On March 8, 1943, Rahner was assigned to a different crew than his own, with Lt. Albert Kuehl as pilot and Lt. Floyd Truesdell as a copilot. Truesdell was on his first B-17 mission after transferring to the USAAF from Royal Air Force Coastal Command and would die at the controls of his B-17F 42-5376 JJ-X "Eager Eagle" in a mid-air collision with RAF No. 96 Squadron Bristol Beaufighter V8715 on August 31, 1943.
Sixty-seven B-17s attacked the railway yards at Rennes, including 16 from the 305th Bombardment Group. The formation was attacked by German fighters en route to the target, and Kuehl's aircraft, with Rahner navigating, bore the brunt of enemy attacks: the No. 3 engine was destroyed and the airplane's radio compartment, hydraulics, and control systems were all damaged. Every member of the crew was wounded -- particularly the bombardier, Lt. Arthur Spatz of Reno, Nevada. Though he was himself wounded, Lt. Rahner administered first aid, saving Spatz's life, then took over as Bombardier, toggling the bombs, and fighting off German fighter attacks from two gun positions. Though the B-17 dropped out of formation, Rahner successfully navigated it to an RAF base in England. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for that action.
On 4th April 1943, Rahner was a navigator in "Chuck Wagon," B-17F #42-5146 (code JJ-S). In a raid on the Renault automotive works near Paris, Rahner's aircraft was shot down, crashing in Normandy, and Rahner was taken, prisoner. After being processed through Stalag VII A (Moosburg), he was imprisoned at Stalag Luft III for 2½ years. There he helped edit the camp newspaper, "The Circuit," and contributed to the digging of tunnels Tom, Dick, and Harry, serving as a lookout for German "ferrets" and helping disperse the dirt; as depicted in the film The Great Escape—though he was transferred to another camp before the escape took place. (Written by Russ Burgos)
It was during his time as a POW that he would discover his talent for entertaining, namely through his fellow prisoners and his German captors.
RAY RAYNER'S FIRST TELEVISION GIGS
Ray Rayner's "Rayner Shine" (Rain or Shine) was a short-lived weather program on WBKB which later became WLS-TV in Chicago.
"The Ray Rayner Show" started in 1953, he and his co-host Mina Kolb would host a somewhat free form show that would feature music, comedy skits, dance, and pantomime. The show, geared towards teens. The show had a call-in guess the song game to win a prize. It ran for five years on Saturday's until 1958.
In 1956, Rayner hosted the TV Bowling Classic, which aired on Wednesdays at 11 pm on WBBM-TV Channel 2. He also hosted Teen Pinners, a bowling program with teen bowlers produced for the teenage crowd.
WBBM-TV asked Rayner to switch to a children's program in 1958, though reluctant at first, he did so with a show called "The Little People," which ran for two years.
The "Popeye's Firehouse" children's show featured Ray Rayner, whom WBBM-TV executives hoped would make a dent in the ratings, worked on the show for two years. On Popeye's Firehouse, Rayner appeared as "Chief Abernathy." The voice of John Coughlan was heard in the show too. Dave Garroway, famous for his show "Garroway At Large (1949-1954)," had anchored the station's early attempts on a program called "Rayner Shine," starring Ray Rayner as host.
|Ray Rayner hosts a TV show called "Popey's Firehouse,"|
on Chicago's channel 5, WNBQ.
|Ray Rayner, as Sgt. Pettibone was the host of the Dick Tracy Show with Police dog Tracer on WGN-TV|
He joined the cast of Bozo's Circus as a country bumpkin clown "Oliver O. Oliver" who had a talent for singing. Bozo and Oliver sang songs like 'A Clown Is a Kind of a Guy'.
Rayner hosted the Laurel & Hardy Theater in the summer of 1963. Before each film and during the commercial breaks, he provided biographical information about Stan and Ollie. The Laurel & Hardy Theater later became the Ray Rayner Theater, showcasing WGN's library of classic comedy movies.
By 1965, Rayner's clown character, along with "Sandy", played by Don Sandburg, was added to Larry Harmon's Bozo coloring books. Rayner left the show in 1971 because he wanted more time for other projects. After that, he would occasionally do an appearance on the show as Oliver and would fill in for Ned Locke as "Mr. Ray" when needed.
|Ray Rayner as Oliver O. Oliver on the right. Ringmaster Ned Locke is on the left and Bob Bell as Bozo the Clown is in the center, during the WGN-TV produced show "Bozo's Circus." (1967)|
|Ray Rayner as Oliver O. Oliver on Bozo's Circus in 1967. Note Bozo's early red suit.|
|Rocket to Adventure.|
|Ray Rayner was the first|
NATIONAL “SPEAKING” TV Ronald McDonald.
