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One from the heart... to Carol and Cookie, wherever they are

(Talk of the Town image provided)
A fondly remembered WKJG team hosted 'Carol and Corkie.' Carol Popp, a former Miss Indiana, was the human half of this duo; Corkie was a hand puppet with a head modified from a doll representing Bob Clampett's famous Beany (of '... and Cecil' fame.)  Carol and her snub-nosed sidekick actually made their TV debut in Indianapolis during her college days, but brought their gentle rapport to Fort Wayne and WKJG (note: Channel 33 first Ft. Wayne station established in November of 1953) from 1953 to 1956, sponsored by Sunbeam Bread and the Perfection Biscuit Company.

By Susie Duncan Sexton

Dear Carol & Corkie,

Time passes too quickly. More than 60 years ago, I rushed home from another tedious yet edgy school day, quite impatient with our West Ward School's patrol boys (crossing "guards") always impeding my progress. So anxious to rip off their plastic yellow banner-straps strung across their little, puffed up chests! Your 15 minute show, "Carol & Corkie" sponsored by Ft. Wayne's Perfection Biscuit Company, broadcast over our black and white television in the most consequential corner of the living room, would commence momentarily. I hastily tossed aside my winter "wrap" and pried off my boots, hurling all those free-spirit-defying garments into a heap at the front door, day after day -- and plopped down inches away from the screen. Beautiful you, and your personally crafted, elfin, hand puppet Corkie nodding his head to every word uttered, appeared after a pregnant pause as the Zenith warmed up sufficiently and morphed into rather blurry images of my two favorite people. Corkie's mitten-like hands flailed about while his pointy cap nestled atop his teensy, bobbing papier-mâché noggin! You beamed that signature "Miss Indiana/First Runner-up to Miss America" smile and spoke softly to your diminutive friend who effortlessly, all by his imaginary self,  appeared to be holding up your mammoth, blank, artist's tablet of page upon page. You lovingly gazed directly into the eyes of all the weary school-kids, just like myself, whose tiny noses we all had squished practically flat onto the convex monitor/"boob tube" smack-dab in front of our eager faces.

One surreal, unforgettable afternoon, my scrawled eager letter to you got read aloud. My submitted initials mysteriously transformed from "S. D." into an oversized, hilarious circus clown as you quickly guided a squeaky, inky implement much like a Magic Marker up, down, and across an ephemeral sheet of paper. In real time, I learned from our next door neighbor Mrs. Mary Hill, who taught English and Speech at our local high school, that you and she were Indiana University classmates and that you had studied Art. Once, my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Olive Sheehan, shared with me your photograph as she opened one of her 1950 college textbooks to the frontispiece. There you stood, clasping several notebooks while on your way to a college class -- dark hair (like mine), not blonde like all of the movie and television starlets!  Mesmerized was I!  Not only did I adore your televised image, effervescent personality and clever illustrations accomplished in a heartbeat, but I also fraternized with folks who actually knew you when!

Years later, I encountered you in the furniture department at the downtown Ft. Wayne, Indiana, L. S. Ayres Store, and I gushed out my admiration for you as if we'd returned to that glorious 1953-56 time period!  I, continually star-struck throughout the ensuing years, introduced you, the famous TV starlet, to my young husband Don and our little boy named Roy who loved to draw and to write stories. I surmised that you, still gorgeous and kind and ebullient, may have been employed there as an interior designer. We continue to reminisce about that moment at our house. Our friendship with "Chuck" Chapman is our only connection to the glory days of early local telecasts emanating from Ft. Wayne. His dad Reid managed the WANE (Channel 15) television station, and we inquired about you over dinner recently. Chuck promised to ask another Allen County TV personality Dick Florea to help solve the mystery of the whereabouts of WKJG's "Carol & Corkie" soon, when both gentlemen would be attending downtown's Wayne Street historic (1831) First Presbyterian Church some Sunday morning.  I sincerely hope that you are well and happy because your influence on so many of us children rates as profound.

Recently, my son encouraged me, a quintessential senior citizen, to record my thoughts and memories of growing up in my hometown of Columbia City here in Indiana and to recount adventures of traipsing all about beloved buildings (most of which have been razed), to revisit past town events, to recall wonderful folks who impacted my life, and to share stories highlighting my very special parents (his grandparents). Like a good girl I gladly have done so, voluntarily contributing over 90 essays/columns to my local newspaper -- which I have enjoyed almost since its inception via John and Hester Adams -- as well as to a terrific online news service blog entitled "Talk of the Town" (established by Jennifer Zartman Romano) which features positive news daily. Now that these tales have found their way into two books,  "Secrets of an Old Type Writer -- Stories from a Smart and Sassy Small-town Girl" and "More Secrets of an Old Type Writer:  Misunderstood Gargoyles & Overrated Angels", I feel some satisfaction and relief that the narrative is completed, and I look forward to perusing our son's recently released volume of movie, concert, music and theater critiques, ""Reel Roy Reviews -- Keepin' It Real, Volume 1" (www.reelroyreviews.com).  A TRILOGY!  To be continued…courtesy of Roy's enthusiastic dispersal of encyclopedic knowledge…

After "one season following another" clicking plastic keys of a now wheezing computer to revel in nostalgia on a page or two , I need to return numerous, scattered, precious, shared, vintage photographs (which I have archaeoLOGICally excavated from tattered scrapbooks, musty trunks and bureau drawers) to their original locations; to extend appreciation to sweet supporters who have taken the time to suggest "keep 'em coming"; to file away immense towers of generated paperwork; and to live life in the present because the world moves on, and  "Big wheels are turnin' ".  (A prescient line of dialogue spoken by actor Tom Hanks in the Academy Award nominated film "Captain Phillips".)

My best wishes to both "Carol and Corkie" who inhabit my heart to this very moment. Please accept overdue gratitude for your inspirational alchemy, igniting a miraculous mix of creativity, compassion, and fun within the flourishing souls of Northern Indiana girls and boys in those Fabulous Fifties!  Hopefully we "boomers" passed that infectious spirit onto others along our various paths…

Your fan,
Susie, both then… and now
www.susieduncansexton.com

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