“Sheriff”John Rovick

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When one of the first TV stations in Los Angeles went on the air in 1949 (KTTV 11), Rovick was hired as an announcer. In 1952, the station acquired rights to a load of cartoons, and Rovick was tapped to put on a show. “I had been an honorary Sheriff before I started the show because I was interested in law enforcement work,” he said years later. “I put on a khaki uniform and a badge and got a big white hat, sat at a desk and showed cartoons.” The show, Cartoon Time, was a hit, with kids coming home from school to watch “Sheriff John”. Within a year, the show received an Emmy Award for outstanding children’s program. “We talked a lot about safety, courtesy, manners and things like that,” Rovick said later. “We often had firemen or police officers as guests, and I’d warn the kids not to do things like play in the street or get into refrigerators or play with matches.”

Rovick, in costume.

Other times he’d do field trips, such as to a General Motors assembly plant in Van Nuys to show how cars were made. Kids who had birthdays coming up could send in their names, and he’d sing them “The Birthday Cake Polka” (“Put another candle on my birthday cake. We’re gonna bake a birthday cake….”) He recalled a father writing to thank him for teaching his daughter how to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Her version ended, he said, “…with liberty and justice for all, and now to our first cartoon.” Other stations copied the format, and Rovick was fine with that. “The kids always came first,” he said in 2005. The show stayed on the air in various forms until 1970, when it was canceled to “save money,” he said. (I watched him until I moved out of Los Angeles in 1969.) Rovick stayed on as an announcer until 1981, and he retired to Idaho — where he frequently ran into grown-up fans, including his doctor, dentist, and people on the street who recognized him as “Sheriff John”. He died in his sleep at a nursing home in Idaho on October 6. He was 93.

From This is True for 7 October 2012