MONTE HALL, UNCLE RUSS,
JOHNNIE DOWNS AND OTHER IDOLS
(SMOKEY ROGERS NOW HAS HIS OWN PAGE)
MONTE -- MONTY -- MONTIE

My Montie story involves neither Monte Hall nor Monty Montezuma. Before we moved to San Diego, I attended kindergarten in Los Angeles. One day we were told that Montie Montana was going to visit our school and put on a demonstration of roping and riding. If we brought a dime to school, we could get an authentic autographed 8X10 of Montie and his horse. Montie’s signature, not his horse Rex
I was so excited. I got my dime went to school, saw the performance and gave my dime to the lady who was collecting them. Long story short, we never got our pictures and from that day on, the dirty b*$%^#d was on my list. Years later I was visiting  my parents on New Year’s Day and we were watching the Rose Parade and there was Montie himself riding that damn horse. I said something highly colorful and my mother turned to me and said, “It’s been 30+ years.” And that is my Montie story.--
Dana Carr ’64

Reading the Montie Montana story reminded me of my encounter with him.  He was the first celebrity I had ever met. It was about 1974.  I was living in Monrovia, California.  After church one Sunday I was approached by a man who saw I was driving a blue Cadillac convertible.  He was the Chairman of the Monrovia Days Parade and he asked me if they could use my Caddy for the parade.  I told him yes, but I would have to drive it.  So,  I was in the parade. Montie Montana was the Grand Marshall!  I had heard about him and now I was going to meet him.  I followed Montie and his horse.  He was lassoing little kids and having his horse do some tricks and fancy walking.  The crowd loved it.  I was careful not to get too close to the horse for many reasons. We had lunch with him after the parade.  He was a nice enough guy, very conservative, and very bored -- Sam Calvano ’69

Kathy Keeyes Antus '68 shares her KFMB Channel 8 Monte Hall 7th birthday photo.
A nine year old Ron Jagodinski in full cowboy regalia (2 -gun belt with 12 wooden silver bullets) on Monte Hall’s horse just subsequent to Monte himself putting me up there at PLAYLAND in 1953.  I’ve racked my brain and cannot think of the horse’s name.  My parents bought me the cowboy boots (a full foot above the stirrups) at a Western shop in Cheyenne, WY for $7.00 during the family's moving trip out here to California in the autumn of 1952  -- Ron Jagodinski ’62
This photo is from 1950 or 1951, so I was two or three years old. These were the boats at Monte Hall's Playland. I'm the one with no hair and the concerned look on my face. I think I was a bit frightened of this wild, wild ride -- Susan Kitaen Rhea ’66
Here’s a photo you might like to pass on to Paula Adler Sloan. It’s my brother Tim Hoolihan ’68 with Monty Hall at his Tiny Town Ranch. I grew up on 54th Street with six brothers and sisters and we remember Monty Hall well. He also had a weekly talent show for kids. Keep up the great work!! -- Melody Hoolihan ‘66
Above is a photo of my “twin” cousin (I’m two weeks older), Valerie Missler Goodwin ’72 and I in the summer of 1958 when we were on the Monte Hall Birthday Club show. Valerie is fourth from right and I’m the dark, chubby-legged girl with the smirk next to her, sixth from right (both rows being counted). Our classmates at Oak Park will remember that although we are cousins, we don’t look alike.

Below is a photo of another cousin and an unidentified boy taken at Playland in the early ‘50’s. My mother thought he was a boy from the neighborhood, possibly a Hoolihan. It would be great if he were identified. We lived at Laurel and 55th. Could you forward it to Melody to see if it’s one of her brothers?
-- Rosanne Goodwin (It would have been ‘72 if we hadn’t moved from east San Diego in 1967.)

Does anyone remember Uncle Russ? I believe he had a space-themed cartoon show on local television. I can barely recall visiting the studio downtown and watching his show -- Rick Leu ’71

I do remember Uncle Russ. He was actually Russ Plummer who, before his stint as a children's cartoon show host, delivered the news and weather on KFMB-TV, channel 8. This local newscast was unique in that the headlines were on the large pages of a sort of a book on an easel and the presenter stood before the 'book' and read the news. The person delivering the news also wore a San Diego Transit System hat. I was told by my grandmother that Mr. Plummer and my dad went to school together in San Diego -- Roy Boughton '59 (class, not age)

