It has been years since I have thought about Art Linkletter. Even so, I was hit with a twinge of sadness when I heard of his death today. As I am pushing 60, a quick ‘do the math’ will reveal that as a young lad I was blessed with the ability to enjoy Linkletter in his heyday as host of Art Linkletter’s “House Party”, a mainstay of 1950’s and 1960’s television fare.
This afternoon on the Fox News network, Neil Cavuto played some clips of his previous interviews with Art Linkletter. What a treat for me to see Linkletter again. Linkletter said that he had been involved in forty businesses, and sat on the board of 14 companies. Wow, I never knew that Linkletter had that varied a background.
Art Linkletter was born in 1912 Gordon Arthur Kelly in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, and he never knew his natural parents. He was adopted by Fulton and Mary Linkletter, a couple in their mid forties. Fulton was a preacher, and Linkletter has said that his adoptive father forced him to read very difficult Bible passages aloud. He said these readings helped him fine tune oratory skills that later served him well in his broadcasting careers.
In 1928 Linkletter graduated from High School at the age of 15. Without a job or money, he hopped trains and rode with the hobos around the country for nearly a year and a half. After the market crash in 1929, he even found a job on a ship and traveled to Buenos Aries. Returning to San Diego, he enrolled in a tuition free college.
Linkletter started in radio in San Diego, but soon went to Dallas for “Man on the Street” interviews at a radio station known for that genre of reporting. Thus, Linkletter began his road to fame and, sometimes, fortune in the people business.
As a young lad, I loved watching Linkletter on his “House Party” TV show. Of course my favorite segments were the now famous interviews Linkletter had with children. Each show had four immaculately dressed kids set on stools and Linkletter would interview them. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of Linkletter in these segments was to illicit comments that would lead to laughter in the audience. The byproduct of these interviews usually was embarrassment on the part of the parents of their little angels.
Linkletter in his book “Kids Say the Darndest Things” shared some of his techniques used during interviews with the kids on his show. One of his most effective tactics was to ask a child “What did your parents tell you NOT to say today?” As Linkletter then said, it was just the same as turning on the tape recorder as the child regurgitated, word for word, the parent rehearsed statements he/she was coached to NOT say.
I had my own copy of Linkletter’s book. It was one of the first books of my own, and my, did I read and re-read that volume! Linkletter said in an interview with Cavuto that he interviewed 27,000 kids over the life of his shows. I will have to get another copy of “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. I encourage you to obtain a copy of your own. You will be delighted with some good, wholesome humor from another, simpler time.