A ritual of Michigan kids in the 1950s and 60s was plopping down in front of the TV on a Saturday afternoon and watching Milky's Party Time hosted by Milky the Clown.

Milky was portrayed by Clare Cummings who began practicing magic tricks when he was twelve years old. He started doing professional gigs in 1929 and continued up until the 1940s and World War II.

After the war he resumed his magician life as "Clare Cummings, Delineator of Deceptive Dexterity." At one particular gig in 1950, a producer from WJBK-TV was watching. With a new kid show in mind, he went over to Cummings and persuaded him to be the host of the new show, titled Peter, Clare & Oscar (Peter & Oscar were puppets).

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Meantime, Twin Pines Dairy was hoping to sponsor a kid's TV show and contacted the TV station. Seeing big sponsorship bucks, WJBK and Cummings came up with 'Milky the Clown', so-named because of the Twin Pines milk (I always thought the name 'Milky' was weird, but it was nothing more than a sponsor shmooze).

Cummings came up with Milky's look and his wife made the costume which resembled the sad clown in the opera Pagliacci.

The new show was titled Milky’s Movie Party and premiered December 16; 1950. It began as a two-hour show with Milky performing his tricks, old cartoons, and an occasional old western.

1955: Show moves to WXYZ-TV, Channel 7
1958: Show moves to WWJ-TV, Channel 4 and re-named 'Milky's Party Time'
1960: Mayor decrees “Milky the Clown Day”

Now there was a live audience full of kids and more features, films, and games. Whenever Milky performed a trick, he told the kids to say the magic words...not 'abracadabra' or anything similar, but “TWIN PINES!” to further shmooze the sponsor.

Cummings' overwhelming success as Milky produced more and more appearances and performances almost nonstop, making him extremely exhausted. The TV show was so popular, there was a two-year wait for tickets.

Through all this, Cummings was a salesman of DuPont paint - how he managed both is beyond me. But in 1964, he hung up his Milky cap and handed the clown reins over to his friend Karrell Fox. Fox was good, but the kids caught on: “this isn't the Milky we know!” Milky's Party Time lasted another three years until it folded in 1967.

Clare “Milky” Cummings died on Halloween Day, 1994 from heart failure.

Milky the Clown and Twin Pines



Bill Bonds

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