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Ho Ho the Clown: Oklahoma's Friend PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Sunday, 08 March 2009 05:16

 

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 “Captain Art.” The show is forgotten by most people today, but it did launch the career of Ed Birthall’s “Ho Ho the Clown.” Birchall, a former accountant for Aero-Commander Aircraft, had always dreamed of entertaining children. He got his chance in 1957, substituting for Johnson while “Captain Art” enjoyed a vacation.

The “Captain Art” show soon met its demise. Within a year “Ho Ho” 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 Mancini’s theme from “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” which doubled as Ho Ho’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 station’s public service programming obligation.

Perhaps it was how accessible Ho Ho was that made him so beloved. He did plenty of children’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 children’s hospital wards. It wasn’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 children’s programming in Oklahoma City met its end.

- “Hi There Boys and Girls!: America’s Local Children’s TV Shows,” by Tim Hollis, 2001

- Ho Ho: State’s Friend Dies After Short Illness, by Julie Ellsworth, The Oklahoman, July 4, 1988

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 March 2009 21:56
 

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