Utter the name Skipper Chuck to a long-time Miami kid and he'll be transported back to a world of "peace, love, and happiness," where a gentle host held his young audience in thrall, plying them with cartoons, puppets, sidekicks (including zany Scrubby and wholesome babe Cher), and games such as the illustrious balloon drop with prizes that ranged from bubblegum cards to bicycles.
Replacing a haughty host destined for greater things (Merv Griffin), Indiana-born Chuck Zink ruled the kiddie roost on WTVJ, then-CBS affiliate Channel 4 in Miami, from 1957 to 1979. Lured here from Pennsylvania in the late Fifties to do local morning news cut-ins during the network's breakfast broadcast, Zink eventually led Popeye's Playhouse, featuring cartoons starring the spinach-eating hellion. Six months later the too-common maritime theme was dropped, but Zink retained his rank on The Skipper Chuck Show. It was no stroke of brilliance on anyone's part. FCC rules of the time mandated that all local stations offer a children's program. Zink, a proven commodity, proved ideal for the job.
Now a Boca Raton resident, Zink has gone from catering to kids to servicing senior citizens. During the week he spins standards on WJNA (1040-AM). "I'm playing what my people (the ones with white hair) listen to," he quips. On weekends he hosts a music show and a public affairs program devoted to the elder set on the Palm Beach County NPR affiliate. "We sit around the table and beat each other up," he laughs.
Breaking down the doors of the Colony Theater this Thursday may be many adults who remember their halcyon days watching Zink's show each morning before school. The Florida Moving Image Archive's Rewind/Fast Forward Film & Video Festival will open with a look back at the Skipper's finest hours. Zink himself will appear. And if the crowd gets too rowdy, he'll just have to employ tactics he once used on kids. "I never looked down on them," he recalls. "Always listened to them -- and we really disciplined them!"