Wiscononite Bob March was only 25 years old when he became Captain Satellite. KTVU,
an up-and-coming Oakland-based television station, hired him in 1958 to create and
host an afternoon kid’s show, where he would interact with young children, introduce
cartoons and sneak in some educational material as well—and he did it all LIVE, five
days a week.
Originally, Captain Satellite’s on-air rocketship was called the Starfinder II, and
was a pretty low-budget affair. The set had been assembled from whatever odds and
ends were available: pie tins, garden hoses, and so on.
Eventually, the set was upgraded to the saucer-shaped Laser II, where the Captain
and his crew of three local kids (different ones each day), would enter through the
airlock to take their places at the four-seat control panel. Then the Captain would
talk his crew through the elaborate pre-launch checklist.
The “clear-the-launchpad” alarm was sounded. The astral radar scope was activated.
The port and starboard computers were brought online, as was the celestial navigation
system. The final alarm was sounded, and the countdown would begin.
“5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Launch! FULL POWER!”
Cut to the pretaped footage of a saucer-shaped model lifting off from a circular
launchpad, then climbing skyward.
“Stand by for acceleration! Switching to stardrive!”
By now, stars (or at least blinking lights) would be visible through the Laser II’s
windows (despite the fact that the model had no windows).
For the remainder of the hour, Captain Satellite would feature cartoons (moldy-oldies
from the 1930s, along with 1960s comic-strip based cheapies), contests, updates on
the NASA space program, and commercials (heavy on toys and breakfast cereals).
The show ran for a decade, due in no small part to March’s enthusiastic personality.
He would occasionally crack himself up with bits of silliness, such as recommending
“peanut butter and bubble gum sandwiches! They stick to your ribs—and everything
After Captain Satellite said “over and out!” for the last time in 1968, March moved
on to hosting the morning edition of KTVU’s Dialing for Dollars, which featured reruns
of old sitcoms, such as The Patty Duke Show and Make Room For Daddy. March would
draw tiny slips of paper from a drum; these slips had been cut from “the nine Bay
Area telephone directories,” and he would phone one of the numbers. If the person
answered the phone (which they often didn’t) and could correctly tell March “the
count and the amount,” they would win a modest jackpot.
In 1973, March briefly made it to the big screen in Magnum Force, the second film
in the “Dirty Harry” series. The film opens with an infamous mobster’s case being
dismissed on a technicality. The mobster is positively smug. The prosecuting attorney
(played by March) is bitter. He tells the assembled reporters:
“This has happened before. It will probably happen again. I have no more comments!”
March returned to school and received his Masters Degree in marriage and family counseling.
He has since retired, and, at last report, is living in El Dorado County.
Captain Satellite’s direct competition was The Mayor Art Show, which ran on KRON
from 1959 to 1966.
As embodied by the amiable Art Finley, Mayor Art wore a high hat and tails. Each
of the three-or-four dozen children in the “City Council,” the on-camera studio audience,
would receive a gray high hat of their own, with their name Magic Markered onto the
As with Captain Satellite, cartoons were the order of the day, including the never-to-be-forgotten
Popeye, and the never-to-be-remembered Q. T. Hush.
Findley’s hosting style was more frenetic and slapstick than March’s. For instance,
he had a hand puppet sidekick named Ring-a-Ding, a bird who lived in a cuckoo clock.
Before the sketch was over, you could bet that Ring-a-Ding would viciously bite the
Mayor’s nose once or twice!
Mayor Art had his own vocabulary: the handheld microphone was “the salt shaker,”
and unsafe activities were condemned as being “danger-ROO-so.” Each episode ended
with the Mayor saying “We’ll be seeing you…”
“SUB-SE-QUENT-LY!” the kids of the “City Council” would finish.
Shortly after Mayor Art ended, Finley was given the thankless task of hosting KRON’s
short-lived Pick-a-Show, which seemed to be a game show, but was really a half-hour
promotion for the evening NBC shows. Finley would phone people at home, and ask
them to guess if the "X" was behind the picture of (for example) The Dean Martin
Show, Laugh-in or I Dream of Jeannie. A right guess would win you a whopping five
dollars. Making it the final round, which was almost unheard of, would net the contestant
Finley went on to great success as a talk radio host, both in the United States and
Canada. He retired from public life in 1995.