My Heroines Have Always Been . . .

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, with yet another nostalgia piece. If I seem to write a lot of these, chalk it up to my age (75 next month) and the fact that I’ve already written close to 300 posts for this blog. I’ve got to go with the ideas that come to me.

So, this one goes back to my childhood in the 1950s. We had a television set quite early on. Not everyone did. I should add that we listened to the radio a lot, too. My mother always had Don MacNeil’s Breakfast Club playing on the radio in the morning. We tuned to WVOS (Voice of Sullivan County) for local news. It was in a broadcast on that station that I heard that my grandparents’ farm (sold out of the family and standing empty) had burned down. Not too much later, I listened to DJs out of New York City while I did my homework. Cousin Brucie was part of a lot of teenagers’ lives.

That said, TV shows were what captured my imagination early on and led to my first attempts at writing what today would be called fan-fic. 1950s television was pretty clean-cut. I can’t remember ever being told I couldn’t watch a program, although one time when I was babysitting, the kid’s mother asked me to change the channel from a movie that was on. I wish I could remember what one. It was probably pretty harmless.

I watched a lot of TV with my mother. Her favorites were Perry Mason and The Mel Tormé Show and I blithely co-opted real people as well as characters to play roles in my imaginary worlds. Early on I watched Lassie and Howdy Doody and I suppose I watched The Mickey Mouse Club, although I don’t really remember that. I know I was (with two friends) a member of the Mighty Mouse Fan Club. There were lots of westerns. I remember watching The Lone Ranger, Maverick, Wagon Train, and Annie Oakley, but none of those characters made it into the fan-fic. Neither did the heroes of various series that were part of the Disney franchise—Swamp Fox, Zorro, Davy Crockett, and others I can’t now recall. I did, of course, have a coonskin cap.

The shows that made the biggest impression on me had ensemble casts and featured, albeit in secondary roles, women. Dale Evans got almost equal billing with Roy Rogers. On Sky King there was Sky’s niece, Penny. I did like westerns, but my real favorites were the early space operas. Flash Gordon and Dale Arden turned up on TV when old movies were shown, but there were also a few new shows that featured trips into outer space long before the dawn of Star Trek.

Most people today have never heard of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. It ran from January 1954 to December 1955 for 39 episodes. I have to admit that the episodes available on DVDs and streaming don’t hold up all that well. But at the time they were just the sort of thing to spark a kid’s imagination. I loved everything about that show, from the sound effects of the rocket ship taking off to the fact that there was not only a strong female character in the crew but also a kid in a recurring role. In fact, there were several episodes in which the kid, Bobby, and a girl from another planet were responsible for saving the day.

The Orbit Jet was very spacious inside. So was the space station it docked with on long trips. But getting back to female role models—Vena Ray was Uhura before there was an Uhura. She had a responsible job as navigator aboard the Orbit Jet and did a pretty good job of looking out for herself. This being the ’50s, the costume department put her in a very short skirt, something that remained a hallmark of Science Fiction programming for far too long. Still—career woman. No husband. Not expected to cook or clean for the guys. No wonder I liked her.

Interestingly enough, one of the principal villains in the series was also female, an evil planetary ruler named Cleolanta.

What TV shows do you remember from your preteen years?

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at and


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10 Responses to My Heroines Have Always Been . . .

  1. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    Huh. I think we had the same childhood, LOL. I loved Winky Dink, tho my parents refused to buy the magic screen so I could draw along!

  2. Monica says:

    Sky King! Loved that one because of Penny and flying. Romper Room. (Winky Dink, but my mom also wouldn’t buy the screen and dad wouldn’t let me sit that close to the TV anyway.) Dragnet. (Just the facts, ma’am.) Saturday afternoon horror movies. (We gathered in a friend’s apartment because his mom didn’t care what we watched.) Lost in Space. When I was home sick from school (frequently) I had to watch all the educational shows on PBS. Dark Shadows. (Another show I wasn’t allowed to watch because it was a soap, so had to go to a friend’s house.)

  3. susanvaughan says:

    I’m older than you, but remember most of those shows. And like Monica, above, I was a Sky King fan! Thanks for this trip down memory lane.

  4. John Clark says:

    I remember Cousin Brucie well. TV shows included Oh Susanna! and My Little Margie.

  5. I remember Cousin Brucie… in fact when I learned he was on Sirius Satellite radio I bought a lifetime subscription! I was sorry when he left to return to WABC in New York (the station I used to listen to him). I still enjoy watching the noire crime movies of the 30s and 40s on Prime and Netflix. The acting seems a bit cheesy by today’s standards, but the plots were terrific!

  6. kaitcarson says:

    Oh, those wonderful shows! Topper was another I loved, and Spin and Marty when they were on the Micky Mouse Club. Yes, to Cousin Brucie. Definitely the voice of my teen years, along with Scott Muni – England’s go the Beatles, so whatso, we’ve got Scottso! Thank you for the walk down memory lane.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Della Street, wise secretary to Perry Mason comes to mind. I think about girl’s fiction…Nancy Drew of course, and Cherry Ames. And there was an airline stewardess also, I believe. Stories where women were the central characters. I think Nancy Drew inspired a whole generation of us.


  8. Jeanne says:

    Never apologize for trips down memory lane! I find myself doing that regularly now, in part because I rather hate that so many things are being forgotten– groundbreaking things in their time, now forgotten because the world has changed. My fear is that some of these good changes are taken for granted. We older folks are the ones who remember. I’m a bit younger and don’t remember all those shows you mentioned– but also where I grew up, we just got one channel– NBC– until I was ten or eleven, so I didn’t see those until later. Perry Mason, which I adore, I didn’t see until syndication. Star Trek was my biggest passion, though I remember Dr. Kildare and Batman fondly. There was also a marionette show set in outer space but at the moment I can’t dredge up the name. Anyway, female role models– as in women who did things other than be mom or wife– were in short supply. Batman’s Catwoman I liked a lot (first Catwoman, played by Julie Newmar.) Anyway, ST fan fiction was a real starting place for writers, mostly SF folk– I read so many printed fanzines with stories by people who were later published in Real Books. I think Lorraine Bartlett/Lorna Barrett was one of the mystery people. I haven’t got to the trunks to look at old fanzines in decades but as I recall she was a big McCoy fan and wrote a lot of stories featuring him. Ah, memories!

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      So glad to hear you enjoyed my memories. I watched a lot of the same shows you did but I was out of the loop on fan fic. I never heard the term until I was in my 50s and then it was in a conversation about Spock/Kirk erotica!

  9. kaitlynkathy says:

    Thanks to everyone for sharing. I wonder what shows the kids of today will be remembering fondly sixty years from now.

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