Ho Ho the Clown did not start out as the star attraction at KOCO. In the early days of television, it was a cameraman, Art Johnson, who reluctantly agreed to play seafarer â€œCaptain Art.â€ The show is forgotten by most people today, but it did launch the career of Ed Birthallâ€™s â€œHo Ho the Clown.â€ Birchall, a former accountant for Aero-Commander Aircraft, had always dreamed of entertaining children. He got his chance in 1957, substituting for Johnson while â€œCaptain Artâ€ enjoyed a vacation.
The â€œCaptain Artâ€ show soon met its demise. Within a year â€œHo Hoâ€ was on the air.
With his sock puppet sidekick Pokey at his side, Ho Ho entertained three generations of Oklahomans. The show featured a KOCO news anchors, firefighters, police officers, zoo animals and visiting circus clowns. In the 1960s, Ho Ho was on the air six days a week. Some longtime viewers have special memories attached to Henry Manciniâ€™s theme from â€œThe Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,â€ which doubled as Ho Hoâ€™s theme song for many years.
The show continued through the 1980s and in its final years it aired without commercials as a way to meet the stationâ€™s public service programming obligation.
Perhaps it was how accessible Ho Ho was that made him so beloved. He did plenty of childrenâ€™s parties (Yes, that's my autographed photo from Ho Ho and Pokey above from a party I attended) and was also a regular visitor at childrenâ€™s hospital wards. It wasnâ€™t unusual to find him involved in local parades, fundraisers and popping up at area restaurants. When he died in 1988 from a heart attack, multiple funerals were held to accommodate all the mourners. The four local television stations broadcast the funeral. July 3, 1988 was the day that childrenâ€™s programming in Oklahoma City met its end.
- â€œHi There Boys and Girls!: Americaâ€™s Local Childrenâ€™s TV Shows,â€ by Tim Hollis, 2001
- Ho Ho: Stateâ€™s Friend Dies After Short Illness, by Julie Ellsworth, The Oklahoman, July 4, 1988