a New Year’s Eve baby, I’ve enjoyed more than my fair share of festive birthday
celebrations since my earthly debut in Albany, NY in 1952.
But none, including those spent singing Auld Lang Syne in Scandinavia and
Switzerland, could compare with my memories of meeting “Uncle” Jim Fisk, the
host of “The Freddie Freihofer Show” in December 1959.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, the program -- which debuted in 1949 and
was dubbed “Breadtime Stories” when “Uncle” Jim served as its host from 1956 to
1966 -- was the first live local color series to be broadcast in New York
State’s greater Capital Region. A highlight of each show, whose mascot-like
namesake was a rabbit, came in the form of “squiggles” – enormous cartoons
completed by Fisk with assistance from kids in the WRGB studio audience.
While my original squiggle ultimately didn’t survive being jiggled and wriggled
by my nine siblings, I’m elated that at least one photo of a just turned
seven-year-old me holding my memento remains intact despite dozens of moves over
If you look closely at the photos, you’ll see I am laughing as I show off my
squiggle that depicts “Uncle” Jim crying crocodile tears. He had clearly drawn
inspiration from the vision of me sobbing when I arrived at the TV studio in my
frilly party dress and shiny patent leather shoes too late to be a part of that
day’s live broadcast.
The reason: My Dad, a World War II Army veteran who prided himself on
punctuality, had uncharacteristically taken a wrong turn on the way there and
didn’t have a good map in the car to remedy the situation in a timely manner.
“Uncle” Jim turned my frown upside down by showering me with extra attention
after the CBS-6 cameras stopped rolling and the other young guests had departed
with their birthday cakes -- which had been baked and decorated by Freihofer
Baking Company professionals.
Like thousands of other children who watched “Uncle” Jim at five o’clock each
weekday afternoon, the magic of television had transformed James Fisk into
someone larger-than-life. I was amazed to discover how incredibly down-to-earth
The stellar example of congeniality he set made a lasting impression that helped
calm the butterflies in my stomach when my future career afforded opportunities
to meet such celebrities as Mary Ann Mobley, David Hyde Pierce, Joan Rivers and
So when I had the chance to reunite and reminisce with my childhood hero “Uncle”
Jim Fisk four decades after our first encounter, I jumped at it. By now Baby
Boomers seeking directions in the great northeast were turning to an innovative
product developed by “Uncle” Jim: JIMAPCO – Maps you swear by … not at!
Turns out that prior to taking over as the host of The Freddie Freihofer Show in
the mid-1950s, ”Uncle” Jim had worked for nearly a decade as a WRGB set designer
and he continued to work behind-the-scenes as the station’s art director until
1968 when syndicated television began making local programming obsolete.
Fortunately by then “Uncle” Jim had already started making inroads on a much
broader scale. His first official map, which became the foundation for JIMAPCO,
was a detailed depiction of Burnt Hills, NY, which Fisk (a native a Glens Falls)
called home for more than half a century before his passing at age 91 in 2011.
Researched by driving every single street himself and seeking input from such
diverse sources as school districts and fire departments, Fisk took his
hand-drawn map, which included points of interest, to a local printer who ran
off 2,000 copies.
Today, JIMAPCO is an internationally recognized firm that publishes and
distributes a variety of maps and road atlases as well as offering custom
on-line and digital mapping and mobile apps.
While my Dad surely would not have gotten lost on his way to the TV studio had
he possessed a JIMAPCO map in 1959, this story could never have been written had
“Uncle” Jim and I found one another under different circumstances.
No matter how you slice it, I’m eternally grateful that our paths intersected
exactly as they did – not once, but twice -- on the Highway of Life.
To this day, I needn't travel far to find a young-at-heart adult who shares fond
memories of “Uncle” Jim and is willing to join me in belting out the lyrics to
the TV theme song that brought so much joy to our childhoods:
Freddie Freihofer, we think you’re swell.
Freddie, we love the stories you tell.
We love your cookies, your cakes and your pies,
We love the way you roll those funny bunny eyes.
Freddie, we’re ready, we’re waiting for you,
Freddie, we love all the things that you do.
We love your cookies your bread and your cakes.
We love everything Freddie Freihofer bakes.