Remember Jack McKenna?

There is a rather large file in the News Tribune attic on Jack McKenna, a former Duluth television personality who apparently began his career here in the 1950s as “Captain Q” on a children’s program and later played “Professor Fantastic” on a late-night horror show on WDIO-TV Channel 10. The next mention of him in the file is as a WDIO weathercaster in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Jack McKenna does his weathercast at WDIO in 1977, the same year he was
chosen favorite TV personality by Twin Ports residents.

McKenna portrays “Captain Q” in the early 1960s.

After that, he made moves to weathercasting positions in Denver and San Francisco in 1973, returning to WDIO in 1975. Sometime after that, he moved to Tucson, Ariz., for another weathercasting postion that didn’t suit him well. He returned to Duluth at KBJR-TV Channel 6 in 1979 for a position as a news host. He returned to weathercasting at KBJR in about 1983. He was laid off by that station in 1989. That’s where the attic trail ends. Does anyone know what McKenna did after 1989? Do you have any stories to share about his on-air personality, style and quirks?


-Dave Ojala, copy editor

McKenna in 1970.

31 Responses

  1. Terry Ridinger

    I worked with Jack for 6 years at WDIO. It was about 1967-73. I was a director and technical director there. I called Jack “One take Jack” because he was a professional. He would read a script and just go do the commercials with hardly any aides like the teleprompter. He did Harware Hank and many other commercials including a daily show with Bea Ojakangas. He and Loren Sandquist (Sports) and Dick Wallach in NEWS would do everything in their power to make the others break up during their broadcast. I won’t share what they were doing off camera to make the guy on camera laugh but it was so funny some times the camera was shaking because the camera operators were laughing so hard (including me).
    Don’t forget the Little Viking most every night on the weather. It was a Viking Poster of some relavent happening in Duluth that day.
    Those great posters were done by Roberta Colby the Art Director at WDIO.
    I spoke with Jack about a year ago and he was still doing the replay of the old Newscasts/ Newspaper stories from the 30’s through the 60’s.
    I think I will send him a Christmas card, I will have to figure out where to send it though. I know he’s in a retirement home in Superior these days and he is a widower.

  2. Mr. McKenna was WDSM’s weatherman before he was Captain Q, and he continued to do both in the mid-50s when I would watch from Ironwood, Michigan as a grade schooler. His entry was climbing down a ladder (from the bridge, never seen) into the wheelhouse of the S. S. Golden Rule, where the set featured a wheel and a ship’s engine room telegraph, which the Captain called “the Chadburn.” The ship’s name was the result of a contest among young viewers shortly after the program got started. Among other features on the show were Laurel and Hardy short films. He frequently referred to them as “the boys” and occasionally advised us not to try their stunts at home. During at least one Christmas season the Captain took a break and Mr. McKenna became Santa Claus. I think Ray Paulsen became an elf for that bit. I remember thinking, at age 8 or 9, that the Captain was different from some of the other kids’ show hosts like Buffalo Bob or Pinky Lee: he never seemed to condescend, he was more like an uncle or a grandfather who actually knew me and could talk to me as a family member would. I’m glad to read that he never said good-by: that would have been a sad day for me, and all the more for my little sister.

    1. Serena Vann

      Remember hurrying home from school for Captain Q!!! Then laughing just as much on his weather casts!!!! Best there ever was!!!!

  3. Ron Meyer

    I grew up 2 blocks from his childhood home and spent lots of time with his brother, David. Jack was always witty, always had a funny comment.

  4. Dennis Maloney

    I remember Jack drinking orange juice during his weather show saying ummm so good. He choked on it and could not continue the show. Apparently everyone got a good laugh out of it.

  5. Nowell McKenna

    After 1989 Jack McKenna did a few local tv ads. One was for a carpet place I think. He was in a superman suit for one of them! I would love to see the KFC promo’s he did!!! Someone painted a mustach on his billboard on london road by Taco Johns! The family has a picture somewhere…it looked natural!!!

  6. B.P.

    I remember watching Captain Q on WDSM. Jack also had his first mate Sparx on the show. Sparx was Ray Paulson who succeeded Jack and took over the TV show when Jack moved on. One time at Goldfine’s
    store Cpt. Q and Sparx were supposed to make an appearance. From what I remember the store was packed with kids and their parents. Neither celebrity showed up and a lot of kids were disappointed.

  7. PJ, Duluth

    Brian, WEBC was my FAVORITE radio station as a kid. The BEST music, I used to think. I do not remember the singing cowboy or the Tempo beer commercials, though I do remember the Tempo Wine song, which ended with “Tempo Wine, any time, Tempo Wine, any time…”

  8. Brian McKenna Nevis, MN

    S.S. Golden Rule Was The ships moniker and yes he still makes the recordings once in a while of the old time radio broadcasts. Anyone remember Famous the singing cowboy brom the WEBC days or the Tempo beer commercials?

