Editor’s Note: This is part five in a series about Mitch Agruss and other kiddie show hosts, who brought joy to many young television viewers in the Sacramento Valley.
Mitch Agruss, who was featured in the first four parts of this series, was once described in an article in The Sacramento Bee as “the dean of Sacramento children’s show hosts.” And in tribute to other local television kiddie show hosts of the past, the following summaries are presented:
As previously noted in this series, Agruss was known in East Sacramento and throughout the valley for his endearing presentations as Cap’n Mitch, and Cap’n Delta, “Skipper of the Valley Queen.” In November 1966, after five years of working as Cap’n Delta, Agruss resigned from that position at Channel 13, and he was replaced by Fair Oaks native and lifelong Sacramento County resident Charlie Duncan.
Duncan, who had experience reading children’s stories on the radio, was asked by Channel 13 to temporarily fill the void left by the departure of Agruss.
Duncan explained that his position as Cap’n Delta grew into a permanent role.
“I went in on an emergency basis, so I just kind of picked up Mitch’s style and interviewed kids, gave away prizes and just enjoyed myself,” Duncan said. “I loved the kids and I had no problem with them at all. I ended up (as the show’s host) for four and a half years, almost five (years).”
In 1970, Eleanor McClatchy selected Duncan, who was a graduate of Sacramento State College (today’s Sacramento State University), to serve as the curator of her historical collection. He eventually worked at the Sacramento History Center, which opened at Front and I streets in Old Sacramento in 1985.
In recalling his work for McClatchy, Duncan said, “She was very interested in history and in drama, and I was in over 30 plays at the Eaglet Theater (which operated next to the Music Circus). I just kind of stayed in touch with television for about five years, and Eleanor McClatchy wanted me to become the curator of newspapers and printing (archives). Eleanor had a tremendous collection of old newspapers and early California and Sacramento artifacts and it was my job to display them. I spent another 20 years working for her, and 42 years with KFBK and KOVR.”
Duncan, who has two sons and a daughter who were born at Sutter Memorial Hospital in East Sacramento, retired in 1995 and now resides with his wife, Shirley, in the old Arcade area of the city.
James Henry “Jim” Keating
Following Duncan’s time as Cap’n Delta on Channel 13, James Henry “Jim” Keating replaced him in that role.
Jim, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native who was a former child actor, television announcer and radio disc jockey, came to California in the early 1960s and worked for KOVR from 1967 to 1987. His Cap’n Delta tenure lasted until the show’s cancellation in 1973.
His son, who is also named Jim, recalled having the opportunity to be a guest on his father’s show.
“I was actually on the show one time,” the younger Jim said. “I believe I was about 6. I was in first grade, I think it was. When you got done, it was great. You have a TV personality who’s your dad and does a kid show, and we were kids. There was all this excitement and the prizes. You had the treasure trove. Everybody went home with something, and it wasn’t just one thing for you. It was one for you and one to share with a friend. It was fantastic. All of a sudden I was on this show, and a friend of mine went on the show after that. (Other kids would say), ‘You’re Cap’n Delta’s son.’ Well, that lasts until you’re in about the third grade, then from then on it was a little teasing. But it was like I had this idol for a dad.”
Later in his life, the eldest Jim performed in nine musicals with the Stockton Civic Theater and won three Willie Awards for his work as the best leading and supporting actor.
He was also a lead singer with the Stockton Portsmen Chorus.
The eldest Jim passed away on July 31, 2012, about a month shy of his 86th birthday.
Billie M. “Tiny” Moore
Billie M. “Tiny” Moore achieved his greatest fame as a country swing mandolinist, contributing to recordings and live performances of such musical artists as Bob Wills and Merle Haggard. But he also obtained notoriety as a kiddie show host.
During the pioneering era of television, on Channel 10, Moore became involved with a live music show called “The Ranch House Party.”
The show was cancelled after a 13-week run and Moore was asked to host a kiddie show on the station.
Moore, who was born in Hamilton County, Texas and moved to Sacramento in the early 1950s, accepted the offer and took on the role of the guardian of the trees, Ranger Roy.
Joining Moore on the show was a little monkey named Anna Banana and a donkey known as Ten Chan.
The Ranger Roy show aired from 1956 to 1960, when the program ended due to a labor dispute.
Moore’s life in music also included teaching music at Ye Music Shoppe in Town and Country Village, operating Tiny Moore Music Center at 2331 El Camino Ave., teaching group guitar lessons at the YMCA at 2228 21st St. and making college-level music instruction videos. He also won the senior division of the prestigious National Fiddle Championships in Weiser, Idaho, in the summer of 1987, and was the original choir director of the First Baptist Church in Carmichael.
Moore, who was humorously, yet affectionately known as “Tiny” due to his large size, died on stage of an apparent heart attack during a performance in Jackpot, Nev. on Dec. 15, 1987. He was 67.
Norman L. Bales
In addition to attending night classes at the McGeorge College of Law (today’s McGeorge School of Law), Norman L. Bales hosted Channel 10’s children’s television show, “Diver Dan.”
This 1960s show featured the helmeted diver, Diver Dan, played by Bales, and a school of talking marionette fish.
The set of the live show was a sunken boat known as the “Channel Tender.”
Diver Dan’s sidekick on the show was O.U. Squid, a marionette squid character that was operated from atop a ladder.
A consistent part of the show was Diver Dan’s adventures in overcoming the evil Baron Barracuda and his sidekick Trigger, a turtleneck sweater-wearing, cigarette-smoking fish character.
Bales spent 12 years on Channel 10’s staff before graduating from McGeorge, passing the state bar exam and becoming a Sacramento County public defender.
Bales, a Texas native who moved to Sacramento with his family when he was 8 years old, passed away at the age of 50 on Sept. 17, 1981 after suffering an apparent heart attack in his home.