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Ahoy mates! Welcome
to the House
of Jitters’ tribute to Stan Lonergan, George Baseleon
& The Captain Jinks Show. Stan Lonergan (LAWNer gun) as Captain Jinks
and George Baseleon (Bah SILLY un) as Salty Sam were a most beloved team
who hosted the charming children’s program. Residents of central Illinois
remember the Captain and Salty with great fondness.
The Captain Jinks Show was in fact the most watched and
longest running local children’s show in the history of the region. Each
afternoon after school, kids (and adults) were invited to come aboard the
SS Albatross to join in the fun. Cookie (whose arm was the only part of
him to be seen), the talking parrot, local magicians, animal handlers and
the like joined the Captain and Salty.
During the show’s height of popularity, children who wanted
to be in its audience would wait on a list for up to a year’s time. The
draw of the program was in the personalities of these two men. Stan
Lonergan was a quick-witted yet low-keyed improviser whose quips often went
over the head of George Baseleon. Yet what George lacked in spontaneity
and keenness, he more than made up for in genuine warmth and sincerity.
In short, they were a perfect complement to each other.
An early picture of Captain Jinks and Salty Sam, probably
Promotion manager for WEEK at the time, Bill Adams,
called Lonergan, "one of those people who could be very ordinary, yet
very complex at the same time."
In the earliest days of television,
popular radio programs were molded for the new medium. Those old radio
shows each had a host that would introduce the episode. When radio
programs made their jump to television, the tradition of the host and announcer
came along with it. Not much time passed before TV programming began
catering to children and local television stations purchased cartoon packages
to entertain the kiddies. One popular package was the Popeye cartoons
and stations across the nation began to create kid shows with a nautical
theme to capitalize on the acquisition. The Captain Jinks Show was
one such creation.
The Captain Jinks Show began in 1956 with a different
Captain than the one we came to love. Hal Searles, also known on radio
as Johnny Dark, started off as Captain Jinks before moving on to WBBM. In
1957 Stan Lonergan took over as the Captain.
A title card for the '70s iteration of the show.
Stan was born and raised
in Chicago and grew up an ardent follower of radio. By the time he
was 17 his Aunt Stella Ketchum had noticed his love of the medium and financed
his entry into the College of Radio and Drama. From there he went into the
Chicago Junior League Radio Theater and by the forties he was doing big
band remotes for local radio.
In 1944 he married Jean Fisher and would have two daughters,
Carol and Susan with her. During this time he went to work for WGN
and played a visiting nephew on “The Baxter’s” as well as working on “College
Humor” and “Uncle Walter’s Dog House.” From WGN he went to WIND and
then worked six years at WCFL. By the time the early fifties had rolled
around his domestic life was suffering and in 1952 or 1953 he divorced from
his wife of eight years.
While working at WJJD in 1955 he sent tapes of his work
to WEEK in Peoria and was hired for a radio show. When he first moved to
Peoria he lived in a room behind Hunter’s Café. Larry Thorhaug,
a WEEK engineer, soon befriended him and invited Stan to room and board
in his residence along with his wife Estelle. Stan stayed with friends
Larry and Estelle Thorhaug in their home at 814 Cooper Street near Bradley
University for almost the rest of his life.
The Captain Jinks Show enjoyed
popularity from the very beginning. Even without a script or writers,
Stan Lonergan was never at a loss for words. His amusing, affable
personality connected with his viewers and the live show proved a great
training ground. In 1960 the weekend weatherman, George Baseleon,
joined Stan. George had been approached to play the Captain’s first
mate, named Salty Joe. George accepted on one condition -- get rid
of that name! George came up with the more enjoyable alliterative
By the mid sixties the show had been expanded from one
hour to two and a half hours. 40,000 requests for 8x10 photos had
poured in and they had 76% of viewers tuning in. Fan clubs in college
campuses and even in a local tavern were formed! Part of the success
of the show was due to the work of promotion manager Bill Adams. Bill
was the one who attached Captain Jinks and Salty Sam to the Santa Claus
parade and the annual Breakfast with Santa. For many children seeing
the Captain and Salty at the parade was as much a highlight as seeing Santa.
Captain Jinks and Salty Sam also became connected in the minds of
many grateful parents with their visits to children in hospitals.
In later years Bill Adams wrote the Yesterdays column
for the Peoria Journal Star. One amusing story he recalled involved
taking Santa Claus, Captain Jinks and Salty Sam back to the television studio
to do a show. While travelling over the Murray Baker Bridge the hood
of his Corvair popped open, blinding his view. He managed to stop
and get out to check the hood without getting killed. “As I got out,
the passing cars were all honking at us and blowing their horns. I
couldn’t understand why until I looked back at the car. Here was Captain
Jinks, Salty Sam and Santa, all piling out of the car to assist me with
the problem. And I was the only one in the group without a fake beard.”
