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Daytime TV of the past: 3 channels, little drama

POSTED: June 12, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Every year, I take lots of vitamins, get a flu shot and wash my hands in hopes of not getting sick. It's not getting sick that scares me. It is the prospect of having to stay home and watch the stuff they have on TV during the day.

I grew up in the era of three channels and rabbit ears. After the morning network shows, there were three choices. First was "Today in Georgia," a local talk show on Channel 2. It was hosted by Ruth Kent, who was a colorful gal. She had a few regulars, like Dr. Bill Self, who was pastor of Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Buckhead. He didn't get real preachy and folks thought he was OK. His church grew, in part, because of his TV fame.

On another channel was Jack LaLanne. Poor old Jack died recently; he was about 175 years old. Jack was a fitness guru who convinced housewives to exercise, accompanied by live organ music.

The third channel brought us "Romper Room," a canned educational show that had a local host who taught us numbers, letters and such.

Today, television has a myriad of talk shows. Most of them have a recurring theme of "Is my boyfriend my baby's daddy," or "My mother is secretly dating my husband." It gives a whole new meaning to "family feud."

All of these programs are sponsored by lawyers who want to represent you if you've been in a crash or have been exposed to asbestos. The other sponsors want to sell you a motorized chair or some kind of medicine with a long list of side effects.

Recently, the talk show ranks was reduced by one. Oprah Winfrey has hung up her microphone. I have to be honest, I didn't predict much success for Oprah when it all began 25 years ago. I was hoping that the Albany TV station, WALB, would bring back Captain Mercury, the local host of a kid's show.

Captain Mercury, played by the late Grady Shadburn, was supposed to be a genuine astronaut or spaceman. He wore a flight suit that was sprayed with silver spray paint. In today's world, he would not have been very convincing, but in the 1950s and 1960s, we thought he was the real deal. Never mind that in the morning, Grady was also the host of the morning news show.

In Atlanta, there was Officer Don, the host of "The Popeye Club." Officer Don was Don Kennedy, who is still hosting a radio show about big band music. He was not a policeman, but he had a real policeman's uniform and badge and we thought he was the greatest.

There are many folks from this area who made the trek to WSB's studios to be on the show. Officer Don was the emcee of a game called "Ooey, Gooey," involving four paper bags on a lazy Susan. Three of the bags contained prizes, the other a gooey mess.

The kids show hosts now are elderly men or dead. They were our afternoon heroes and never let us down.

It may have been hokey and campy, but you didn't ever worry talk of about paternity, infidelity or lust. I don't think you can see that with rabbit ears.

Unfortunately, real life tends to mirror what we see on TV. I'll take "Ooey, Gooey" over "Who's My Daddy," any day of the week.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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