Engineer Bill was the hero of every kid under twelve in Los Angeles in the mid-sixties. He had a two-time Emmy Award winning
Monday through Friday on Channel 9 featuring a child guest, who would help operate the train set and show cartoons.
A very popular feature of the show was "red light/green light." The at-home audience would play along, drinking a glass of milk at the announcer's direction. The game was played quickly. "Green light" was the signal to drink, and "red light" meant to stop. But the announcer would often throw in tricky directions, such as "red dog" or "green cat," so you had to pay attention.
Every kid in L.A. knew about "red light/green light" and how to play it. The game was Engineer Bill's own invention. He and his wife Ruth came up with it to get their daughter Kathy to drink her milk at dinner.
Engineer Bill was our next-door neighbor and easily the most popular adult in the entire neighborhood. Not only did he give out the best candy at Halloween, but Engineer Bill was also a wonderful guy. Every kid on our street who was under twelve loved him. The older ones loved him too, but were sometimes too cool to admit it.
One day, my parents told me that Engineer Bill had asked them if I would like to be on his show. Wow, would I! Going to the studio and playing with the trains and running the cartoons were great fun, but I also got a bunch of free toys, an engineer's cap and oversized candy bars for being a guest. Engineer Bill's only instruction to me was to have fun and not mention that I was his next-door neighbor.
One of the prizes was a foot-long caramel sucker. As I went to sleep that night, I took a couple of licks and put the sucker on the chair next to my bed. When I woke the next morning, the foot-long sucker had become one-inch long as our dog had spent the entire night standing by my bed licking the sucker.
When the Beatles took over America, one of their stops was the Hollywood Bowl. Everyone went nuts at the thought of the Beatles playing just a few miles from our house. As a local celebrity, Engineer Bill was invited, and he took Kathy along. She took pictures of them performing which she showed to all the kids in the neighborhood. Though the pictures were small, and in black and white, we could clearly see the Bowl and we just knew that those four black specks onstage were The Beatles.
Even the twelve-year-olds were impressed with that.