WBAY 70: Expanding programming
By Kris Leonhardt
Part VI in our series on WBAY’s history
The Golden Age of television introduced a broader reach for both information and entertainment, as the television set became the center of the home.
The 1960s brought about the rise of TV politics and journalism and the advent of the variety show as well as increasing sports coverage.
“By October of 1953, we were carrying the World Series. We were carrying Packers games and other NFL games,” said station historian Ted Miller.
“There’s even the story where the Packers were playing in Florida, and they had to get the film up to Green Bay right away. And among the couriers was like a Mississippi chain gang or an Alabama (chain gang), but somehow it played into it; really, just bizarre stories from back then.
“We started a Packers show with the coach; we’d have the coach, we’d have a player. And we’d have a contest and whoever asked the best question — mailed in the best question — about the last game would be answered by a player, or the coach, and that person would win an autographed Packers football for having the best question.
“Then, of course, we got the Vince Lombardi Show … that lasted for nine years with Vince Lombardi. Of course, it was just another coach’s show. But now, it’s Vince Lombardi. We put a clip on YouTube.
Most of the television programs didn’t start until about 4-4:30 p.m. in the afternoon.
“One of the early people we got was Hal O’Halloran. He was Captain Hal, and he had a children’s show,” Miller explained.
“It was actually a show that carried over from radio.”
Captain Hal was a looming 6’2” character, who was a former Fond du Lac firefighter turned radio host. The show only ran for a couple of years before he moved onto Chicago.
“Then we got Colonel Caboose. Colonel Caboose was a long-running children’s show on WBAY. I can’t remember the Colonel’s name offhand,” Miller added.
“He had a dodo puppet named Zelda; your typical children’s show. They had the peanut gallery, with kids watching.”
Russ Widoe played Colonel Caboose, often dressed in bib overalls, a train engineer’s cap and a bandana, for about a decade.
“We had a farm unit with three employees in the 60s and 70s. (They) won a lot of awards for covering issues important to agriculture here. That’s really gone by the wayside,” Miller said.
The 1960s also brought about color television at WBAY.
“WBAY started producing programs in color in 1966. We actually had color capability around 1960,” Miller stated.
“We believe that a national broadcast of Cinderella was our first program in color.”
The clip from the Dec. 27, 1967, Vince Lombardi show can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vEijW0V_-4.
Next week: A commitment to the community