KidTV: When the outdoors moved inside by
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“Foreman Scotty” (Steve Powell) and his Circle 4 ranch guests.

(The following is excerpted from my new book, Tinkertown: A Wheatfield, an Airbase, and Us.)

Growing up, we learned a lot from TV, but we also just had a lot of kid fun with locally produced shows.

I was 11 years old in 1957, my friends and I all had television sets, and some of our afternoon outdoor activities moved indoors.

It was the era that journalist and commentator Linda Ellerbee would write about later in her classic essay, When Television Ate my Best Friend. In that story, after a 6-year-old Linda mysteriously loses the outdoor companionship of her friend Lucy to this new thing called a “TV”, she laments to her mother that television must eat people.

Her mother tells her not to worry, that television is only entertainment, and that she is getting one, too.  Ellerbee writes, “Christmas arrived, and Santa Claus brought us a television. ‘See?’ my parents said. ‘Television doesn’t eat people.’ Maybe not. But television changes people. It changed my family forever.”

Outdoors comes indoors

Admittedly, the late 1950s was a watershed period when outdoor group activities turned more toward indoor activity, and that activity was watching TV, often alone although sometimes with your friends. Either way, we kids were all treated every afternoon to a local cowboy show for kids, produced in Oklahoma City at my dad’s TV station, WKY, Channel 4. It was the Foreman Scotty Show, with a longer title of Foreman Scotty and the Circle 4 Ranch (just to give the station itself a daily plug). It was produced right in the studio and on its spacious back lot.

Merchandising the West

Every afternoon Foreman Scotty became embroiled in adventures, chasing the bad guys around makeshift sets that looked very real to youngsters who wanted them to be. In between the scripted adventures, Scotty would be back on the established set for the show, made to look like the inside of a barn, with 25 live, invited kids who were perched on benches or hay bales. On at least one occasion, I was one of those kids who sat in awe of my afternoon hero.  The whole thing was a must-see for those of us in and around Midwest City and solidified our wish list for Christmas. We wanted anything from cap pistols and holsters, to cowboy hats or wooden horses that reminded us of Foreman Scotty and his Circle 4 Ranch.

Said one of our friends who looked back on the show years later, “If you grew up here and you’re over 35, you know about Foreman Scotty. If you were a youngster than, you possibly were on the show.”

The show ran for 14 years, and Scotty was played by a Tulsa acting student and WKY announcer Steve Powell, who died in 1994.

The Magic Lasso

As Ann DeFrange would write about his passing, “With other live television pioneers, he created characters who live in the cultural literacy of Local viewers. He created the corral where guest sat for the show; Woody the wooden horse where little birthday celebrants got to sit in honor on the uncomfortable saddle instead of the uncomfortable benches; the “Magic Lasso,” which appeared on the screen to select the lucky kid who won the Golden Horseshoe; and the secret Password, Nicksobilly.” 

Space cowboys

Danny Williams as 3-D Danny.

Not to be forgotten in the kids programming at WKY, however, was the 1950s interest in outer space. So, along with Foreman Scotty, WKY tapped one of its rising celebrities, Danny Williams, to become the futuristic spaceman, Dan D. Dynamo, or just 3-D Danny.

The latter name was a stroke of marketing genius, tying in as well to audience interest in the gimmicky new 3-dimensional-view movie exhibition fad.  So, every afternoon, 3-D Danny would be furiously turning knobs on a control panel in the “Space Science Center” and, along with his trusted robot Bazark, would try desperately to save the world from aliens.

It even got to the point where 3-D Danny’s futuristic world intersected with the western world of Foreman Scotty as some of the skits featured both heroes and Bazark masterfully chasing and subduing the bad guys around the Channel 4 backlot.

The Golden Age

The 1950s was the golden age of locally and regionally produced afternoon kids shows, and WKY-TV (which went on the air in 1949 and hired my dad that same year) was a true pioneer of this genre. It was part of the Oklahoma Publishing Company, owned by its founder E.K. Gaylord. He started the state’s main daily newspaper, The Daily Oklahoman, and I would later work for it as a journalist.

In later years, Gaylord and Co. would produce the nationally syndicated Buck Owens Show and Hee Haw from the same WKY studio, then the family would go on to take over Opryland in Nashville and build the Opryland Hotel.

A hero on my block

As a child on Lockheed Drive, I became something of a neighborhood celebrity because Dad worked at WKY, and he often would invite me and my sister C.J., along with a few of our friends, to come watch some of the live shows from the observation booth above the studio. One of our favorite shows was the Saturday Night Wrestling program, where they set up a ring right on the studio floor, surrounded by chairs for the live audience, and brought in professional wrestlers to grind it out.

Profile photo of Jim Willis Jim Willis
I am a writer, college professor, and author of several nonfiction books, including three on the decade of the 1960s. Several wonderful essays of gifted Retrospect authors appear in my book, "Daily Life in the 1960s."

Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. You were one lucky Oklahoma kid , Jim!

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for this great look back into those early days of local television. It brings back those 50’s memories even though I never knew about Foreman Scotty or got to sit on the hay bales. Interesting observation about kids disappearing inside. So many have “nature deficit” now and it started quite a while ago.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Growing up in the Detroit area, we rushed home from school to watch Lunch with Soupy Sales. My brothers loved that show. At the tie, it was a local thing.

    • Jim Willis says:

      I remember Soupy! I do, however, miss all the local productions that TV stations used to do in the 50s and 60s before syndicated TV shows took over. The productions were expensive, but they made a local station a true local station.

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