Monday, March 28, 2005

 

In which we interrupt this program...

Well, during the ritual unloading, my parents had a few things for me. Because the car is so crammed with stuff for the kids, anything they bring for me is usually thin enough to be slid in between stuff, so that means errant bits of mail with my name on that still gets delivered to them. But occasionally they bring local newspapers featuring stuff they know would interest me. This time they brought a Sunday paper from just a little over a week ago, and it stopped me in my tracks.

A short while back, in this entry, I made this little digression about TV reception in the place where I grew up and, later, spent summers. I said:

...the only station we could pick up on the portable black and white TV was an ABC affiliate that seemed to show only weather reports and a locally produced children's show, both of which were hosted by the same person.


That wasn't just me making a joke of local TV. It was true. The person was Gus Bernier, but for years I only knew him as Uncle Gus. Until I wrote that passage above, I hadn't thought about Uncle Gus in probably 30 years. And likely would not have again, except for the Sunday paper my parents brought, which announced his peaceful death in Hawaii at the age of 85. But he deserves to be remembered. I owe him a lot.

Gus was indeed the weatherman from WMUR-TV, Manchester, New Hampshire (Channel 9), but he also hosted an afternoon kids' show, which mostly featured him playing Simon Says and other games with kids who sat on waiting lists for over a year before they actually got to sit in the classroom-like set where he hosted the show.

(If this sounds pretty quirky, well WMUR was a quirky place, doing remote interviews with museum-quality equipment, having anchors suffer heart attacks on the air. There's a great story about the station here.)

I was a little, little kid when I first started watching him, and for a long time when I was older I wasn't even sure he was real: this guy who sat around in some kind of feathery alpiner's cap talking to a classroom full of kids, occasionally being interrupted by cartoons.

In fact, here he is, cap and all:

gus

Of course, the cartoons were the reason you watched, at least the reason I did. We had a lousy black and white TV and no external aerial antenna. We couldn't pick up the magical Boston UHF stations like Channel 56 and Channel 38, which ran Batman and Mighty Mouse and Speed Racer and all the shows we could only watch when we went to visit my cousins in Southie. No, for us, the only game in town was Uncle Gus, who ran classic Popeye shorts (the Fleischer Studio stuff, not the later stuff where Bluto morphed into Brutus) and some fairly exciting cartoons featuring Dick Tracy, my introduction to the character.

I have this fuzzy memory that we tried to get onto the show--

Hang on, let me check with my mom...

(how cool that I can simply yell "MAAAAAA!" and find out. Haven't done that in almost as long as I haven't seen Uncle Gus)

Okay, Mom has fact-checked me and explains that we may have looked briefly into getting on the show, but at the time the waiting list was 18 months long and she said forget it. However, she did remind me that my good friend Mike was on the show, and that I do remember. I also remember that my brother practically ulcerated to be on the show. He thought he could beat Uncle Gus in the take-no-prisoners Simon Says games the guy ran on his show. I wouldn't have bet on my brother, though.

For all the time I watched the Uncle Gus show, I never realized he was Gus Bernier, the WMUR weatherman who appeared on the early news. I didn't like watching the news. I was scared of the ads (one was for a local hardware chain whose mascot was an elephant, and the ad they ran showed a primitive outline of an elephant, along with a scary trumpeting sound, which literally gave me nightmares). But when I did watch, it was always towards the end of the broadcast, when Gus did the weather. Nice enough guy, friendly, jovial, your prototype "funny weather guy." He looked familiar, but I always thought he and Uncle Gus were two different people.

Even on the night of the special bulletin.

It was Christmas Eve, the early news was over and some ABC show was on. My brother and I were alternately watching and goofing off when suddenly the image on screen cut to one of those old-fashioned "SPECIAL BULLETIN" text cards, with the helpful but urgent voiceover that informed you--in case you missed it--that this was a SPECIAL BULLETIN from the WMUR-TV studios.

Back then, special bulletins and programming interruptions were so rare, I'm pretty sure this was the only one I can remember until the Iran hostage crisis, years later. Even my parents dropped what they were doing and came into the room.

On screen came the anchor for the early news (can't remember his name). Looking very serious. He informed the viewing public that Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth was reporting a strange phenomenon, which weatherman Gus Bernier had also seen in reviewing RADAR data from the National Weather Service (or something like that. It all sounded very serious and very official).

