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WPIX Thanksgiving Day Jubilees
by Kevin Butler

Thanksgiving Day TV Shows / Officer Joe BoltonNovember 24, 2010 will mark the 50th anniversary of the debut of one of New York City's most popular and enduring holiday TV traditions, WPIX 11's Thanksgiving Day Jamboree.

Unlike WNEW TV 5's "Wonderama Thanksgiving Day Parties" which were impersonal, the setting for Channel 11's Thanksgiving Day celebrations were set against the backdrop of the living room of a private house.

Captain Jack McCarthyAnd the atmosphere was fun, light and engaging as WPIX's two top kid's show performers Officer Joe Bolton and Captain Jack McCarthy invited the children from St. Barnabas House (a foster home on Manhattan's lower East side) to participate in sing-a-longs, story time, craft making, informational segments.

They also had contests where the kids played the games from the show's sponsors, the Louis J. Marx and Deluxe Redding/Topper Toys Companies.

These segments were wrapped around the Popeye movie cartoon "Pilgrim Popeye", The Three Stooges film comedy "Back To The Woods", TV shows "Jeff's Collie" ("Lassie") and "Casey Jones" among others.

At the end of the program Officer Joe and Captain Jack would invite the children to sit down and enjoy a turkey dinner with them.

The very first "Thanksgiving Day Jamboree" was such a hit with the viewers that TV 11 decided to air another show on Thursday November 23, 1961, this time the films screened were UPA's "Dick Tracy" cartoons, "Supercar" puppet adventure films, ""Rocky & Bullwinkle" and "Popeye" cartoons along with "The Three Stooges".

Again, the show was a success and Bolton and McCarthy returned for another "Thanksgiving Day Jamboree" on Thursday, November 22, 1962. (On these latter two specials Bolton, who was then hosting "The Dick Tracy Show" appeared as Police Chief Joe Bolton.)

In the fall of 1963 all commercial TV programming was pre-empted to cover the investigation into the murder of President John F. Kennedy, hence, "The Thanksgiving Day Jamboree" was pre-empted that year.

The show was also pre-empted in the fall of 1964 so that Channel 11 could screen the 1949 movie version of "Alice In Wonderland" starring Carol Marsh, the voice of actor Peter Bull and The Louis Bunin Puppets.

It was not until the fall of 1965 that the station decided to bring the party back to the New York kids. For these outings Captain Jack was unavailable so actress/ singer/ puppeteer / cartoonist Carol Corbett succeeded him as "Officer Joe's" co-host. (Ms. Corbett began her stint on Channel 11 months earlier as the fourth and last host of "The Mighty Hercules Show," later "The Carol Corbett Show")

Together the two would entertain and inform their viewers and the kids from St. Barnabas House while screening a "Popeye" cartoon, a "The Three Stooges"film comedy," "Dick Tracy" cartoons, and King Features' "Barney Google & Snuffy Smith", "Krazy Kat", "Mighty Hercules", "Koko The Clown" and "Beetle Bailey" cartoons along with "Gumby" puppet films.

WPIX aired "Thanksgiving Day Jamborees" on Thursday November 25, 1965, November 24, 1966 and on November 27, 1967.

On the Thursday, November 18, 1968 broadcast, instead of showing the lighter film programming of the previous years Ms. Corbett and Officer Joe screened the Filmation "Superman and "Superboy" TV cartoons and "The Mighty Hercules" TV toons for the viewers and the in studio guests.

In the fall of 1969 Channel 11 decided not to air "The Thanksgiving Day Jamboree," instead they aired the second annual "Fun & Games Day" special (WPIX TV aired the first a "Fun & Games Day" special on Sunday, February 2, 1969 with Bolton and McCarthy as the hosts).

On the Sunday November 30, 1969 show Officer Joe and Captain Jack had a studio audience of kids engaged in a series of competitions where teams of youngsters tried to successfully win at board games provided by the show's sponsor, the Ideal Toy Company.

The team that won the game in the least amount of time would win a treasure chest of Ideal toys and games for the members of the team and for the studio audience. The hosts would also choose winners from entries that were mailed in by home viewers.

Officer Joe and Captain Jack introduced reruns of "Popeye", "Gigantor", "Kimba The White Lion" TV Cartoons, "Stingray" TV puppet adventure films, "The Abbott & Costello TV Show", "The Adventures Of Superman", "Gumby", "Skippy The Bush Kangaroo" and "Mack & Myer For Hire."

WPIX had wanted to air a "Thanksgiving Day Jamboree" that season with more toy promotions and less entertainment and informational segments but the show's producer/director Irv Jarvis along with Bolton and McCarthy objected to the idea of nothing more than a toy giveaway program.

Officer Joe & Captain Jack hosted the final "Thanksgiving Day Jamboree" in the fall of 1970, minus the entertainment and informational segments. After the broadcast of this final program, WPIX TV decided to end this holiday tradition.

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