Captain Noah (W. Carter Merbreier)
The young and the young-at-heart can still remember the long-running television program called Captain Noah and His Magical Ark. As a daily program in the late sixties, the seventies and the eighties and a weekend show until the end of 1994, it was syndicated for years in 22 other markets. It was the product of husband and wife team: W. Carter and Patricia B. Merbreier. Together they led generations on an exciting magical mystery tour.
Both of the Merbreiers are active members of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. Better known to Philadelphians as Captain and Mrs. Noah, their children's program (Captain Noah and His Magical Ark) aired over Channel 6 for 27 years. However, Carter's television experience goes back to the fifties when, as a Lutheran minister, he did many of the sign on and sign off prayers aired over Channels 3, 6 and 10. Born in July of 1926, Carter still refers to his wife as "Mrs. Noah," and she calls him "Captain."
In 1994, Carter and Patricia decided by themselves that it was time to put the "magical ark" into dry dock. The broadcast started in 1967 as a Philadelphia Council of Churches program that Carter created. It was a religious program, says the one time Police chaplain.
Now grown-up children will always remember the characters of Wally the Walrus, Maurice the Mouse, and, of course, I Can Sing a Rainbow, their theme. Mrs. Noah was the puppeteer on the show and loved it.
When Channel 6 was owned by Triangle Publications (The Philadelphia Inquirer - Walter Annenberg), Captain Noah was syndicated on 22 different television stations across the United States. Well known Philadelphia TV organist Larry Ferrari provided the music.
Once in awhile, you can still find Carter behind the pulpit at the St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He has written a book, Television: What's Behind What You See and was inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame on May 20th of 2001. The show's set has been incorporated into the new entrance of the "Please Touch Museum" in Fairmount Park.
The Merbreiers were honored in the spring of 2001 by their induction into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in recognition of their lifelong achievements and many contributions to the broadcast industry.
As Captain Noah, Carter narrated a record 13 children's concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony. He also had another hit TV Series for teenagers, This Is It. It won the prestigious Iris statuette from the National Association of Television Program Executives.
Over the years, artists, artisans, inventors, newsmakers, clowns, zoo and circus animals and sports stars boarded the "ark" to share with children the treasures of the world around them. Martina Navratilova, Charles Barkley and Dorothy Hamill encouraged children to be the best they can be on the show. Frank Perdue, the chicken guy, demonstrated the miracle of baby chicks hatching. Jim Henson introduced Kermit the Frog to the Ark's Wally the Walrus and Maurice the Mouse on their program. The broadcast also boasts of having catcher Tim McCarver doing his very first sports commentary on television and it was on the Noahs air that the Philly Phanatic was introduced to the world.
It can be said that the "Ark" was a fanciful wonderland for children's adventures of mind and spirit. "For us," says Captain Noah, "the greatest honor was to chart for those many years the most wondrous of seas, children's imaginations."
In 2001, the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia selected Captain and Mrs. Noah as their "Persons of the Year." They were also inducted into our Hall of Fame that same year. Carter has served for many years on our Board of Directors.
By the way, when Carter started at WFIL-TV in 1967, he was no newcomer to television. He was one of a select group of local clergy who appeared on area TV in the fifties. For example, on Tuesday, August 21, 1956, he appeared on "Thought for Today." It was on WRCV-TV, Channel 3 from 6:40 to 6:45 am.
Gene Fegely, a visitor to our website e-mailed that Carter was his boyhood scout leader. Gene said that he was on the TV with Captain Noah to show his camera collection and explain photography.
KNOWN TIME PERIODS
8 am to 9 am - Channel 6 - Mondays through Fridays
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Used with the permission and authority of W. Carter Merbreier & WPVI
© 2009, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved
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