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Uncle Fred Sayles
"Uncle Fred" Sayles was a d.j. on WAAT, (later WNTA) while hosting "Junior Frolics" on Newark, N.J.'s WATV 13. The radio station and tv were affiliated.  

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I too remember a lot. My father was Fred Sayles. He passed away a few years ago. I have quite a collection of photos, but no video. I would love to find any old kinescopes. Any ideas?

My Dad also had a news show with Mike Wallace in the early 60's called "Dialing the News". It was broadcast live from Newark on Channel 13 . That was before any video playback. The phone would ring at the opening of the show and either my Dad or Mike would pick it up say "Hello" and start telling the day's events. They played audio clips and used still photos.

- Wende


During the 1950s weekdays at 5 pm, everyone watched Junior Frolics, so everyone knew Fred Sayles. I was lucky enough to interview him twice, once in the early 1970s when he still did a 7:58 am daily weather spot at 7:58 AM on New York Channel 13, where he served as an announcer for years. I interviewed him a second time in the late 1980s just after he retired.

Fred was working for Newark radio station WAAT when the company applied for and won Newark's TV franchise, channel 13. Fred became what some people called a "one-man TV station". At one point he did 18 shows a week, all unscripted -- including news and sportscasting.

But he is best remembered for hosting "Junior Frolics", the most successful show Channel 13 ever had as a commercial station. The station bought some 300 silent-era cartoons when "Junior Frolics" when on the air in 1948. They used 4 a day, 20 a week as a half-hour show. Later, "Junior Frolics" was extended to one hour and a studio audience of kids was added. Fred sat with them and introduced the cartoons. Then they used 48 cartoons a week and ran through the entire stock every seven weeks.

In the beginning, no one knew if there were viewers out there or not. Then the station learned that one of its advertisers, a company selling plastic toy soldiers, was getting 3,000 orders a day. Up to that point, Fred said the station had been charging about $20 a spot to advertise.

During the 1950s, the name of the show was ultimately changed to "Junior Town" with Fred as mayor. It remained on the air, a staple of New York kids' TV, until 1957.

- John Bendle


In addition to Farmer Gray and Bobby Bumps, Uncle Fred sometimes showed Out of the Inkwell, a series of pioneering live action-animation shorts by Max Fleischer. These were silent films which usually started with Max Fleischer sitting at his desk and opening his ink bottle and drawing KoKo the Clown. KoKo then took on a life of his own and played tricks on Fleischer until KoKo finally was tricked into jumping back into the ink bottle which Fleischer immediately securely corked.

I was amazed to read John Bendle's letter which said Junior Frolics had 3,000 cartoons and only repeated them every 7 weeks. I can remember watching the show every day between Christmas and New Year's Eve, 1949 and seeing the same cartoons three times in that week. One in particular stands out in my mind: it was entitled "Hunting in 1950". Despite its setting in the future, there was nothing resembling science fiction in it, just the usual cats, mice and Farmer Gray.

- A Reader

Uncle Fred Sayles

In 1949, UNCLE FRED on JUNIOR FROLICS was never seen and had no peanut gallery. His sole function was to provide a running explanation of the action in the silent cartoons he showed. Given the terrible signal WATV put out, this was a wise precaution as the video reception often left a lot to be desired.

In addition to FARMER GRAY cartoons (or FARMER ALFALFA to the pedants who insist on using Paul Terry's original name for the character), the show featured BOBBY BUMPS cartoons. Some years later, the Walt Disney show had a history of the animated cartoon. We were surprised to see that BOBBY BUMPS was now considered an early crude attempt at animation dating from 1912, right after Gertie the Dinosaur.

The only talking cartoons I remember from 1949-1950 were on WABD where PAT MEIKLE and BIG BROTHER BOB EMORY shared them, all 3 of them. They were as follows:

1. Happy elves sang "Sunshine, sunshine, I just love the good old golden sunshine" until the mean guys came along and sang "We're happy when we're sad; we're always feeling bad" and squirted black stuff all over everybody and made them sad. The elves struck back and shot bottled sunshine at the bad guys who now sang "We're gonna be happy and gay and never again be gray."

2. A middle aged dog who walked upright and wore pince-nez, danced through a field and sang "Butterflies, butterflies, I'm a collector of butterflies. I swing my net and catch them as they flutter by."

3. The same middle aged dog, who was now a hobo who saw a pie cooling on a window sill, ascertained from the simple old woman who lived in the home that her husband wouldn't be home for hours. The dog burst into the house and held the woman and a little boy captive.

There were also occasionally GEORGE PAL's PUPPETOONS, figures that moved a la GUMBY or TOY STORY. The first FROSTY THE SNOWMAN and PETER COTTONTAIL were 3 minute fillers using this process. They were shown between programs when the station had not been able to fill up the time with commercials. SUZY SNOWFLAKE was another one. I can also remember JACK LESCOULIE with a dummy on his lap doing entr'actes.

Other fillers were:
A boy sang "I want a television Christmas, a world of magic all my own." He wasn't selling a particular brand (such as "Motorola TV, Motorola TV. Motorola, Motorola, Motorola TV."), he was just trying to convince the viewers (obviously freeloaders in a TV owner's house) to go out a buy their own TVs.

A cartoon showed a trapeze artist named JOE refusing, while in mid air, to allow himself to be caught by the opposite trapeze artist who had swung out to meet him because a sign flashed on the man's face that read "wrong religion." Incredibly, JOE got another chance. This time, the sign on the man's face said "wrong race." JOE refused him, too. JOE got one more chance but it was wrong something else. That was it: as JOE hung suspended in mid air, the announcer said "Oh, JOE, you schmo" and JOE fell. The announcer sang "Don't be a schmo, Joe. Be in the know, Joe. Religion and race just don't count in this place. Remember that, Joe, you won't fall on your face."

I could go on but the present calls. I close with this warning: "Stand back away from your televisionary sets."

- Mike H.


Farmer Grey cartoons appeared frequently on a Newark,NJ based kids show called "Junior Frollics". My Brownie Scout troop made a "field trip" and appeared in the "peanut gallery", but for reasons I can't recall why I didn't go with them.

I wonder if anyone remembers another ancient cartoon, much more complex technically than Farmer Grey, which portrayed a bunch of elf-like characters who left milk bottles filled with sunshine. When the grumply troll-like characters didn't drink up voluntarily, the elves poured the bright stuff down their throats as the troll grumbled, "But I don't wanna be happy!" (And they wonder why our generation listened to Timothy Leary. . .)

- a reader


"In the 1950's WATV's Junior Frolics ran on weekdays and substituted on weekends with Junior Carnival with Uncle Steve (Hollis). The formats were the same, but some of the cartoon characters' names were often changed. For example, Uncle Fred's Farmer Grey was Uncle Steve's Farmer Alfalfa.

They both narrated the silent cartoons. This seemed to reflect a rivalry between the two.

Fred Sayles also announced wrestling matches from Newark's Laurel Gardens while Steve Hollis often read the news on the radio station. I don't know what became of Sayles, but Hollis survived the stations transition to "educational TV." He was seriously wounded by gunshot in his office by an irate former employee. He died in the late 70's."

- Peter V

 

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