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Kalamity Kate
Leta Powell Drake hosted "Cartoon Corral" as Kalamity Kate from 1967 to 1982 on KOLN-KGIN TV. (Courtesy photo)

Leta Powell Drake enjoyed a prolific 46-year career in broadcasting, from hosting the morning show at KOLN/KGIN-TV to programming NET Television.

It's why the Nebraska Broadcasters Association is inducting her -- along with late Alliance broadcaster Mike Garwood -- into its Hall of Fame during a special ceremony Wednesday night at Embassy Suites.

She'll join legends such as Johnny Carson, Tom Brokaw and Dick Cavett in the Hall of Fame.

Yet it may be Drake's 15-year stint as a children's show host at KOLN for which she is most remembered. She hosted "Cartoon Corral" as Kalamity Kate from 1967 to 1982.

The live, 30-minute show featured a studio audience of children, many of whom were celebrating birthdays.

"It amazes me that now-grown children clearly remember their experience on ‘Cartoon Corral,'" Drake said.

Each episode included a Q&A between Kalamity Kate and the children. She often asked kids what they wanted to be when they grew up.

"(The answers) fell into distinctly into different categories between the girls and the boys," she said.

Boys wanted to be football players, police officers, farmers and astronauts, while girls chose teachers, secretaries, nurses, ballerinas and mommies.

"One little girl said she wanted to be an airline stewardess, and I asked ‘Why not a pilot?'

"She responded, ‘Girls don't fly airplanes.' When I told her that I had a pilot's license, she looked at me incredulously. I wanted to plant the seed of aspiration that girls can push the envelope, too!"

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or, or follow him on Twitter at

Your stories

We asked readers to share their memories of Leta Powell Drake's Kalamity Kate and "Cartoon Corral." Here are the stories we received.

I'm pretty sure that being on "Cartoon Corral" was a birthright for any kid growing up in Southeast Nebraska during the '70s. I have two very distinct memories of being on "Corral":

-- I wanted to hold the microphone. I knew that Kalamity Kate would allow, on occasion, kids to hold said microphone during her Q&A with them. I could see no reason why I shouldn't be allowed to hold it, too. What transpired was a tug of war between Kalamity Kate and my small, sticky paw. Kate won.

-- I was used to certain things as a kid, and cartoons were meant to be watched. To this day I can still feel the pang of disappointment when the only way to watch "Huckleberry Hound" was via a tiny black and white screen on the back of the TV cameras. Couple that with not being allowed to get off the bench, and I'm amazed I didn't go ballistic.

We did get McDonald's after it was over, which was a treat for a kid from Johnson. It hasn't tasted as good since.

- Todd Nichols, Omaha

I remember when we were little watching her on TV, and then she and Festus from "Gunsmoke" came to Seward to the Cattle National Bank. We have an autographed picture of Festus.

- Lorraine Leininger, Seward

On my son Mike's seventh birthday, Nov. 3, 1972, we took him to "Cartoon Corral." He took his pet white mouse Herby along for show and tell. He had him in a little box or cage and was checking on him on the way home when Herby jumped out of the box and onto the floor.

It was dark in the car and we asked the kids to just sit still until we got home and we would find him. In all the excitement, Mike stood up, stepped on Herby and he was no more. Needless to say, it was very traumatic.

Mike is now an archaeologist in Maryland but will never forget his experience of going to "Cartoon Corral." We have talked of it often.

Congratulations to Leta. What a wonderful career she has had through the years.

- Jean Lucas for Dr. Mike Lucas, Silver Spring, Md.

In the early 1970s, "Cartoon Corral" had a Pollution Solution contest to submit an idea to make the environment pollution-free. I was the contest's grand-prize winner, which included an airplane ride with Kalamity Kate as the pilot! That was my first ride in an airplane.

Congratulations Leta Powell Drake on your induction into the Nebraska Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame!

- Linda Rezac, Lincoln

I was on "Cartoon Corral" with my two sisters back in 1973 when I was in kindergarten.

One of the things I remember about being on that show is you got a McDonald's hamburger, which was a super special treat because we never went out to eat. I remember getting Bazooka Joe bubble gum as well.

One thing Kalamity Kate would do on the show is ask you what you wanted for your birthday. She started out with my older sister, and she said she wanted a tape recorder, then Kalamity Kate asked my other sister and she said she wanted a tape recorder as well. So when she got to me I said the same thing, tape recorder, probably out of stage fright.

Kalamity Kate said something like, "Wow, all three of you want tape recorders. Why do you want one?" My reply was, "So I can put it under my mom and dad's bed and tape them kissing." I don't really remember exactly what happened. I think some kids laughed and Kalamity Kate quickly introduced the next cartoon.