  9. Terri

    Yes, hes on Radio superior on KUWS. such an interesting show. Love nostalgia. I listen to it on the KUWS website.

  10. PJ, Duluth

    Oh, you can’t live in Duluth and not remember Jack McKenna! He’s still on radio on Friday nights (KUWS, I think) resurrecting old radio shows and newscasts from the 40s. He’s been around since I was a kid, and that is a LONG time.

  11. Arvo Maki

    For those of us in our 60s, Jack certainly entertained us every afternoon after Howdy Doody and Pinky Lee.

    Does anybody remember the name of his ship — the one that most of us drew crayon visions of what we figured it looked like — and he would show our pictures on TV!

    As far as I recall, Jack started as the weatherman on WDSM TV Channel 6. He did Captain Q during much of that same time. Also, as I recall, that show, along with the news and weather, was done live at studios at Broadway and Tower, in Superior. That was in the 50s and early 60s. At some point, they moved all of WDSM radio and TV to Duluth.

    Jack, and other WDSM personalities, were regularly seen in the area of Broadway and Tower. It’s now very embarrassing to remember our foolishness, as us kids tried to prove to him that he was Captain Q when we saw him in a business suit.

    I haven’t seen him in years, but in recent years I’ve heard him and Lew Martin on the KUWS “Radio Enigma” programs that can be downloaded as MP3s. As I recall, Jack was a military “weather guesser” during WWII, which means he’s at least in his mid-80s. I believe his wife passed away about 10 years ago.

    While I was in the Navy in the early 1970s, I was in San Francisco on business. The weather came on — and there was Jack doing the Bay Area weather. I tried to contact him, but was unable to get through the switchboard to him.

    I hope he is doing well in his retirement.

  12. Bob Woodbury, Winslow, Maine

    I certainly do remember Jack. On our annual trips to Duluth, Jack and Marsh Nelson were the first two people I looked for on TV – Jack because he was, I guess the best word might be “zany” and fun to watch, and Marsh because he was so knowledgeable and forthright. I’m proud to say Marsh and I became friends and would meet for lunch every year on our return until he passed away. Then to lose Marsh and Bruce Bennett so close together was really devastating to the Duluth sports community. I would certainly be thankful to anyone who could bring us up-to-date on Jack’s wonderings.

  13. HH

    As a child, I remember watching Jack on TV and thinking, “He lives just down the road!” He lived maybe a half a mile from where I grew up. He always had a great personality and a quick wit.

  14. KA

    Jack McKenna at WDSM, Channel 6 and Gordie Paymar at KDAL, Channel 3 were THE weather personalities in Duluth from the late ’50’s, I believe, through the 1960’s at least. Jack had a bit of ham in his style while Gordie was more like the nice- guy- next- door in his delivery. Paymar got his Duluth start earlier with the old Channel 38,WFTV, which I think was the first local channel in Duluth, back in the early 1950’s.

  15. Rick Flaherty

    good grief, how long have you been in this town 10 minutes? He is still on the air at 91.3 KUWS. Jack is a living legend around here. You call yourself a reporter?

  16. Brian McKenna, Nevis MN.

    Yep I guess I know pretty well. He’s alive and kickin, although not very high, at a residence in Superior. He has done some radio work for UWS replicating old days broadcasts up until just the last couple years. One thing he always regretted was not being given the opportunity to ‘sign off” on a last show and say so long to all his Northland fans that supported him over the years. Oh yeah, and still a diehard Vikes fan. No offense Packer fans. That’s it. Brian McKenna Nevis, MN

  17. Terri

    The biggest memory of Jack is him eating KFC on the air during his weather shows and he was also a bit of a funnyman.
    You Tube also has some old WDIO promos and commercials from the sixties to the eighties. You might want to take a look at those.

  18. John Ebeling

    When WEBC-FM, 92.3, was broadcasting to the Duluth-Superior transit buses in 1948-1949 or so, he was the announcer playing music for the captive audience in the buses. The station would boost the volume for commercials that were broadcast That was in the early days of FM broadcasting.

  19. attic fan

    I remember that during the weather he’d eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and do an ad for them. Also did a spot for Big and Tall shop…M and K, maybe. I loved Jack. Can’t eat KFC without recalling him on the weather.

  20. Steve

    Radio Superior is on at 5:30 and 6 p.m. Fridays on KUWS 91.3 FM. Jack’s sidekick on the show is Lew Martin. They recreate radio shows from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, based on stories and ads in the Superior Evening Telegram.

Comments are closed.