Hi Gang! This is Peter Pan!
Organ music accompanies the following introduction by Peter Pan
Everyday when school is out
Reach up on the shelf.
Grab that jar of Peter Pan
And treat yourself.
Peter Pan Peanut Butter Presents . . .
Sound of an airplane approaching
Airplane passes overhead and moves off into the distance
Announcer gives name of program
In solemn tones, the announcer sets scene of episode.
PRIVATE AVIATION WAS STILL A BIT OF A NOVELTY in the 1940’s so radio shows and movie serials about daring pilots were very popular when British pilot Wilfred Gibbs Moore and American Robert Morris Burtt came home from the Great War.
Moore flew the formidable SE-5As for the Royal Flying Air Corps and came to the United States with a degree in journalism from Columbia University and a desire for a career in radio broadcasting. Moving to Chicago to work as a writer, Moore met ex-war pilot Burtt, who and had flown SPADS in the final weeks of the war over France. The two men incorporated their experiences and love of flying into scripts for The Air Adventures of Jimmy Allen in 1933. Six years later they launched an even more successful flying radio program, Captain Midnight. In 1942 during WW II, the veteran writers created a third flying hero for American boys and girls as we fought the Axis, Hop Harrigan-Ace of the Airways.
Moore and Burtt’s final and most popular air hero debuted in 1946. The title character was an Arizona rancher and aircraft pilot, Schuyler (or Skyler) "Sky" King. It was a series of stories about the heroic King set against the backdrop of Sky's Flying Crown Ranch near the fictional town of Grover, Arizona. Sky's plane, a Cessna T-50 twin-engine bamboo bomber, was called the Songbird. Although the story was considered to be a Western, Sky always thwarted the criminals using his airplane rather than his horse much to the enjoyment of his radio audience and his sponsor, Peter Pan Peanut Butter.
Sky King, America’s Flying Cowboy as he became known, began as a fifteen minute, Monday through Friday series. It was such a smashing success that by 1947 the program was increased to a full half hour with each one a complete adventure.
The series was likely based on a true-life person, Jack Cones, who was known as the Flying Constable of Twenty-nine Palms, California. The beloved lawman, reelected five times, patrolled his 2,800 square-mile jurisdiction in a Piper J-3 Cub for almost thirty years.
Click on the arrow (above) to hear the Sky King episode
"The Lady Sheriff," which was broadcast April 12,1951.
Sky (Skyler or Schuyler) King, his niece Penny, and his nephew Clipper lived on the Flying Crown Ranch, and all were pilots. Penny and Clipper, however, were still young and looked to their uncle for guidance and mentoring in all aspects of their lives, including flying. Although the program had strong cowboy show elements, King rarely mounted his horse Yellow Fury. The Songbird was called upon every week, instead, to help the threesome round up rustlers, spies, lost hikers, or bank robbers.
Three different stars played the part of Sky King: Roy Engel, Jack Lester, and Earl Nightingale. Nightingale’s portrayal was the longest; and the serious, gravel-voiced actor held the role until the program’s end in 1954. Penny was well-played by Beryl Vaughn, and nephew Clipper was either Jack Bivens or Johnny Coons.
Earl Nightingale was also a pioneer in the production of motivational audiotapes. After serving in World War II, where he was one of a handful of Marines to survive the Pearl Harbor attack on the battleship Arizona, he began a daily talk show, Our Changing World, on radio station WGN in Chicago. It went into syndication in 1949 and is still carried across the nation and in a number of countries overseas.
Schuyler “Sky” King, former Navy flyer, came to NBC-TV in December of 1951. A Butte, Montana native, Kirby Grant was chosen to play the lead, and he made it his own during its television run. Peter Pan continued to sponsor the television program at $9,000 an episode.
For three years you could happily listen and watch Sky King if you had one of those new expensive inventions called television.
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There may be other shows and other premiums that have more emotional connections to those who once listened to Old Time Radio; but radio experts agree that for sheer inventiveness, no radio series was as consistently creative in the matter of premiums as Sky King.
1. SKY KING'S RADAR SIGNAL RING. (1946), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
Known as "the ring," this premium has a brass base with adjustable bands. The top holds a rectangular off-white plastic stone which glows a bright soft blue color in the dark. The top slides off to reveal a hollowed-out interior secret compartment. With the stone removed, the brass ring-top then displays the Sky King Flying Crown logo. Each side of the ring carries the name "Sky King" above a winged propeller design.
2. SKY KING SECRET SIGNALSCOPE, (1947), Peter Pan Peanut Butter, 15¢ + inner seal from a jar of Peter Pan Peanut Butter
The Signalscope is yellow with Sky King's portrait and his "Private Code" on its sides. The left end has a wide band of luminous material which glows in the dark after being exposed to light. The opposite end of the tube has a metal reflector attachment that swivels and is used to send signals. There is also a small inserted brass whistle with a plastic magnifying lens on one end. With the Signalscope the owner could even see around corners!
