Tempe playwright Ben Tyler recalls watching “The Wallace & Ladmo Show” with friends when he was a child. The TV show, which featured a band dubbed “Hub Kapp and The Wheels,” was broadcast on KPHO-TV 5 from 1954 to 1989. Like many Arizona natives, Tyler grew up watching Pat McMahon and other cast members deliver comedic lines written at two levels—one for kids and another for adults.
Phoenix mother Hillary Charles remembers watching with her three siblings; she even appeared on the show once with her Brownie troop. She loved its many colorful characters, including Marshall Good, Captain Super, Gerald, Aunt Maud and Boffo the Clown.
Charles’s 10-year-old son was studying American history at Madison Traditional Academy in Phoenix when he drew a report topic from a hat: “The Wallace and Ladmo Show.” Neither Austin nor his dad, Ed Charles, had ever seen the show, so the family started watching old episodes on the computer. Soon Austin was a fan.
After writing to McMahon about his school project and getting a lovely note back, Austin and his dad met McMahon, who played Gerald, Hub Kapp and many other characters on the show. Bill Thompson was Wallace, and Ladimir Kwiatkowski was Ladmo. Memorabilia recounting their adventures is exhibited at the House of Broadcasting in Old Town Scottsdale.
Memories weren’t enough for Tyler, who decided to write a play about the show. His “The Wallace and Ladmo Show” (part of a trilogy) will be performed June 1-17 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. It is produced by Actors Theatre of Phoenix and Desert Foothills Theatre of Scottsdale in association with Centennial Theatre Foundation, an organization headed by Tyler that’s dedicated to developing new plays about Arizona.
The Charles family plans to see the play this summer, though they’ve already got a way to enjoy their favorite parts of the show. A diorama Austin created for his fourth-grade American history project is proudly displayed in the family’s living room. The shoebox, decorated to look like an old-fashioned TV set, features pictures of Wallace, Ladmo and other characters—plus a phone booth, hidden door and a “Ladmo” bag some kids won on the show.
“I didn’t get a Ladmo bag,” recalls Hillary Charles. “And I was really sad.” But decades later, she’s the only one with that one-of-a-kind diorama.