Ho Ho the Clown and Pokey the Puppet Were the Best

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Sure, we enjoyed writing about Foreman Scotty, who was great.

But when you’re talking about Okie Boomer programming legends, all roads lead to Ho Ho.

Ho Ho (Ed Birchall) hosted kids’ shows for 29 years on Koco Channel 5. Generations adored him, because he made TV for the child in all of us.

He also made thousands of personal appearances at hospitals, schools, birthday parties and telethons, most of which were, sadly, lost in time.

But there are at least three You Tube Clips of Ho Ho, and they are guaranteed to make you smile.

In the first “Vintage KOCO” clip, Ho Ho and Pokey show shark photos sent in by viewers while enjoying their usual banter that resonates on so many levels.

The second was shot at a children’s party, apparently at Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s home. Ho Ho and his balloon animals are a total hoot. What a showman!

The third is a brilliant teaser for Lunch With Ho Ho.

But the best of the lot may be this clip, featuring some brilliant schtick by Pokey and a CLASSIC INTRO over the opening credits for Good Morning Ho Ho by Rich Little as Jonathan Winters.

Pokey

Pokey (the sock puppet) was “operated” by Bill Howard WKY-TV’s long-time stage manager, who passed away on 9 January 2013, who also did Hollywood Harry, the upside down “chin man”.

When ThisWeekOn OKCHistory.Com featured Ho Ho for a week, it drew comments from adoring fans that included:

Steve: “I met the man once, as a kid attending a birthday party. He was a kind gentle soul. And it was amazing how people were affected by his death. You would have sworn a governor had died.”

Generals64: “We used him at some of the TG&Y openings he was a kind and gentle man…Not pretentious at all…”

Matt:: (answering a question about whether there were any books on Ho Ho), Ho Ho: A Touch of God’s Gentle Love was a collection of various remembrances of Ho-Ho that were sent in to the Daily Oklahoman (IIRC) by all types of people, all around the state. The first volume was published around 1989 and was so popular that two additional volumes followed.”

Twinkles: “I liked Ho Ho; in some ways, my mom and dad got a bigger kick out of them because of that Pokey. I always liked the Felix the Cat cartoons – the only place I ever got to see them.”

Skyrick: In my opinion Pokey was the greatest clown sidekick ever. I remember they were reading fan letters one time and someone asked what kind of animal Pokey was. ‘I’m a baby ibex,’ Pokey replied. ‘My horns just haven’t come in yet.’ They both cracked up so badly that I think the producers started a commercial.”

The blog looked high and low, but never found any evidence that Jeanie ever ripped Pokey right off of Bill Howard’s hand on live TV, but the rumor was around forever. (Anyone know if that really happened? If so, leave a comment!)

We’ll end with what Wikipedia has to say about Ho Ho, the legendary clown we grew up with.

Ho Ho Wikipedia:

Mr. Birchall was born on July 16, 1923 of Irish heritage in Colchester, Connecticut and served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. A lover of the circus, he performed as a freelance clown before being hired as an entertainer by KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.

“There, he starred in a local children’s television show named after him, which typically featured an array of firefighters, police officers, zoo animals, visiting circus clowns, and other guests, as well as Pokey the Puppet, played by Bill Howard, the station’s long-time stage manager wearing a sock-puppet on his arm. HoHo was all over the TV schedule, for much of the 1960s he was on six days a week. Various titles were ‘HoHo’s Showboat’, ‘Lunch With HoHo’, ‘Good Morning HoHo’, and ‘HoHo’s Showplace’.

The show survived for 29 years, long after the station was acquired by Gannett, airing in its last years without commercials to fulfill the station’s public service requirements. He was a frequent visitor to children’s wards at local hospitals, providing a kind of medicine the doctors could not. He also appeared at restaurants, charity events, parades, and children’s parties, from which he derived most of his income.

Mr. Birchall was a diminutive and slightly round man of cheerful spirit and hippie inclinations. Friends remember him as behaving much the same in real life as on his show. He lived in Bethany, Oklahoma for most of his life, and suffered declining health leading to his death in the hospital on July 3, 1988 from a heart attack while undergoing treatment for cancer.

His popularity was so great that it took three funeral services to accommodate all of his well-wishers, the first of which was attended by an honor guard of professional clown friends and carried live by KOCO-TV.

He was married to Beebe, and they had six children. Ho Ho died July 3, 1988. Three services were needed to accommodate his many fans.”

Rest in Peace, Ho Ho. You were the best.

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Click HERE for free Hog Tweets from HogsAteMySister and your very own ibex of the genus Pokus HoHo-us.
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4 Responses to “Ho Ho the Clown and Pokey the Puppet Were the Best”

  1. Marty Williams says:

    Thanks you HOHO, as a child more than 50 years ago, I will never forget his words to all the young minds in our Hollywood Fla school cafeteria. Courtesy Honesty, Safety! He was a mix of laughter and teaching never forgotten. Marty

  2. Glenda Coons says:

    I was so happy to find this article. I have searched for information on Ho Ho for years. I watched his show up until the early 70s when I left Oklahoma. I enjoyed it just as much as an adult as I did a child. I worked with his son, Mike, at OU and then with another son, whose name I sadly don’t recall. Those poor guys, they took the worst teasing but they took it well. Thanks so much for the article. This made my day and I shared with old friends.

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