There were several "Uncle Russ" characters around the country in the 40s and 50s. Who knows why. A prominent one had a show called "Let’s Pretend with Uncle Russ” from 1948 to 1952. It was primarily for Armed Forces Dependents -- http://letspretendwithuncleruss.com/ I'm pretty sure San Diego's "Uncle Russ" show was on Channel 10, KOGO (after it was KFSD and before it became KGTV). Some local kids' celebs/shows from that time were "Shane in Wonderland," "Chester the Jester," "Johnny Downs" and "Uncle Russ." Downs was one of the "Our Gang" stars who would get on and off a train at the beginning and end of his shows. I think (!!!) Uncle Russ' last name was Plumber or Plummer, but I could be wrong --
Donn Dufford ’63

As I remember, having watched Uncle Russ quite often, his main sponsor was Shuco Racers. Remember those? If you had fifty of them today, you'd have quite a value on your hands. Also, later on, it came out that Uncle Russ was quite a boozer. Ironic, what? --
Jim Horner ‘63

If memory serves, Monte Hall's Playland was up near where El Cajon Blvd. curves towards the southeast (7300 block?), out of the range of your "zoom" picture. But looking at the big picture, I don't see it. Wasn't there a merry-go-round? I remember riding it one day, and the lower support on my horse broke and I was just dangling in the air, swinging to and fro, up and down. Scared me half to death. I was probably age four at the time -- Ron Bankhead ‘63

I was on the Monty Hall Show when I was about 12. We were three kids who didn't do anything but answer a couple of questions and watch a cowboy movie. I got a free chicken dinner and a gift certificate to some store I don't remember. My mom bought a pair of nylons with the gift certificate and gave me the money. I would have rather had a gift certificate to ride a horse! I still have three horses but we are all retired so we just play -- Joyce Mannweiler Duke '60

(The horses are retired too? -- JF)

Where exactly was Monty Hall's Playland ,as compared to 7366 El Cajon Blvd. -- Chico's Club Bar. That bar was named after Chico Marx, a friend of the owner, and Evel Knievel used to hang out there, according to a business broker -- Paula Adler-Sloan ‘68

I'm enjoying the Monty Hall remembrances. I remember going to Monty Hall’s Playland with my parents as a fairly young kid. Monty Hall walked up with an autographed picture of himself in one hand and a dollar in the other, and told me I could choose either one. My mother said to me, “Take the dollar!” (One dollar being worth about $7.50 today adjusted for inflation.) I quickly mulled it over and told Monty I’d like the autographed picture. As he handed it to me, he smiled at my parents and said, “The young kids always take the picture!”
-- Rob Shepherd ’66

I remember the trampoline park on Art and El Cajon Blvd. My dad had two rules for me: do not go to the trampoline park or Tijuana. I never went to the trampoline park -- Susan Kitaen Rhea‘66

I remember Monty Halls Playland too. I went with my Brownie Troop # 643 from Jackson Elementary to the play land one afternoon after school. The reason the trip was so memorable was while riding the horses Bonnie Johnston's horse decided to roll over in the dirt with Bonnie still strapped on to him. Everyone was frantic and screaming for someone to help her. Bonny was unhurt but I always wondered if she ever got on a horse again. I doubt I would have remembered that trip if that horse hadn't decided to roll in the dirt. There was another place on El Cajon Blvd to ride horses. Eventually the first Jack in the Box drive through was built at that location. In the early sixties there was a trampoline center either next to it or very near. I also remember Monty Montana coming to Jackson Elementary in the early fifties and putting on a show. Monty was in all the parades back then. We kids always looked for him. Another time two Padres came to Jackson. They tried to help us with baseball skills especially our batting. I was so bad they said I should just try to bunt and I did that ever since. There were some very tall palm trees on El Cajon Blvd. by the playground. I remember two incidents in the fifties regarding those trees. One was during lunch hour when the tops of a couple of the palms caught fire and the fire department came to put them out. Another time we heard strange screeching noises and didn't know where the sounds were coming from. We looked up in the trees and there were four or five monkeys in the tops of the trees. It was quite a site. Someone in the neighborhood had them as pets and they escaped from their cages. Does anyone else remember these incidents??? John doesn't believe me!!! -- Nancy Watson Wingo, Horace Mann '59

I knew Monty Hall and Aunt Gaby very well. I sang on their TV show for several years. We had a ball and I bought a new bedroom set for
myself with the money I made -- a round bed. I do remember Mike Day fondly -- Karen May George ‘63

I remember Monty Hall. He worked at Channel 8 KFMB TV. I loved his boots and I asked him where he got his boots and he took my Dad and me to the place where he purchased his. My Dad was the one that knew him and I was just a kid then and we use to go to this home and he had all kinds of western stuff in his front room like a beautiful western saddle with silver on it -- Zeller Waymire ‘63

