clown and Engineer Bill (all of whom make an appearance in Benjamin Kritzer).  What a treat it was working with them and getting them to talk about that golden time.  I have a bunch of photos from the shoot and they each gave me signed copies of their songs on 45rpm record.  The show won some kind of award, which I have buried someplace.  If I could ever find the fershluganah master tape I'd make copies since I now own the show.  But it's gone missing - I know I had it in my office at Varèse, but it's not there, and it doesn't seem to be in storage - which gives me an uneasy feeling that it may have been left in certain offices that were ransacked and taken east.  I'll keep looking, though.  I think I have it on three quarter inch tape, too, though, so I'm gonna try and dig that out.

From a 12/08/2001 entry from Haines His Way

Since I was speaking of Sheriff John, did you know that I actually got to meet him? Back in 1984 I directed a documentary for KABC Channel Seven, called Weekday Heroes, which was about the local kid show hosts who did live shows five days a week here in Los Angeles. It was my affectionate tribute to them, and it was a dream come true for me to meet not only Sheriff John, but Engineer Bill and Chucko the Clown as well. They were all the sweetest people, none more so than the Sheriff. Our host for the show was none other than the Beaver's brother, Wally (Tony Dow). I have wonderful pictures taken from the set, and maybe if we can figure out how, we'll post them to the Guy Haines Photo Gallery, so you can see them for your very own selves.

Tony Dow of Leave It To Beaver was the host and narrator for this documentary.

 

On the 1984 television show "Weekday Heroes" Sheriff John told a particularly moving story about a young fan that was dying. The mother wrote in several months after the death of her child to tell him what a comfort he was to her son in his last days. The little boy was in a lot of pain, the boy would ask them not to be sad and that they should sing "Laugh and Be Happy" which they would do. The mother said that he got so much joy from Sheriff John that they played "Laugh and Be Happy" at her son's funeral. (Tears well up for Mr. Rovick as he retells this touching story). 

Weekday Heroes  Click on link to see excerpt (The Music BTW is by Bruce Kimmel)

 

"ENGINEER" BILL STULLA has to be our all time favorite engineer. Junior Engineers all over the Los Angeles area learned about drinking their milk via his "Red Light, Green Light" game. That was the game that reminded children they could only drink their milk on the green flashing light but never, ever on the red one, because as every good engineer knows, you never go on a red light.

The lights were all green when Mr. Stulla came up with the idea of playing an engineer for a cartoon show that needed a host. Incorporating his love (and hobby) of trains, "Cartoon Express" was born. Viewers were invited to send in postcards with their names and a daily drawing would ensure an invitation for two lucky kids to come on the show as "Junior Engineers" and view the elaborate train layout. "Junior Engineers" who appeared daily on his show were asked to bring in a model train car they had built as part of their entrance to the show. Reminiscing with chuckles years later, Mr. Stulla said that sometimes you could see that the kids had built the models themselves and other times they had a lot of help from daddy. But one child in particular had showed up with a rather disastrous looking model. When questioned about it, Engineer Bill was told that daddy didn't make it but that his secretary had to build it the night before! Cartoon Express" was a delight for all Los Angeles children till the roundhouse closed in 1966. Mr. Stulla received Emmy awards in 1960 and 1961 for "Outstanding Children's Program".

Every day's a holiday for a birthday clown, just ask Chucko! "The most important day in a child's life is his birthday, it doesn't belong to anyone else. We tried to create a theme for birthdays, with the clown as the symbol, like the Easter Bunny for Easter time or Santa Claus for Christmas. There should be a symbol for a child's birthday--it's their day." With this thought Charles Runyon went on to become that symbol. It all started when he decided to become a birthday clown by dressing up to entertain at his own child's birthday party back in 1954. He was so successful that soon other parents were calling him up to entertain for their children's birthdays and not long after he was in business. Starting out in a suburb of Long Beach with his "Merry-Gobile" he would be booked for seven parties a day, seven days a week. He was so popular that he even got a call from Channel 7-KABC inviting him to audition for a new children's show that was being planned. Twenty-seven other clowns showed up for the audition and Charles thought he didn't have a chance at getting the job with professional clowns in the running. However, by the time he arrived home from the audition he received a phone call from the station telling him to turn around and come back the job was his. When he first started on the show in the fall of 1955, the station used the children more as props rather than little guests. Children would arrive, do the show and then be kicked out the gate. With Chucko show, he made sure this practice was stopped. "These people are guests in our home. We were an early morning show and these people got up at 4:00 in the morning and drove all the way from San Bernadino to bring these props. It was unfair to treat them as a piece of goods--they were people. "Chucko's love and respect for children made him one of the most popular and beloved personalities from back then. The show was ad-libbed and the kid's were the stars. Every weekday at 7:30 a.m. the birthday children and their invited guests would play games, watch cartoons, participate in stunts and sing songs along with their favorite clown. The show continued as a big success, but by 1962, the station wanted to change the format of the show. Gone would be the interaction between Chucko and his kids in favor of him being a host to a cartoon show. A true clown needs somebody to have fun with and just introducing cartoons is a poor substitute for the laughter of children, so by mutual agreement the show ended. Chucko had been on for seven years, seven months, and seven days exactly.

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