The Adventurer’s Club Show

Nothing Buddy was ever involved with brought him so much notoriety as The Buddy Johnson Adventurer’s Club Show. Buddy and Princess Columbine enjoyed the kids. The show included puppets, games, cartoons and interviews. Thousands of children attended the show over almost a decade, which to this day is a subject of conversation and smiles.

It was appointment TV for children every afternoon at 4:30 PM. As the old Spade Cooley fiddle tune Devil's Dream played, film showed Buddy riding up on Chubby, tying him to the hitching post. Then Dad would rush in from the right side door to the studio, sliding to a stop in front of, and greeting his young audience and Princess Columbine. The program included talking to puppets Koko and Pierre the Chef and visitors interspersed with a cartoon or a segment of Tarzan, then the games and celebrating birthdays with a war whoop. After announcements of personal appearances, band play dates and other news, Devil's Dream would start. Dad rushed out left through the side door of the studio. The film of Dad riding off on Chubby back toward Beulah would close the show.

05-02 Ad Buddy's Big Mac show

Initially it was The Buddy Johnson Big Mac Show, but finally the name settled on what is remembered today. On very early shows Dad rode up to Buckskin Joe's train station, but this changed and Buddy and Chubby began their filmed commutes from and back to Beulah.

This is one of my favorite photographs of Dad on The Adventurer’s Club Show. He is interviewing old friend Gene Autry. They had met a number of times when Autry appeared at the Colorado State Fair, and when he released a new record. Sometimes he joined Dad on KGHF and later KCSJ radio shows. Autry was an ordinary, cordial man from Texas. Notice how many children were packed in the large studio. To be able to watch a live TV production was a treat, but what a special treat to be some of the very few actually shown on screen! Dad’s band must have been backing up Gene that night as Dad’s long-time fiddle player Duke Farrin can be seen standing and watching from the wings, at far left, in the white cowboy hat.

It was a time when lots of national talent toured the country’s brand new, still few and far between, TV stations touting their latest TV show, film, or record. An interesting time when Buddy was right in the middle of it all.

This is a show rundown for the Adventurer’s Club Show. For every show such a rundown of the activities was prepared. Interestingly, in this particular show rundown in the "Copy" section it notes "all promotion is changed to title Buddy Johnson Show" and that they will "Delete Big Mac Name,” so with this letter the show most baby boomers remember takes on its final name The Buddy Johnson Adventurer’s Club Show.

KCSJ TV artwork, upper left, kids lined up outside the Chief Theater on Main Street in Pueblo to see Buddy at some event, upper right, "Princess Columbine" Jada Willard, who later moved to Denver. She was a great help to Dad with all the little ones who were a handful, bottom right, Dad watches Jada play the piano, and bottom left, a young 36-year old Buddy Johnson. They both truly loved the Adventurer’s Club. Jimmie Cox hosted the show for a short time, before station manager Ray Williams asked Buddy to take a shot at it. Though Buddy didn’t think he could do it, he said he’d try. Well, he loved it and it ran for years.

05-06 AC Show ticket unused

The most valuable ticket. Children watched the mail for weeks to receive it.

05-07 AC Show ticket used

It was proof that one had actually been there. In later years, tickets would have Buddy’s signature stamped instead of signed by him.

An early ad for the show. See how the kids are going this way and that.

This ad is probably from 1953 or '54. Again, notice the very early B&W studio camera on the mobile tripod which had wheels. The black handle on the back allowed the operator to change lenses. Zoom lenses were in the future. Also, here’s Chubby in action, what a trooper! Dad had leather horse shoes which fit over Chubby's hoofs and steel horse shoes when he had to be inside for an event.

Another classic shot of Buddy, Princess Columbine and Koko the Clown.

During the show Dad would have frequent conversations with Koko who had quite a personality and would often make Buddy and the children laugh.

It was the Golden Age of early television. Everyone was trying things to see what worked in the new medium. Lots worked and many things didn’t, but they just pushed on with a laugh and a smile. A viewer today would be struck at how raw and authentic early TV was.

This original photograph is in the Beulah Historical Society Museum, Beulah, Colorado, in its original arrowhead-encrusted frame created by Beulah resident and friend, Adele Russell.

Buddy talks to both Koko and Pierre the Chef. Koko was kind of goofy and innocent, while Pierre was full of himself and something of a stuffed shirt. Koko had a very high pitched voice while Pierre had a lower, and heavily French accented voice. The painted TV box was used when they went into a cartoon or a short segment of a serial like Tarzan. A camera would truck in for a close up of the screen.

Buddy, Koko and puppeteer/cameraman Ned Taylor talk after a show. Ned later became a station manager in Missoula, Montana. Ned had a great sense of humor and it came through his puppets Koko and Pierre the Chef. Pierre was French of course, and somewhat snooty, which was a running joke on the show. Also, notice the wired mike; this was way before the smaller wired mikes, or the tiny wireless mikes of today.

