Koko's Karnival of Klowns

by Karla Fetrow
(Anchorage, Alaska)

KoKo's Kiddie Land

KoKo's Kiddie Land

The Cotton Candy Picture

In the picture above, looking from the ground up to the top of the stairs. Karla Fetrow's (the author of this post) oldest brother, Leslie Larry Fetrow, Karla's sister Sandra, Karla's mother – and the baby is our author, Karla Fetrow.

Mini Railroad Pictures

In the picture above, the Kiddy Land Train is seen on the tracks just off the Seward Highway.

Koko's Karnival of Klowns

When it came to technology, Anchorage, Alaska had to scramble to keep up with modern times.

While KFQD, our first radio station, went on the air in 1925, it wasn't until after 1948 that my hometown of Chugiak, located twenty miles away, started getting electricity.

We were relieved when, with the first electrical juices zapping through our humble homes, we were also able to access radio. We were even more delighted when, a few years later, we were blessed with our first television station (KTVA channel 11).

Those early years were a wonderful, imaginative time. The modern world was leaking in through music, newscasts, and a scattering of shows, but it was mainly all about us. Us, as in, what could we come up with to make entertainment more interesting? It wasn’t like we had a stream of steady broadcasting.

It was Dick Rand who came up with the idea for Kartoon Karnival, a children’s television show filmed on location. Location meant the studio at the McKinley Arms, a fourteen-story building that was astonishing for a populace of kids who had grown up in cabins and other low-laying buildings.

He had just invested in some carnival rides that a traveling circus left behind after they went broke in Alaska. His idea was that by hosting the show, he would receive some free publicity for his carnival rides.

Dick was a highly persuasive entrepreneur. It didn’t take him long to convince my dad, Les Fetrow, that the rides were an excellent investment.

It only took him a little longer to convince dad to appear with him on the television show dressed as his sidekick. Appearing as clowns, the weekday afternoon show kept kids glued to their television sets. This is not to say they were the most skilled child entertainers around, but their spot included daily episodes of the Mickey Mouse show and short Warner Brother Cartoons.

Still, there was a whole, “I get to appear on TV” thing about it. The show always began with Koko and Chu Chu interviewing five or six young guests, Art Linkletter style, and giving them each a Gilman’s donut. Chu Chu always cautioned them, “don’t eat the donut holes”. There is to this day, an entire generation who eats all around the donut hole before cautiously eating the last bites.

There was only one drawback in those early days of Alaskan television. We had a distinct shortage of children.

Having five or six children per day on the show was easy for a while, but within a couple of years it became apparent they were running out of new guests. Those were the days my mother sat close to the telephone. If they had a day without guests, she quickly rounded up whatever neighborhood kids she could find, as well as my siblings and me for backup.

I became very familiar with the television studio, and probably just a little star struck. It was a strange sensation to sit on a platform above the giant cameras, stare at the television across from you and see yourself staring back.

They had the same drawback for their carnival. Koko’s Kiddie Land tried to stay open all summer, but there were some days when there just weren’t that many festive people around. They strolled through the entertainment center like they were strolling through a park and simply weren’t laying their money down on much of anything. Bad news for them. Good news for Dick Rand’s and Les Fetrow’s children. We got to ride free on the roller coaster and the merry-go-round to coax other mothers into caving to their kids’ wishes.

Kartoon Karnival only lasted about five to seven years, and Koko’s Kiddie Land, not much longer. But the rides they invested in stuck around. They brought in another partner, Danny Caulfield, who had an instinct for what to do with carnival rides.

It wasn’t long before the carnival rides were circulating between Seward, Kenai, Anchorage, the Chugiak Carnival and the State Fair.

Those early carny years were some of the most magical of my life. Dick Rand was a natural clown. He was the kind of guy kids knew right away was going to be funny because he saw funny in the same way they did.

When the two families got together one year to celebrate a successful summer, Dick was carrying several cases of soda pop in the back of his station wagon, probably meant for Kiddie Land. However, so much soda in one spot was dazzling.

The Rand kids and the Fetrow children thought of a better use for that many sodas other than drinking them.

We began shaking them up and spraying them at each other.

My dad was furious. Dick Rand said nothing. In the middle of my dad’s tirade, Dick popped open a soda and sprayed everybody.

Hardly anything surprised or disturbed him. When the Rand family and our own were stuck in Hope for three days during a flood, he spent the evenings making shadow figures on the wall and telling stories around them. We were limited in food supplies, but we did have two, ten gallon bags of deliciously seasoned circus popcorn to munch on.

