Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ahoy, Ahab!

Long Island's Channel 67 has been around awhile, with incarnations as a shopping channel, low-rent music video channel, and Wometco Home Theater outlet. It began, however, as WSNL, a station meant to cater to Long Islanders who wanted local news and broadcasting. Debuting in 1973, that programming ideal only lasted about two years. I was too young to be fiddling with the UHF dial, so I don't recall any of their programming.

In my effort to keep the peculiar and obscure around, I'd like to commemorate Captain Ahab, WSNL's kiddie show which enjoyed a run from the station's inception, Thanksgiving week 1973 until its demise in June of 1975. His eponymous weekday show was described as "Ahab hosts a dockside cartoon fest," and Saturday's Wonderama-style megashow (this one called "Ahab and Friends") was "cartoons, puppets, games, birthdays and songs."

I'll let a 1974 Newsday TV Line question-and-answer column fill you in on the identity of Captain, thanks to the curiosity of C.H. of Hauppage and E.M. of Coram. (Click on the pic to see it larger than actual size.)


" [Captain Ahab is] George McCaskey, a member of the board of trustees of the Northport-East Northport School District, where he has lived with his wife Lydia and daughter Pamela (a ten-year-old aspiring actress) since 1957. He is a volunteer counselor, board member and vice president of the Narcotics Guidance Council and operates smoking control clinics. Born and raised in New York, George graduated from Long Island University, attended law school and studied at TV Workshop. He has appeared in TV and stage productions, is a former police officer, news reporter, news photographer and insurance investigator. At one time he even taught elementary school in the Beford-Stuyvesant School District. Channel 67 tells us George walked in looking for a slot on the news team and he fit the qualifications for the Captain Ahab role so well that he was signed on the spot."(I'm wondering if by saying he "fit the qualifications," they really meant the costume, like Greg Brady getting the Johnny Bravo gig.)

McCaskey had a half-hour every afternoon and then a three-and-a-half hour program on Saturday mornings. I'm guessing it was a mixture of restless tots, public domain cartoons and Wonderama-type games and guests. In the fall of 1974, the Captain was joined on the line-up by Mary Kelly's Puppet Party, and after a while his marathon Saturday show shrank to a meager thirty minutes.

McCaskey died on February 8th, 2008. To my knowledge, he was not buried at sea. I learned of McCaskey's passing from an obituary written by his daughter. I contacted her and she was kind enough to offer these reminiscences, slightly edited by me:

Capt. Ahab was a three-hour children's show as you may have mentioned. The Good Captain, played by George T. McCaskey, was a total pissa on the show. He always had a great sense of humor.

The set was a remake of Ahab's sailing ship. Captain Ahab would welcome all of us to his show, which ran live out of the WSNL studio. He had guests, cartoons, puppets, bubble-blowing contests and many other things to entertain his guests at the studio and at home.

As his daughter, I did happen to master the bubble-blowing contest. He gave out large amounts of Bazooka gum. The winner had to blow the biggest bubble first. The trick was to suck out as much as the sugar as possible, as quickly as possible. The end result was a beautifully round bubble that often popped on your face and hair (which created other issues). The winner would get great prizes donated by our sponsors--action figures, food items, gift certificates, etc.

Every show he would have fun music playing in the background and greet and interview everyone who came to the show. That segment was called "Meet the Crew." That was always a treat because Capt. Ahab would speak to each child on the set and in the audience. He would ask their name, age, likes and dislikes, sometimes asking if they were married and getting a huge laugh from the crowd. The facial expressions were priceless.

Here is a picture of Capt. Ahab with his bird on his shoulder...


The bird had a very tiny little chain on its foot so that he would not fly away. It was attached to Georgie's vest. We had to dry clean his fancy vest almost every day due to the bird droppings on his back.

The show was directed by Andy Wayman, who went on to CBS or NBC and did many daytime dramas along with other stuff.

Growing up as the daughter of Capt. Ahab was really cool. There was lots of excitement, not only on the Ahab set but also around the rest of the studio. There was a cooking show
[that would be "Chef Nicola," hosted by Nicola Zanghi], so the studio always smelled of something good. Then after my Dad's show the "Home Handyman" came on. He was David G. McDonough, who now represents District 19 in the New York State Assembly, which comprises communities located within Nassau County, New York. He and George became good friends and also business associates. Dave worked for my father for years at his collection agency, which is now owned and run by my husband and I.

