RADIO PREMIUMS -
RELIVE THEM AGAIN!
One of the most popular children's programs, Captain Midnight was sponsored during the 1939-40 season by the Skelly Oil Company and for the remainder of it's run by Ovaltine. All of the following premiums were offered by Skelly Gasoline.
Kids were invited to join Captain Midnight's Flight Patrol. If they could get their dads to gas up at the local Skelly Service Station, the Skelly man would sign them up and send for their free Captain Midnight Mysto Magic Weather Forecasting Badges. This was a small metal badge containing a piece of litmus paper which changed color as weather conditions affected it. Members could predict weather changes before they occurred and mystify their friends.
The Skelly man had two free autographed photos of Captain Midnight and Chuck for Flight Patrol members. Captain Midnight was wearing a ring in his picture, and the ring revealed a secret symbol which was a clue to the next adventure. Additional prizes would also be available in the near future. Unfortunately, the follow-on episodes are not available to reveal the meaning of the secret symbol or to fill us in on the prizes. We do know that Captain Midnight offered a fairly large number of premiums to 1939 Flight Patrol members, including the Captain Midnight Flight Commander Pin, a treasure map, a trick and riddle book and a Stamp Album of Air Heroes. We are unable to tell, though, if any of these were tied to the symbol on Captain Midnight's ring. The radio announcer also noted that if you were not already a member of the Flight Patrol, you could sign up at the Skelly station where you would receive the pictures and a membership card, and the Skelly man would send in for your weather forecasting badge.
Subject of episode, 'Parada Comes Home.' The 1940 Captain Midnight Flight Patrol was seeking members, and if you joined you would be eligible for free gifts and prizes. You could join at your Skelly station where you received an official Junior Pilot's Membership Card. The Skelly man would then send for your second gift, a burnished bronze Medal of Membership. This medal contained a mysterious secret password that only Flight Patrol members would understand. The medal was about the size of a half-dollar and had pictures of Captain Midnight, Chuck and Patsy on one side and a clock on the other. One side had a 'bump' in the middle so the medal could be used as a spinner. This was handy for determining such critical issues of the day as who would be captain of the team or who would go to the store for mother.
Subject of episode, 'The Chart.' Flight Patrol members witnessed a 'strange curiosity of nature' if they stopped at their Skelly dealers and picked up their free bag of Mexican jumping beans. They also received a new game called Ringo Jumpo. The game consisted of a sheet of paper with a 'bulls-eye' target printed on it. Members put their beans in the middle to see which one reached the outer ring of the target first.
Subject of episode, 'Disaster.' This was a special offer for dad (and mom). If he purchased a new Skelgas kitchen range, mom would receive a free 57 piece colored dinnerware set in the gay, Barcelona pattern! A real value since this set was available in leading stores for $14.95. Skelgas kitchen ranges were just right "for those beyond the gas line".
Subject of episode, 'Pinky and Slim are Missing.' Flight Patrol members could pick up the December issue of the Flight Patrol Reporter newspaper from their Skelly dealer. This edition included a map of the area of Mexico where the current adventures were taking place, and listeners could follow along as they listened to the story. It also revealed the true meaning of the secret password, 'Cobralhofa', printed on the medal of membership.
Subject of episode, 'Fiendish Plan.' Skelly dealers were now carrying a new kind of bicycle tire. They were called Captain Midnight bicycle tires and had the words, "Captain Midnight", printed in big, raised letters on the side of each tire. They came in two styles, a big, all black clincher balloon tire and a single tube type with white side-walls. Flight Patrolers had been receiving free gifts all season long from their Skelly man, but these items were not free. The clincher model sold for $2 and the white side-wall for $1.65. By the way, does anyone know what a 'clincher' tire is? [click here for answer]
An autographed photo of Captain Midnight, Chuck and Patsy standing in front of Captain Midnight's monoplane was available, free, at your Skelly dealer.
