The Bill Camfield Story


How it All Came to Pass


My father, Bill Camfield, was born in Mineral Wells Texas in June of 1929. He was the son of a coal miner (Joseph E. Johnston Camfield) who spent a good portion of his adult life in the company town of Thurber, Texas. His mother was Nina Weaver and both of his parents were living in Thurber when they met and married. My father had an older sister Barbara who died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. My father's childhood was abruptly changed at age six when his father died and left a widow with no education or job training and a child to raise. My father and my grandmother would spend the majority of his formative and young adult years moving from place to place and staying with various relatives in Fort Worth. From an early age my father was captivated with books and anything to do with language and theater.


BILLYJOE.JPG (178118 bytes)


By the time he graduated from Carter Riverside High School in 1947, he knew he wanted to write for a living. In 1948 he went to work for Leonard's department store as a copywriter and was soon promoted to Radio-TV Director for the store. It was here that my father began to hone his skills for writing. In 1949 the store decided to experiment with the new ad medium of television and as Dad had done stage shows at Christmas season events with famed Ringling Brothers clown Paul Jung,  the store asked him to write and star in a locally produced show. "Hometown Harmony" was the first show out of the gate for Dad, where he played "Brilliantine", a blackface shoeshine boy.

The weekly show was set in a 1890 Barbershop and featured comedy routines and Barbershop harmony sets. Not long after this, Dad was promoted to Radio-TV Director for the store and he promptly started by producing and acting in five different shows over a five year period. A short list of these are: Let's Go Shopping, Man About Music, Billboard, and Meet the Candidate. It was during this period when my father mulled over many different career moves, one of which was to follow his friend Paul Jung into the circus. He declined after much thought and it was not long after this that his career with TV really took off.  In 1954 Dad went to work for the newly created KFJZ-TV. We was hired as a writer at large and immediately went to work creating programming, commercial and general advertising copy for the station. These were the days when he had also enrolled at TCU on a writing scholarship and was also newly married to my mom Ela.


DADPAUL.JPG (225420 bytes)
Dad & Paul Jung walk down main street Ft. Worth ca.1948


Some of the early programs and characters that came out of those days were, Nightmare (Gorgon), Million Dollar Matinee (Hoover the Movie Hound), Cartoon Clubhouse (Binky & Belinda), and Fun House (Mr. Tapioca). The key element in those early days was that all programming was live. As Dad had created these characters it was his job to perform all their work. The pace of a given day with shifting characters to different programming and special events needs was hectic to say the least. My father always looked back on that time as a very fruitful and creative period. This was not unlike the rest of the industry in any city in America that had TV stations. Every station was going through the same crazy, fun, roller coaster ride of writing, programming, performing and promoting. He along with his fellow co- workers such as Frank Benton, Phil Crow and Clem Candelaria shifted their job descriptions to fit the need of the day and when creative talent surfaced, those people were utilized to maximum. These men became life long friends with my father who over the years became almost extensions of our family. When my father became ill in later years, all of these men took time out of their lives help and assist him. Frank Benton and Dad had a very close relationship and they shared a very close association over the years. Frank was even willing to buy large amounts of cigarettes at the PX for him at discount prices! He obviously ordered alot of smokes from Frank because after he passed away and we were going through his things we found many, many cartons of cigs in his closet! 

My father graduated from TCU in 1957( the year I was born) with a degree in English. During his time there he was a three time winner of the Creative Writing Scholarship. He was a member of the SAE fraternity and did some other school related activities along with his daily work schedule.



On September 10, 1959 the first produced episode of Slam Bang Theater went out to the viewers in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. Even though I do not know all the details, the story I grew up hearing was that at some point earlier that year, a performer by the name of George Nolen aka "Captain Swabbie" who hosted a kids cartoon program was slated to go on vacation. In those days of live TV, no taped programming was possible, so a substitute character had to fill in. My father was asked to create something for this task and he came up with a bumbling first mate type character called "Ickamore Twerpwhistle". The fill in time went so well, that he was asked to create a show around which the character could stay on the air. And so the rest is history. I hope that others who were of age during this time can send their email thoughts in to the site as many have done at Greg Knight's Patio Culture website. This has provided me with a very great perspective on what the audience was experiencing in those early days. To learn more about Dad's show and the phenomena called children's TV programming all around our nation click here. A book just published by Tim Hollis is a great read about this most unique part of American popular culture.

click images to enlarge

Dad & Parents Dad at age 5 Dad in High School Dad & Paul Jung

From 1959 to 1964, SBT was seen in a two-hour format in the afternoon. In 1964, an additional 90 minutes was added in the morning so that by 1969 when the show hit the ten year anniversary point, the afternoon show had 2,600 performances and the morning show 1,300. At the ten year mark it was estimated that about 200,000 kids and adults alike watched the show each day.

Please text or call me if you have any questions!
Paul Camfield   *  (830) 377-4943  *  phc1957@gmail.com


Copyright IckyTwerp.net.  All rights reserved.