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Another cracker-jack box full of TV nostalgia

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: October 19, 2006

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Since embarking on a trip down TV's nostalgia lane several months ago, we've received a terrific post-bag full of your favourite TV memories, and hopefully these will continue to arrive in the weeks to come.

Terry Johnson from Woodsetton has sent us a long list of programmes that he can remember from years ago, some household names, some more obscure, and we've included a few to jiggle the memory banks. He told us:

"Thanks again to Alan Keeling for more TV nostalgia, and also Colin Pratt from Rowley Regis for the wonderful biographical details of Jack Mahoney (Range Rider) and James Arness (Matt Dillon) in issue 733. Here's just a few of the wonderful programmes I remember tuning into week in, week out, which perhaps other Bugle readers might wish to respond to. Sea Hunt, Sword of Freedom, Lancelot, Jungle Boy, Hiram Holliday (who fought crime with an umbrella), The Invisible Man, Danger Man, Highway Patrol, Billy Bunter, Cannonball, Emergency Ward 10, Compact, and The Grove Family, which must have been the earliest T.V. Soap ever, even before the term was invented, unless of course anyone in Bugleland knows different."

Colin Pratt and Mr I. Hackett, both residents of Rowley Regis, have written in response to Rose Hartill's request for characters and actors of Wagon Train. The series premiered in the US in September 1957, taking its initial inspiration from John Ford's film The Wagonmaster. It was set in the 1860s, in the immediate post civil war period, each episode revolving around personalities and characters who were travelling to California from St. Joseph, Missouri. During its run it survived several changes to the cast. Ward Bond, who played Major Seth Adams, died during filming in November 1960 and was replaced by John McIntyre as Christopher Hale. Robert Horton, who portrayed the scout Flint McCulloch, left the series in 1962 and was replaced by Robert Fuller who had already appeared in Laramie. Only two characters survived the eight season run, Frank McGrath as cook Charlie Wooster and Terry Wilson as Bill Hawks.

"Wagon Train was filmed on location in the picturesque San Fernando Valley and attracted a reported budget of $100,000 per show which in turn attracted top class guest stars. There was Bette Davis (The Elly McQueen story), Lee Marvin (The Jose Morales story), Barbara Stanwyk and Ronald Reagan, to name but a few. After eight years Wagon Train finally reached the end of the trail and that familiar cry, "Wagons Roll!" was heard no more. The final episode, "The Jambo Pierce Story," was broadcast on 2nd May 1965 after a series run of an impressive 284 episodes."

According to Mr Hackett, who has picked up on a bit of trivia, Hugh Gaitskill (former Labour Party leader) was a big fan of the show and in 1959 is reputed to have requested that the General Election for that year be held on a day when Wagon Train wasn't on TV, in case it kept voters away from the ballot box. Whether this true or not, it's a good yarn.

Alan Keeling has been lining up details of more favourite TV shows from yesteryear, and this week we have chosen two that appeared on Terry Johnson's impressive list, namely Sea Hunt and William Tell:

"Like Robin Hood, I.T.C's. series William Tell had a catchy theme song that at the time everyone was singing along to.

"Come away, come away with William Tell,

Come away to the land he loves so well.

What a day, what a day when the apple fell,

For Tell in Switzerland."

The pilot episode was based on the story by Johann von Schiller, in which Tell is captured by Gessler's troops and is forced to shoot an apple off the top of his own son's head using the bolt from a cross-bow. The remaining 38 episodes then told the story of Tell's efforts to liberate the Swiss people from the tyrannical rule of Gessler's Austrian army. The chief actors were Conrad Phillips as William Tell, Jennifer Jayne as Hedda Tell, Richard Rogers as Tell's son Walter, and the unforgettable Willoughby Goddard as the evil, overweight tyrant Gessler. Even an up and coming young actor called Michael Caine appeared in two of the episodes. Each episode lasted for half an hour and was filmed in black and white, either at the National studios, Elstree, or on location in Snowdonia. The popular theme song was sung by Decca recording artist David Whitfield.

The story material for the US series of Sea Hunt was taken from official US Navy files and other government agencies. Lloyd Bridges starred as an ex-navy frogman named Mike Nelson and survived several cliff-hangers during a run of 155 episodes. The show was produced by ZIV Television and the half-hourly programmes, first broadcast in 1956, were partly filmed at Silver Springs in California and at "Marineland of the Pacific" at Los Angles. Filming finally ended in 1960 but ATV continued to screen the series, which had proved more popular with children than adults, until 1962. The producer Ivor Tors was also responsible for other underwater adventures such as Flipper and Daktari during the 1960s."

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