The Kids Shows of Channel 7

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This week we’re looking at some of the great kids shows we grew up with in Buffalo, and two great ones from Channel 7.

Rocketship 7

When Dave Thomas wasn’t hosting Dialing for Dollars with Nolan Johannes and Liz Dribben, he was palling around with Promo The Robot and Mr. Beeper.
Rocketship 7 was a must watch for many Buffalo kids through the 60s and 70s, before Dave Thomas blasted off for a new job in Philadelphia in 1978.

Dave Thomas and Promo the Robot on Rocketship 7

And Dave Thomas wasn’t the only Dialing for Dollars connection to Rocketship 7. It was relatively easy for Dave to change from his Rocketship 7 jumpsuit into his “count and amount” clothes, but it was a little more difficult for another cast member on both shows.

Dave Thomas, Banaszak, Nolan Johannes and Jimmy Edwin on Dialing For Dollars.

Johnny and Jimmy were the house band on Dialing for Dollars, and Johnny Banaszak had a quick change between his back-to-back gigs, too. He quickly had to shed the Promo the Robot suit and grab his accordion. He was not only the man inside the suit, but also the voice of Promo as well.

Commander Tom

Another salubrious kids show on Channel 7 starred All-American weatherman Tom Jolls as Commander Tom– who took to TV wearing the bright red jacket of a Canadian Mountie.

Commander Tom, Dust Mop, and the rest of the crew on the Commander Tom Show,.

He performed with his puppet pals which early on, were mostly made from his kids’ old stuffed animals.

Some of those puppets, which the Commander voiced himself, included Matty the Mod, a young and energetic, though not too bright alligator; Cecily Fripple, a sensitive and gentle thing of questionable age who tries to recapture her glorious past; and last but not least, Dustmop, the faithful watchdog of Central Command, who is spite of his old age and failing eyesight, is the brave protectorate of the entire cast.

 

Buffalo in the ’70s: Nolan Johannes and ‘Dialing for Dollars’

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Nolan Johannes asking some lucky viewer at home, “Do you know the count and the amount?” (Buffalo Stories archives)

“A lot of friendliness and little schmaltz seem to work just fine for ‘Dialing for Dollars’,” wrote News Critic Gary Deeb in 1971, by which time, the show had already been a midmorning mainstay on Channel 7 for seven years.

Nolan Johannes on the set of Dialing for Dollars, inside WKBW-TVs Main Street studios. (Buffalo Stories archives)
Nolan Johannes on the set of “Dialing for Dollars,” inside WKBW-TV’s Main Street studios. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Nolan Johannes came to WKBW-TV in May 1964 — and by the end of the year, was the permanent host of the brand new “Dialing for Dollars.” His first co-host was Liz Dribben, who left Channel 7 to eventually join CBS in New York as a writer for such luminaries as Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace.

Liz Dribben and Nolan Johannes sitting on the hood of a car offering a word from our sponsors.
Liz Dribben and Nolan Johannes sitting on the hood of a car offering a word from our sponsors.

The half-hour show grew to 90 minutes, and in 1969, weatherman and “Rocketship 7” host Dave Thomas joined Johannes as co-host.

Nolan Johannes and Dave Thomas
Nolan Johannes and Dave Thomas (Buffalo Stories archives)

Aside from phone calls trying to give away money, the show was filled with interviews of the everyday women in the audience, twice-weekly exercise tips from UB’s Dr. Len Serfustini, syndicated features from “The Galloping Gourmet” Graham Kerr and “Fashions in Sewing” with Lucille Rivers.

And even nearly 40 years after the show went off the air, most Buffalonians of a certain age will be able to recall without hesitation the names of the guys in the “Dialing for Dollars” band — Jimmy and Johnny.

Jimmy Edwin, drums, and Johnny Banaszak, accordion, on the set of Dialing for Dollars. Banaszak was also the man inside the Promo the Robot costume on Rocketship 7.
Jimmy Edwin, drums, and Johnny Banaszak, accordion, on the set of Dialing for Dollars. Banaszak was also the man inside the Promo the Robot costume on Rocketship 7. (Buffalko Stories archives)

In 1978, Thomas left Channel 7 for Philadelphia, and “Dialing for Dollars” was reformatted to become “AM Buffalo.” Johannes left Channel 7 in 1983 to become a news anchor in Scranton, Pa. Johannes died in 2015 at the age of 81.

In September, 2016, Thomas returned to his hometown for Johannes’ posthumous induction in to the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Thomas was inducted in 2001.

Buffalo in the 70s: Meet Snoopy and Dave Thomas at Hengerer’s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

All the youngsters were invited to Hengerer’s to meet Rocketship 7’s Dave Thomas and Snoopy to promote the upcoming Peanuts film “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.”

No word on whether the Sweetlys, Mr. Beeper or Promo the Robot would be attending.