Photo Credit : Ronnachai Palas - Shutterstock

That’s (Not) My Wonderful Town

Earlier this year, TV geeks everywhere squealed a little when public radio’s This American Life featured a short piece about a promotional campaign CFAC-TV (now Global Calgary) ran in the 1980s called, “Hello, Calgary.”

The show’s host talked to a former Calgarian who was shocked to learn while the song’s lyrics say “there’s a feeling in the air, that you can’t get anywhere, except in Calgary,” the sales pitch of good-vibes-exclusivity wasn’t entirely truthful.

In fact, it appears legendary TV-news-theme-and-jingle artist Frank Gari made that “feeling in the air” show up in Milwaukee, San Diego, Nashville, Melbourne, and about 160 other cities around the world.  Dubbed “Hello News,” the song is one of the most memorable (and likely successful) syndicated news image/civic pride campaigns to have hit the small screen.

But Calgary isn’t the only place that can feel a little stung.

In the 1960s, people here in Regina likely roamed around town with a bounce in their step while whistling what was CKCK-TV’s promotional song, “That’s My Wonderful Town.”  (How can you not whistle this?)

It talks about everything quintessentially Regina!  The Roughriders… the Saskatchewan Legislature.  The song was about OUR CITY!  That’s MY wonderful town!  Right?

Then… how is this possible?

It turns out that like Frank Gari’s “Hello” campaign about a decade later, “That’s My Wonderful Town” was a syndicated jingle for TV and radio stations which could be localized and customized for places far and wide.  From Lebanon, Pennsylvania to Hobart, Australia… they were all “my wonderful town” – for the right price.

Those of us lucky to have cable in the 80s watched Detroit’s ABC station tell viewers to take a little pride in where they come from.

But I bet you can guess where this is going…

It doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

It’s not just TV and radio stations that get in on the game.  Other businesses license high quality, easily-localized promotional materials.  Take the power industry, for example.

Growing up in Manitoba, “Louie the Lightning Bug” was a staple on TV screens across the province.  Our little friend with the light-bulb-bottom buzzed around promoting the importance of electrical safety.

Louie was a busy little bug that got around.  Originally created for a promotional campaign by Alabama Power back in 1983, the company had trademarked and licensed him for use by power companies across North America a year later.  Here’s Louie pimping the power company in Oklahoma.

For one last kick in the groin to your childhood, try this one on for size.  Many of us children-of-the-80s grew up watching Miss Fran on Romper Room, produced at CTV’s affiliate CKCO-TV in Kitchener, ON.

But – given the way this blog post has gone – you know she wasn’t the only one.  From the same vintage as our beloved Miss Fran (who has lived a pretty amazing life, by the way), here is Miss Molly – host of an American version of the show based out of Baltimore, MD.

Romper Room was localized all over the world.  Aside from versions produced in numerous cities across the United States, the show’s format was sold to Australian, British, Japanese and Hong Kong broadcasters.  (Sadly, no video to show you from YouTube.)

While much of what we watched as kids was copied, pasted and replicated from other places, I take comfort in knowing at least one part of my childhood was homegrown… produced right here on the prairies.

I’ll always be a Size Small kid.  Thank you, Miss Helen!


Featured image credit : Ronnachai Palas – Shutterstock

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