Doug Nye, and the things we remember…

A few days ago, I saw on Facebook where a mutual friend had visited Doug Nye, and he wasn’t doing well. And I thought, “I need to check on him,” and now he’s gone. My mom called me last night to say it was announced at the USC baseball game…

It’s funny the things you remember about people. Doug was a great guy to talk to about all sorts of things, and not just westerns. To many people he will be remembered as the Father of the Chicken Curse, in terms of having popularized the concept. There are complex permutations on the Curse beyond what Bill Starr wrote about this morning that I could get into, but that’s not what I remember best about Doug.

Here’s what I remember best, and most fondly: Doug and I had a number of conversations sharing our childhood memories of watching “Spaceship C-8,” a kiddie show on WBTW out of Florence, hosted by the late “Captain Ashby” Ward, who was also the news anchor. I really didn’t have all that many specific memories about the show (Doug, being older, remembered more), despite having spent many an hour watching it during the summers I spent with my grandparents in Bennettsville. (Doug watched it from another end of the coverage area — I want to say Sumter.) But I enjoyed talking about it with Doug on multiple occasions.

It was about way more than one kid’s show; it was about remembering an era, a time before media saturation. A time when WBTW was the only station you could reliably get clearly in B’ville with a home antenna (WIS also came in, depending on the weather). Then, in the late 60s, along came cable to small town America, LONG before it came to cities. That way, you could get all three networks, plus some duplicates from different cities. There was less demand in cities, because they could already get three or four channels.

Consequently, we spent an awful lot of time doing stuff other than watching TV, or engaging any other mass medium. A time that in many ways was about as close as Huck Finn’s fictional existence as it was to what kids experience today.

Odd, I suppose, that the thing I would remember best from knowing the longtime TV writer was talking about days that were practically pre-TV. But that’s what I remember. It won’t really mean anything to you, I suppose, but I’m confident it would make Doug smile.

I remember that, and the fact that, as I said, Doug was a great guy to talk to about anything. Always a ready grin (that’s why I know he’d smile at my trivial remembrance), the kind of naturally affable guy who you took a moment to chat with rather than just rushing past in the course of getting through a day’s deadlines. He stood out among newspapermen that way. Not that newspapermen were so awful; I just mean Doug stood out. Which is why so many will remember him fondly.

23 thoughts on “Doug Nye, and the things we remember…

  1. bud

    I didn’t know that Doug Nye was the father of the Chicken Curse. If that is his legacy then great. The Chicken Curse has always been one of the remarkable and enduring local cultural aspects of the midlands and even the state as a whole. Is it fitting that Doug passed away the year after the baseball championship effectively ended the Chicken Curse? Perhaps he was it’s last victim. I’ll certainly miss Doug’s insight into sports. He was very good at what he did.

  2. martin

    It wasn’t Ashby Ward, it was Dave Rogers – I’m pretty sure; definitely not Ashby – Ashby came to Channel 8, as in “Spaceship C-8” after the Spaceship had been flying, maybe even off the air, for a while. It’s now Channel 13 for those outside of the Pee Dee. I think Dave did the weather at WBTW. Kind of like Joe Penner and Mr. Knozit. And, didn’t Dave do something at WIS much, much later?

    You remember back in those days, these shows were segregated, with all white kids or all black kids. An older friend of mine – this may not be PC – remembered an episode of “C-8” with a group of black kids. They were giggling and carrying on and Capt. Dave asked what they were laughing at. One giggling little kid pointed to the one next to him and said: “James fart”. Ahh, live TV.

    Those in the Charleston Channel 5 area remember Princess Happy Raine. I was fortunate enough to get all 3. Knozit was my least favorite, but that might have been because it was the last to start and I was getting older. Nothing personal, Joe.

  3. Brad

    No, it was Captain Ashby when I saw it. I was talking with a guy yesterday with considerable SC TV experience — Jerry Pate — who said he thought a couple of different people piloted the spaceship.

    And I remember the same anecdote about the little black kid (on, as you say, one of the “black” days as opposed to the “white” days). I heard the quote slightly differently. I heard the captain repeatedly badgered the kid to say why he was laughing, and he kept saying no, he’d get a whipping if he told, and finally he said in a slow, very reluctant drawl, “Johnny farted…”

    I have no idea whether that story is true. I’m suspicious because when I lived in New Orleans in 1965-67 period, there was a story told about the “Johnny’s Follies” local kid show — that Johnny asked a kid to tell a joke (no race mentioned on the kid in this one), and the kid said OK, and the kid said, “How is a woman like a frying pan?” And Johnny, amazingly expecting nothing, says, “I don’t know. How IS a woman like a frying pan?” And sticks the mike back in the kid’s face. The kid says… well, never mind what the kid said, because it was VERY sexual, way worse than the fart story. You know, you have to go pretty far to shock in The Big Easy.

    We thought this story was GREAT, because we were in junior high.

    But I wonder whether they were both urban legends. Or in the case of Spaceship C-8, a small town-rural legend…

  4. Brad

    I wouldn’t have told that story if Martin hadn’t brought it up. It has always smacked of being a “those amusing negroes” kinds of stories the old white folks used to tell.

