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RALSTON MOVES INTO OUTER SPACE TV
With NESTLE'S Co-sponsorship
Wednesday - December 12, 2001
By the Crimson Collector

 
In the early 1950's, Ralston's sponsorship of Tom Mix had ended and television had arrived… what better for Ralston than to step into the thirtieth century than through a sci-fi/space-opera TV show? Thus Space Patrol's association with Ralston was born. Space Patrol started as a fifteen minute show from ABC-TV's Los Angeles local station KECA-TV  in 1951. It was conceived by Mike Moser, a ex-navy veteran who had been in charge of training hurricane-hunter squadrons in WW II. In 'SP' he tried to bring that same sense of wonder that he had enjoyed as a boy with Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.

BuzzPic.bmp (373786 bytes)The show was cheap in its beginnings but the potential was there. Space Patrol's first Commander Kit Corry was an actor, better forgotten, who had the wrong touch for the character, forgot lines, and even fell asleep one time on-air. Soon his "brother" Buzz Corry was brought in to replace Kit and he proved to be just what the show needed. Ed Kemmer (left) was a pilot in WW II who was shot down over Germany on his 48th mission. Kemmer was fresh out of the Pasadena Playhouse, where he had studied with Lyn Osborn (Cadet Happy) who in turn recommended him for the Buzz Corry part. The stars of this daily show received checks for eight dollars a show and had to supplement their income elsewhere, on the hope that the show would hit it big and go "network".  

Their gamble paid off, soon the show was on radio and put onto the network with a half-hour Saturday morning adventure each week and sponsored by Ralston, who later took on Nestle as an alternating sponsor. Now they were earning over $45,000 a year……big money in those days. There were three weekday live broadcasts and a Saturday morning edition at 11:00 A.M. Eastern time. Due to the time difference the show had to start at 8:00 A.M. in California. It had the distinction of being the first West Coast live to the East Coast Saturday morning network program beamed to the east via a combination of cable and crude relay stations.
 

Other announcers voiced the opening, but staff announcer Jack Narz did it best… 

"Space Patrol!
High adventure in the wild reaches of space…
Mission of daring in the name of Planetary justice. 
Travel into the future with Buzz Corry…
Commander-in-chief of… the SPACE PATROL!"

Keeping up with the over 82,00 words of script per week was a Herculean task. Cue cards were pasted all over the cardboard sets out of the sight of TV cameras. It was all live and when they found out they were too long on dialog sometimes… they would just have to speed up their reading and jump on each other's lines. It was a stressful time. Kemmer and Osborne hoped the weekday shows would go away and finally it was trimmed to the one big show on Saturday morning. The budget jumped to $25,000 and paid for extra prop men, electricians, carpenters, an additional director to spell Dik Darley, the cast jumped from five to fifteen people, a full engineering crew and above all: the hiring of a crack special effects team of Oscar, Paul and Franz Dallons. The Dallons' had worked on movies like The Donovan's Brain and TV's Captain Midnight.

Besides the pressure of doing the show live... the actor's also had to appear in many of the live commercials. Often they were expected to sit down to a bowl of Ralston cereal or drink Nestle's Quik right after the vigorous exercise of a fight scene, or up in the rafters of the old Lawrence Welk stage E and have to climb down, winded and dirty and calm down to pleasantly give a delivery of the sponsor's product.  Sadly, Buzz and Happy fought their last battle with nemesis Prince Baccarrati, (who also did double-duty as the associate producer) in February of 1955 after Ralston and Nestle both withdrew their sponsorship. 

Touring Ralston RocketToday, videotapes of Space Patrol are sold everywhere on Ebay. There are supposedly "authorized" versions, but those are mostly of the later half hour shows. The early fifteen minute shows are available from Swapsale.com. They are transferred directly from old kinescopes of varying quality and may be a bit rough at times, but the early shows are such a hoot to watch that I recommend them to everyone. 

Space Patrol toys and merchandise is out there for collectors and I have accumulated a bit of it myself... just check out "Space Patrol" on Ebay or Swapsale.com and enjoy.

Tom Mason
aka, The Crimson Collector

RETURN TO THE SPACE PATROL 'ARTICLES'
 

Some pictures courtesy of The Solar Guard.
 

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