Northern News Now’s stations celebrate 69 years on air with a look back at the childrens’ shows of old
DULUTH, MN AND SUPERIOR, WI. (Northern News Now) - In the early 50′s the U.S. and USSR were starting the space race. In the Northland, radio stations WDSM and KDAL were embroiled in a television race. On March 1st 1954, WDSM Channel 6 won and went on the air first. KDAL Channel 3 followed on March 14th. Staples of that golden age of local broadcasting were homegrown children’s shows like Jack McKenna’s Captain Q on Channel 6.
“That’s the sound of the gangway creaking, not me bones!” said Jack McKenna in the early 50′s on the Captain Q Show.
Herb Taylor and Singing Cowboy Eddie Williams were stars of Tolliver’s Travels on Channel 3.
“Are you in good voice today? Me, me, me. You you you. Aye Aye Aye!” said Tolliver and Eddie on Tolliver’s Travels circa 1954.
Channel 3 also had Miss Jane’s Treetop house hosted by Ely Native Jane Blackmore Ogston. But the king of the kids shows must have been Ray Paulsen, a weatherman on Channel 6. He appeared on several shows as characters like Sparx and Bozo the Clown. When the rights to Bozo became too expensive, Ray and Channel 6 developed Mr. Toot.
“Hey Reddy Kilowatt, I bet I know your favorite kind of fish! Electric eels!” said Mr. Toot on his self titled show in the early 70′s.
Mr. Toot was the last of the golden age kids shows and went off the air in 1974, ending the golden age of Northland TV.
“Hey, our picture is shrinking. Oh, that’s just more of your Reddy Kilowatt magic!” said Ray Paulsen as Mr. Toot to Reddy Kilowatt who was played by his wife, Carmen.
Nearly 50 years later, now grown children still have fond memories of Ray Paulsen and Mr. Toot.
“Well, when you came home from school everyday, you tuned into Mr. Toot.” said fan Roger Sandberg.
Tuning to Toot was the thing to do for kids from two to twelve.
“When I was a kid, everyone wanted to get on the show, it was the hip thing to do as a kid.” said fan John Pickar.
John Pickar of Duluth got on the show at the age of 11. He was so nervous he barely moved. That earned him a prize as most well behaved audience member.
“I got to go up front and pick a prize out of the wagon and I believe it was a toy submarine you could play in the bathtub.”
Ray “Mr Toot” Paulsen passed away 12 years ago this month after a nearly 30 year battle with cancer.
Several of his costumes are on display in a mini TV museum at the Toy Galaxy Store in Duluth. Fans like John Pickar and Roger Sandberg haven’t forgotten the hero of their youth.
“He is missed. He was a Twin Ports legend for sure.” said Sandberg and Pickar.
In Duluth, Dave Anderson, Northern News Now.
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