The following note was first posted in a television newsgroup in 1996. Out of this post grew the Lunch with Casey website.
Casey and Roundhouse were about the biggest stars in the world to a little kid in Willmar, Minnesota. Casey traveled all over the state entertaining groups. I first saw him in the late sixties at our hometown winter carnival called Operation Snowflake. Casey and Roundhouse came and entertained with music and cartoons. I was so excited. Nothing that big ever happened in Willmar.
Every year he would also travel to Brainard, Minnesota where there is an amusement park with a giant moving and talking statue of Paul Bunyan. Casey would entertain in his usual manner. One of the big highlights was when Casey would drive the little kiddy train with all us kids on board. Somewhere, my dad has home movies of us with Casey, waving, and riding the train!
But perhaps my biggest thrill came around 1972. WTCN was a big sponsor of Jerry Lewis’s MDA telethon. And Casey was always encouraging kids to have carnivals to raise money for MDA. So I did this a couple times. One day a letter arrives inviting me to be a guest on Lunch With Casey! I was so excited. My mother drove us to Minneapolis. Mom hated driving in big cities so we met an aunt who lived down there and she drove us to the studio. Me, my Mom, my aunt and a couple cousins all headed down to the WTCN studio at the Calhoun Beach Manor on Lake Calhoun.
I was so blown away. This was my first exposure to the TV industry and it was like a whole different world. Everywhere you turned there were piece of sets from the various local shows produced at WTCN scattered around this humongous studio. It seemed like the biggest room I had ever been in. (Of course I was just a little kid.) I was so fascinated by the total television process, how it all worked to make a live tv show happen. Every second was burned into my memory.
Casey was a shock as he was dressed in his normal clothes and even wearing glasses. I got to watch him put on his makeup. Roundhouse was a wonderful person. He basically hung out with us kids the whole time we were there. He brought us into the little control room which reminded me of a NASA control room with all the equipment. Machines and TVs and lights and buttons everywhere.
The “engine” Casey rode in was nothing more than a large box. Casey stuck his head out the window and waved while the cameraman wheeled the camera to make it look like the engine was pulling out. The show’s set was mad of cardboard on a wooden frame! It totally blew me away. My little segment came and went quickly. It was such a blur.
Oh yeah…. other tunes included
- Puff the Magic Dragon
- Winchester Cathedral
- You Can’t Roller Skate In a Buffalo Heard
I also remember this weird thing where they would walk into the room and “fall” to the ceiling. Then they would crawl around the ceiling and try to get back to the floor. I also remember Bob Duerr of the Como Park Zoo, Hank Meadows bringing by the occasional lunch, the birthday club, the guys from Shakey’s Pizza. Casey was always plugging Uncle John’s Pancake house. Roundhouse plugged a restaurant called the Jolly Troll. They also had great cartoons… including Gumby, and David and Goliath, and Hercules. I remember another little Roundhouse piece where he would be buried in an avalanche of mail.