I couldn't resist adding my memories of Monty Hall's Playland. At an early age I was hit by horse-itis, and it has continued to this day, as I have two Tennessee Walking Horses in my front yard. As a child I visited Monty Hall's Playland often. I can remember an incident that happened there. One Sunday when I was riding one of the ponies, it jumped the chain that kept the ponies in the riding area. We took off and I can remember some of the employees chasing us. The more they chased, the faster we went until my father yelled at them to stop chasing the pony. When they finally stopped chasing us, we stopped. I never got scared during the entire ride, as I was so excited to be running on the back of a pony. I will never forget this exciting ride --
Joan Sanders Minnick '63

(Hi Joan – Hope your front yard is bigger than mine – JF)

While thinking about Monty Hall's Playland -- a favorite Sunday destination -- I was wondering if anyone remembers a large old restaurant across the street. What was the name of that place? (Not a trivia question, I really can't remember.) -- Barbara Earley Powell '64

Monty Hall is not the Let's Make A Deal guy. Apparently, Monty Hall was a place--Monty Hall's Play Land. It must have been on El Cajon Blvd, in La Mesa, because they are wondering about the restaurant that was across the street from it, and one of the guesses is Sexton's. There was Sexton's steak house between 70th St. and La Mesa Blvd. It was owned by the Luchanskys. Remember them? -- Joann Harb Humphus ‘74

Just a note about Monty Hall's Tiny Town Ranch. Karen Jo May George '63 appeared regularly on this TV talent show for kids back when she was in junior high -- maybe even earlier – Jan Worrell Manietta ‘63

I was on John Muir’s playground the morning that Monty Montana put on a show by riding his horse Rex around the lower field. It was great! But, I think people are confusing him with Playland’s Monty Hall. Anyone else remember???? --
Sandi Beeson Benson ’65

Monty Hall came to John Muir Elementary on 69th and Mohawk in the late 1940s or very early 1950s. He rode his black and white trick horse across the playground -- fast! He also did rope tricks as he rode, which fascinated us all. We thought we had a real cowboy hero in our midst. I too think it was called Monty Hall's Playland -- Jeannine Berger Passenheim '60

I have a message for Owen Western. He said he remembered the Tiny Town Ranch in relation to Monty Hall's Playland. I think that Tiny Town Ranch was his TV talent show for kids. The reason I think that is that Owen's friend and my brother, Mike Day '63, had a girlfriend in 1st grade that performed on the show --
Pat Day Carnie '61

We used to live off of El Cajon Blvd not too far from Monty Hall's Playland, where I rode my first pony at maybe two years old. I was also on Monty Hall's birthday party (wasn't it televised locally?). That first pony ride fueled a lifelong obsession with horses and ponies that carries on today, as my husband and I do equine rescue and rehab here on our small farm in Washinton State --
Jodi “Jo” Cook ‘68

The mention of the Monty Hall playground made me smile a lot. No one I ever have talked to remembers it. We went there all the time. When we were really little we drove up 70th to get there and later moved to one of the homes on 70th. They had little kid rides and I have pictures of us in those little rides. When we moved to 70th, we'd walk up and pet the horses (not ponies) that were kept in the back. I’m not certain that they belonged to the park though! I have great memories of that place. I think it was really cheap to go there because we were pretty poor. Thanks for the memory -- Mary Gale Rogers ‘67

Mary Gale Rogers says that nobody she's talked to remembers Monty Hall's Tiny Town Ranch. Well, I'm one who does, but then, she never talked to me. But I thought the name of the place in the early '50s on a big sign facing the boulevard was Monty Hall's "Playland." I may just be remembering incorrectly. Or, maybe the name was changed at some point. I appreciated the picture in any case. On a different topic, my wife is wondering whether anybody might have an old Camp Cuyamaca summer camp brochure -- Owen C. Western '63

I loved seeing the photo of Tim Hoolihan at Monty Hall's. I remember this place vividly! I called it "The Fair," and my father took me there almost every Saturday. I don't think the employees were too closely supervised. Once when I was about three or four I was on the pony ride and the saddle on my horse started to slip. Luckily my dad caught me before I fell off. The snack bar (or maybe the ticket booth) was in the shape of a windmill, and that building remained long after the amusement park had closed. I can remember driving past there many years later and still seeing the decrepit remains of the windmill back among the trees --
Mary Ellen Whelan Cain '71

I fondly remember "Monty Hall's Playland." There was a boat ride and the pony ride. I also remember the windmill ticket booth. I used to go there with my cousins. Wonderful memories --
Susan Kitaen Rhea ‘66



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