And then, there was Gus. Looking not as jovial as usual, but not grave either, a kindly uncle delivering news that might or might not be bad. He didn't crack smile at all when he showed viewers a dot on a grainy RADAR image which he kept calling an unidentified flying object (UFOs were huge in the 70s). Then he went to the weather map and traced the path of the UFO. It was heading south-southeast across Canada and appeared to be heading straight for The Granite State. No indication from Pease Air Force Base as to the nature of this UFO, but he promised to update viewers throughout the night as the situation developed.

And with that, they resumed the show, already in progress.

That was it. Never once was there a coy smile, a wink to parents, the obvious hamming up of the info. Never said the words "north pole" or "sleigh-like object." Gus knew how kids would react, and he totally played it straight.

And he was right. My brother and I realized that here, FINALLY, was hard evidence of the existence of Santa Claus. The hair on the back of my neck is rising just remembering. We screamed and jumped and hooted and begged to stay up for later updates, but of course my parents sent us to bed.

Over the years, I've forgotten the Uncle Gus show, and I feel a little sad that I actually remembered the man just a few weeks before he died. It would have nice to contact him somehow, and tell him that I still love Popeye cartoons. That I still remember that Christmas Eve when the oddly familiar weatherman interrupted TV to give kids the thrill of the night. Indeed, I've trotted out the story many times to my own children as proof when they question the existence of Santa.

Thanks, Uncle Gus. Simon says...wave goodbye.

Yours,
From Somewhere on the Masthead


Comments:
Oh God! I remember Uncle Gus! Talk about a blast from the past. I went to a Woman's Conference here in Boston a couple years ago and Miss Jean from Romper Room was one of the speakers! And what about Rex Trailer? Willie Whistle? (God was he annoying!) My fav was Sunday mornings though - Dave Maynard and Star of the Day. I wanted to tap dance on that show so badly.........sigh. Thanks for the trip down memory lane MM!
 
Ours was Cousin Cliff instead of Uncle Gus, but he sounds similar.

There's a book called Hi There, Boys and Girls!, about kids' TV shows like that.

Here's a pic of Cousin Cliff, from the story NPR did about the book.

And since Blogger is being mean about Comments this morning, I'm putting the one for your following post here: "Smart kid!"
 
I was ON Uncle Gus with my brother once. It was a highlight of my childhood, which of course I now have to write about. Very sad to hear about his passing. Oh, and Sharfa, Dave Maynard's show was called "Community Auditions." :-) I loved that show.
 
That's right Shane! Community Auditions! I remember the song - my officemate and I sang it this morning after I read MM's post. Damn old age - I forgot the name of the show but remembered the song...word for word.
Loved both your posts on this.
 
I know this is a wicked old post, but thank you for this trip thru the past! (And thank you for reminding me of that awful elephant sound from Aubuchon Hardware.)
 
I was searching for an image of Uncle Gus for my MySpace page and found this blog. I was on Uncle Gus too! I sang "Playmate", said happy birthday to my Dad (it was his birthday, Aug 31st..but I can't remember the year) AND I caught all the whiz rings...and won a box of Prince spaghetti, which we had for my dad's birthday dinner. It was before the days of videos and vcr's, but I remember it!

Sad to hear of his passing. Didn't he smoke too? I seem to remember him smoking, but that may have been during commercials! My sister was supposed to be on the show too, but she was too shy and chickend out. I remember the parents standing behind a glass window, watching us all. They'd pull the curtain closed while cameras were rolling though, so the kids wouldn't keep looking over at their parents or cry for them. My Mom watched on the TV in the hall while we were 'on air'.

We used to watch Community Auditions too! I remember the song well. I always wanted to be on that show. Zoom too.

Such fond memories. I grew up in Milford, NH. I wish my children could experience that small-town kind of life. Unfortunately, we live in a different world now. I hope they can reminisce about their 'Uncle Gus' someday :-)

Thanks for the walk down memory lane...2 years later.

Lisa
 
I remember Uncle Gus. I lived in Lawrence, MA and in the early 60's remember Gus Bernier playing Santa Claus on WMUR. You woud swoop down over the North Pole and all of a sudden his igloo would come into sight, then right to the window of his toy shop where he would be sitting at his table talking to Ogloo his helper. As the show went on a shoot from over his head would drop down tons of letters from the good boys and girls and he'd read some on air. He was the best. We'll all miss you Uncle Gus/Santa. Thank you.
 
Good chsist, what have I stumbled upon? I was searching Google images for a picture of Willie Whistle and found this.

Brings back memories of growing up in Natick/Framingham.

Scott Colbath
Wickenburg, Az.
 
