Sheriff John, Engineer Bill and now….Chucko the Clown

Cindy asked me on Facebook about Chucko the Clown, who shared the airwaves in Los Angeles in the late 50′s with Sheriff John and Engineer Bill, each of whom received spots on OETR. Now it is Chucko’s turn.

Unfortunately, all the YouTube clips of Chucko were removed. But I have found some photos. First however, we need to find out about Chucko. I must admit, I don’t remember Chucko at all, but do remember Sheriff John and Engineer Bill. But I was never big on clowns….lol.

Charles Runyon portrayed Chucko the Birthday Clown on Channel 7 from 1955 to 1963 and on Channel 11 in 63-64. He wore a spinning merry-go-round hat, a red-and-white-striped clown suit with a fluffy Elizabethan collar and big blue pompon buttons, and white gloves, and he had arching blue eyebrows on a white face with a rhinestone-tipped nose and an upturned red smile.

His live, hourlong show included cartoons and games with his studio audience, which consisted of two children celebrating their birthdays and their young guests. At the end of the show, the camera would show a large birthday cake, and Chucko the Birthday Clown would sing: “Here’s a hap, hap, happy birthday from me (that’s me), to you (that’s you) …..”

Besides the obvious birthday celebration that honored a variety of kids on their special day (including a communal birthday cake), Chucko entertained his guests with ad-libbed comments, stories, games (pie eating contests), cartoons, stunts and sing alongs. He signed all his autograph pictures with the gentle sentiment “May all your days be as happy as birthdays.” The show’s sponsors included Chocks Vitamins, Fizz-Ade, Ovaltine and Barbara Ann Bread.

I remember Ovaltine commercials but not Barbara Ann Bread. Wonder bread yes, those thin little white pieces of bread. Fizz-Ade? No idea. I guess I should have watched more Chucko the Clown to know about Fizz-Ade and Barbara Ann Bread.

Runyon’s wife Mildred created the original makeup for Chucko the Clown and Chuck’s mother, known as “Mammy,” designed and sewed all the Chucko wardrobe. There will be a photo of “Mammy” with Chucko below.

Here are some photos of another of the LA icon’s, Chucko the Clown.


This final photo includes Dick Lane, who was the icon who brought Roller Derby and Wrestling (before WWE) to KTLA every week. I never missed either show and loved when Specs Saunders would get a two man whip and pass 10 opponents to win one for the Los Angeles T-Birds!!

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61 Responses to Sheriff John, Engineer Bill and now….Chucko the Clown

  1. cindy says:

    Thax Terry for the Chucko up date…I could only remember parts of the song I still sing to people on their BD now I can fill in the from me yes me to u yes u…part! LOLOL!! I also do a good Marilyn Monroe BD song…LOLOO!!

  2. Ron says:

    I remember this “clown”. He wasn’t one of my favorites, but I watched him anyway. I’m thinking cause of the cartoons that he showed. The sponsors products were pretty popular at one time in the L.A area. Barbara Ann bread was called something else in other parts of the country, and it’s slipped my mind what that name was?

  3. Anne says:

    I remember Chucko… Thanks for the memory of his rhinestone-tipped nose!

  4. sdsu78 says:

    Hi Anne, and thanks for stopping by.

    I was much better at remembering Sheriff John and Engineer Bill than Chucko. I guess his rhinestone-tipped nose didn’t do it for me….lol.

  5. Bonnie says:

    Wow, what a trip down memory lane. I was a birthday girl on the Chucko show. Always enjoyed watching his show along with Sheriff John , Romper Room, Captain Kangaroo, and Kukla, Fran and Ollie. I can remember writing in to Romper Room hoping “the hostess” teacher would say my name when she looked through the magic mirror. Never happened though… what a disappointment. But hey, at least I made it on the Chucko Show!

    • Randy Chucko Runyon says:

      Cool may everyday be as happy as your Birthday

      • Versia Nunn Cantrell says:

        I was the first black female child on the show, and did’nt know it, Chucko made me fill like everyone else. I really loved chucko, and the way he made us fill special.

      • sdsu78 says:

        Thank you for your input. I am always amazed at how many kids, now adults, we’re on this show and they all have such good things to say.

  6. sdsu78 says:

    Bonnie, so you made it on Chucko! Wow. That must have been exciting for you. I don’t remember watching Chucko. I was too busy drinking my milk with Engineer Bill….lol.