My mom told me she just slumped in her seat and couldn't believe it. My grandmother, my mom's mom, saw it live, and when we got home she called my mom and they both could hardly talk they were laughing so hard.

Epilogue to the story: 35 years later, I was playing golf with a buddy and we saw a lady playing golf by herself in a golf cart super fast. We said we'd let her play through because it looked like she meant business.

When this lady got up to us, I recognized her as Leta Powell Drake. I said, "Hi, Kalamity Kate!" and she said "I don't hear that very much any more." I told her I was on her show and she said something like, "Honey, I don't remember you; I had thousands of kids on my show." I went on to tell her the tape recorder story, and she pointed at me and said, "I REMEMBER YOU!!"

- Michael Hemmett, Lincoln

I'm thrilled to hear Leta Powell Drake will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame!

Somewhere around 40 years ago and continuing on for many years, my dad's camper business was at the State Fair at the north side of the open air auditorium. We spent all day, every day for the duration at the fair.

During the fair, Kalamity Kate would televise her shows from the auditorium. Wow! I was a little girl in heaven. When my mom helped me "work up my guts" to finally introduce myself to Leta Powell Drake, I was 10 clouds above heaven!

She was so busy but made me feel like I was important. She went about her work while talking with me. Her fringed dress, her dazzling eyes and smile and red hair a little brighter than mine were all so much better up close.

I wanted to be Kalamity Kate and went to sleep dreaming of leading her life many nights. I thought she was the most major celebrity on earth!

Over all those years my highlight of the State Fair has always been Kalamity Kate. To this day whenever I see or hear Leta Powell Drake, I smile.

- Natalie Maxson, Lincoln

I was fortunate enough to be in a small number who, in the pre-VCR days, got to watch themselves on "Cartoon Corral."

On my sixth birthday in 1972, I got to be on the show, but some live news event from CBS - something involving NASA or Skylab, I believe - pre-empted the show. But we were all taped for broadcast the following Monday.

When Kalamity Kate asked "What's the best thing about your hometown?" I answered "The elevator." For decades after, my parents and I never knew whether I meant the grain elevator or the only building elevator, in the hospital of my hometown of Hanover, Kan.

I got my souvenir Which Witch? game, a free dinner at Shakey's Pizza and a greater appreciation of television.

- David Burke, Davenport, Iowa

My husband, Mike, and I met because our families have been connected in many ways since the 1940s. At 25, we were introduced (or really reintroduced) to each other and began dating. When we were dating, I told a story about my appearance as a child on Kalamity Kate.

The story was that when Kalamity Kate passed around a bucket of fried chicken to us on the show, my best friend Holly, who was also Mike's cousin, decided she didn't want to eat her piece at that particular moment and, on the air, placed it under her leg. I recalled the look on Kalamity Kate's face when my friend did this.

Eighteen years or so later as I was telling the story, Mike said, "I was there! I remember that!" I figure we were about 7 when we were on Kalamity Kate. We have now been married for almost 12 years and have two children.

- Tracy Rathe, Lincoln

I remember being on "Cartoon Corral" on my birthday with my neighbor, Charlie, who was born on the same day as me, which was great except we had to share the birthday treats. I got the cake, and I think he got the All-Day SlowPoke (a wonderful candy from back then), which I have to admit I did envy. The All-Day Slow Poke was HUGE - much bigger than the normal size that you would get at the Ben Franklin dime store. As a kid, it looked bigger than life, like something that could last you about a year.

Yep, still kinda wish I had gotten that all-day SlowPoke.

- Laura (Voelker) Kushner, St. Paul, Minn.

I was on "Cartoon Corral" a couple times. I remember telling Kalamity Kate I wanted to be Shazam! (Captain Marvel, but I called him Shazam!) when I grew up.

I was wearing a T-shirt with "Be-Bop-A-Lula" on it and she asked, "Is that like the song?" and proceeded to sing a couple lines.

I also remember being so excited beforehand that I barfed at home right before leaving for the show. I told Kalamity Kate they might want to leave me out when they handed out the burgers.

- Matthew Burton, Lincoln

My daughter, Stacy Gilsdorf, was 5 when she was on Kate's show. Kate asked Stacy what her least favorite food was.

"Gristle," the bashful Stacy replied.

"Gristle!" the shocked Kalamity Kate asked. "Your mommy feeds you gristle?" Kalamity Kate was looking very concerned.

"Yes," little Stacy nodded.

Stacy's great-grandmother, Lucy Hurt, and a couple of her elderly friends in Dwight watched the program that day specifically to see Stacy. They got a real chuckle out of it. Next time we went to Dwight, I had to explain to great-grandma and a few of her friends that Stacy would not eat meat and her excuse was that "it had gristle in it."

