Local TV often dedicated some air time to children’s programming in the late afternoon. In the early days, the show could consist of a simple puppet show. Hank Stohl had Rodney and Knish on KDKA. Rodney appeared as a crabby old grouch. Knish was a mop head with the tip of a mop handle for a nose. Budgets were small in those days. Later, things became a bit more polished. Cap’n Jim’s Popeye Club on channel 11 (WIIC at that time) had a much improved set, the Nancy B, that was nautically inspired. The Cap’n offered the same 30 Popeye cartoons over and over and over. It seemed to work, however, because we never got tired of them even as we were able to recite all the lines from the episode where Bluto and Popeye ran competitive window cleaning businesses. When Cap’n Jim ran the “Win the Wallaby Contest”, my brother and I had high hopes.
The pinnacle of this genre was Paul Shannon’s Adventure Hour. Paul was the pioneer of reviving the career of American icons and masters of tasteless slapstick, The Three Stooges. Paul’s program not only was among the first local shows in the country to feature these “comedians” but he actually had them on the show many times. Moe Howard and Larry Fine were joined by someone named “Curly Joe” who was a weak place holder for the deceased Curly and Shemp. They promoted LP’s made by the Stooges (Who wouldn’t want to buy one of those?) as well as the full length movie features that gave a big screen update to the “message” they had been delivering since the days of my dad. For those who preferred live entertainment, they also appeared at the Holiday House. One can only imagine what that was like! In a nod to decency the Stooges always took care to tell the kids, “Don’t try this at home.” as they demonstrated the eye-poke and the hammer to the head.
Paul was not a one trick pony. Sometimes he “disguised” himself as “Nosmo King” by simply donning a pair of Groucho glasses. He also performed the “Dick Tracy twist” before running a segment of that poorly drawn cartoon. In the background the song “Dick Tracy” played while Paul demonstrated his stuff. “Dick Tracy, he’s got a bulldog jaw. Dick Tracy, he’s a man of the law.” His great transition was offered using a magic wand. “Down goes the curtain and back up again for the …” There was no sophistication but Paul gave a great show that can only bring a smile years later.