Friday, September 7, 2012

Major Astro, circa 1970

In Wichita we had several memorable kiddie show hosts (Cap'n Bill, played by Bill MacLain, Freddie Fudd, supposedly Elmer's cousin, played by Henry Harvey) but none loomed as large in our little cartoon-addled minds as Channel Three's Major Astro, played by Tom Leahy, who also served as The Host on KARD's late-night horror movie show "Nightmare" (the prime inspiration for Joel Sanderson's brilliant "Basement Sublet of Horror").
 The show began in the days of the Mercury program, but as you can see by the Moonbase set above, it was still running well into the Apollo years.
 Here the Major waves, looking like he's giving his signature sign-off line, "Happy orbits, boys and girls!" I met Tom once when my friend Jeff Killian interviewed him in his home, and I was running one of two video cameras. In the interview, Tom was very, very funny, (he referred to the character as "The Maj") and afterwards he invited us to have a drink with him. Jeff and the other cameraman demurred, as it was before noon, but I wasn't by God going to pass up the chance to have a snort with Major Astro. He gave me a glass of white wine and said "I believe I'll have something stronger myself." Then he poured himself a good-sized tumbler of scotch.

The viewing screen behind him to his left is where the cartoons would first appear before going full-screen.  I believe Jeff gave me these pictures in the late eighties to print; I just found them in a box of old slides. Most likely they came from The Maj himself. Tom died a year or two ago, mourned by thousands of Wichita's former kiddie-show viewers. Rest in Peace, Maj!


  1. I remember that set well (though it just now occurred to me that the Moon had clouds), and asking my mom what the big deal was about the Apollo missions planning to go to the moon when Major Astro, the greatest human who ever lived, was already there showing cartoons.

  2. When I was a little kid, my dad knew Major Astro, and let me tell you it was some kind of thrill to get to talk with him now and again. I still can't decide whether I was most mesmerized by him b/c he was an astronaut, b/c he was on TV, or b/c he could watch Astroboy cartoons whenever he wanted.

  3. I loved Major Astro and never missed our daily visit to moon base. I wish we could find a clip of his famous sign off.