Boomer Blog: And now back to local programming


The local news programs I watched as a kid were very different from today’s broadcasts. Only Channels 2 and 7 were available then, until Channel 22 started popping up – whenever the antenna pointed in the right direction.

I recalled those old news broadcasts last week when a photo of WHIO newsman Don Wayne recently flashed across the screen in a commercial. Much as Walter Cronkite was the face of national events for me, Don Wayne represented local news.

Currently many local stations take a “news you can use” approach, seemingly equal parts news and entertainment. The fifteen-minute evening broadcasts of yesteryear have stretched into 90-minute programs prior to the national news at 6:30. There are also two hours in the morning with local broadcasters and reporters – and another two AM hours on alternate digital stations, which also carry 10 PM broadcasts for early-to-bed viewers before the regular late news at 11 PM.

I recall a few “man on the street” reports way back when – maybe with Lou Emm – but live reporting is much different now. I am not sure what it proves to have a reporter standing in front of a dark courthouse in the wee hours. However, I do find it interesting that modern on-the-scene contributors refer to tablets and smart phones instead of the reporter notebooks formerly used.

These days meteorologists of the local and national kind stand in front of green screens, look somewhere else, and point. With the click of a clicker, viewers can see radar images from the sky as well as street level storm tracking – a far cry from the old days when cute weather girls gestured at maps covered with smiling suns and scowling clouds or weather specialists illustrated their forecasts with heavy black markers on paper maps.

My farmer father always needed weather information, especially during hay baling season. It was WHIO’s Gil Whitney with his folksy approach that appealed to my dad – especially the winter predictions based on wooly worms. Sadly, Whitney died of cancer at a young age. I still remember Jim Baldridge dissolving into tears on the air as he announced the death of his colleague in 1982.

I also recall Omar Williams reporting sports for Channel 2. Phil Donahue served as a morning anchor on WHIO, and his afternoon radio call-in program presaged his nationally-popular TV show. And there was the affable Ted Ryan who could do it all: deliver the weather, appear in commercials, present travel information, serve as announcer.

With many of my nieces and nephews now being parents themselves, I have completely lost track of children’s programs. That section of my brain is a jumble of Mr. Rogers, Cookie Monster, Rugrats, Howdy Doody, Dora, Captain Kangaroo, Barney, and Doc McStuffins – in no particular order.

I am reasonably sure, however, there is little to no local children’s programming of the type my sisters and I watched in the 50’s and 60’s. WHIO broadcast a Saturday show with Uncle Orrie, Nosey the Clown, and Ferdy Fussbudget played by staff employees Joe Rockhold, Jack Jacobsen, and Ken Hardin. They ran contests, did funny skits, interviewed local museum folks, and showed The Little Rascals. The live audience of local Cub Scout and Brownie groups sitting on bleachers laughed, clapped – and waved on cue.

Later, during the big snow of 1977 when Miami Valley kids experienced double digit snow days, Joe Smith and Duffy the Dog relayed homework assignments during Clubhouse 22, for which Malcolm MacLeod was the original host.

For years various versions of Romper Room showed up on TV screens. Miss Susie or Miss Nancy led children through games and songs and cautioned: Do be a DoBee, Don’t be a Don’tBee. And every day Miss Annie or Miss Janie looked through the Magic Mirror to talk to the children at home.

A similar local show was broadcast from Columbus on Channel 10, which we could access by the time I was in junior high. My younger sisters watched a Romper Room-ish program called Luci’s Toyshop.

Actually, Luci originally appeared on TV Kindergarten, which I vaguely recall. A puppeteer, she made her own puppets for the show, including Stanley Mouse and Wonder Witch. For some reason, I still know the Mr. Tree song by heart: Hi there, Mr. Tree / we’re very glad to see you…

I cannot end an article about local programming without mentioning Ruth Lyons and The 50-50 Club on WLW. Mother watched but took a dim view of the very opinionated hostess, who hid her microphone in a bouquet of flowers. Miss Lyons, who often talked about husband Herman and daughter Candy, wore white gloves as did the 100 ladies in the audience – who waited three years for tickets and waved to the folks back home during the daily camera scan.

The noon talk show, a local staple for many years, combined chitchat, appearances by famous guests, commercials, requests for the Ruth Lyons Christmas Fund, and performances by program regulars: Bonnie Lou, Ruby Wright, Peter Grant, Marian Spelman, Cliff Lash and the orchestra, and Bob Braun – who eventually took over the program when Miss Lyons retired.

The 1950’s are often referred to as the Golden Age of Television. I am not sure all local programming rose to such a level, but shows and individuals from that era certainly provide an abundance of fond memories.

By Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

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