Sheriff John R.I.P.

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I lost one of my very first friends this week. John Rovick passed away at the age of 93. Even though he was one of my best friends I never knew his last name, I only knew him as Sheriff John, my lunchtime pal. Every weekday at noon Sheriff John’s Lunch Brigade was broadcast on KTTV channel 11 inLos Angeles. As I sat in front of our TV eating my sandwich while watching Sheriff John eat his, hundreds of thousands of other kids were doing the exact same thing – having lunch with their very best friend. It was the largest daily lunch gathering in LA.

Sheriff John’s Lunch Brigade began its run in 1953. The show lasted until 1970, and by that time I had started working at the Walt Disney Studios and having lunch with other people. But those new people never sang to me or said a prayer before eating like my friend Sheriff John always did. His show always started the same way, with a song, “Laugh and Be Happy” which he’d sing in a smooth baritone as he entered the door of the sheriff’s office.

Come on now,

Laugh and be happy and the world will laugh with you

When people see you smiling they can’t help smiling too

When you look out the window to a dark and gloomy day

Break out a smile and in a while the gloom will go away

So laugh and be happy with a merry melody

A song will make a hat rack look like a Christmas tree

Get rid of worry in a hurry, chase the blues away

Just laugh and be happy all the live … long … day….

The opening included leading us kids in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. When it was time to eat he would sit down at his table, always set with a sandwich and a glass of milk, then he put his napkin on his lap, fold his hands together, bow his head, and say his little prayer before eating. Then we’d all have our lunch and watch cartoons (Crusader Rabbit). Could life get any better for a little kid? But it was more than just songs, food, and cartoons. Sheriff John taught us good solid life lessons, manners, patriotism, and courtesy. Sometimes he’d have guests on the show like firemen and police officers who would give us safety tips.

Along with lunch, Crusader Rabbit and Rags the tiger, another highlight of the show was Sheriff John’s reading of the names of dozens of viewers who were celebrating birthdays that day. After he read the names he’d sing “The Birthday Cake Polka” (“Put another candle on my birthday cake” as a large cake revolved on a lazy Susan).

Put another candle on my birthday cake

We’re gonna bake a birthday cake

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today

 

I’m gonna have a party with my birthday cake

Come on and take some birthday cake

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today

 

We’ll have some pie and sandwiches

And chocolate ice cream too

We’ll sing and play the day away

And one more thing I’m gonna do

 

I’ll blow out the candles on my birthday cake

And when I do, a wish I’ll make

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today

 

(Musical Interlude)

 

Put another candle on my birthday cake

We’re gonna bake a birthday cake

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today

 

I’m gonna have a party with my birthday cake

Come on and take some birthday cake

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today

 

We’ll have some pie and sandwiches

And chocolate ice cream, too

We’ll sing and play the day away

And one more thing I’m gonna do

 

I’ll blow out the candles on my birthday cake

And when I do, a wish I’ll make

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today

(Happy birthday to you)

I’m another year old today.

Rest in peace, Sheriff John. You were my first friend and I’ve never forgotten you. I think of you every time I have a birthday.

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