OPINION: Local kids once grew up watching the crazy Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales and his show Lunch with Soupy on WXYZ-TV in Detroit was popular with local kids in the 1950s and ’60s. Submitted Image

Nadine Wark

For those who grew up in the Sarnia area, Detroit TV provided a lot of quality kids’ programs to watch.

Lunch with Soupy ran from 1953 to 1966, and I remember walking home from school and having lunch in front of our black-and-white Admiral with this crazy guy wearing a large bowtie and black top hat.

He would stand in front of a blackboard listing the menu that day, using a wooden pointer to explain. The show consisted of a series of comedy skits with Soupy or one of his guests getting a pie in the face.

It became a trademark for Soupy, whose real name was Milton Supman, and he claimed he and his visitors were hit with more than 20,000 pies.

Puppets and live performers were regulars. The puppets spoke only in grunts and growls, with Soupy translating into English. White Fang was “the biggest and meanest dog in the USA” and appeared as a giant white shaggy paw with claws.

Black Tooth, “the biggest and sweetest dog in the USA,” was a giant black paw with a more feminine sound.

White Fang’s girlfriend Marilyn Monwolf got short shift on the show, causing rivalry between the two dogs, but she later jilted them both for Joe Dogmaggio.

Pookie the lion appeared in a large window, communicating in whistles, with Soupy translating. The name stuck with me and I named my Siamese kitten Pookie, or Pook for short.

Willie the Worm was “the sickest worm in all of Dee-troit” who had a chronic cold and explosive sneezes.

Soupy’s show was said to be a children’s show for adults. Each episode, someone would knock at the door and viewers would see only a hand or arm, but no face.

Sometimes it was someone wanting to borrow a cup of sugar (which always overflowed); other times it got complicated, like the episode in which a topless dancer arrived at the door partially covered by a balloon and seen only by Soupy.

His improv skills kicked in and he was able to keep the live broadcast from Detroit going without ever revealing the risqué visitor.

Fans may recall the New Year’s Day incident of 1965 when Soupy encouraged his young viewers to tiptoe into the bedrooms of their still-sleeping parents and “remove those funny green pieces of paper” with pictures of U.S. presidents on them and “Put them in an envelope and mail them to me.”

A mix of regular money and Monopoly money arrived at the studio office and Soupy was suspended for two weeks.

The donation of $80,000 went to charity, and his popularity soared.

Soupy was also known for the Soupy Shuffle. And in September of 1965 his novelty hit dance song ‘The Mouse’ was performed by Soupy himself on the Ed Sullivan Show, just before the Beatles’ segment.

Thanks for the memories Soupy!

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia