SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — No matter how old you are, there are phrases or images that instantly take you back to your youth. For me and whole lot of others who grew up in the Bay Area, just say “a glass of milk and a how-do-you-do” out loud and we’re five years old again.
That’s how Art Finley would end his recitation of the next day’s San Francisco school lunch menu each weekday afternoon as “Mayor Art” on KRON-TV. Think about all the quaintness in that sentence: an afternoon kids’ show on local TV. Someone using the airwaves to deliver the school lunch menu. Heck, school lunches themselves!
I grew up in Los Gatos and San Jose so I never saw one of those San Francisco lunches. But every kid I knew considered Mayor Art (and his sidekick puppet Ring-a-Ding) part of our lives, and if you’d actually been part of his studio audience, you were kid royalty.
“Mayor Art” aired from 1959 to 1966. Along the way, Art Finley hosted what some say was the first TV newscast in America designed for children, “Mayor Art’s Almanac.” Times were different, of course. No youngster had an iPhone or an iPod or an iAnything. Mayor Art didn’t talk down to children, and despite the phony title and the top hat, he exuded coolness.
Art wasn’t actually the mayor of anything, of course. In fact, “Art Finley” wasn’t his real name either; it was an air name. Late in his career, Art worked for a while here at KCBS Radio. He had a deep curiosity, boundless energy, and the willingness to ask hard questions. When I listened, I realized I’d been shaped by Mayor Art as a kid and again in the midst of my career.
Arthur Finger (his real name) died on Friday in Vancouver, B.C. at age 88. We’re told he was out for a walk when he was stricken by a heart attack. He was a broadcaster who operated from the heart as well as the brain, and he truly engaged audiences of all ages.