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The Ramblin' Rod Show 1980-1989

"The Ramblin' Rod Cartoon Show" opening credits, 1983.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  That seemed to be the axiom that The Ramblin Rod Cartoon Show lived by in the 1980s.

Other than some noticeable upgrades in KPTV's on-air equipment, evidenced by fancier graphics and funny bumpers (leading into and out of segments) Ramblin' Rod continued to entertain children much as he had for the previous two decades.

Already popular with children in the Portland area, Rod increased his reach by taking the show on the road.  Throughout the '80s, The Ramblin' Rod Cartoon Show visited cities across Oregon and Southwest Washington, attending county and state fairs and other local events.


'Ramblin' Rod' puts in 20 years as kid show host

Ramblin' Rod ends the show with a wave and a tried-and-true
gag: the funny nose and glasses.

"One, two, three.  Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!"

Eighty skinny arms wave and 40 tiny voices scream out their welcome to one of Portland television's longest-running local programs, "The Ramblin' Rod Show."

It is 5 p.m. in a cavernous studio at KPTV, Channel 12. The 40 excited little boys and girls have been ushered onto the rows of bleachers by floor director Lois Karas. Some are mere toddlers. They are dragged along by their older brothers and sisters. Many clutch dolls, most of the Cabbage Patch Kids variety.

The show is being taped for the following morning. The show actually is aired from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. each day.

Five days a week for 20 years, Rod Anders has become Ramblin' Rod, the smiling, genial host for one of the nation's last remaining kiddies programs. He's 51, although he looks younger, but Anders has no thought of giving up his show.

Everybody line up for the birthday song!

"Retirement? That's a dirty word," said Anders, his coat glistening with dozens of the thousands of buttons he has acquired during two decades of joking with children and showing cartoons.

He was born in Portland, not too far from the KPTV studios, which adjoin the west edge of Civic Stadium. He got his start in broadcasting as a disc jockey on old radio station KPOJ. That is where he started singing and plucking his guitar.

"It was 20 years ago this August that Bob Adkins, who was known as Addie Bobkins on the air, quit KPTV," Anders said. "I came over and applied for his job, got it, and I'm still here."

After director Karas, a Fort Vancouver High School graduate and daughter of a school administrator here, gets the kids calmed down and at ease with some simple exercises, Anders takes over. He moves among the children, microphone in hand, joking with this one, asking questions of another.

His specialty is a handshake that makes the thin arm of the boy or girl undulate like seaweed in the strong surf. This always is good for a laugh.

Another "smile contest" winner gets her 15-seconds of fame. 

As he wends his way up and down the rows of children, Anders uses the time-tested gags that have broken up his young. audience for two decades. "Is this your husband," he asks a 7-year-old. girl, pointing to the gum-chewing boy sitting next to her. (No. Giggle, giggle, giggle.)

Anders' current favorite story concerns a Battle Ground boy, Tony Sahli. "When we had the freezing weather and silver thaw around Christmas, Tony was the only kid to show up," Anders said. "Somehow, he made it all the way in from Battle Ground. So we put the show on, just he and I. We called it the Ramblin' Tony show. He was terrific. He grabbed the mike and away we went."

Usually, about 40 boys and girls show up for each program, ranging in age from 2 to 12. At one time, reservations had to be made a year in advance to get on the show. Now, about one month's leeway is required.

Anders laughs when he is asked if working with 40 giggling children on camera every day doesn't just about drive him nuts. "I love it," he responds. "Each one is an individual. You can practically see them blooming."

A bluebird group captures Ramblin' Rod's attention... and his microphone.

Since his show is 20 years old, Anders now is entertaining the sons and daughters of the boys and girls who appeared on his show over the years. He would not be surprised if some third-generation guests might not be popping up before too long.

"Kids recognize me on the street and run up to say hello, as if they have known me all their lives," he explained. "I suppose, in a way they have."

