Rocketship 7 and Dave Thomas

This children’s morning TV show debuted on WKBW-TV (Channel 7) on September 10, 1962 at 7am. Dave Thomas hosted this while he and his alter-ego sock puppet, Mr. Beeper (later Biff Beeper) would banter about the morning’s events. Early on Mr. Beeper would stick his head out of a rocket ship’s porthole. Later on in the run Mr. Beeper went away and mysteriously reappeared fuzzier and traveled in a bubble-top contraption. Every day Dave would go to the computer (a panel with reel-to-reel tapes) and pull out a list from a slot and read off the names of the lucky kids having a birthday. Sometimes the computer misbehaved and Dave would have a difficult time trying to retrieve the list from the computer. From time to time someone from the Buffalo Zoo or the Buffalo Museum of Science would come in. On Fridays, one could draw with the magic screen. Dave would draw along with it and at the end would hold up his drawing. The camera would zoom in and out and a laughtrack was added to ridicule Dave’s drawing talent. Kids sent in their drawings from the previous Friday and they were displayed on the following Thursday. I’m sure it was difficult for Dave to keep a straight face throughout all these shenanigans.


Dave Thomas left the show in May 1978 but, the show continued its run until August 3, 1979 with Promo the Robot as host. Dave Thomas now goes by Dave Roberts and can be seen on WPVI-TV of Philadelphia as the weatherman. His son, David Boreanaz is the star of the WB series “Angel”.

Listen to Dave Roberts’ speech at the November 16, 2000 Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Dinner.



Promo The Robot

Promo the Robot was Dave’s sidekick. Promo started off as a boxy looking thing with a funnel hat. Later, his design was streamlined with an antenna that spun around. Sometimes he bumbled about with a wire coat hanger as an antenna. Dave and Promo would introduce the cartoons, which consisted mainly of Looney Tunes from Warner Brothers, Davey and Goliath (sponsored by the Lutheran Church in America), and Gumby.


There were actually three Promo the Robots during the course of the run. The first one was played by someone named Joe (He only lasted a couple of weeks). Jim Palermo played the second one, but the most famous one was played by Johnny Banaszak of “Johnny and Jimmy” fame (Johnny played the accordion and Jimmy played the drums on the show following Rocketship 7, Dialing for Dollars.) Sadly, Johnny passed away on July 13, 1985.


The Sweetlys

Later on in the run a strange family of puppets resembling apple-head dolls that went by name of the Sweetly’s were introduced. Mr. Sweetly’s name was Flo and he was the rocketship’s maintenance man. His wife went just by Mrs. Sweetly. They sounded strangely like Promo the Robot, but never mind. They also had a cat named Alex.


The Snow Leopards

The Buffalo Zoo along with WKBW sponsored the importation of a couple of snow leopards. One could become a member of the Snow Leopard Club for a dollar. The coloring in of a paw print on a tote board marked your little donation.


The big day for a member of the Snow Leopard Club came when the leopards were introduced. You were able to meet in person Dave Thomas and Promo the Robot. You also were given an ice-cream sandwich and souvenir photo.


The snow leopards were Nicolai and Tanya. Nicolai was a male born at the Lincoln Park Zoo in 1967. He was brought to the Buffalo Zoo from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo on November 27, 1968. He passed away in 1977. Tanya was a wild born female imported on January 30, 1969. She died in 1986.



1990’s Revival

The show was brought back in 1992 for one season as the New Rocketship 7 and was commandeered by WKBW-TV meteorologist Captain Mike Randall.


Special Thanks to Dave Roberts, The Buffalo Zoo, The Buffalo Broadcasting Pioneers, The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadephia, and Robert Henderson for some of the information used in this web page.









Early Years

Private Collection


Later Years

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

Photo Courtesy of Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers


Johnny Banaszak and Dave Thomas with the “Dialing For Dollars” Gang

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

Photo Courtesy of Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers


The Snow Leopard Club Card






© 2002 David Burnham

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