Winky Dink Ushered In Interactive Television for the Area’s Youth

“Winky Dink and you, Winky Dink and me, Always have a lot of fun together. Winky Dink and you, Winky Dink and me, We are pals in fair or stormy weather.” Saturday mornings at 10:00 were reserved for a unique interactive children’s television program, Winky Dink and You.

The popular series made its debut on CBS on October 10, 1953. Jack Berry hosted it for those youngsters whose families were fortunate enough to own a television set or had access to one. Unlike previous television shows that we simply watched on the small screen, this one required us to be an active participant. We were told that our assistance was desperately needed.

The youthful Winky was an unusual looking lad with hair in the shape of a five-pointed star, one point hanging over his right eye. He possessed oversized eyes with equally large pupils. Mr. Dink wore a star around his neck that matched his hair. His playsuit appeared to be multicolored, but we couldn’t be sure since we did not have color televisions. If we had listened closely to Winky’s voice, we would have heard Popeye’s Olive Oyl and Betty Boop from the versatile Mae Questel.

The whole premise of the show was for youngsters to help Winky and his little dog, Woofer, out of frequent precarious situations, usually involving the evil characters, Harem Scarem or Foxey Maxey. To participate on the show, we had to mail the company fifty-cents for a Winky Dink Magic Kit, containing a green plastic “magic” shield to cover the TV screen, four “magic” crayons (red, yellow, blue and green) and a “magic” cotton cleanup towel. Everything was “magic.”

At the beginning of each program, Jack Berry instructed us to carefully place the shield over the television screen and rub it firmly with the towel. It was “magically” held on the TV by static electricity. The host further warned his youthful fans to make sure the shield covered the entire screen before marking on it and to use only the specially designed crayons supplied in the kit. A typical story line involved a heinous villain dynamiting a section of train track. The train, on which Winky was riding, was chugging along toward certain disaster. We were told to quickly repair the track damage using a designated colored crayon to connect a series of consecutive small numbers. Miraculously, we accomplished our important task only seconds before the train arrived.

Some mischievous kids purposely did nothing to help Winky only to find that nothing bad happened, adding doubt to the value of marking on the protective shield.

Each show contained an important secret message that was revealed by connecting the numbers in some alphabetic letters. A typical one was “Eat your vegetables.” Old Wink was ahead of his time; the shield had a small logo of the lad embedded at the bottom center, characteristic of today’s television networks.

The show left the air on April 27, 1957, after a successful three and a half year run. It ran in syndication from 1969 to 1973 and was revived again in the 1990s as digitized cartoons. By this time, poor old Wink had lost his “magic.” The shield and crayons were summarily retired and the once unique popular show went into the television history books.