Sheriff John Taught Me Well
Growing up in the 50’ and 60’s was a lot different than growing up today. Even my kids, who did all of their growing up in the 80’s and 90’s found their growing up to be different than it was for me, after listening to my stories…over and over again.
I grew up in the Los Angeles area, in Inglewood, to be more specific. My life during my childhood was idyllic, the typical American “Leave It to Beaver” household. There was a plethora of kids of all ages on my street, and we had a great time growing up. Our routine was always the same, riding bikes after school and playing outside all day Saturday. But no one came out of their houses until after 10:00am. At 10am, all of the “good” Saturday morning cartoons were over. They began with Bugs Bunny and ended with Mighty Mouse. But the best show on T.V. wasn’t on Saturday mornings; it was during the week at 11:30am. It was “Sheriff John’s Lunch Brigade”. If ever you stayed home sick, you watched Sheriff John.
Sheriff John was an icon of my youth. He was an L.A. local, and those of you that never lived in L.A. from 1955 to 1971, never had the good fortune of the Sheriff John experience. Sheriff John actually cared about us as kids. He cared about content and what we were learning and watching on T.V.
His show was a live broadcast that ran for an hour. During this hour, he showed a few cartoons, he read aloud the letters that kids would send him every day and on their birthdays, he would make sure that they were mentioned on TV. But most importantly, at 12:00 noon, he sat down to lunch with a sandwich and big glass of milk and he would say grace. I remember sitting with my cousins and brothers and saying grace with him through the TV set.
Sheriff John also had a checklist for every kid to participate in. The checklist included doing your chores, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, doing your homework, cleaning your room and respecting your parents. John was an incredibly positive influence on my brothers and me during our childhood. The biggest treat that any kid of that era could experience was to be on his show for his or her birthday. My brothers and I were all lucky enough to do so. My two brothers were on his show together in 1956 when the circus came to town, and I was on his show for my 5th birthday in 1962.
But many years have passed since then. It has been nearly 49 years since I was on his show, and even longer for my brothers. I often find myself doing something in my daily routine that was instilled in me by Sheriff John. When my wife and I were raising our kids, I would so often see his influence in the way I handled certain situations, or the way I would explain things to them. I even made them a checklist like he had.
I experienced a special treat in 2001. I was looking for a special gift for my brother’s 50th birthday, and decided that I would try to locate Sheriff John to see if he could pay dear brother a visit for his birthday. As it turned out, John was retired in Boise, Idaho, a little too far to walk in to my brother’s Optometry office in Los Angeles. So I called him.
I explained who I was and that I was once on his show for my 5th birthday in 1962 and the first question out of his mouth was “What did you grow up to be?” He was deeply concerned on how he may have affected my life in a positive way. Being in his 80’s at that point, he still had a deep caring and concern for the direction that youth was taking. We had a nice long talk, and then I asked him for a favor.
The next day was my brother’s birthday. I asked John if he would call him up and sing the “Sheriff John Happy Birthday Song”. He was more than happy to. I called my brother’s office and talked to one of his staff and told them to make sure that he was free right at 10AM. When I told her why, she was ecstatic. She too was a big Sheriff John fan. It was going to be a surprise to him.
Well, when he called, the entire office staff was in his private office waiting for him to answer the phone. They insisted he use the speaker phone so all could hear. My brother could not believe his ears. It actually brought a tear to his eyes. After the initial singing and laughter, he and John had a good long talk, and my brother eased John’s mind of a pending eye surgery he was having in the few days following.
The things that can make a lifetime impact on a young child’s life are sometimes the last thing you think of. It is so important to pay attention to what your children are doing or what they are watching or looking at on the TV. It is so much harder to monitor them now with the advent of all of the ultra-modern technology, it’s not like the old days of my youth when all we had were 7 broadcast channels on the TV set and the censors were running wild.
And to Mr. John Rovick, if you are still around, I owe you one. Thanks for the teachings, the wise words and for the morals and confidence you helped my parents instill in me. You will never be forgotten by any of our L.A. generation.
© 2011 by Del Banks