- Jodi Gilsdorf, Chandler, Ariz.

I was on Kalamity Kate a couple of times, first when I was 5 for a birthday party. When Kate asked me what I wanted to be, I said I wanted to be a pharmacist, which wasn't a typical response for a 5-year-old.

Kate then asked me if I knew what a pharmacist did.

"Oh, yes, he stands behind a counter and whenever someone comes in to get their medicine he says ‘Hello there' and says your name and sometimes your mom lets you buy candy."

Then in both fifth and sixth grade I was on Little Reggie's Quiz Kids. I was on the Wednesday shows, which dealt with U.S. history and had my best friends, Chris Brown and Mark Valenta, on each side of me. We were smart. No team could beat us. The question I remember was who wrote the "Star-Spangled Banner." I buzzed right away and said Francis Key Scott. For some reason, Key seemed more like a middle name and not a last name, and with all of the pressure of the lights, I just couldn't think. The Seward team was able to answer it correctly, with Francis Scott Key.

We got meals from Burger Chef one day and chicken from KFC on another, so my shame of not getting the question correct was satisfied by food.

My friend Chris won an Electro Man doll on "Cartoon Corral." He had a red, yellow and gold superhero costume. With batteries, he could detect if something moved in front of him. It was the coolest toy I had ever seen. I had to get one. Years later, I still had it in pristine condition. My nephews loved playing with it, too.

- Thomas R. Reeves, Crete

I remember walking to KOLN to be in the audience on "Cartoon Corral" with my brothers and sometimes other children from the day care that was just down the road.

The best part was wondering what our special snack would be: Kentucky Fried Chicken drumsticks or McDonald's hamburgers.

Kalamity Kate always looked so sharp in her western costume.

This type of children's show provided education and was lots of fun. It is too bad that we don't have this type of program for our children to enjoy nowadays.

- Tricia Liedle, Lincoln

I remember being on "Cartoon Corral" for one of my birthdays; I must have been 5 or 6 years old.

My only memory of being on the show was winning a little putt-putt speedway toy for guessing the right animal that Kalamity Kate was describing. I answered "frog" when she said "I start out as a tadpole." I was quite proud!

- Tony Loth, Lincoln

I was a birthday girl on "Cartoon Coral" at age 5 in 1974. Watching the show on TV, I imagined that the cartoon characters were really there acting out their show on a big stage, and I didn't understand why when we got there we were seated in the risers watching the cartoons on little TVs on rolling carts!

I told Kate that I wanted to be a teacher and then I handed out cupcakes. I did end up at UNL in Teachers College but didn't complete my degree.

I have seen Leta several times throughout my adult life. The last time was about five years ago at the county fair. I am never shy to go running up to her yelling "Kalamity Kate!" I always give her a hug and she is probably the sweetest lady I have ever known.

- Jennifer Hatfield Rutt

I had an opportunity to be on "Cartoon Corral" for my fifth birthday in March 1976.

For several days leading up to my appearance on the show, my grandparents kept reminding me over and over that there would be games played during the show and that I had to pay attention to the questions so I would have a chance to win a prize.

"Pay attention and make sure you listen," they nagged incessantly.

The day of the show came and I was so excited! It was my birthday and I was going to be on TV!!! As they had done for what seemed like weeks, my grandparents again kept reminding me that morning to listen to what Kalamity Kate might ask when we played the on-camera games. "Listen carefully so you can win a prize." This reverberated in my head for hours.

When we arrived, Kalamity Kate showed all the kids appearing on the show that day into the studio where we had to stand on some bleachers in between cartoons and/or commercials for what seemed like hours. To keep us occupied, the show provided some snacks for us - chicken legs. Suddenly, my excitement about being on camera dwindled as my excitement and enthusiasm for that darned chicken leg reigned supreme.

The show started and after a cartoon I can't remember, we played a game. Kalamity Kate told us to look at the studio monitor. On the monitor was a picture of some object that was covered up. Kalamity Kate gave clues as to what the picture might be. Small pieces of the picture were then removed to reveal what was underneath. The first person to guess the picture would win a prize.

This was what I had been instructed to pay attention to! This was my chance to show that I had listed to my grandparents!

As quickly as that thought entered my mind, it quickly left again as that stupid chicken leg became the most important thing in my life. I was so busy gnawing my way through my snack that I completely forgot to listen to the clue and before I even realized it had started, the game was over and I was left with nothing but the bone of that yummy chicken leg.

Not only had I not paid attention as instructed, but I let a chicken leg come between me and my prize!! My grandparents refused to let me forget that moment for many years.