3. SKY KING SPY-DETECTO WRITER, (1949), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
The ultimate in Sky King multifunction radio premium was the Spy-Detecto Writer. Here, in a package some two-and-a-half inches long, was something any Secret Agent would be proud to own. First and least exciting, it had an inch scale ruler along one side. Second, it has a magnifier, and unlike those soft, molded-plastic magnifiers found in other premiums, this is made of real glass.
Next, there is a cipher disk (decoder) on the top of the unit that used two sets of letters rather than the letter-number combinations found elsewhere. But in addition to all of that, there was a built-in printing mechanism, consisting of a flexible rubber or plastic belt with all the letters of the alphabet and an internal inkpad. The owner could actually print-out clear, nearly professional-grade messages, letter by letter. There even were two tiny metal tabs to help the user align the letter being printed with the previous letter(s).
As a bonus, there were line pictures of Sky King's jet airplane, the Flying Arrow, and his horse, Yellow Fury, on the side, plus a full-figure relief of Sky King himself on the bottom.
4. MAGNI-GLO WRITING RING, (1949), Peter Pan Peanut Butter, 20¢ + Paper Liner from a Jar of Peter Pan Peanut Butter
The Magni-Glow Writing Ring has a crownpiece slightly larger than that of most rings. It opens to reveal a secret compartment with the flying crown brand inside. A magnifying glass (disguised as a decorative stone) on a swivel top is mounted on a red base, and there is a small ball-point pen for writing messages on the base as well. When the lights go out, the pen section glows in the dark. The sides of the ring are embossed with pictures of Sky King’s airplane Flying Arrow and his horse Yellow Fury along with their names.
The amazing thing about this ring was the way it folded into a nice compact ring and just looked like a ring with a white stone. No one would ever suspect the owner had such tools at his/her disposal!
6. Teleblinker Ring, (1950), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
A huge black box, with the ring's name on one side, rested on the top of the ring. On one side was a panel that exposed a white spot when the top of the box was pushed down. The top was spring loaded; and, after it was exposed to light, repeated pushes would make the spot blink. It could be used like a Navy signaling light to send messages. So how could it be seen at any distance? Simple: the crownpiece also had a built-in, miniature telescope.
The only disadvantages with the ring were that the crownpiece was so big that you couldn't wear it without harming yourself or your clothes when digging into a pocket and that its size made it quite noticeable to teachers where toys were banned from the classroom.
7. Address Stamping Kit, (1950), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
8. Detecto microscope, (1950), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
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9. Kaleidoscope Ring (prototype only), (1950), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
This prototype was never produced but was created by Armstrong to present to the executives of the radio show's sponsor Peter Pan Peanut Butter. The mint luster brass base has perfectly formed adjustable bands with an image of Sky King's horse Yellow Fury and his airplane Flying Arrow. The base joins to a black metal frame which holds a long, heavy aluminum tube with slightly recessed center area and a knurled pattern around the circumference at the eyepiece end. This allowed the viewer to rotate the tube with one hand while holding the ring towards light with the other. The interior trio of mirrors produces a kaleidoscopic effect that reflects and produces patterns of as few as three very complete Sky King facial images and up to as many as 12 partial but symmetrical facial ones.
10. Safety pinback, (1953), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
11. AZTEC INDIAN RING, (1953), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
Sky King's Aztec ring has a brass luster base with the designs of an Aztec calendar on one side while the other side shows a dragon-like animal standing erect. Ring-top has narrow metal frame with tiny teeth surrounding a beautiful high domed somewhat faceted green plastic stone.
12. Postcard, (1953), Nabisco
13. Postcard with Photo of Sky King, (1953), Nabisco
14. Navajo Indian Ring, (1953), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
The beautiful Navajo ring is silvered brass with adjustable bands. Each side has Indian symbols, and the ring top has a raised scalloped oval metal band holding a highly domed simulated turquoise stone.
15. Electronic Television Ring, (1953), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
16. Mystery Picture Ring, (1953), Peter Pan Peanut Butter
The Mystery Picture Ring had a sliding crownpiece that opened into a secret compartment while on the crown, a line drawing changed into another like a "dissolve" in a movie.
17. SKY KING CEREAL FIGURES, (1950s), Nabisco's Wheat Honey and Rice Honey
There is disagreement among collectors as to whether these figures were made by The Marx Toy Company, but whoever made the soft plastic figures based them on the Sky King radio and television adventure series. The figures have their names printed on tiny plaques on their bases, and the airplane has the name Songbird on each wing tip.
The figures were available only through mail-in coupons on Nabisco cereal boxes.