Jack DuBlon was born in Chicago on 28 October 1929. After growing up in Cicero, he attended the University of Illinois, where he played junior varsity football, and received a B.S. degree in mining engineering. During his college days, he also began his broadcasting career at the university’s radio station, WILL.
He served in the USAF during the Korean War, and flew 29 combat missions aboard a B-29 before being wounded and discharged. He then joined the staff of WDUZ radio in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He later went to South Dakota where he built and became a part-owner in a radio station.
Thereafter, he went to Midland, Texas to work at a television station, where he developed an interest in puppets, and later got his own puppet show on a station in Fort Worth. During that time, he developed an idea for a puppet show built around an alley cat, and later received a copyright and design patent for the show "Cartoon Alley"
With that idea, he landed at WITI-TV in Milwaukee in October of 1960, and worked as a booth announcer . He began his tenure as the puppeteer for "Cartoon Alley" in 1961. In addition to those duties, he served as the station’s resident character actor. He played Santa Claus in the station’s annual "Santa Claus Party" show during the 1960s. Besides those for his puppets, he often did voice characterizations for various commercial clients. In October of 1964, he began hosting horror films as "Dr. Cadaverino", on "Nightmare Theatre".
Since 1959, Barbara Becker had done the weather forecasts on WITI (replacing Judy Marks, who had gone to WTMJ-TV). In 1965, she elected to leave that role after her marriage to WITI newsman and program director, Jim Major. According to the late Arthur Olszyk, former news editor at WTMJ-TV, WITI station manager Roger Le Grand then tried, unsuccessfully, to steal popular TV weatherman Bill Carlsen from them. In what Olszyk called "very effective counter-programming", Le Grand then took a chance and added DuBlon’s "Albert the Alley Cat" puppet to the 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. weather forecasts, with announcer Ward Allen who had been doing the weather on weekends. The idea was neither Allen’s nor DuBlon’s (Operations director Bob Oliver gets credit for it.) It took six weeks and a threat of firing for DuBlon to agree to do it. Their first appearance was on 2 August 1965.
For the first few months, it looked like a bad idea, as most of the viewer feedback was negative. Allen was struggling for a way to make the show work. One day in the fall of 1965, a girl showed up at his door. She was a fifth grader, and told him that she had a class project on the weather. She then asked him if he could tell her something about it. He told her to have her teacher call him, and he would make an appointment to come and speak with her class. He had a photographer come out, and shoot film of the kids. He told them to make sure that they watched the weather on Channel 6 that evening, and they would see themselves on TV. Of course, the kids’ relatives did so as well.
Meanwhile, DuBlon began searching for alternatives. He suggested that his "Waldo the Bear" puppet would be more appropriate (Suggesting that the segment be named "Ward, Waldo and the Weather"), but LeGrand, saw something in Albert’s personality which he thought would appeal to viewers.
On his own initiative, Allen began going to two or three schools a week. While at the schools, he continued to have his visits filmed. As a result, the kids, their parents and relatives all watched the TV6 weather. Albert began joining him on his visits a couple of years later. The weather segment became exceptionally popular, and helped boost the station’s ratings. Albert's popuarity soared, and viewer feedback became positive. Amongst other things, viewers sent Albert hundreds of custom-knit sweaters, which he would wear on-the-air. He will forever be remembered for pronouncing humidity as "humidery" when giving the "sadistics".
(My special thanks to Ward Allen for providing details on the origin of "The Weather with Allen and Albert".)
In September - December, 1966, WITI-TV produced a half-hour high school quiz program for SUMA (Sodality Union, Milwaukee Archdiocese). Jack DuBlon was the host. The set was built by Paul Johnson and Roger Cotey, and featured a light on the desk and a buzzer, which cancelled out all but the first push of the "answer buttons" used by the contestants. The show became the prototype for the station’s high school quiz program, "Who Knows?", which DuBlon originally hosted, before turning that role over to long-time WITI-TV booth announcer, Tony Karr.
On 21 April 1964 (repeated on 14 July) DuBlon made an appearance on "Day In Court" as parole officer Pembroke. While in Hollywood, he also appeared in an episode of "General Hospital" as Dr. DuBlon. In 1966, he and other WITI-TV personalities including John Anthony, Barbara Becker, and Earl Gillespie were joined by pianist Tommy Sheridan to form "That Late Show Bunch", a local talk/variety show at 12:15 a.m. Saturdays.
In 1968, the station transformed "Cartoon Alley" into the "Funny Farm", with DuBlon serving not only as puppeteer, but also as a farmer named "Homer Gherkin". That year, Ward Allen and Albert were named the No. 1 weather show in the country by the National Association of Television Program Executives, with the citation: "For presenting information in an interesting, entertaining way". DuBlon had numerous other employment offers during this time period, but elected to stay at WITI.
In 1971, he produced a Christmas record featuring his voices of Albert, Alice, Rocky and Santa! It can be heard at Ron Kurer’s webpage devoted to Albert.
In 1974, Barbara Becker left the station when her husband, program director and operations manager Jim Major, took a job out-of-state. "Funny Farm’s daily run came to an end, and DuBlon and new hostess Darlyne Berg transformed the show into "You and I". In October of 1977, he ended his 13 year run as "Dr. Cadaverino".
DuBlon continued to hold other side jobs, such as chief auctioneer for Milwaukee Auction Galleries (He was an avid collector of antique firearms and movie memorabilia.), and was named as WITI’s "Nighttime Operations Coordinator" in 1977.
In 1975, Tom Skilling was hired as the station’s 10:00 p.m. weatherman. Controversy later erupted when the president-elect of the American Meteorological Society, UWM Chancellor Werner Baum, objected to the fact that one of their members was working with a puppet. (Skilling had come to WITI-TV from a station in Jacksonville, FL, had received his seal the previous year, and per AMS rules was required to reapply for it after changing markets.) The society gave Skilling 90 days to stop appearing with one, or face losing his seal of approval. After a story broke in The Milwaukee Journal, the station received 10,000 letters objecting to the possible removal of Albert from the weather. Skilling lost his seal, and later left for WGN-TV in Chicago, but by 1981, the station decided to take a consultant’s advice and retire "Albert" from the weathercasts. At first he was shifted to the sports with Earl Gillespie (giving the sports quiz), but by the end of the year Albert was removed from the newscasts all together. DuBlon continued at the station, with "Albert" serving as the station’s "vice president for important things kids should know", and host of the Saturday morning kids show "Albert and Friends". By that time, DuBlon was using his eighth "Albert" puppet. He had worn the others out!
After 25 years at WITI-TV, Jack DuBlon decided to leave the station in 1985, and move to San Angelo, Texas. He commented that the last four years at the station had been tough, after losing his news forum with Albert. (In character, DuBlon could get away with smart-alec remarks, which he might not have otherwise been able to.) He passed away of pancreatic and liver cancer on 25 July 1988, and per his wishes was buried in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
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