Although children's shows of this format have largely disappeared in this more sophisticated age, Ramblin' Rod always has enjoyed good ratings over the years. "Even when we ran up against 'Sesame Street' head-to-head, our ratings didn't seem to suffer," he said.

There is a serious side to Anders, too. He is moderator of Channel 12's Saturday program, 12 in the Morning, in which he interviews guests on all sorts of subjects. "I can talk about just any subject you can think of," he said.

Anders also is proud of his role as moderator of the Easter Seals and Muscular Dystrophy telethons which run on Channel 12. "We've got our 10th or 11th one coming up in April," he said.

As if that weren't enough, Anders also is the KPTV staff announcer, as well as the man who pitches used cars on screen for Beaverton Toyota.

Article written by Bob Beck, in Mid-Week magazine, February 15, 1984


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In 1982, The Oregonian's Andee Beck wrote this rather unflattering article about Ramblin' Rod.  It's tone reinforces the fact that The Ramblin' Rod Show was, indeed, meant for children, who could love Rod Anders without knowing every detail about his personal life. It is presented here as a source of information about the show, but should not be considered a definitive look at the personality of its host.

Rod Anders puts a premium on privacy

by Andee Beck

Rod Anders has been rambling around the Oregon radio and television scene for two-thirds of his 49 years. But what does the public know about the man? Not much. And that's by his design.

Show bumper, early 1980s.

He happily grants an interview, and will answer questions about children's programming. But when it comes to talking about himself, the man who has starred for 18 years as KPTV's "Ramblin' Rod" is politely evasive. He does not want to talk about his personal life, he insists.

"If I were going to go into politics, it would be a different thing," Anders shrugs. "A person could ask, 'What is this person's life about? What are this person's qualifications?"

Just because he's been in the limelight for 32 years, Anders says that's no reason the public needs to know much about him. "It's like a plumber," he reasons. "You don't ask about his personal life, what kind of person he is in real life, do you? It doesn't have anything to do with how well he does his job.

"I'm sharing myself with the kids, but I'm not opening up my home life to everyone," Anders emphasizes. "There are facts I wouldn't like people to know because I don't think it serves me ... I tell a lot more about who I am by doing television."

The native Oregonian, who turns 50 on Nov. 26, came to television from radio. His first job, at 17, was as a ballad singer for a small Tillamook radio station. From 1958 to 1962, Anders worked at KFLW in Klamath Falls, KUIK in Hillsboro and KXL in Portland. From 1962 to 1964, he anchored a morning show on The Oregon Journal's radio station, KPOJ.

One of the staples of the program was Rod asking almost every
child where they were from.

Anders next moved over to KPTV, where he hosted the children's weekday cartoon show, "Popeye's Pier 12." Since 1964, Anders has been star of the continuously popular kids'show, "Ramblin' Rod." He can also be seen Saturday mornings on the public affairs program "12 in the Morning," and he can be heard as the voice behind KPTV, announcing upcoming programs and lead-ins to commercial breaks ("Theeee Movie").

That's not all. Anders regularly turns up in local commercials, and telethons for muscular dystrophy and the Easter Seals.

This man is not exactly hiding in the woodwork. Nevertheless, he maintains, "I am different from the average show biz creature. I don't need the attention. It's fine, I enjoy it very much; the adoration of young children is rewarding. But I don't feel like I need it."

He doesn't think it ironic that he's chosen a profession that keeps him in the public eye, yet he steadfastly shuns publicly sharing who he is. "I'll tell you: I'm going to be 50 soon, and I've guarded my life pretty well up to now. I play myself on television -- pretty much. I'm not an actor. As much as a person can call himself a personality, I'm a personality.

"The mistakes I've made, I've made like anybody else." Then he makes it clear that he does not want to talk about - or have printed - biographical information regarding marriage and children.

A cub scout group gets some personal attention from Ramblin'
Rod. Appearing on Rod's show became as much a part of
local scouting as merit badges and clay ashtrays.

What would he change about himself?

