WBAY at 70: Colonel Caboose

Russ Widoe hosted a long-running children's show on WBAY-TV
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 9:13 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A voice you probably haven’t heard in decades: “We’re continuing here about my life as Colonel Caboose. The reason we were called -- I thought of that wonderful name because they gave me a Lionel train set I was supposed to use on the air.”

In an audio interview years after his show ended, Colonel Caboose, whose real name was Russ Widoe, said he wanted kids to learn from his show. His daughter, Judy Paulson, talked with our Jeff Alexander.

“He was really born to do this kind of thing. Just with an amazing sense of humor and an incredible quest for knowledge and wanting to share that,” remembers Judy.

Widoe started out in radio. But when the young medium of TV came calling, he jumped at the chance to have a show. It started around 1955 and ran for ten years on WBAY. He wasn’t just Colonel Caboose in the afternoons -- he also had a morning program.

“I read news, I gave markets, and did everything -- household hints, you name it,” Widoe said in the interview recorded decades ago.

“Two-and-a-half hours a day he was live on television, five days a week. By his reckoning, he was probably on television more than anyone maybe in the whole United States,” says his daughter, Judy.

Education was his mission. On his show, Widoe taught kids about science and music. After he retired from being Colonel Caboose, he created an agency, NEWIST, at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay that produced children’s educational television.

But his daughter knows his greatest impact might have been one-on-one.

“So that was really the magic of the Colonel Caboose: Popeye cartoon theater, where he was Colonel Caboose, was the chance for kids to come down and actually interact with him. That was special.”

Colonel Caboose at WBAY
Colonel Caboose at WBAY