"I will live up to the creed of a Pick Temple Ranger--to carry on the principles of good citizenship, to help the needy, the aged and the sick, to respect my parents and teachers, to love my neighbors, city and country. Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." --Pick Temple Giant Ranger Pledge
PICK TEMPLE still remembers the Giant Ranger pledge. And he still believes in it, too.
"At least I think that's how it went," says Temple, former host of one of Washington's earliest and most popular children's TV programs. In the 1950s, more than a quarter of a million Washingtonians, ages 3 to 16, enlisted as Giant Rangers on Pick Temple's Giant Ranch. "Great literature it wasn't, but the kids said it every day with me, and a lot of parents have thanked me for it."
If you were a Washington kid, you could become a Giant Ranger and sit in the hayloft when visiting the show. The big thing was to have your birthday party on the Pick Temple show. And most important--you learned something every day--about good health, safety and citizenship.
Washingtonians will also remember: Temple's collie mascot, Lady, whom Temple bought in a pet shop on the way home from work one day and who soon developed a following of her own; his theme song (sung to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey"); Piccolo the pony, who was named in a contest, and a menagerie of puppets, for whom Temple provided the voices.
"My favorite puppet was named 'Yon Cassius.' I explained that he was of Scandinavian origin, and I used to tell the kids 'Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look,' Temple says. "I always had visions of these kids coming across 'Julius Caesar' in high school, and realizing, 'That's where that name came from!' We also had this bird left over from a commercial. We called him 'Quoth'--'Quoth the Raven.' "
In its heyday, the show aired live seven days a week, 90 minutes a day. Giant Foods bought the 3-year-old show in 1953, and sponsored it for nine more years, paying Temple the then-phenomenal salary of $1,000 a week. Temple greeted his Rangers with the salutation, "Heidi, pardner!" after Giant's line of Heidi baked goods.
Temple, 72, lives in Sun City, Ariz., where he retired with his wife Jeannette. Although he was idolized as a cowboy by thousands of kids, Temple says he had never been west until his daughter's graduation from the University of Arizona. He liked it and moved out there.
Born Lafayette Parker Temple II in Washington, Temple's fascination with folk songs--train songs, in particular--led to his start in show business.
In the early '40s, Temple was asked to record his favorite folk tunes, many of which he collected while roaming around the country on freight trains for the Library of Congress archives.
"As a matter of fact, the folk songs are what got me on TV," Temple recalls. Having learned to play ukulele and guitar at St. Paul's School in Baltimore, where he swapped songs with friends in the schoolyard, Temple began singing at parties, dances and amateur hours--usually for $5 a night, sometimes for free.
While he was working as an economic statistician in the Census Bureau, Temple landed a spot on WTTG's "Stars of Tomorrow," and WTOP president John Hayes eventually put him on the air with his own show, which grew from 15 minutes to 90 minutes daily.
But the show was very expensive to produce, Temple says, with 30 to 40 children on board each day, and Giant eventually lost interest, switching the majority of its advertising to newspapers. Temple made a go of the same type of show in Philadelphia, but the program lasted less than two years.
"The days of live children's television were over," Temple says. So he moved back to Washington to work at the Office of Economic Opportunity, so he could qualify for his retirement pension.
His Sun City home is filled with railroad memorabilia, and he is now working with a Virginia friend on a book about railroad songs.
He still writes and records folk songs and occasionally he even gets a letter from one of his long-lost Rangers.