There were always a lot of guests on the program. Here, Fred Harmon, creator of the "Red Ryder and the "Little Beaver" comic strips, is interviewed by Buddy while Little Beaver stands nearby, as the kids fidget in the background. Fred, who had partnered with Walt Disney at one point, lived in Pagosa Springs and was often in Pueblo on Buddy’s shows. Pagosa still has a museum honoring Harmon and his work.

Columbine tries to keep the "natives" quiet as Buddy talks to "Little Beaver." There were countless visitors to all of Buddy's shows. If they were in town for a big event like the fair or other occasion, they found their way on to one of his TV or radio shows.

05-14 1961 birthday wish

A mother’s birthday request.

05-15 1961 mother's note

And another from a mother, but the best ones were from the little ones.

05-16 Envelope, child's front

A young viewer’s decorated envelope. Sometimes they would simply be addressed to “Buddy” and they still would get to him.

05-17 Envelope, child's back

Back of the envelope, I love the seriousness with which many of these letters were sent.

05-18 Envelope letter from child

A young fan’s request showing the heartfelt urgency which the letters from children often displayed.

One day’s correspondence tally to KCSJ TV for the Adventurer’s Club Show. This pretty much shows the broadcast signal range for KCSJ TV at the time. Oddly though, because of the way over the air broadcasting can change with just the right cloud and weather conditions this signal could, on occasion, go much, much further. The signal can skip like a rock over the surface of a pond, in this case between the ground and clouds. We have a B&W Polaroid photograph of Buddy on TV sent from a viewer which was labeled on the back " June 5, 1961 6:20 p.m. in Montgomery, Alabama.”

The show had lots of sponsors like Western Auto, Kress, Woolworth, and Skaggs stores toy areas. Here Gambles shows off their new bikes while Buddy, Princess Columbine and Police Officer Harold Sell give an announcement and most everyone has a Hiawatha bike headpiece. Harold was a long time family friend who, when he was off duty, Buddy regularly hired to be at dances at Gayway Park in Beulah. Harold, at well over six feet tall, never had any trouble.

Kids could do things to be involved in the show. Here are a child’s jokes. If Dad used what they sent, they were given tickets to the show.

Cathy Thompson, was eight when she sent in a story about her love of horses and got on the show with her sister Janet who was six. They even got a picture with Buddy.

She had brought carrots for Chubby. Then she asked if she could give Chubby a kiss. Buddy laughed and said OK. So she gave Chubby a big kiss on his very soft, feathery nose. Years later she met and married Jim Johnson and in the process became Buddy’s niece by marriage. They recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. She always remembered how gentle Buddy and Chubby were with children. 

A number of people have contacted me since I posted this website with stories and images which I didn’t know existed. My cousin Joann (Trabucco) Graham wrote that she remembered performing a tap dance on the show when she about 10 or 11. A radio disk jockey from San Francisco wrote to me as did one from Boulder, and one person even emailed me from Argentina!

Dad particularly liked Rex Allen who was at the State Fair a number of times. Buddy’s band the Colorado Rangers would back him up with music. A very regular gentleman, Rex talked to Koko the Clown puppet and mentioned that his horse’s name was also Koko. Koko, the puppet, took the news with amazement and surprise to which Rex let out a huge laugh.

On this trip to The Adventurer’s Club, Rex brought some of his friends with him, probably to be interviewed later on Buddy’s evening radio broadcast on KCSJ radio. Buddy's daughter Kitty was a Beulah Saddle Club attendant at the time and remembers how nice Rex was to her, the Queen and other attendants, signing their sashes and talking with them at length.

The device at upper right is an early teleprompter which spooled a very long sheet of paper for the program’s advertisements, announcements and other information. It could easily bind up and jam.

The treasured Adventurer’s Creed, which each child received after attending the live TV show on Pueblo's "Big Hill.”

The theme, "Time For Adventure,” was used throughout the show. There were the games Buddy had them play. The "ADVENTURE" cave contained a trunk of prizes. Under each of the letters for the word ADVENTURE, keys were hidden, one of which would open the trunk. A birthday child could pick the key from under any letter. If it opened the treasure chest trunk they would get a prize from inside. Lastly, was the showing of a short bit of a Tarzan film or cartoon.

Although the Adventurer’s Club Show was canceled in 1962, it was one of the top-rated local TV shows, with 4 months solid future reservations booked.

Bob Hope’s investment group had previously purchased KOA TV, now KCNC, in Denver. In 1961, it purchased KCSJ TV in Pueblo. He changed the name to KOAA TV and modified the local station's format to convey more network fare which was cheaper to produce and had less overhead. An era which lasted about a decade was over, and along with it, most local productions, except for news, weather and sports. TV stations basically became little more than conduits for production from the coasts.

But, what a WONDERFUL time it was. Most of these children would probably be in their 60’s or 70’s today.

Copyright  © 2023   John Henry Johnson    All rights reserved.