    But then, maybe it happened, and the race of the kid is simply an authentic detail. (Although an unnecessary one, which is also typical of the way people used to be about race — if the subject was black, the story always started, “this black guy…”)

    Actually, those two stories are different enough, and live TV is dangerous enough, that they probably DID happen…

  5. Doug T

    I remeber Ashby Ward as the Captain of Spaceship C8. Joe Nicholson (Weather man) and Dave Rogers(Sports, who later went to WIS (I think he died recently) filled in. Felix the Cat was the cartoon feature.

    WBTW had a really good group of news people back in the late 50’s early 60’s.

    I don’t remember this guy.

    I’ve heard the fart story too, many times. I think it’s true.

    1. B. L.

      I was on that show when I was a kid. Maybe 8. It was fun. Several friends went for my birthday. I think about it often and wish it had been recorded so I could show my grandkids. One of the cartoons on the show was Felix the Cat. It was Captain Ashby Ward , I remember him as a fun and nice guy. One of the Camera guys was the funniest. It’s kool thinking back to those days of Black& White TV and only getting 3-4 channels. And they signed off at midnight. Lol
      I’ve enjoyed reading this section.

  6. Steven Davis

    “It has always smacked of being a “those amusing negroes” kinds of stories the old white folks used to tell.”

    “used to tell”??? When did they stop?

  7. Bart

    The original host or Captain for Spaceship C8 was Jim Player. He hosted the show for a few years before Dave Rogers took over for a short time. Ashby Ward was the last captain before he went to Myrtle Beach as their official spokesperson.

    I watched the “Robert farted” show. The kids were black and one can call it racist all they want, it was funny as hell, especially the look on Captain Jim’s face. The two boys were laughing and Captain Jim walked to where they were sitting and asked them to share with the other kids what was so funny. The infamous line was uttered and the reaction by Captain Jim was priceless. He actually looked like a deer caught in headlights for a moment. Never saw a Felix the Cat cartoon start any faster in my entire life.

    The kid who said the famous words was about as cute and innocent as they come and he and his buddy were laughing and giggling like crazy. After he said it, I was rolling on the floor laughing. My mom thought I had lost my mind. My wife was living in Florence at the time and saw the show.

    As Larry the Cable Guy would say, “I don’t care who you are, that was funny”. Strange, it always has to be about race, doesn’t it? Some things are just humorous, not racist.

    1. B. L.

      They would fuss if they hadn’t been on at all. It’s funny when that happens even if your purple. Someone always has to create unwarranted issues. I guess it makes them feel important.

  8. Lynne

    WBTW, as Channel 8 and later Channel 13, was a TV staple in my household in Hamlet, NC. I remember Dave Rogers and Ashby Ward so very well. My best friend and I watched Spaceship C-8 faithfully and we both were witnesses to the “farted” incident. Priceless and totally true. Invariably when my friend and I have gotten together over the years, one of us brings up this incident, and we still laugh until we cry.

  9. Lynne

    Brad, it’s a good thing I ran across this website with the C-8 Fart-Incident when I did. At my age, these memories might be gone as quickly as my glasses tend to disappear into the freezer. 🙂

  10. Dustin

    I JUST found this as a result of Googling Ashby Ward so I know I’m over a year late to this party!

    1. I was on Spaceship C8 when Ashby Ward was the Captain.

    2. Yes. Jim Rogers the sports guy, preceded Ashby Ward as Captain.

    3. Jim Player started it. And I just remembered that I dated his daughter in high school.

    Thanks for the trip.



    1. Donald Horton

      Challenging my memory. I was on that show of Mr. Knozit with Joe Pinner and heard the comment; and the laughter. I have related it numerous times over the years; and have been told that I must have seen it on Atlanta TV, and assimilated it in my memory.

  12. Jim

    I remember the “Flatus Incident” well. And I remember in the early days when the show came on with the ominous voiceover, “Spaceship Ceee-Eighhht!” the background accompaniment was a rather boisterous vacuum cleaner, which Captain Jim shut down by pulling a big handle on the control panel.
    I never did discuss this with Doug, but I wish I had. Say, do you remember Slim Mimms and the Dream Ranch Boys? And Little Patty Faye?

    1. aundra watson

      Yes my mother has always told me about the spaceship C-8 “johnny farted show”. she watched it with me but I was too young to remember it. And it was “johnny” not those other names. She also said the screen went blank right after he said it and she doesnt remember it ever coming on tv again. She said it was so funny! If it would have been a white kid it would have been the same funny! Why do people have to always make it about race? When thats not the intent at all!!!

  13. Edie

    I grew up in Darlington County living off McIver Road. I remember Spaceship C-8 very well. Watched all the time. There was also another kiddie program at that Florence station that had a clown as the host. I was among a bunch of kids that was on that show, but I don’t remember the name of the show. The space ship where the C-8 program was held is still in place out in the middle of a field. I pass by it every day going to my part time job in Florence. Sure brings back memories. Thank you for sharing your memories.

  14. Brad Warthen Post author

    I just got this from a fan, via email:

    Was researching channel 13 today, after learning of their move to MB from Florence.
    Been in Charlotte since 1973 and left Fairmont in 1966.
    I grew up with channel 8. All we could get.
    My Cub Scout group was on the program several times.
    Miss the good old days, I guess.
    Enjoyed your piece. My Mother worshiped Ashby Ward!
    Many thanks

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