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The Wallace and Ladmo Show ran from April 1, 1954 to December 29, 1989–36 years—making it one of the longest-running, daily, locally produced children's television shows in American broadcasting.
It premiered as It's Wallace?, a vehicle to showcase cartoons for KPHO. The show was hosted by Bill Thompson, who created the character of Wallace Snead when he appeared on the Golddust Charlie Show (also on KPHO). It aired on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 6:30 PM. Within a year, Ladimir Kwiatkowski (who had been a cameraman for the station) joined the show as Ladmo, the rubber-faced sidekick to Wallace. In 1960, Pat McMahon joined the cast and developed a list of characters (such as Gerald, Aunt Maud, Captain Super and Marshall Good) that parodied various popular culture icons. (McMahon was also a popular talk radio host for KTAR in the Phoenix market.) In addition to the daily broadcasts, the cast of the show performed regular stage shows at such venues as local movie theaters and malls, Encanto Park (in central Phoenix), and the Legend City theme park.
In 1968 the show was renamed Wallace & Company and again in 1970, to its better known title, The Wallace & Ladmo Show. In 1973, the time slot of the show split with a morning and afternoon show but taping of the two shows was still in the afternoon so children could attend the audience after school.
The show ended with the final taping on December 29, 1989. By that time it had won many awards, including nine Emmy awards.
In recent years, the show has been airing reruns on and off the KAZT-TV (Channel 7.1 in Prescott and Phoenix) schedule. On June 6, 2009 the show returned to the KAZT schedule airing Saturdays at 6:00 PM.
In the mid-1960s, the Ladmo Bag first appeared on the show. The Ladmo Bag was a prize won by children in the in-studio audience or at stage performances. They were paper grocery bags filled with candy, potato chips, assorted coupons and so on.
To Wallace and Ladmo fans and collectors, an authentic Ladmo Bag from the original show can be worth a considerable amount of money. However, very few of these bags still exist intact, as most children that won the prizes consumed the content inside and discarded the bag. Some natives of the Phoenix area use the expression "I never got a Ladmo Bag when I was a kid" as a metaphor for "I had a deprived childhood."
Kwiatkowski died in 1994. However, during special events in Arizona, particularly the Arizona State Fair, Ladmo bags are still won by select people attending. The last Ladmo bag, on the final telecast, was given to Wallace in a symbolic gesture by Ladmo.
Residents of Tent City, AZ, the Maricopa County jail run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, are served morning meals in see through plastic bags, which are referred to on the inside as "Ladmos". A "Ladmo", with the word bag now superfluous, is the lunch bag of expired and donated food. A highly coveted item central to gambling, extortion and the currency of inmate commerce.
In recent years there have been two plays written about the show. The first play follows Wallace, Ladmo, Pat and Mike Condello as they struggle to hold the show together when the parody band, Hubb Kapp and the Wheels, is offered a record deal with Capitol Records. The second play deals with the death of Ladmo from cancer. The first play was performed two times at the Herberger Theatre in downtown Phoenix, with several celebrities showing up as "Time Machine" guests, including Alice Cooper. The plays were all written by Ben Tyler with input from both Thompson and McMahon.
The Wallace and Ladmo Show has been the subject of several museum exhibits over the years. In 2009, two different exhibits about the show's history were on view: one at the Arizona Historical Society in Tempe (AHS has over 2,500 Wallace and Ladmo items in their collection), and the other at the Mesa Historical Museum. There is also a permanent exhibit in the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.