Garfield Goose and Friends (partially found children's puppet TV series; 1952-1976)
Garfield Goose and Friends (also known as Garfield Goose and Friend when it aired on WBBM-TV and WBKB-TV between 1952 and 1955) was a locally produced children's puppet television series created by radio host Frazier Thomas. The series originally aired on WBBM-TV, a CBS station, until 1954, when it switched to the ABC-owned WBKB-TV. It then began airing on the independently owned Chicago station WGN-TV for 21 years until the end of its run in 1976.
Despite its long run, most of the series was produced during a time when wiping was still very much a common practice in television, and only a few episodes of the series can be found today.
The earliest version of the Garfield Goose character lived inside a cuckoo clock, as it was his dream to be a cuckoo bird. He jumped inside a cuckoo clock despite the warnings of his mother, and soon enough, he grew large enough to be stuck in there permanently. The most well-known version of the bird was depicted as a Garfield who believed he was "king of the United States" (possibly a reference to James A. Garfield, who was President of the United States in 1881). Thus, he lived in a "mock medieval castle". Neither version of Garfield spoke a word; Garfield would communicate with Frazier by clapping his beak. On occasion, Garfield would disappear momentarily, returning with a message written on a typewriter.
In the series' earliest episodes, Thomas wore a suit and tie as his outfit. However, only a few weeks into the series' run, on October 16th, 1952, he was appointed Admiral of the King's Navy by Garfield. From that point on, Thomas wore the uniform suitable for that position.
Many episodes featured a "little theater screen" where various cartoons would be screened, such as Clutch Cargo and The Firebird, along with film serials like Journey To The Beginning Of Time.
The Garfield Goose character originated from the experiences Thomas had when he visited bazaars as a young child. The nuns at the events used a sock puppet that resembled a goose to ask children for donations to charities in exchange for small prizes. When naming the goose while developing the show, Thomas named him after the telephone exchange name of his local television station.
Garfield would make his first television appearance on a children's variety television series also hosted by Frazier Thomas, Petticoat Party, which premiered sometime in 1951 or 1952. As time went on, Garfield became the breakout character of Petticoat Party, to the point that he ended up getting his own TV series that premiered on September 29th, 1952. It competed in the ratings with Howdy Doody, which aired on NBC and came to an end in 1960.
On September 17th, 1952, 12 days before Garfield Goose and Friends began airing, the American Federation of Radio Artists and the Television Authority merged to become the American Federation of Television And Radio Artists group. This new group made it a requirement that television stars join the union and earn union-scale wages. Only those who had voiced roles or appeared on-screen were paid these wages. CBS obliged on the condition that only one performer be paid these union-scale wages. That one performer was Frazier Thomas. Bruce Newton, the series' puppeteer, was not paid these wages, could not be seen on-screen, and could not speak.
Sometime during its run, Bruce Newton left the series. However, before Newton left, Thomas was advised to choose someone at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts to replace him. Thomas chose Roy Brown, who helped him redesign the Garfield Goose puppet and add more characters to the series' cast. Brown claimed the series was successful with children due to Thomas' ability to communicate with his characters as if they were his friends, and his ability to communicate with his young audience without making it feel like he was talking down to them.
Only a year into the series' run, a book titled Garfield Goose Memory Book was released as the series' first merchandise. Written by Thomas and illustrated by Brown, this book contained information about things like Garfield Goose's family and where he was born. Additionally, the book contained pages meant for children to color in. This book appears to be lost; no copies are available for purchase, and only screenshots of some of the pages and purchasable frames of the book's cover can be found.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1953, the series' first new cast member was added. The character's name was Geronimo, who was a monkey butler that Garfield had hired behind Frazier's back; Frazier only learned of him after getting a phone call from his employment agency. Another new character was introduced for the series' Christmas special that same year. It began with Garfield giving Frazier a note announcing that they would be having Christmas goose for dinner. However, not knowing that Garfield actually meant that he was inviting his nephew, Christmas "Chris" Goose over, Thomas became horrified by the announcement, which Garfield quickly corrected to be more specific.
On February 11th, 1953, WBKB-TV was purchased by CBS, who changed its name to WBBM-TV. The new owners of the WBKB-TV name agreed to broadcast some of the programs that were already airing before the purchase, including Garfield Goose. For a short while, Garfield Goose was broadcast on the ABC-owned WBKB-TV station. As another side effect of this purchase, Garfield Goose was briefly broadcast nationally instead of locally. Garfield Goose was one of many children's television stars included in a Thanksgiving special broadcast on both WBKB-TV and WGN-TV in November 1954.
In 1955, Garfield Goose And Friend once again moved to a new channel, the independently-owned WGN-TV. In the final episode broadcast on WBKB-TV, Garfield announces that he will "drive the castle away", to which Frazier Thomas rebukes as being impossible. However, he is then proven wrong, as the castle is literally driven away thanks to castors installed under the castle by the series' crew.
After the series' move to WGN-TV, Thomas began to introduce more new characters to his cast. The first addition was the "unemployed magician's assistant" Romberg Rabbit, a character who had previously appeared on another children's TV series, Quiet Riot. Not long after the addition of Romberg to the cast, the name of the series was changed to Garfield Goose And Friends.
Occasionally, educational films would be screened on "the little theater screen", and sometimes guests from zoos or museums would make appearances and teach the audience, such as "Mr. How and Why" from the Museum of Science and Industry. The educational aspect of Garfield Goose And Friends was also reportedly responsible for the rescue of a young boy from an icy lake in 1968. After the boy's mother had saved him and his brother from the lake, she discovered that the boy was not breathing. However, the mother was able to revive the boy, thanks to her having seen a segment from a film shown on the series about life-saving. Another educational aspect of the series was Frazier telling Garfield if something he did was wrong and why it was wrong.
On September 10th, 1976, the final episode of the series aired. The cancellation is attributed to two factors; in the series' final years, the ratings had begun to decline, with the series' timeslot being moved to weekday mornings after having stayed in a weekday afternoon timeslot for over two decades. Ned Locke, a star in fellow children's television series Bozo's Circus retired in 1976, leaving Frazier Thomas to take his place. However, the puppets from Garfield Goose made appearances and remained part of the series until 1981. Frazier Thomas kept his role in the series until his passing in 1985.
Despite the series' long run and long-lasting popularity, it was made when wiping was still a common practice in television. As such, very little of the series remains, with only a few episodes and segments being publically accessible.
- A long webpage on the story of Frazier Thomas' career. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- A TVAcres page on Garfield Goose and Friends. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- A Chicago Tribune article on Frazier Thomas' then-recent death. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- The Golden Age of Chicago Children's Television by Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- A list of items filed for copyright in 1953. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- An eBay listing of the Garfield Goose Memory Book front cover. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- An excerpt of the Billboard newspaper from 1953 mentioning the purchase and its effects. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- A Billboard article mentioning WGN-TV's Thanksgiving special. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- An article on obscure children's television series broadcast in the 1950s and 1960s. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- A Chicago Tribune article on "Mr. How and Why". Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- A letter to a Boy Scout executive thanking him for the creation of a film shown on Garfield Goose. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- A Chicago Tribune article reporting Frazier Thomas' stroke in April 1985. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- An excerpt of The Daily Sentinel mentioning Frazier Thomas' role on Bozo's Circus. Retrieved 16 Dec '20
- An episode of the series taped in March 1974. Retrieved 16 Dec '20