Santa Claus pays a visit to the SS Albatross.
Stan Lonergan in his later years with
his real beard.
"Time kind of hangs on you. I don't socialize
much. I read quite a bit. I rather enjoy Agatha Christy novels."
1972 saw The Captain Jinks
Show leave the air, but in 1978 the show returned, taping multiple episodes
twice a week. Eventually another character, Bosun Joe, played by Joe McGuire,
joined the program. Characteristic of this style of children’s show, Bosun
Joe would draw caricatures and cartoons or begin a drawing from a squiggle
and create a face out of it. Towards the end of the program’s run,
Bosun Joe, a fan himself, took over the show.
In 1981 The Captain Jinks Show was cancelled. Stan
Lonergan continued to do some voice work for the station as well as radio
spots. He and Salty Sam continued to visit kids in the hospitals and
meet Santa for their yearly breakfast. The monetary compensation they both
received over the years for their work was small and eventually George took
work as an assistant manager for the Heritage House restaurant. On
busy Saturday nights he might sign two hundred autographs. Stan worked
as a security officer for a while at Jumer’s Castle Lodge but basically
retired. George Baseleon passed away in December of 1985. He
had one daughter, Christine. Stan put the Captain’s coat away for
good after George’s death. Stan Lonergan developed cancer in the late
eighties and passed away at the age of 67 on October 15th, 1989.
aside, Captain Jinks and Salty Sam brought so much joy and happiness to
so many kids and adults that they’ll be dearly remembered for many years
to come. The Captain Jinks Show and its bucket game, the corny jokes
from the joke barrel, the clever, improvised one-liners from the Captain
and the contagious laughter from Salty Sam will stay with us forever. Stan’s
quiet humor, slightly mischievous, and George’s kind, light-hearted manner
were a part of our childhood and are now hopefully a part of us.
More wonderful pictures at this great Captain Jinks site.
Please share your memories of the show
on our Guest Book.
"Well, I had one job but I had to quit because of illness. I made my
boss sick." - Stan Lonergan
"[Stan Lonergan was] a very shy, self-conscious
man. He's led a quiet life. His close friends are dear friends.
But he's much of a loner. Always has been." - George Baseleon
"Stan, although he liked kids, was basically shy,
and his Jinks character took on the W.C. Fields type of 'arm's length' approach...If
a child got too chummy with Jinks, he'd often revert to 'Don't touch me,
I'm a star', the humor played well with kids and adults alike." - Bill Adams
"The children need a local show, not only for
the entertainment but for something to take part in. It wasn't just
the show that the children and adults liked. It was all the times
we visited the hospitals or made a public appearance at a picnic or entertained
for Christmas. I miss those children. They made up the best
audience in the world."
George "I prefer to be called Salty" Baseleon
"My father took my sister and I to an annual Breakfast
with Santa. We got there towards the end and had our pancakes, got to see
Santa, Captain Jinks and Salty Sam and say 'hi' to them. Shortly afterwards
they departed and we left near the same time. On our way back home,
as we headed out of Peoria and approached the War Memorial Bridge, Dad pointed
out the guy in the car behind us. It was Salty Sam, with his cap and
moustache still on! We turned around, looked out the back window and
waved to him, and waved, and waved. We must've waved to him for a
couple of minutes, all the way over the bridge. I'm still impressed
to this day that he was just as enthusiastic in his smiling waving as we
were and continued to wave as long as we did."
- Dr. Jitters
Other Peoria, Illinois area children's show hosts:
Mr. Toyman (Gary Gresham) on channel 19.
Miss Mary on Romper Room.
Kelly (Sally Baker) eventually moved to L.A.
Bozo the Clown on channel 31 in the early sixties.
Ernie's Cartoon Showboat sailed in neighboring
you to the staff at the Peoria Public Library.)
Adams, Bill. 1989. "Captain Jinks cornered the market
in central Illinois." In Journal Star, Peoria, July 3, D1, D3.
Adams, Bill. 1989. "So long, matey..." In Journal Star, Peoria, October 30,
Becker, Joan. 1984. "Captain, Salty share jolly memories."
In Journal Star, Peoria,
October 28, D1.
Bridges, Derek. 1990. "Captain Jinks legend auctioned
to his fans." In Journal Star, Peoria, January 28, A18.
Hollis, Tim. 2001. Hi there, boys and girls!: America's
local children's TV shows. Mississippi: University of Mississippi, 2001.
Towery, Terry L. 1989. "After George (Baseleon) died,
Stan put up the outfit. He was never Captain Jinks again." In Journal Star, Peoria, October 22,
Obituary. 1989. "Stan Lonergan, Capt. Jinks on television,
dies at 67." In Journal Star, Peoria, October 16.