  7. Paula says:

    I was on the Chucko show at 4 years old with the birthday of my brother’s friend. I do remember making a snake with tin foil at a long table and Chucko asking me what I was making, and watching cartoons on the studio monitor as well as being scared of all the balloons that dropped from the ceiling at the end of the show. I so wish I could have seen that clip someday.

    • sdsu78 says:

      Paula,

      I can imagine being afraid of the balloons dropping from the ceiling. I know of some people who are afraid of clowns. I never watched Chucko, at least that I recall. Wouldn’t it be neat to see a clip of you on the show. You never know, it may exist somewhere.

      The only show I was ever almost on was The Newlywed Show. We were picked for the show but my Navy schedule was so crazy we never could match their filming dates. They did keep the wedding photos we sent them. I had forgotten about it but last week it came up after a funeral service when I saw the ex with whom I was married to at the time.

  8. jimtsutsui says:

    I aremember Chucko, in fact at 5-years-old I was a guest of my friend, Ronnie, who celebrated his birthday on Chucko’s show! It was 1956, I was in Kindergarten and I recall one of the mothers loading us into her car for the drive to the television studio at around 4:00 AM. We were ushered into a dark and dank sound studio. I recognized the set immediately. The huge wood cut-outs and painted backdrops. The “warm-up” host who entertained the children before the show started, was none other than Bob Barker. As he kept us occupied, I spied “Chef Milani” walking by with a derby, three-piece suit, and briefcase. We all watched his cooking show during the morning waiting for Chucko to start. The show was dazzling, and truly revolved around the kids. We played games, made pipe-cleaner animals, and the gracious host, Chucko, spent time with each of us individually during the cartoon breaks. (The commercials were live.) I came home to my neighborhood an instant celebrity because of my 15 minutes of fame at 5-years-old. I’ll never forget that wonderful morning, as long as I live.

  9. sdsu78 says:

    Another Chucko appearance! How cool. It sounds like you had a blast Jim and the fact you remember it all these years later is awesome. I especially loved that Bob Barker was there. The fact you had to get up at 4 am was tough to read. That is too early for anyone.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Chucko certainly did his share to keep kids happy back in the day.

  10. deano says:

    chucko was the coolest clown on tv! he would spin his pycedelic hat,point the optical illusional top at you and then you would see the best cartoons on television! try to change the channel in our house back in the late 50′s and you’d better have a small handgun

  11. bev2u@q.com says:

    My children were on Chucko’s show in 1957. They loved him and he was a guest in our home via TV for many years. Little did I know at the time that I would one day work closely with him in a small cable TV studio in Grants Pass Oregon. We created and put on the air five programs a week for pre-school children. Chuck Runyon was a rather shy man but once he was in makeup and costume he took on another whole personality. I loved the clown!! Chuck was a devoted husband and father and good friend. He taught me to reach down and pull up creativity I did not know I had. I learned a lot from him.

    • sdsu78 says:

      What a nice write comment about someone who seems to have been very special. Thanks for sharing with everyone.

      Did you and the kids watch Sheriff John?

    • Randy Runyon says:

      Bev, I just found your recent post. It is me Randy Chuckojr. Runyon. E me when you see this.

  12. vangie says:

    Which children’s show on L.A. TV had the birthday song that went something like this:
    Put another candle on your birthday cake
    We’re gonna celebrate today
    Put another candle on your birthday cake
    You’re another year old today
    Happy Birthday to you
    You’re another year old today

    • sdsu78 says:

      That would be Sheriff John. Here is what I posted a while back about this fun show.
      Here is what I posted about Sheriff John a while back.

      Thank goodness I am not having a birthday. I have had too many already and, in fact, I quit counting many years ago. That is one way to stay young.

      I don’t know why but today I was thinking of a show that played in Los Angeles from 1952 to 1970. If you lived near LA during those years and you were a kid, odds are you saw this show. The thing I most remember about the show was the birthday song, “Put Another Candle On My Birthday Cake.” I loved to sing along with that song. And how about the song, “Laugh and be Happy?”

      If you don’t recall, what I am talking about is Sheriff John. Here is a little reminder of the show, including a brief part of the birthday cake and laugh and be happy songs. This will take you back to a different time, one with so many simple things to keep little kids happy and interested.

      Note: Since I posted this, the clip I used, which was 5:05 in length, has been removed so only this very short clip remains.

      Enjoy!

      [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O7jj0kq_bo&w=640&h=390%5D

  13. Bill Woolston says:

    I enjoyed this trip down memory lane, I called my sister to share this site with her because she was a birthday girl on one of the shows in 1960. I got to go with her. I was five, it was scarey and fun at the same time. I loved how he would spin the tiny carousel on top of his head and take us into a cartoon. man i feel old….. thanks for sharing the photos. why did they pull the video tapes?

    • Bill Woolston says:

      Please let me know if the family decides to release any tapes. By the way, you mentioned you grew up watching Roller Derby. My mother skated for 25 years. Her name was Dolly Hansen. She retired in 1965. She never skated for the T Birds only agianst them. She skated for the LA Braves, and the Hawks. Mom would bring me to the LA Amory where the practice track was located and i loved to watch her skate. Some times i went to the games (when she couldnt find a sitter who would put up with me) Her skating partner was Ralphie Valadarez for 16 years. I knew Dick Lane,Julie Patrick, John Hall, Shirlley Hardman, Dave Pound and many more legends of the sport. It was cool to watch my mom compete. She was only 17 when she became a professinal. She was a great athlete and mother. (she raised 5 of us) She passed on in March of this year at the age of 90. John Hall spoke at her funeral. It was awesome to hear from many fans and younger skaters that knew her. She was humbled by the attention she received through the years. We miss her very much. I thought you might me interested. Take care.
      .

      • sdsu78 says:

        Bill, your posting is why I started this blog in the first place. Reading what you wrote brought back so many memories of sitting in front of the TV yelling for “Spec” Saunders to get a whip and complete the double pass of skaters as John Hall and others held up the jam…and the T-Birds would win by 1. Ralphie Valadarez was also a favorite of mine. That man could skate like no other. Your mom had to be a good athlete because it is not easy to skate like they did, being pounded around by those big strong women. Sounds like she was a great mom to the 5 of you. It had to be very heart warming for John Hall to speak about her at the funeral. As for Dick Lane, I watched him on Roller Derby and also wrestling. Those wresting stories are just as good and fun to recall as the skating stories.
        I will leave those for another day.

  14. sdsu78 says:

    Bill, thanks for the post and for sharing with your sister. I double checked to make sure I hadn’t missed any recent Chucko tapes and there are still none available. His family is the one who had videos posted but removed them. I found some Howdy Doody Time tapes and will post one here. Always fun to sing along with Howdy!

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJ-IPXpvRaU&w=480&h=390%5D

  15. JimBarach says:

    I was on Chucko around 1963 with my friend Ronnie May as the birthday boy. I just remember getting to say something in the mic and thought it was really cool. I got in touch with Chuck a few years ago after he retired to Grants Pass, Or. where I actually lived near a few years before that. He was very nice and I bought his book which was a good read. I was sorry to hear he passed away a few years back. I think about his show and growing up in L.A. back then and what a great place it was. Wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  16. sdsu78 says:

    Jim, how nice to hear from you and to learn you got some “mic” time with Chucko. That had to be a big day for you. I was never much of a Chucko watcher and by 1963, being in high school, I certainly didn’t get to see you.

  17. emil says:

    i loved chucko…..i have his red hat still in the box with it s plastic spinning carnival horse ride

  18. June says:

    I remember all of these shows. Growing up in the LA area was lots of fun in the 50s and 60s. I attended a birthday party for a neighbor friend, Wendy Greenes. Another friend, Janet and I got to be in one of the commercials Chucko did during the show for Bactine. It was a spray antiseptic so he let Janet spray a few times for her dad who was in the hospital at the time. After the show we all went behind the stage to a large room where we ate small hoagy style sandwiches (yuck!) and cake and punch. It was a fun day! I would love to be able to see that show.

    • Bruce Wayne says:

      Bactine! Yes! We had to have it for Everything…eventually our mom just filled the bottle with Water! :-)

  19. sdsu78 says:

    So June didn’t like the hoagy style sandwich…..lol. I too grew up near LA in the 50′s and 60′s and liked a good hot dog anytime over a hoagy. And I sure remember Bactine and how it stung when sprayed on a cut. Bactine was developed in 1947 and introduced in 1950 to provide consumers with a single first aid product that was more effective, safer, and less caustic than the products commonly used for first aid at the time (iodine, silver nitrate, boric acid, and hydrogen peroxide are a few examples).

    I love how things we did in the past bring back such great memories, even the pain of having Bactine sprayed on a fresh cut or scrape.

    Thanks for sharing June. In what part of LA did you grow up? Could be we kids of The Inland Empire headed toward your area to get away from the hot summers.

  20. Bill Turner says:

    I was an Engineer Bill/Sheriff John kid. Never watched Chucko. But don’t forget Hobo Kelly!

  21. sdsu78 says:

    How neat, another kid who got to be on both great shows, Engineer Bill and Sheriff John. When I drink milk, I sometimes think of the red light/green light drill, which always ended with me having finished my milk.

  22. Oscar Saldana says:

    Thanks for the great memory…i was day dreamimg today

    Oscar local11

  23. Randy Chucko Runyon says:

    Thank you for keeping Chucko alive on the net

    • Peter LaCombe says:

      hey Randy been trying to get a hold of you..my dad and your dad were friends and my father worked for ABC for 50 yrs ..he was a camera man until he retired..i have some 16 MM films from the show..my 3 sisters and me always were on the show..i had them transfered to VHS tape some years back but i have the reels and tapes..my dad is still around and lives in the valley ..he has some storys.anyway ..would you like copys of the show..let me know..i think we live close to each other ..Pete…

    • Betts Tucker says:

      Yes! He was the only clown I liked, other clowns made me uneasy. Never liked Bozo, but Chucko was was okay (^_~)

  24. sdsu78 says:

    Randy, it is so much fun to keep our memories alive. Certainly Chucko was a part of many lives back in the day. It is neat to be able to go back in time and think of the things which gave us such pleasure.

  25. Pattie Salerno says:

    I just found this blog. I am loving reading all the comments. I was a birthday girl on the show. I invited all of my kindergarten class. I remember being so excited the morning of the show and getting car sick on Sunset Blvd. on the way to the studio. I think the year was 1957 and the month was December. Is there a way to view the shows or were live shows not taped?

  26. sdsu78 says:

    Pattie,
    I am not sure which of the shows you were on but I am guessing Chucko. I can imagine how excited you were while driving on Sunset. The neat things is how well you still remember that day. Finding video of Chucko is very hard. YouTube would be a start but I think I tried that and did not find much at all. Randy (See two postings above this one) is a relative of Chucko. Perhaps he will see this and can let us all know of any video that might exist.

    • Pattie Salerno says:

      sdsu 78, thank you taking the time to comment. It would a trip to see myself on Chucko. I still remember the balloons falling fom a big bag from the ceiling of the studio. Good times!!!

  27. Peter Cicero says:

    I never got on Chucko, not for lack of trying. I still have his mimeographed “no, thank you” letter in my Cub Scout scrapbook. But I was on Bozo’s show on KTLA Channel 5. This would have been around 1960. My whole Cub Scout den came along. I was hoping to be the kid who got to go up on-camera with Bozo and play some kind of game for prizes. No such luck. Instead, I was acting out so much that during a commercial break Bozo himself came over and whispered to me that if I didn’t settle down, they would have to put me out of the studio!

    I had always liked “Engineer Bill.” So it was quite a thrill when Bill Stulla drove out to our house in San Fernando during late Summer 1965 to audition my trio “The Lanterns” for the premiere of his new show, “Bill Stulla’s Shake Shop.” Bill liked us, and we actually did the show. The premiere, the very first show, mind you! Bill was a very nice, humble fellow; drove a Rambler station wagon, just like my mom’s.

    On the show, I sang “La Bamba,” and The Lanterns performed “Torquay” and “Surf Rider,” if I remember correctly. Would love to see a videotape of that!

    A couple weeks later I started tenth grade at Sylmar High School, and got kidded quite a bit about it(“Hey, I saw you on Engineer Bill’s…”)

    • sdsu78 says:

      Loved reading your post. You and the Lanterns must have been pretty good to get that gig. La Bamba was a classic while Torquay and Surf Rider did not fare as well. The Fireballs took Torquay to #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. This was before Jimmy Gilmore joined the group. In 1963 Jimmy Gilmore and the Fireballs had the huge #1 hit, Sugar Shack. For those who might not have ever heard Torquay, here it is by the Fireballs.

      [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs76somm2k4&w=420&h=315%5D

      • Peter Cicero says:

        Thanks sdsu78 for the link. I hadn’t heard “Torquay” in years, and never before by The Fireballs. How great to hear it again just now!

        I am so glad that I managed to find time in my busy kid’s schedule to watch and enjoy Chucko the Birthday Clown. Hope Chucko pops up on YouTube again sometime soon! RIP Charles Runyon.

  28. Anitakay says:

    I loved Chucko the Birthday Clown! I never missed his show. Even when I was in the hospital I would talk the other kids in the room into watching Chucko. My cousins watched Hobo Kelly, but she was too saccharine for me and Bozo just down right scared me. Aw, rest in peace Chucko, my sweet childhood TV friend.

  29. Curtis Shepard says:

    Charles Runyon worked for Hughes Aircraft both before and after WW2. I have some photos dated 1957 taken at the Hughes El Segundo site where Chucko came to visit.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/27795886@N07/

  30. Jerry says:

    Im lucky! I have a “perfect undamaged” Birthday Card from Chucko with no writing on it. Cnannel 7 is printed inside it..That’s how old it is!

  31. barbara ann says:

    came across this when I was looking for images of my namesake barbara ann….my grandfather dorve for & knew the owner whos daughter was named barbara ann. i remember barbara ann bread fondly!!

  32. Chochez says:

    I was actually on the show on my birthday. I sat in the Birth Day seat on his stage!!!! I THINK I was 5 or 6. I don’t remember the entire show but I do remember trying to touch the train on his hat – not well received. Nothing big, he was nice to me and a while later a semi pulled up in front of where I lived and I had a HUGE bunch of presents. I LOVE Chucko

  33. Richard Cook says:

    I was the birthday boy, on my 5th birthday, which would have been 1962. I don’t remember all that much, except that I was angry because when we did some kind of puzzle game, where they had pieces all over the ground and we had to run around and pick up pieces and match them, my older tomboy sister kept grabbing pieces I needed just as I was about to pick them up. I received a wonderful birthday gift: a metal Tonka fire truck, with working hose, with a fancy number 5 in gold on the doors. I played with that truck for years until it became beat up and rusty.

    • sdsu78 says:

      Don’t big sisters always ruin a guys day? But you wound up with a Tonka fire truck and that is cool. Thanks for sharing these memories with the readers of Old Enough To Remember. Hope to hear from you again.

  34. Randy says:

    Well Chucko is always a Birthday memory for me. Watched his show for years. Now that I’m celebrating a big B-Day today… Its nice to have this special Reminder sent to me from my Big Sister. I’m having a “Hap Hap Happy Birthday” today… Thanks Chucko

    • Peter LaCombe says:

      been trying to let you know i have tapes of the show…my father worked the show at ABC…camera man…we used to go on the show all the time..my dad got the tapes i have them now and put them on VHS…now gonna do dic..but i also have all the 16mm reels in the cans..

      • Rosalie Markovich (Calsadillas) says:

        Hi Peter,
        I also was a Birthday Girl on Chucko, do you have videos in some kind of order, I would love a copy of my Birthday show. Those years were the greatest, I remember my Mom had letters out the day after our Birthdays for the next year, so my sisters and I would get on the show. Also remember singing Que Sera on Bill Stullas show. My Mom and her friends use to get tickets for tapings to shows and game show when we got older. lol I an so glad I found this Blog it has brought back so manywonderful memories.

      • peter lacombe says:

        don’t know when you were on the show…the tapes i have are when my sisters and i were on it…my father only got the tapes of us kids when we were on it….

      • Bruce Wayne says:

        It would be great if you could put those tapes on You Tube!!

      • peter lacombe says:

        i will try to add them…i never did it before so i might have to have one of my kids do it..but i will get them on to you tube..for people to see…

  35. Bruce Wayne says:

    I was actually at one of the Chucko shows, as a kid. As much fun as it seemed to be on-air…it was Not so in person. He completely ignored us kids when the camera was off…my younger sister was calling his name and he couldn’t be bothered. We received no toys, games or prizes.
    Ironically, today is my birthday!
    Bruce Wayne

  36. notAnn says:

    I used to watch Chucko all the time. When I was working in England on an American base, some guy and I got into a discussion and he said something about Chucko the Clown. Turned out he grew up in Hacienda Heights, just over the hills from me in Whittier! I heard somewhere that Sheriff John and Engineer Bill (and does anyone remember Sailor Tom?) were actually the guys who owned the stations and who did the kiddie shows because they were on shoestring budgets at the time. I loved them all. Thanks for the memories!

    • sdsu78 says:

      I had never heard about them owning the station and doubt that was the case. But they still provided great shows for kids and now such wonderful memories. There are times still when I drink milk that I think of red light, green light.

  37. I was a birthday girl on Chucko and until I found these posts was beginning to think I imagined it. Memories of the dark sound stage and sitting on the fake birthday cake with another child and my friends getting to play all the games. Happy memory.

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