Skelly dealers had a free, colored map of America's major airlines for Flight Patrol members. It was a big 11 x 17 inch wall map and was mailed flat, without any folds, so it could be framed and placed on the wall above a desk or bed. It showed the routes of and cities served by all major US airlines, and along the edges were pictures of many of the planes being used in air transportation. Every air-minded boy and girl would surely want one, so they needed to get their dads to drive them to the Skelly station soon before they were all gone!
Flight Patrolers could build their own model airport and planes from plans available in the March issue of Captain Midnight's Flight Patrol Reporter, free at Skelly dealers. Included were instructions on how to get plans for Captain Midnight's own Spartan Bomber. Also included was a complete set of war plane markings of all the major air forces in the world.
In March 1940, Chuck was captured by Ivan Shark, Captain Midnight's arch enemy. He was forced to broadcast three separate messages to prove he was Shark's prisoner. During these broadcasts, Chuck incorporated secret messages to help Captain Midnight find the location of his prison. The messages were as follows:
1st message: "Hello, Captain Midnight and everybody. It sure seems a long time since I have seen you and the old home at Black Gulch. I am feeling fine. This is on my word of honor. Do as Ivan Shark asks, flying to any point he says as swiftly as an arrow. Ivan Shark is a snake, a Cobra but I ..".
2nd message: "Hello, Captain Midnight and everybody. Please do not delay long. Fly where Ivan Shark says. I will not be home again if you refuse. To do all these things on my account is a lot, I know. Remember that flying to Ivan Shark's direction as straight as an arrow is essential..".
After receiving this second message, Captain Midnight noted that every tenth word in both messages was the same and the first letter of each of those words corresponded to the last five letters of the Flight Patrol's secret password, Cobralhofa. He knew this was not a coincidence because Chuck's use of the word 'Cobra' in the first message meant he was trying to communicate through the secret password. He anticipated that any further messages from Chuck would include words beginning with the first five letters of the password. Talk about a complicated secret code system! Wow!
3rd message: "Hello, Captain Midnight. This is your last chance to come to an agreement with Ivan Shark. Please think it over. If you do not agree, this will be the bridge that will separate us forever. You should do the right thing. The thing that will surely bring us together at last ..".
Captain Midnight was right. This time Chuck's secret message, determined by counting every tenth word, did use the first five letters of Cobralhofa. The entire message then read: "Come over bridge, right at long home on flying arrow". "Flying arrow" referred to a landmark which could be seen from the air. The key to reading any secret message apparently came from the fact that 'Cobralhofa' contained ten letters, hence, messages were deciphered by counting every tenth word. At least that's my guess. We never do find out what a Cobralhofa is, and, unfortunately, the available recordings terminate before we find out if Captain Midnight was able to locate Shark's hideout and rescue Chuck from his evil clutches. My bet is he did!
The remaining shows and offers were courtesy of Ovaltine.
Subject of episode: Investigating a foreign submarine. There was a Secret Squadron Signal Session at the end of the show using the 1941 Mystery Dial Code-O-Graph. The message read: 'Explore Mystery Island.'
Subject of episode: Chuck and Joyce are trapped in Tiger Tong's car. Although captured, Chuck tells Joyce not to lose hope because the Secret Squadron has a new signaling device, and Captain Midnight may be able to use it to communicate with them. This is an obvious build-up for a future offer, probably the Whirlwind Whistling Ring.
Title of episode: "Trapped By the Nazis". Another Secret Squadron Signal Session ended this episode, using the 1942 Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph. The message read: 'Stand Off Nazi Attack'
In the body of this show, Chuck used the Captain Midnight Plane Detector to identify incoming aircraft.