"Now, that's a really personal question. I'd try to be more loving, kinder -- that's a personal question. Don't you think everyone would say that if they were being honest with themselves?" As though he's given away too much about himself, Anders hastily adds, "Now, you put that down in print and people will say, 'He must not be a nice person.' That's not true. Or people will say, 'He's not a loving person.' That's not true, either."

So what kind of person is he?

I'd say someone who knew me well would say, 'He's definitely not outgoing, not an extrovert, definitely a conservative.' "

And what would Anders say of himself?

"I'd say I'm concerned about things taking place in the world. Also, I'm fairly active. Life is short at best. If we can fill it with things we enjoy, it'll be a richer life and we'll be better qualified to do things later on."

Anders says he fills up his life flying his plane, scuba diving, fishing, traveling, and managing his rental homes. That's when he's not taping "Ramblin' Rod" at 5 p.m. every weekday for broadcast the next day, and cutting voice-overs for the station.

Is hosting a children's show enough to keep him professionally satisfied? ,

A look from behind the camera shows that each child got his
or her "moment in the spotlight."

"Life is challenging. A children's show is definitely challenging. If that's all I did, if my life depended on the children's show, that wouldn't be enough. But I enjoy every bit of everything I do."

He says, "I don't have any vision of grandeur in terms of show business. I'm satisfied with everything I've done, that I've done it reasonably well. I don't have an ego that has me wanting to do more. If anything," Anders chuckles, "I'd try to get out of more work."

Anders has little to do with his "Ramblin' Rod" show. Other station staffers choose the cartoons, set up the promotions with sponsors that give away to the preschool and school-age studio audience everything from video game discount coupons to Halloween pumpkins. Anders simply comes onto the set and tapes multiple segments of uninspired interaction with the children (who have waited three months for tickets).

Anders also has little to do with the children who come onto the program. Station personnel gather the youths in the KPTV lobby, at 735 S.W. 20th Place, and then lead them single-file upstairs into the studio. The children are seated on tiny-tot bleachers; their parents are escorted to chairs maybe 50 feet away, behind the video cameras.

Children and their parents filled KPTV's reception area an hour
before the show started.

Anders dons his Ramblin' Rod button-bedecked cardigan sweater, saunters onto the set, stands before the urchins and says with a faint smile, "How do you do, ladies and gentlemen? I see some of you brought me some pins." He collects a few of them - he will receive others during the taping. "One of the things we do here every day is check smiles," he announces, sucking in a breath and donning a cartoon grin. His audience has no idea that he is been doing this same routine, or something similar, for 18 years. Thirty-nine tots smile back.

The taping commences without fanfare. With the aid of "Auntie" Lois Karas, the floor director, Anders tapes several segments that will be edited to sandwich cartoons for the next day's broadcast. The children are shown only one cartoon during taping.

When their host says, "Lets watch another cartoon. Here we go!," the kids instinctively know from watching the program at home that it's their cue to raise their arms high into the air, wiggle their pudgy fingers and yell, "Yaaaaay!"

Ramblin' Rod signs off with his trademark wave from his boat.

The rest of the time, they fidget under the hot lights and direct their attention to Anders, or the cameras, or the parents. He doesn't captivate them, nor do they seem to captivate him. During taping breaks, Anders walks off the set and shows no interest in talking with the children. When the hour-long production is over, Anders offers no enthusiastic farewells. Still, when they find him standing in the hall, the kids crowd around their hero. He appears like a mammoth, mountainous island, unmoved by the lapping sea.

The children don't seem to sense Anders' aloofness. They look to him as a friend, he believes. They seem to feel safe with him, perhaps because he's not overly interested in getting to know them and at the same time he's by no means unfriendly or threatening. Whatever the reason, "Ramblin' Rod" continues to dominate the 7:30-8:30 a.m. ratings, and generation after generation considers it a status symbol to have an autographed picture of the cartoon host hanging on their wall.

To Anders, that's as close as he wants to get with his public.

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