1968 McDonald's Commercial
featuring Ray Rayner.
featuring Ray Rayner.
At one point, WGN-TV had enough hope in being able to syndicate Rayner's "The Dick Tracy Show" to produce a pilot for that purpose.
RAY RAYNER AND HIS FRIENDS
|Chelveston the Duck.|
When Coughlan left, Ray Rayner, recently arrived from WBBM-TV and working afternoons as "Oliver O. Oliver" on Bozo's Circus and "Sgt. Henry Pettibone" in the "Crime Stopper Cruiser" on "The Dick Tracy Show", took over. This made Rayner one of the busiest and highest-paid talents on channel 9. It became "Ray Rayner and His Friends" in 1964.
A shows director at the time suggested to Rayner to wear a jumpsuit because they were only $5 at Sears. On his first show, Ray wore a brown jumpsuit. But it needed something, so Sandburg suggested the use of notes stuck to the jumpsuit and the rest is history. He covered his jumpsuit with little squares of paper (this predates Post-it Notes) and during the show, he would pull them off, one at a time, and read them out loud to see what to do next (time for a cartoon, traffic report, visit with Cuddly Dudley, etc.).
"Ray Rayner and His Friends" featured old cartoons such as various Warner Brothers character cartoons, arts-and-crafts, and animals such as Chelveston the Duck who was named after RAF Chelveston where Rayner was stationed during World War II. Chelveston would occasionally bite, and Rayner was notably wary. During these segments, Chelveston would basically walk around the set, eat, or bathe while a then-current top 40 song was played. Rayner later said he put duck feed in the cuffs of his coveralls so Chelveston would nip at them, then save himself from the duck by giving him a head of lettuce to pick apart. What was not known to the public until after the program was no longer on the air was that Chelveston was actually played by four different ducks over the years.
|Every little girl's birthday wish was to get their very own Cuddley Dudley.|
Rayner's turtle races were epic. Three turtles, painted numbers on their shells, were placed in the center of a table-top with perhaps a 3-foot circumference circle with a finish line painted at the edge of the circle. Rayner would try to entice the turtles to run to the finish line by cheering them on.
The seemingly impromptu nature of Ray Rayner's show was fascinating to children.
He would also simulcast traffic reports from sister-station WGN Radio over stock footage of traffic moving along the Chicago-area highways.
|Cubs-Sox, half & half, baseball|
helmet from May 6, 1980.
The arts-and-crafts was a regular segment that always began with a finished version prepared in advance by someone "behind the scenes" (who quite often was the wife of Producer Dick Flanders) that was displayed to the audience, followed by Ray attempting to demonstrate the process in an amusing, all thumbs effort, also set to music, that resulted in a comically sub-par facsimile that more resembled a random collection of felt, construction paper and glue. Ray's version would then be displayed alongside the original further emphasizing his comical ineptitude regarding crafts.
Another show segment was the PBS news (for Pretend Broadcasting System). He would sit at a table with a wire strainer with the letters PBS on it as a microphone. The "news" reports consisted of viewer letters. In addition to Diver Dan and lots of Warner Brothers cartoons, another staple of the show was a live-action "talking animal" series "Rupert the Rat, Kookie the Kitten and Bessie the Bunny, down on Animal Farm
The feature "Ark in the Park" was a taped segment of a trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo featuring the then-director of the zoo, Dr. Lester Fisher. The introductory music for this segment was "The Unicorn" by The Irish Rovers.
Rayner also featured a "How and Why" segment on his shows with J. Bruce Mitchell of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, as did Garfield Goose and Friends.
Rayner added the game "TV POWWW!" where those at home could play a video game by phone. Rayner hosted this show until January 23, 1981. How did this work?
At the end of each show; A friendly reminder to dress appropriately for the weather, and - last but not least - at the end of every show, the outstretched arm, with the open hand and his fingers wiggling wildly;
OTHER TV JOBS
During his time at Channel 9, starting in 1974, Rayner also hosted a Thursday night broadcast of The Illinois State Lottery.
|Ray Rayner in the Elmhurst Illinois 4th of July Parade.|
|The Story of Television. 1972|
I met Ray Rayner at Thillens Stadium in 1969. Thillens was located on Devon and Kedzie, just east of the North Branch Canal of the Chicago River. Kedzie was the west boundary of Chicago, so Thillens was in Lincolnwood. Things changed when the canal was dug.