My dad was a clown because it was one of the many acting roles he liked to play. He was a natural actor. When he discovered my sister, Mary, was a natural gymnast, he took her along for his clown performances as Chu Chu Junior. Mary did cartwheels and handsprings while dad clowned around with the children.

By the early 1960s, the childlike innocence was fading from the carnival. More people meant more rides, more diversity in entertainment.

The carnival had begun making money, but it had also become more time-consuming, more difficult for two men who already had families and careers, to maintain. Dick Rand and Les Fetrow sold out to Danny Caulfield.

Once the partnership broke up, we lost track of the Rand’s, although we sometimes ran into Danny Caulfield at the fair. He proved his ability for showmanship by striding around in very loud, brightly colored suits, carrying snakes around his neck and appearing with a sparkling girl on each arm.

Eventually, we even lost track of Danny, but the rides are still there, sold to someone who sold them to someone and could even now be part of another traveling carnival making its circuits and keeping the memories alive.

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by: Joe Fournelle

Oh, my!

Let me preface by saying we never had a TV the whole time we lived in Anchorage from 1950 to 59.

Any TV we saw was at our neighbor's or playmate's homes.

I remember HiJinks. I'm pretty sure I even appeared in one episode. When I saw the name HiJinks, I remembered the host's name, Frank Feeman.

And I do remember kiddieland, a little.

I remember a shooting gallery with .22 rifles and that I hit a target that I wasn't aiming at.

I also remember riding the roller coaster. Ii was scary for a kid and part way through I had to get let off. Everybody else stayed on.

Memories of childhood Anchorage come easily these days. Just don't ask me what I had for lunch yesterday.

My Brownie troop was on the KoKo Show
by: Leslie

My Brownie troop was on KoKo the KENI Klown show.

I don't remember the exact year, but between 1959 and 1961.

Koko Memories
by: Anonymous

I was on the Koko show in the early 60s when my dad was stationed at Elmendorf AFB.

I remember eating around the donut hole as well, but another thing I recall is that on most, if not every show, Koko would drink an entire bottle of Coca Cola in one gulp.

As a child I was quite impressed by the feat.

Does anyone else have memories of this?

KoKo the KENI Klown Beauty Pageant
by: Anonymous

There was a KoKo the KENI Klown Queen Competition was for (maybe) 5-10 Year old girls.

There were 3 divisions; fancy dress (I wore my Easter dress), swimsuit and interview.

I was queen for the day, my sister was runner-up.

If for any reason I would be unable to fulfill my queen duties, my sister would become queen.

Great fun.

I tell the story now and friends think I have a keen storytelling talent. That may be true.

However, the KoKo The KENI Klown Queen contest was real!

Koko Birthday Memories
by: Vikki Horsley

I remember going on the Koko's Karnival of Klowns show for my birthday.

I went with my friend Micheal Rodriguez. Such good memories of my time as a child in Alaska.

Old Denali Elementary School Fire Prevention Poster Contest
by: Jon Romer

For many of my grade school years I would participate in the poster contest and would win.

As a winner, I would get to be on the Koko the KENI Klown TV show.

It sure brings back great memories to see such a wonderful website. (Anchorage Memories.com)

Koko the KENI Klown
by: Danese

When I was in the 2nd grade at Woodland Park Elementary our entire class was to be on the KoKo the KENI Klown TV show.

We were to draw the animals of Old McDonald's Farm while the music played. We practiced and practiced drawing before the big day.

My teacher gave up on my artistic ability to draw a pig and had me draw a tulip instead!

The KENI-TV and KIMO TV Connection
by: Mike D

When my wife Mary was but a little girl, she was on Koko's Kartoon Karnival and was enchanted by being there in the TV studio with Koko.

Koko (Dick Rand) had a son named B.G. Randlett who went on to become a television engineer at KENI-TV.

I first met B.G. while I was working at KTVA channel 11. I later worked with B.G. at KIMO where he was also working at that time.

One day I remember talking to B.G. when I said, "wait a minute, your last name, "Randlett", are you related to Dick Rand, Koko the KENI Klown?"

B.G. smiled and said, "yep, he was my dad."

Small world.

Excellent Story!
by: Mike

I enjoyed this story.

Had you not taken time to write your memories down they would have been lost for eternity. Thanks for sharing!

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