I wish I had a copy of his actual show. We used to have them but they were on these huge reel-to-reel tapes that are ancient by now.

Thanks for taking me down memory lane!!


And any Long Islanders with memories of the show (or WSNL), please do leave some comments...

10 Comments:

Blogger Bruce said...

I remember WSNL. Wow, a long time ago. That had their own studio audiences. News to I believe. Long Island Cablevision picked up channel 67, as I could not get it over the air in eastern Long Island. An independent station that just could not make it.

Mon Dec 07, 07:49:00 PM 2009  
Blogger nicola said...

hey it's me- chef nicola
write anybody
n.a.zanghi@gmail.com

Mon Feb 01, 10:44:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Nancy said...

This is Nancy Kaplan, and wow!! - talk about another lifetime. I was one of five directors hired to work at WSNL-TV back in 1973. Looking back, everyone who worked there had a blast doing mostly live and live-on-tape TV with the very latest of equipment. It was local television personified, in addition to lots of syndicated shows and movies. Local news, sports, talk, variety, public affairs.... There was even a short-lived soap opera - THE FAIRCHILDS OF LONG ISLAND! (I was the director. The actors were locals and unpaid. We shot on location on weekends and in the studio in the evenings. I didn't have an office, and I remember sitting in the ladies' room one afternoon doing rewrites when one of the actors coudn't make it in because she had to attend a student-teacher conference for one of her kids!) We all worked our tails off, often 'round the clock; we so wanted this station to succeed.
Unfortunately, cable had not yet permeated the marketplace and most viewers didn't bother trying to watch UHF. WSNL-TV was on ch. 67.

Sun Feb 21, 06:55:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Michael McCullough said...

I remember the Captain Ahab show. Does anyone know if there are tapes of the show in an archive somewhere? I would love to watch them again.
Thanks,
mccullough.michaelj@gmail.com

Mon Feb 22, 08:17:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Kellianne said...

Well I have a personal reason for wanting to see some show archives....lol. I recall that when I was in the 6th grade we put on a production of "A Christmas Carol" at Lynwood Avenue Elementary in Farmingville, NY. Everyone seemed to like the production and somehow, we got to put the play on in the studio. This was a very exciting thing for us in 1974, (or 75. I played the part of Mrs. Cratchet. I would so love to show my children and grandchildren my acting debut..lol. Please feel free to contact me at Peppercorns@4042.com

Tue Feb 22, 03:37:00 AM 2011  
OpenID spacey said...

My name is George Dumper and I was a cameraman on the Captain Ahab show. He used to play Dueling Tubas and make believe I was playing it while doing camera. He would say that's George Dumper world famous cameraman and musician. People even asked about me in his fan mail. Because I looked like a younger version of him people joked he was my father. I'm so sad to hear he has died. It would have been great to talk to him. My email is gdumper@aol.com if anyone want's to get in touch with me.

Mon Dec 12, 09:00:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Dejavu said...

This is awesome! I lived in the neighborhood were WSNL channel 67 had it's studio and I was on the show back in 72 I believe it was. I won the dance contest!!! I would love to be able to see that and show my children. If anyone knows how or where to find clips of the show I would certainly love to see them again!!

Wed Jan 04, 01:07:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Joel Peresmik said...

Hi This is Joel Peresmik and I was on the staff of Long Island Tonight with Richard Hall. Nancy Kaplan was one of our directors. Great times and good memories. Its a shame the station didn't make it, LOng Island could have used a local station.

Thu Aug 02, 06:03:00 PM 2012  
Blogger johnboy said...

I worked at Channel 67 when it came back on the air with 4 hours a day of commercial TV and the rest was PAY-TV. I was there Sept. 1980-81. I could tell that 67 was just a shadow of what it used to be. In Jan. 1981 we became a semi-satellite of WWHT-TV/68 our sister sister station in Newark, N.J. during the commercial part of the day. Eventually Channel 67 became a 100% repeater of 68 under various formats (Music Videos,then Home Shopping and finally Spanish which is what it still is today.

Tue Apr 30, 06:58:00 PM 2013  
Blogger Joyce Keller said...

Hi, Everybody! It's me! Joyce Keller! Do you remember "Trim & Slim?" I am still a yoga teacher, still hoping we will all stay healthy and fit! Check out my website, www.JoyceKeller.com WSNL-TV was a great start for all of us! I still have all the fan mail! Thank you! - Joyce www.JoyceKeller.com

Thu Jan 02, 02:08:00 AM 2014  

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