There is no amount of love that could describe my love for Santa, even as a terrible child, I would be good all day just so my mothe rwould let me watch Santa on Chanel 9 at 5 pm in December. I love him, he gave me hope when ther was none in a dire childhood.

Thank you Santa Gus, I hope we get to meet someday and I can return all the joy you gave me.
 
Wow! Someone besides me remembers Uncle Gus! This is wicked awesome! I grew up in Haverhill, MA. Uncle Gus was super hokey, but I had to watch. Loved the cartoons. He had kid-charisma. Nice to share memories. Thanks!
 
Uncle Gus was my great uncle...my Grandmother's baby brother. He was even more awesome in real life than he ever was on TV. And my Aunt Doreen, Gus's wife, is pretty special, too. Love Steve
 
For my sixth Birthday, my mom took me, our friend Paula from next door and my litle brother to Channel 9 to be on the Uncle Gus Show. We showed up early and no one was there yet but I did notice that the UPI newswire was about 10 miles long and spread down the long, dark, cavernous hall and no one seemed to be around. My brother was only three and he was picked to crank the jack-in-the-box and it scared him when it came up. During one of the breaks, they gave us milk which tasted like it had gone bad. I remember almost every show, Uncle Gus would ask one of the kids to identify the states on his big state map and then at 5:30, channel 9 aired the oldest re-runs you'd ever ant to see (Robin Hood, etc.) I remember all the other Boston-area shows, such s Clubhouse 4, Boomtown, Bunker Hill/Bob Glover, Major Mudd.
 
For my sixth Birthday, my mom took me, our friend Paula from next door and my litle brother to Channel 9 to be on the Uncle Gus Show. We showed up early and no one was there yet but I did notice that the UPI newswire was about 10 miles long and spread down the long, dark, cavernous hall and no one seemed to be around. My brother was only three and he was picked to crank the jack-in-the-box and it scared him when it came up. During one of the breaks, they gave us milk which tasted like it had gone bad. I remember almost every show, Uncle Gus would ask one of the kids to identify the states on his big state map and then at 5:30, channel 9 aired the oldest re-runs you'd ever ant to see (Robin Hood, etc.) I remember all the other Boston-area shows, such s Clubhouse 4, Boomtown, Bunker Hill/Bob Glover, Major Mudd.
 
I would love to have a picture of Uncle Gus as Santa Claus even now over 50 years he is still Santa for me. What I wouldn't give to see a rerun of his Santa shows. Anyone who we might contact to get a photo or a copy of a rerun?
 
Many thanks worked initial time!

Also visit my blog post xerox phaser 8560n
 
Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with SEO?
I'm trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I'm not seeing very good success.
If you know of any please share. Kudos!

My web page ... best cloud hosting uk
 
There are most individuals precise errors in this
write-up and subsequently it is misinforming.

my blog :: http://Www.Mujeresdemoda.com/
 
Hello, every one there, I am making use of HP LaserJet 1500
color printer on Mac how could I take prints of multiple web
pages in Mac. I attempted all the choices and I did not succeeded in taking several pages print.
There is now concern with Hp 1500 Drivers and Hp 1500 printer software application, all are operating
fine.

Here is my web page ... xerox phaser 8560mfp
 
Thanks for developing this website. The tales
right here cost looking over oftens over in order to refresh us over and over again
to do great and beneficial points and encourage or influence others to do the same.


my web blog - kardelen-kardelen-kgn.blogspot.co.uk
 
I located something that operated! Many thanks
for your article ...

Here is my homepage; xerox phaser 8560 color printer
 
What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious knowledge regarding unexpected feelings.


Feel free to surf to my weblog ... xerox 8560 specs
 
Back in the olden days (meaning: 10 years ago) printservers would certainly frequently have their own set of information that would be appended to every printjob,
basically boosting the complication of the task.
That was occasionally adequate to make a gadget lacked memory.
I have no idea if it still makes much of a distinction nowadays.


Check out my web-site - indieberries.blogspot.com
 
I like the valuable information you supply to your articles.
I will bookmark your blog and check again right here regularly.
I am somewhat sure I will be told lots of new stuff proper here!
Best of luck for the next!

my blog post best web host
 
Many thanks for this solution!

Here is my weblog - xerox phaser 8560 error codes
 
I wish to downloads printer driver for Hp Laserjet 1020.


Also visit my weblog ... Xerox phaser 8560 error codes [vb-mundo.com]
 
Howdy! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers?
I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've worked hard on.
Any recommendations?

my homepage LG 42LS5600 LED TV
 
Post a Comment



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Blogarama - The Blog Directory Listed on BlogShares