Rayner was on a WGN 16" softball team playing against the Playboy Bunnies in 1968. The evening game was for a charity, I don't remember which one, and there was standing room only.
If you know anything about Thillens Stadium, one kid worked the manual scoreboard placing the number of runs per inning and a total count of per team runs. The Strikes, Balls, and Outs scoreboard lights were worked from an elevated platform, with the game announcer, from behind the home plate.
I met Mel Thillens at the "Thillens Armored Car Check Cashing Company" office on Devon Avenue just east of Western Avenue, by just walking in and asking to speak with Mr. Thillens in the spring of 1968. Mel Thillins stepped out of his office to greet me.
I asked him if I could work at Thillens Stadium for the season. Mel asked me a few questions, apparently to find out what my interest was to work at the Thillens. Mel gave me a time and date to meet him at the stadium, and he introduced me to the staff, telling them that I'd be helping them out.
I was allowed to attend any and all games I wanted to for free, and when working, I was allowed to eat, drink, and snack for free. As a matter of fact, I don't remember there being any limit to food and drink. Sounds good, right? Although I didn't get any money, I meet some local celebrities, like Ray Rayner, the King, and his Court, the Queen, and her Court, the Donkey Baseball teams, etc. etc.
When the WGN vs.Playboy Bunnies game was over, Rayner sat up in the announcer's booth. We talked for quite some time. Ray told me he was going to talk about the charity softball game on his show on Monday. I then told him that I never heard my name called out on Romper Room. He said he'd mention me on TV and that I could count on him.
Sure enough... Ray talked about the charity softball game and how much money raised, then he said he met a great kid who worked at Thillens Stadium, Neil Gale. I was floored. It's too bad there were no recording devices to capture that, but it's one of my life's "claim to fame" moments.
THE URBAN MYTH: RAY RAYNER WAS A DRUNKARD
I personally watched Ray Rayner take his blood sugar after the above-mentioned softball game while sitting next to me in the announcer's booth at Thillens Stadium in 1969. You don't do that unless you're diabetic, so getting drunk EVERY night is just ridiculous. It also besmirches his reputation.
Rayner moved to KGGM-TV in the 1980s, the CBS affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before retiring from television. He cited the harsh Chicago winters as the motivating factor. Later, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida after his wife of several years died of lung cancer.
He died on January 21, 2004, of complications from pneumonia in Fort Myers, Florida at the age of 84. He was survived by his daughter Christina Miller, his son Mark Rahner, and his grandchildren Patrick, Sean, Hilary Miller, and Troy Rahner.
MORE RAY RAYNER IMAGES.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
 TV Powww was a franchised television game show format, in which home viewers controlled a video game via telephone in hopes of winning prizes.
Bozo's TV Powww game.
The TV POWWW format, produced and distributed by Florida syndicator Marvin Kempner, debuted in 1978 on Los Angeles station KABC-TV as part of A.M. Los Angeles, and by the start of the next decade was seen on 79 local television stations (including national superstation WGN as part of Bozo's Circus) in the United States, as well as several foreign broadcasters. While most stations had dropped TV POWWW by the mid-1980s, stations in Australia and Italy were still using it as late as 1990.
Stations were originally supplied with games for the Fairchild Channel F console, but following Fairchild's withdrawal from the home video game market, Intellivision games were used. Kempner later unsuccessfully attempted to interest both Nintendo and Sega in a TV POWWW revival.
While the underlying technology was standardized across participating stations, the format of TV POWWW's presentation varied from market to market. Many presented TV POWWW as a series of segments that ran during the commercial breaks of television programming (a la Dialing for Dollars), while some (such as KTTV in Los Angeles) presented TV POWWW as a standalone program.
In the video game being featured, the at-home player would give directions over the phone while watching the game on their home screen. When the viewer determined that the weapon was aiming at the target, they said "Pow!", after which that weapon would activate.
Accounts vary as to what kind of controller technology was involved. Some sources state that the gaming consoles sent to the stations were modified for voice activation. However, a 2008 WPIX station retrospective claimed that for the station's version, where the player said "Pix" (Pron: picks), an employee in the control room manually hit the fire button when the caller indicated a shot.
One of the pitfalls of the gameplay was that, due to broadcasting technicalities, there was a significant lag in the transmission of a television signal. The player would experience this lag when playing at home, which likely made playing the game somewhat more difficult. (For similar reasons, such a game would be impossible in digital television without the use of a second video chat feed for the player, due to the time it takes to process and compress the video stream; most stations also mandate a seven-second delay to prevent obscenities from reaching the air.)