One of the greatest Oklahomans.
He was a showman and a clever salesman. Had you grown up in Los Angeles in the 1950s and during early television years back in the early 1950s you first would have seen this country gentleman on Sunday morning Los Angeles TV. What did exist prominently on the seven L A TV stations at that time on the early dawn hours were test patterns. Often showing a full Indian headdress full with eagle feathers. All in black and white. No color at that time. This was in the age of 12-inch oval picture tubes which had a clarity of a black and white photo overlaid with wax paper.
So this daring Okie came to town and bought a Dodge car dealer in Huntington Park. Just north of Long Beach, California. He too noticed the unused TV time blanketed with test patterns. But anyway Cal Worthington; born 1920 as Calvin Coolidge Worthington from Shidler, Oklahoma quickly saw a possible opportunity to promote his car dealership.
But again, when he showed up in Huntington Park about 1952 he contacted the local L A TV stations and negotiated an almost free deal to provide programming and use the early morning test pattern time for his sales interests. Cal began showing old ‘B’ Westerns with the likes of the trick riding Tom Mix or the bull whip wielding Lash LaRue and inserted his car dealer commercials about every five minutes instead of showing test patterns. Shortly after he hired a country band to play for the folks coming to his showroom. Then sales started coming. Cal would walk around his sales lot and show some of the new and used cars he offered. Then he got his golden retriever involved and named the dog Spot. Then he would say, come see Cal and see my dog Spot. Then to catch people’s attention Cal would say, come and see my dog spot” while pointing over his shoulder to a gray elephant. Then it was a kangaroo. Then a lama. On and on it went Almost P T Barnumish. None the less you couldn’t but help loving old Cal. He was somewhat humble, unpretentious, and most of all a folksy Okie. You would often see him in a western cut suit with Stetson. “Come see Cal.” He was my kind of Okie.
The last I heard of Cal he owned many Ford dealers all through California and was doing quite well and still regaling the TV viewer with his folksy style. He died in 2013. I would put him up there along with James Garner and Dr. Phil. And just a cut above Paul Harvey.