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Carnett: Sheriff John brings back fond memories

October 22, 2012|By Jim Carnett

A childhood hero of mine passed away recently: Sheriff John.

Emmy Award-winning "Sheriff" John Rovick — bedecked in a crisp khaki uniform, sheriff's badge and khaki Stetson — hosted a daily cartoon show for kids on KTTV (Channel 11) throughout the 1950s and '60s.

I started watching his 5:30 p.m. show, "Cartoon Time," in 1952 at the age of 7.

The following year KTTV introduced the midday (11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) "Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade." It was geared for 4- and 5-year-olds.

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I watched "Lunch Brigade" whenever I was home from school with the flu. Sheriff John showed cool cartoons, like "Crusader Rabbit" and "Porky Pig" — never those primitive 1930s "Felix the Cat" episodes.

Every day on "Lunch Brigade" he'd read a long list of kids' names who were celebrating birthdays. He'd sometimes include a personal message, like, "You have a present waiting for you under your bed," or, "Remember to eat your vegetables." The advice always carried special weight because it emanated from Sheriff John.

The highlight of the program was the singing of Sheriff John's birthday jingle after the names were read:

"Put another candle on my birthday cake / We're gonna bake a birthday cake / Put another candle on my birthday cake / I'm another year old today."

By the fall of 1958, "Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade" was much too infantile for this sophisticated ninth-grader and his buddies, Tom Rudd and Jim Jakes (names have been changed to protect the innocent). We were 13.

Sometime that fall, Jim celebrated his 14th birthday. Rudd and I plotted a practical joke. It took considerable preparation for two slightly obtuse 13-year-olds.

Three weeks before the birthday, we wrote a letter to Sheriff John asking him to read Jim's name during the birthday segment of his show. We signed the missive "Mrs. Jakes," and further requested that he please tell "little Jimmie not to forget to drink his milk."

On the day of Jim's birthday, the three of us got passes from school to eat lunch at my home.

We rode our bikes 10 minutes to my house and got there in time to bound through the door and turn on the TV.

I told the guys it would be a hoot to watch "Lunch Brigade" as we ate the sandwiches my mom had prepared.

Jim seemed to think the idea rather lame, but Tom and I stifled giggles because we knew what was about to happen. We arranged our TV trays in front of us, and soon Sheriff John commenced reading the birthday greetings.

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