Skipper Ed ended every show with ‘Mind your manners’
Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 19, 2014
I first met Kelly Hain seven years ago at Hurley Elementary School, when I accepted an interim kindergarten position at the end of the year. Teaching kindergarten across the hall, Kelly was always willing to help with anything I needed during those last two months of school. I still see her from time to time when substituting at Hurley.
Through the years I’ve heard Kelly talk about her husband, Jeff, and their three daughters, Emily, Baylie and Lily, but never heard her talk about growing up or where she was from. When she answered a question I posted on Facebook about dads, I knew there was a story.
The questions I posted were, “What makes your dad special?” and, “What are your favorite memories?”
Part of Kelly’s answer was, “My dad was on TV for 30 years and had lots of local children on his show. He believed manners were important and would end each show with the words, ‘Mind your manners.’ ”
After sending Kelly a message wanting to know where her dad had been on TV, when she answered, “Jacksonville, Fla.,” I said, “Let’s talk.”
Meeting for lunch at the Olive Garden the week school was out, when walking to our table, Kelly, all smiles said she was excited about summer vacation. Being seated, we very quickly covered the topics of plans for the summer, school, our children, and in my case grandchildren. By the time our endless salad arrived our topic of discussion was Kelly’s dad, Edward McCullers Jr. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
Edward McCullers Jr. was born to Dorothy Scott and Edward McCullers Sr. in 1927 in a rather poor community of Jacksonville, Fla.
When he was 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Florida, Edward thought he would soon be drafted to help with war efforts. Instead of waiting, he joined the Navy. Ironically, WWII ended the very next day. Following basic training, Edward was assigned to Norfolk Naval base as a medic taking care of wounded soldiers coming home. Returning to Jacksonville four years later, Edward took advantage of opportunities offered him, including working the ticket desk for Eastern Airlines in Jacksonville, Fla.
It was on that job his life changed forever. One day as he was announcing flights, an NBC executive heard him and liked his voice so much, he asked Edward if he’d like to be a radio announcer. Taking him up on the offer, Edward began his career with WJAX radio station, an affiliate of NBC. He did such a great job, in time, he was offered a position at the NBC /TV affiliate station WFGA in Jacksonville.
At first doing voice overs for live commercials, when the main character on an afternoon kiddie show became sick, Edward was asked to fill in. He acquired such a following he eventually became host for the show and was given the name Skipper Ed. School groups, Girl Scouts and other children’s organizations participated in a televised segment of the program at the studio. Skipper Ed would ask the children questions during one part of the show and then afterwards they’d see cartoons like Popeye and Pals. The program was televised live Saturday mornings at 8:00 and weekday afternoons at 4:00.
At the end of each program, Skipper Ed signed off with his trademark phrase, “mind your manners.” Even now when Kelly sees people who watched the show, they tell her how much it meant to them and how they remember, “mind your manners.” Some who were parents at the time said when their children were watching Skipper Ed they didn’t worry. Moms, especially, were grateful the show gave them time to fix supper.
As a result of her dad’s connections, Kelly had many opportunities to meet celebrities. Multi-talented, not only as Skipper Ed, but also as a news reporter, one of her dad’s responsibilities was to interview them when they came to Jacksonville. Some on the list were President Jimmy Carter, Andy Griffith, Shirley Temple Black, Bob Denver, Gary Burghoff, Mickey Rooney and Ginger Rogers.
One of the scariest things Kelly says her dad ever did was stand on the roof of the tv station to report the weather when a hurricane was coming through. Saying that was the only scary thing he ever did, later she changed her mind. “I take that back,” she said, “there was something else scary he did.”
“My dad was one of the first children’s shows to integrate in Florida. He didn’t think it was right to exclude anyone from being on the show, so he opened it up to all children’s groups. When children of all races began coming to the show, my family started getting death threats. One day when my dad turned on his ignition, the car engine blew up, but not bad enough for him to get hurt. After that Mom was afraid for my brother, Scott, and I to be in public, so we began going to private school. It wasn’t until years later I understood why she was so protective. Although it was hard being protected like that, I must say I’m proud of my dad for being brave and standing up for what he believed was right.”
Edward died in 1992, leaving a legacy and memory that lives on through his family, friends and fans who adored him. I felt that love and admiration for him, recently, while reading some of the messages on his Facebook fan page. Here are a few of those …
Virginia Mills-Barfield: We all loved Skipper Ed.
Debra Knight Newton: I still have the autograph I got from him at the Pancake House on Beach Blvd. on a New Year’s Eve night many years ago. He always had a big smile on his face. He didn’t hesitate when I went up to him as a child and asked for his autograph. He signed it, “Skipper Ed.”
Melody Hickey Knight: I loved this show as a child. I was on it with my Brownie troupe in the 70s. I will never forget it. Thank you for starting my Sat.’s with Popeye and friends. It brings a smile to my face just remembering those days.
Thomas Smith: Thank you for sharing your dad with us. He was someone on TV we could look up to and learn from.
A gentle soul who loved the youngest among us, he made a point to talk to children and make them feel important. Passing that legacy to his daughter, Skipper Ed would be proud to see Kelly in the classroom. It’s obvious she loves children, too. Any time you enter her classroom, the children have smiling faces, happy to be learning a new skill or concept through a hands-on activity she prepared for them.
Thinking back to the first time I saw Kelly coming through the kindergarten door offering to help in any way she could, little did I know that was a trait she learned from her dad. Not only that, but who could have imagined seven years later I would be writing about, Edward McCullers Jr., otherwise known as Skipper Ed.
It never ceases to amaze me the stories people are carrying around and sometimes hiding in their hearts. I’m glad Kelly took the time to answer the question on Facebook about her dad, sharing his story with us. Skipper Ed would be proud. And, I know his fans will be, too.
Dicy McCullough’s books are available at local bookstores, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble. Follow her on her blog at www.dicymcculloughbooks.com/blog or contact her at 704-278-4377.