Do you know who Officer Joe Bolton and Captain Jack McCarthy are? If you do, that means you watched a lot of TV as a kid, you're from the New York City area and/or you're very old like me.
Before the idea of Educational TV, "SESAME STREET" or the "TELETUBBIES," Bolton and McCarthy were the face of New York's, matinee programming. From the mid-50's to early 70's, these stalwarts of my youth appeared as hosts for kiddie-shows, exclusively on Channel 11, (WPIX).
Joe Bolton came to WPIX as a weatherman in 1948. In 1955, he began hosting the "LITTLE RASCALS" reruns. Dressed like a patrolman, on a set that was made-up to resemble a police station, Officer Joe would do local commercials between the episodes. Also, using his cop image as a positive role-model, he'd propagandize his viewers with moralistic tidbits like; eat your vegetables, help mom around the house, do your homework, be kind to younger siblings and respect your elders.
Bolton was kept on at WPIX after the station lost the rights to, "Little Rascals," in 1958. His role remained the same when the programming switched to, "THE THREE STOOGES." In 1970, after parents groups cited the violence caused by Moe, Larry and Curly, was effecting children negatively, the show was cancelled. The affable Bolton survived the purge and was invited to host "THE DICK TRACY SHOW" cartoons.
ON AUGUST 13, 1986, JOSEPH REEVES BOLTON III DIED, HE WAS 75.
Jack McCarthy was the host of Channel 11's St. Patrick's Day Parade for 42 years. I didn't know that...until today. What I do know is, his character was a direct result of Joe Bolton's success. Dressed as a naval officer, "Captain" Jack hosted, "POPEYE THE SAILOR MAN," cartoons from 1963-1972.
McCarthy's set looked like a ship's deck. He'd open each show behind an old-fashioned ship's wheel, ring the bell above his head and say with a touch of an Irish brogue, "Its four bells...time for the "POPEYE THE SAILOR MAN SHOW."
Like Bolton, his spiel between cartoons included advertisements and reminders of the golden rules, like; treat others how you'd want to be treated, keep your room ship-shape, be kind to animals and steer clear of bad kids. However, unlike is counterpart, he claimed his performances were unscripted. Plus, he occasionally mixed-in some cute Irish anecdotes and folklore.
The Captain closed each show by ringing the bell and making this signature statement, "Hut to peen." Then in a military way, he'd salute his viewers and add, "And smooth sailing."
"CAPTAIN" JOHN JOSEPH McCARTHY LIKED TO SAY, "I WAS BORN ON 52nd STREET AND FIFTH AVENUE."AFTER PAUSING HE'D ADD, "FIVE BLOCKS OFF, (FIFTH AVENUE)." NYC'S, "MR. ST. PATRICK'S DAY," DIED ON MAY 26, 1996, HE WAS 81.
Like most little kids, I accepted the use of the phrase; hut to peen and smooth sailing. But by the time I was in college, I became haunted by its origin and true meaning, and sought a solution. The Internet was still eons away way, so I had asked many folks with naval backgrounds...but came-up empty.
The mystery was solved in early 1975. However, the groundwork for this monumental discovery was laid on Sunday, November 10, 1974. A day so special, it remains on the highlight reel of my life.
That weekend, I was visiting ZYMBOT at Fredonia University in western New York, (please wish the Big Kahuna well, he faces heel surgery today). In the wee hours of the morning, I met a pleasant young lady. We spent the next ten hours together and went for lunch, a stroll through the woods and hung-out at the lake.
Back on campus, en route back her dorm, I spotted a TV in a communal lounge. My team, the New York Jets were playing their cross-town rivals, the New York Giants. While they equally stunk, (both teams were 2-7), this was the first time they ever faced each other in the regular season. Thus, this game even though it was being played in the Yale Bowl in New Haven Connecticut, was bally-hooed in the "Big Apple," as if it was the Superbowl. Or as Captain Jack McCarthy said, "The Big Shamrock."
THE NEW YORK (football) GIANTS, AFTER MOVING FROM THE POLO GROUNDS, PLAYED AT YANKEE STADIUM FROM 1956-1973. IN 1973 AND 1974 WHILE WAITING TO MOVE INTO THE MEADOWLANDS, THEIR HOME GAMES WERE AT THE YALE BOWL (above). THEN FOR ONE SEASON, 1975, THEY PLAYED AT SHEA STADIUM.
The Fredonia girl and I sat down and watched the big game. It was already late in the game and of course my Jets were losing, (20-13). But with legendary QB Joe Namath at the helm, they drove to the three yard line.
At this advanced point of "Broadway Joe's" ever-cool career, his bad knees made him a cripple. So with the super-bowl of the two shitty New York teams at stake, he sent all his troops right. He then faked-out the defenders, cameramen, the fans and maybe his own team...because no one dreamt he'd keep the ball. Namath hid the ball on his outside hip, in what is termed a "Naked-Boot-Leg" and walked/limped to the left, untouched for the tying touchdown.
I was so satisfied with that, that the girl and I continued back to her dorm. Later, my great day somehow got better when I found out the Jets won in overtime.
Months later at "THE JOLLY BULL TAVERN," (near Brooklyn College), I was enjoying their world-famous, watered-down draughts with twin brothers, TICKLEMEERIC, (TIC) and IMPORTANCEOFBEINGEARNEST, (IMP).
I told them the story of my special moment in Fredonia and TIC said, "You think that's great? We went to that game."
IMP said, "Yeah, it was in New Haven Connecticut at the Yale Bowl, we took AMTRAK."
I said, "Heh?"
TIC said, "You drunken idiot, we took the train."
"I'm not drunk!" Between hiccups I added, "I'm as sober as the day is long...or something like it..."
IMP said, "Speaking of drunks, you'll never guess who saw in the club car?"
I said, "Ulysses Grant's wet nurse."
TIC said, "You ARE a drunken idiot."
IMP said, "No really, we saw the immortal, Captain Jack McCarthy...going to the game too."
TIC said, "He even let me buy him a drink...if I promised to stop calling him Captain."
IMP said, "We told him we were big fans of his Popeye show."
TIC said, "He was wasted, we could have said anything."
IMP said, "Anyway we're pulling-in to our stop and I said...'hey Jack I gotta know one thing'..."
TIC interrupted, "Yeah, let us in on the big secret..."
Captain Jack was carefully pouring the remnants of his drink into a hip flask and cut TIC off, 'I know, you wanna know, what hut to peen means.'"
IMP said, "Hell yeah! What does; hut to peen and smooth sailing mean?"
TIC said, "Jack leaned in, burnt my face with scotch breath and said, 'Don't mean nuthin'.' I made it up."
The startled brothers looked at each other and said in unison, "HE MADE IT UP!"
IMP said, "The train door opened and without further clarification, the good captain got lost in the stampede."
TIC lamented, "And he was going to buy the next round..."
I said, "And you thought I was drunken idiot."
Just when it seemed that one of my finest moments (November 10, 1974) seemed to be etched in stone...a couple of months later, IMP and TIC managed to improve it. Unfortunately, to commemorate the occasion properly now, I would need a ship's bell...but don't have one handy. So maties, imagine you hear one as I say, "Hut to peen," (insert military salute here) and smooth sailing."