You’ve likely read or heard about the death April 11 of Terry Sams, the veteran Augusta broadcaster whose biggest claim to fame was playing host to a popular local children’s show on TV station WJBF (Channel 6) for 20 years. Dressed in the cowboy hat and badge of a country lawman, Mr. Sams would entertain live audiences of enthusiastic children as Trooper Terry.
How many kids appeared on the show over the years? Estimates run from 150,000 to 250,000. Who knows how many hundreds of thousands more kids watched the show at home?
I was one of those kids.
I grew up in an old house on a red-clay road in rural south Georgia. As the crow flies it’s between the cities of Statesboro (which you might have heard of) and Metter (which you might not).
The Christmas right after I turned 8, my parents gave me what at the time I thought was an insane extravagance – a 12-inch portable television for my room. It was a black-and-white Sanyo, with VHF and UHF dials. Only city kids had cable TV. Forget satellite dishes.
With very little effort, you could pick up the three major TV stations out of Savannah and the public television station that had a transmitter in Pembroke.
With a little more effort – and I was one of those kids who liked to go the extra mile – you could fiddle with the antenna, when the weather was right, and pick up stations in Augusta. During the week I’d get Gilligan’s Island reruns on Channel 12. I could pick up the The PTL Club on Channel 26 but wouldn’t watch it.
But Saturdays? Early in the morning – and reception always was better in the morning – I’d gently twist the antenna until I could hear that familiar voice boom out: “Hey, kids, iiiit’s Trooper Terry tiiiiiime!”
Trooper Terry’s show stood out. It wasn’t some network-produced cartoon show. It was live. Kids got involved. And it was especially exciting if you lived in Augusta because you might even see a kid or two in the audience whom you actually knew! On TV!
And the host of it all was an adult who never had a harsh word for you. His job was to make sure you had fun. And he always encouraged you to do better, and to do right.
It was a fun memory of growing up. Thank you, Trooper Terry.