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MEMOIRS OF A SECRET
Although he was never personally called to help, this reader remains a loyal member of Captain Midnight's minions.
By Gary Coville, Dallas Oregon
Every Youngster with access to a television set in 1954 knew that the real leader of the fight against totalitarianism was not president Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles or even Senator Joe McCarthy--it was Captain Midnight.Every Saturday morning I'd carry my breakfast tray into the living room, open the mahogany doors on the TV cabinet, tune in the local CBS channel and plop down a few inches from the screen. Invariably, my mother would pass through the room and insist I move back from the set, voicing the concern that I would "ruin my eyes" if I didn't. (My eyesight was already poor--that's why I needed to be close to the action!) As the picture tube began to warm up, the flickering blue image of a scientific observatory filled the screen, and the familiar words millions of pre-adolescents had committed to memory echoed in my ears:" On a mountaintop, high above a large city, stands the headquarters of a man devoted to the cause of freedom and justice; a war hero who has never stopped fighting against his country's enemies; a private citizen who is dedicating his life to the struggle against evil men everywhere--CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT!"
He Had Helpers
Unlike other television crime fighters, Captain Midnight actively recruited helpers from among his young audience.The Captain had his "Secret Squadron", and, as a member, I got to help out my country during some of the darkest days of the cold war--no small distinction for a grade-schooler! My membership paraphernalia included decoder pins, a Secret Squadron emblem and official membership cards. The decoder pin was crucial because each week the Captain issued a special message just for Squadron members, which was decipherable only with one of those decoders. I was sure foreign agents would have paid good money for one! Red plastic Captain Midnight Ovaltine cups and shake-up mugs rounded out the accoutrements of any good squadron member. Which brings me to the one real problem many of us faced as members of the Captain's spy network--we had to drink lots of Ovaltine. Characters on the show offered handy serving suggestions. Aristotle Jones, called "Tut" for short, was a scientific genius and friend of Captain Midnight's. Tut offered a recipe that he called the "Tut Special": You put 3 heaping tablespoons of Ovaltine in a tall class, barely covered the crystals with hot tap water and then filled the glass with Icecold milk.
How Would It Taste?
I carefully followed Tut's instructions and warily sipped the concoction. Tut might have been a scientific genius, I discovered, but some matters were beyond a wizard of even his caliber!
Secret emblems identified members of our elite society, I wore mine faithfully because the Captain had assured me that in the event he ever needed my help, the emblem would allow him to recognize me on the street.
But the call never came. I had to settle for tuning in each week as a mere observer of exciting exploits like "The Electrified Man", "Flight into the Unknown" and "Saboteurs of the Sky".
Only recently, newspaper accounts told of the death of actor Richard Webb, once featured as television's Captain Midnight. But deep down inside, we members of the Secret Squadron know that the Captain is still up on that mountaintop....and whenever his call comes, we'll be ready!