Looking Back: Bay Area Kids Shows in the 1960s and 1970s

Collage of Bay Area kids shows in the 1960s and 1970s.

Photo: Collage of Bay Area kids shows in the 1960s and 1970s. Marshal J photo by John Shurtleff Stevens, courtesy of Anne Stevens.

By the 1960s, television technology and programing had come quite a ways. Though I wasn’t allowed to sit in front of the television all day as a child, watching programs in the morning and evening was pretty routine. My memory reaches as far back as two years old (I recall my third birthday very clearly), and the first program I remember watching was Captain Kangaroo. The earliest commercial I can recall ended with the image of a cup of coffee (in black and white of course) being stretched along with the jingle, "Strrrrrretch your coffee break, top it off with Juicy Fruit gum!"

Besides airing network programs, San Francisco Bay Area stations also produced their own programs for the local audience. Many of my fellow "Late" Baby Boomers will recognize some of the shows I grew up with like Romper Room with “Miss Nancy” Besst (KTVU ch.2 in Oakland), Marshal J with Jay Alexander (KPIX ch. 5 in San Francisco), The Mayor Art Show with Art Finley (KRON ch. 4 in San Francisco), Captain Satellite with Bob March (KTVU ch. 2 in Oakland), and Charley & Humphrey with Pat McCormick (KTVU ch. 2 in Oakland). My cousin and I were on the Mayor Art Show about 1964, sitting in the front row so that he could share his hat collection. Another popular local kids show was Hocus Pocus with Carl Hansen (KNTV ch. 11). Carl was a native of Denmark, and had been the first Santa at Santa’s Village in Scott’s Valley.

In 1971, KTVU began airing the very popular Creature Features, which was a Saturday night staple for many of us teenagers throughout the 1970s. The program featured 1950s horror classics like Teenagers from Outer Space, and was hosted by Bob Wilkins (1971-79) and John Stanley (1979-84). In 1977, Wilkins launched an afternoon kids show called Captain Cosmic, which ran various science-fiction serials like Ultraman and Buck Rogers.

After the birth of my son in 1990, I wrote to Art Finley, Bob March, and Pat McCormick for autographed photos. They all very kindly responded, and I framed the photos and hung them near the television to share with my son. I called Bob March to thank him personally, and enjoyed an interesting chat about his career.

Further Reading in the California Room: