Published 12:00 am Monday, January 9, 2012
By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
Not long ago, I saw a program on WUNC-TV devoted to locally produced North Carolina children’s television shows in the 1950s and ’60s, with some continuing into the 1970s. Now, there is a dearth of such shows, but back then there was a plethora, including WFMY TV’s “Old Rebel,” WBTV’s “Fred Kirby’s Little Rascals,” WRAL’s “Uncle Paul,” and the one which made a great impression upon me: WSOC-TV’s “Clown Carnival,”hosted by Brooks Lindsay “Joey the Clown” and his beautiful assistant, Miss Ginger.
We would tune in to Channel 9 to watch Joey’s show regularly, since it was one of my favorites. Brooks Lindsay’s outfit for his program consisted of a top hat (somewhat battered) and tails. His clown clothes and makeup seemed to have been inspired by the great clown, Emmet Kelly, for in addition to similar outfits, the facial make-up of both gave an appearance which approximated the results of several days of foregoing the use of a razor. Some of the young, present-day, male stars of the movies and television also seem to perpetually have several days growth of unshaven beard, a sight which I find to be equally as “clownish” as what Brooks Lindsay achieved with his make-up.
Joey also devised an ingenious method for taking an old newspaper and turning it into a toy: the “Joey Tree.”A newspaper, “past its prime” (at least one day old) would be rolled into a tube and cut in strategic places with scissors, ensuring that when the tube was stretched out, a series of limbs with leaves would be produced. One day, at Granite Quarry School, about 1960, I think, we made Joey trees in class and brought them home, the fact attested to by an old black-and-white photograph of me walking up my driveway with an outstretched Joey Tree in one hand and my schoolbooks in the other.
Joey would present a series of cartoons, perform some magic tricks, and play host to a birthday child and his friends as they celebrated live on the show. My mother wrote Joey in the late 1950s to make a request for me to be able to celebrate my birthday on his show, accompanied by a group of my invited friends. I still remember receiving a postcard in the mail from Joey’s assistant, Miss Ginger, stating the date and time that my friends and I would be on the Clown Carnival show.
Each child in the birthday party received several nice toys from Joey to take home. I remember one toy consisting of what looked like a plastic plate with a stick upon which it was spun and balanced, kind of like a hand-operated gyroscope which would challenge a child’s skills of balance and dexterity. Another toy was the “Spirograph,” but which Joey referred to as a “Doodledy-Boop.”
Miss Ginger, was actually dressed like the female magician’s assistants of those days, her attire resembling that of Nani Darnell, assistant and wife to the greatly popular magician Mark Wilson. Miss Ginger wore a short waistcoat and fishnet stockings upon the full length of her otherwise, totally bare legs, with the characteristic seams in the back for which those stockings are known. I remember, with crystal clarity, as a little boy of 6 or so, sitting there on the set of Clown Carnival and being fascinated with Miss Ginger’s fishnets, including those seams.
Since the visual scene which I most remember with picture-perfectness about my visit to Clown Carnival, even now, is Miss Ginger’s stockings, I wonder if that means that I am an awful old man? On the other hand, since her stockings were what visually impressed me the most in that television studio of the late 1950s , does that mean that I may have been an awful little boy?