PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

September 4, 2006

Garner and Stevens recall the early days of TV

PORT ARTHUR — The sun has long set on the Circle 4 Club’s Kiddy Show.

35 years have passed since Cowboy John, a hero bigger than any other to many Southeast Texas youths, rode off after meeting Black Bart for the last time. While 35 years of dust gathered on the duo’s hats and boots, their legacy lives on in the memories of those who watched and believed in truth and justice for the good guys.

For John Stevens, who played the part of Black Bark, 35 years hasn’t been long enough to remember what it meant to be the bad guy in the end.

“It got to where I had to wear shin guards on under my costume,” Stevens recalled, slightly wincing and reaching for his lower leg. “And I had to wear a cup.”

Giving a slight laugh of recollection, John Garner, who served as Cowboy John during the program’s duration, explains.

“John would have to wear the shin guards for all of times parents would tell their kids to run up and kick Black Bart,” Garner recalled.

The Kiddy Show, starring Cowboy John, began in Texarkana , where Garner had been working in radio following his service in Korea .

“I went into the army at an early age,” Garner said. “I did radio in the army, and when I got out, I got into television. At first, I was doing the weather, and when the station in Texarkana decided they wanted to do the Kiddy Show, nobody wanted to do it.”

Garner’s station had a national sponsor that wanted the Kiddy Show. After a trade out in advertising with a local western store, the outfit was gathered and Garner first became Cowboy John.

“I hated it at first,” Garner said. “I wanted to be on the news. That’s the only job I really ever had.”

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