Title of episode: "Fighting With the Commandos". A Secret Squadron Signal Session message, using the 1942 Code-O-Graph, read: 'Outwit Von Karp'
Title of episode: "The Stolen Star". You could enjoy your very own Captain Midnight Shake-Ups with the Captain's own Orange and Blue, two-piece Shake-Up-Mug. The two pieces fit together to serve as a shaker, but, when taken apart, the bottom half served as a drinking glass. And that wasn't all. An embossed picture of Captain Midnight's head was on the side of the mug and the Secret Squadron Pledge was on the top. Talk about a diabolical way to get kids to sample the sponsor's product! Of course, Orphan Annie had used the same ploy ten years earlier when she, too, was sponsored by Ovaltine. Things were also starting to get more expensive. The Shake-Up Mug cost 15c, in coin, as well as the traditional label from the jar of Ovaltine.
Title of episode: "The Man With The Missing Finger". The episode included a Secret Squadron Signal Session using the 1947 Whistling Code-O-Graph. The message read 'Death Has Four Fingers'. Interestingly the Master Code designation of C-3, provided by the announcer was in error. The correct Master Code was critical for listeners at home to decipher the secret messages since there were over 600 possible code settings. I discovered the error in trying to decode the message for this article. After some fooling around with various codes, the correct one was found to be C-7 rather than C-3 . There were probably some frustrated Secret Squadron members listening at home the night this message was sent. In addition, the message itself sounded like it should have been sent the day before as the content of the program dealt with a murderer with a missing finger. It's interesting to speculate why announcer Tom Moore gave the wrong Master Code. Perhaps Ivan Shark was responsible!
Title of episode: "The Slave Smugglers" A Secret Squadron Signal Session uses the 1947 Whistling Code-O-Graph. The message read 'Rescue On The Cliff'. Announcer Tom Moore also reminded listeners to submit their entries in the many contests listed in the 1947 Secret Squadron Manual. Although not a part of the broadcast, we can still identify what those prizes were by referring to page 14 of the manual. They included crisp $1 bills or silver dollars and, in a couple of cases, $5 bills! A special contest asked members to draw pictures of Ivan Shark and his daughter, Fury. Two winners would be selected and each would receive a fine 6-tube, AC-DC Zenith portable radio. Each member who entered received a special gift from Captain Midnight, whether they won or not. These gifts included left-over premiums from past years including a Secret Squadron Sleeve Insignia (1943), a Secret Squadron Distinguished Service Ribbon Bar (1944), an official Secret Squadron Ring (1946), or some other Secret Squadron memento. I recall entering the contests and getting the ring, a Mystic Sun God ring no less, as my consolation prize. I was lucky; I could have won the dollar bill instead!
Title of episode: 'The Devil on Ice'. This episode announced it was the last chance to join the 1949 Secret Squadron. You only needed to send one label from a jar of Ovaltine to receive the 1949 Key-O-Matic Code-O-Graph and the official Secret Squadron handbook. The handbook contained eight pages of pictures, signs, and signals as well as instructions on how to use the Code-O-Graph. The secret to the 1949 Code-O-Graph was a tiny key necessary to set the Master Codes. (Hint: I lost the key a couple of days after receiving the Code-O-Graph but found one of my mother's old bobby pins worked just as well! I hoped Ivan Shark wouldn't discover how easy it was to thwart the Secret Squadron's most secret of all decoders!)
As an aside, the above examples of secret codes we kids received from Captain Midnight (and Orphan Annie as well) clearly illustrate that Secret Squadron members were privy to some real advanced info. A common perception today is that these coded messages were nothing more than an additional pitch for the sponsor's product. No, indeed! We were all official members of an organization dedicated to stamping out crime and injustice, and the messages we received were the real thing. We were alert for that special message meant for our ears alone. You never could tell when we might be called upon to lend assistance to the Captain and his troops.
The answer to the "clincher tire" question, as provided by Dan Schallau:
Clincher tires have a hook or bead which allows them to clinch(hold or
grab) the metal wheel rim. They use inner tubes as opposed to tubular tires which don't
have an inner tube. The tire is the tube in this case and are attached to the rim with glue.
Tour de France racers use tubular. All other bikes, from your average bike to high end
mountain bikes use clincher tires which can be taken off easily and no glue is necessary.
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