My Philadelphia Story: Captain Noah

a.k.a. W. Carter Merbreier; former Lutheran minister and children’s TV-show host; Gladwyne; 78

We love IHOP. Are you familiar with IHOP?

We did 260 shows a year, and for a time we had a 57 percent market share rating, so I decorated the offices with bottles of Heinz. We just pumped them out.

My father was very show biz-y and did some vaudeville. I have an old trunk with clown shoes and stuff like that. It was a normal, wonderful experience to grow up in a little village like Prospect Park.

I’m a hardback Republican, voted for Bush, contributed to Bush’s campaign, but he’s got problems that disappoint me. But he’s not deviant. He doesn’t waffle.

Hardly a day goes by that does not bring us joy. Whether a waitress, a postal worker, a shopkeeper, somebody says, “Aren’t you Captain Noah?” and “It’s a shame that there is no Captain Noah on the air anymore.”

Pat [Mrs. Noah] and I pray together every day. I pray for my family, the world. I apologize for praying so much about my family, because my prayers are so selfish.

I am a Johnnie Walker Black man.

The world is a different place than in my day. Children have different temptations, different problems. So putting my fingers on the pulse of what is happening today — I am not aware of all that is going on. That is why we retired.

The Phillie Phanatic made his first television appearance on our show. And we had a 650-pound Bengal tiger. I don’t know why we did that. Look what happened to the guys in Las Vegas. We could have really been in trouble.

When I took my first parish, I was wet behind the ears, which might have been a good thing. Because my first assignment was in the ghetto at Broad and Mt. Vernon.

In those days, there was a big morals problem involving some people here in Philadelphia, such as [original Bandstand host] Bob Horn. I formed the first Protestant police association in the United States. … We had a book-­burning of pornography on the steps of my church. After 13 weeks of our show, I couldn’t afford to pay our puppeteer anymore. So I went to my wife and said it’s done, it’s finished. So she became a puppeteer overnight.

I believe that the people of America are still of faith and moral conviction.

The children of the world are very heavy on my heart, very heavy. Children who, because of cruelty and hunger and war, will never get a chance to grow up.

I was Frank Rizzo’s police chaplain. When he moved into Chestnut Hill, there was a lot of talk among the neighbors about an Italian cop moving in. He went to each door and said, “I’m Frank Rizzo and I’m moving in, and I just want to know if you have a problem with that.” I liked that. And that’s the kind of guy he was.

Dutch Wonderland made an effigy of me, which they had in their wax museum. The only thing that has survived is the head, and that’s down at my table — the Captain’s Table — at the Old Guard House.

Sally Starr was the biggest thing in town. There’s no question, she was spectacular. But Sally made a few bad judgments in her life, sadly.

Larry Ferrari used to have a crawl on the screen during his show with birthday messages. One day, I snuck on with, “Happy 80th Birthday to I. Hamma Phart of Cinnaminson.” People will never know how many things I put on that show that now are lost forever.

We had Georges Perrier on the show, and I saw him with a bottle of wine. I said, “You can’t have a bottle of wine, this is live television!”

Rizzo was the best there was. We had a close relationship. There are many things involved that will go to my grave.

Someone asked me why I would have a guy like Charles Barkley on our show. It was because I wanted someone who stumbled and got up. What’s the use of having Mr. Perfection on the show? Besides, I couldn’t get Jesus of Nazareth, he wasn’t available.