Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Kukla & Ollie! Thanks for the memories!


I can actually remember the first image on our first television, back on this day in 1947 when I was 10 years old. What was unusual, was that our TV set was the first in the Albany Park neighborhood, that was not in a bar or tavern. Prior to that event... I used to sneak into Steiner's Bar on Kedzie and Lawrence Avenue, to watch all kinds of sports on Chicago's only TV station-WBKB. I used to sit on the bar's foot rail, and look up to the 10" TV, after school or on the weekend. When my Dad heard that I was hanging around Steiner's, he wanted to nip my new pastime in the bud. I recall him coming home from work from South Water St. produce market on a Monday afternoon, and asking me to go with him, without telling me where we was going. A few blocks away, we stopped at "Little Al's Radio and Phonograph Store" who's slogan was printed on their window... WHERE THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS WRONG!"

He had ordered a 10" RCA Victor wooden black and white (color tv was years in the future!) consol TV. There were no credit cards back then, and I remember my dad paying cash... $450. for the set, $65. for an outdoor antenna and $65 for a one year warranty and then, along with Mr. Al, we took it back to our house on N. Troy St. with a 2 wheel hand truck... it was a very large box. Because RCA had to install the outdoor antenna, Al put up an temporary indoor antenna. Then he turned on the TV... and the first image was an introduction to a kids program called "Junior Jamboree". It was a puppet show. At first, I was not impressed, because one puppet who was called Kukla, mouth did not move, and was mostly bald. However, I liked the other puppet named Ollie, who had a big moving mouth and a single tooth! They had a beautiful friend called Fran Allison, who talked to them, and sang a few songs. As time went by, I forgot about Kukla's non-moving mouth, and even forgot he and the other character's were puppets... and they became my friends after school. Once in a while, they had guest like Roy Rogers. They changed the name of the program a short time later to "KUKLA,FRAN AND OLLIE". I began going down to the studio at 190 N.State Street on the 12th Floor of the State-Lake Building after school. Because their studio was very small, and the camera's very big... I watched the show on a Philco projection tv, in the little theater. I was treated royally evey time I showed up... and liked when they would mention my name on the air. I got to meet other TV personalities. I recall when Chicago got its second TV station, when WGN-9 went on the air, followed by WENR-7 and WNBQ-5. With the advent of coaxial cable, soon we were watching live shows from New York,and our living room became a the neighborhood landmark... for kids programs, Cubs and Sox games, wrestling, old movies and the latest news. In 1948, I watched the Boston-Cleveland World series, the Election results and in January of 1949, I got to see Harry Truman's Inaugural...

Looking back, I am thankful that my dad changed my bar habit, and replaced it with many memories of events that came into our living room via that new thing called television!

1 comment:

Ruby Mae Niedlmeyer said...

How lucky you are to have seen the Kuklapolitans during their early years. People my age (late baby boom) were lucky enough to find them on TV only once in a great while, except for the CBS Film Festival. Only got to see the early stuff long after Burr and Fran were gone. Kukla was, and still is, my favorite, but Buelah Witch is a close second!
Leslie

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