The other memory I have of being on the show involved Kalamity Kate asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up. When she asked me, I said, "A policeman!" Kalamity Kate looked at me rather quizzically and asked, "Don't you mean a policewoman, honey?" (I'm sure visions of Angie Dickinson appeared in her head). "NO," I said very adamantly; I think I may have stomped my foot too. "I want to be a police MAN!!!" Giving up, Kalamity Kate moved on to talk to another child while I smiled for having won the battle to be more like "Starsky and Hutch" and less like Angie Dickinson!

- Sonya Brakeman, Lincoln

I was on her show when I was a little kid, and we had a great time being on TV! I remember the applause sign - I couldn't read it but knew that when it lit up, I was supposed to clap.

We ate fried chicken and drank milk while sitting on the floor, and I remember how cheerful she was, whether the camera was on or not.

I don't remember much from that age but do have fond memories of attending her show.

- Deb Bolte, Ceresco

When my Campfire troop appeared on "Cartoon Corral," Ms. Drake asked my best friend, whose last name happened to be Nixon, whether she was related to President Nixon.

My friend, being a child and completely overwhelmed but definitely not related to the president, immediately answered "Yes."

For some reason, that's always stuck in my mind.

- Barb Bittner, Bellevue

This was one of my favorite programs to watch as a very young child until she went off the air.

I remember curling up with my mom on the couch and watching. Just thinking back brings back so many wonderful memories of my mother, who died when I was 14, just having a good time and laughing and learning all at the same time.

When I was about 8 we were at State Fair and we were walking around thinking of what sounded good. I looked up and Kalamity Kate was walking toward us. She stopped and asked us a few questions. I was in awe!!!

This show is one of my fondest childhood memories. Thank you for all the memories and the laughs and giggles!!

- Joyce Finch, Casper, Wyo.

I had the honor of attending the "Cartoon Corral" for a birthday party. It must have been around 1976 or '77. I remember Kalamity Kate in her cowgirl outfit, all the cameras pointed at us and also how hot it was because of the lights on the set.

We had plain McDonald's hamburgers and watched a magician.

I would have to admit it was one of the most unique birthday parties I have ever attended but I'm glad I can say that I was able to be a part of Lincoln's history and the "Cartoon Corral."

Thanks, Leta, for being such a great role model for so many kids and adults over the years. It will be a memory I will never forget.

- Greg A. Thimgan

How could a kid ever forget a trip to Kalamity Kate's Little Reggie's Quiz Kids?

I was in the fourth grade and must have been 10. Having grown up in Ravenna, a trip to the big city of Grand Island was an epic adventure.

We did not meet Kalamity Kate right off. We were all led into a large room set up with tables to have lunch: a McDonald's hamburger, French fries, and a pop. I remember tryig to keep the styrofoam container thinking I could make a fine toy boat with it later.

When we were led to the production studio I was amazed at the lights and the size of the cameras. As the kids were led into the bleachers, two of my classmates and I took the hot seats. They were literally hot from the lighting!

We were taking on another town's kids, and Ravenna got the top row. I was on stage right, closest to Kalamity Kate and her companion, Flash T. Horse.

When everyone was situated and the lights blazed forth, here came Kalamity Kate. She and Flash introduced the teams and the contestants. I remember being told to speak into the microphone in the middle of the table but I kept talking straight to the horse.

The questions began to fly and I was doing very well. At the time I was up on my science and history. I remember Ravenna was in the lead and I thought victory was ours.

One of the final questions was: "Who sewed the first America flag?" I was a little slow on the buzzer and one of my classmates got it.

He spurted out: "Betty Crocker!"

"Betty Crocker?" I thought, "No, it was Betsy Ross!"

Flash T. Horse was unfazed and said, "No, but she bakes delicious cakes!" It didn't matter in the end because the other team missed it, too.

I continued to answer questions but the director got irate about me speaking directly to the horse.

During a commercial break Kalamity Kate gently redirected me to speak into the microphone. As I think back at it, I think that my mother's admonition to look at whom you are speaking to did not apply in the world of television. Despite my lack of stage presence, Ravenna won and we received a big certificate!

Each kid got a Kalamity Kate postcard and I hung it on my bedroom door when I got home.

Now that I am 43, I look at the innocence and the fun that was a part of that program. We enjoyed Kalamity Kate throughout our childhood and remember the grace and warmth that she was able to convey through a TV screen. I will always remember Kalamity Kate, Flash T. Horse and Betty Crocker!

- Shawn Farritor, North Platte

My story about Kalamity Kate involves my daughter many years ago. We would come to Lincoln to visit my parents and she always watched “Cartoon Corral.”

On one visit, we went to the Lincoln zoo and they were filming a commercial with Kalamity Kate. My daughter, 4 at the time, was asked to be in the commercial. She was so excited and remembers that day still, and she is 39 years old!

— Debbi Haney, Kearney


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