the Adventure Road
On June 30, 1926 near 30th and Denison on the West Side of Cleveland, Jim Doney was born. He grew up in Garfield Heights and graduated from Garfield High School in the Class of '44. He graduated just one day before D-Day.
Jim went to Western Reserve for a year. He was excused from the Army because he was almost blind in his right eye. "Remember how your mother used to warn you not to play with arrows, you may blind yourself? Well, that's what happened to me. I was hit by an arrow as a kid and I'm just about blind in my one eye."
There were no radio courses being offered at Western Reserve, and he knew from early on that he wanted to pursue a career in that field. So instead he took Drama course - the closest thing he could find.
He worked at WMAN as an announcer during the summer and decided to stay on. And then, bad eye or not, he was drafted. In April, 1946 he went into the Army in what was called "Occupied Duty" but in fact, never left California. He was in the Army for one year.
Next stop was WKB in Youngstown, Ohio before coming to Cleveland in 1948. He worked for a Cleveland Heights station as a disc jockey and stayed there about 4 years.
It was during this time that Jim met and married his wife, Florence "Pinky" Calvin. "She had beautiful red hair but didn't like being called Red, so we called her Pinky instead."
Jim and Pinky were married for 47 years before her death in 1998. Together they had a daughter, Leslie (Kleist) who is now married and has 2 children of her own, Matt and Jamie.
Jim Doney from Adventure Road
He left the Cleveland Heights Station (WSRJ) and went to WTAM. It was the earliest days of television and he did a Saturday Night Variety Show called Golden Time. They had live singers, dancers and bands.
He was also part of The Saturday Morning Show with Ernie Benedict. Benedict had what Doney refers to as a "Peculiar" band, but practical. If you wanted a polka band - that was him. If you wanted a country western band - that was him. His band would be anything you wanted or needed him to be.
"Of course in those days of television we could get away with anything because we were inventing it as we went."
Eventually Jim was let go because a soldier returning from Korea was given his old job back. WXEL had gone on the air by this time. This is the station that became WJW.
Jim went to work for them in 1952 and stayed until 1975 when Adventure Road went off the air and Jim moved to Hawaii, one of his favorite Adventure Road spots. In fact he had been there 22 times in 13 years!
A show similar to Adventure Road had been very successful in Detroit. When WJW got a new manager, who came from Detroit, he brought the idea with him. Jim was sent up to Detroit to meet with George Pierot, who wasn't thrilled at having a show similar to his, but Jim learned enough and met a few people and was ready to go.
Art Linkletter and Jim Doney
When it first started in December,1962 Adventure Road was to be a weekly show. Merely three months later, in March, 1963 it became daily.
Doney utilized the services of a group of people known as "Illustrated Lecturers." These people would shoot 16 mm film at sound speed and then show these films in libraries and such. Some even had connections with National Geographic. He brought them to a new venue - television!
There were about 300 people who did these lectures, and there's still a few left today who do. Ken Armstrong, once a weatherman for Channel 8 became an Illustrated Lecturer and still does it today.
One in particular that he remembers was a man by the name of Dan Cooper "a modern day Will Rogers." Cooper was always a hit as he gave funny, but informative lectures on conservation.
Doney himself escorted a lot of travel tours. Hawaii, Europe, Asia and South America were all on his itinerary. He also shot film himself and went on the lecture circuit and did personal appearances.
Jim Doney with Ed Sullivan
In 1975 Adventure Road went off the air. Jim had worked as a news anchor for awhile, but after Adventure Road Jim says his credibility had been destroyed for serious news and he couldn't go back to it.
He worked for the CBS affiliate in Honolulu for the next 20 years, mostly in management "All the stuff no one else wants to do in TV, like Human Resources and a weekly Public Affairs Show."
While in Hawaii, Jim started writing. He acted in four episodes of Hawaii Five 0 - three as a Doctor and one as a bank manager. He also helped produce and write an exchange program with the United States and China.
While he was in Hawaii, Steve Allen and Jane Meadows were performing in a comic opera "The Perfumed Handkerchief" and they became friends with Doney. Jane spoke fluent Chinese (she was born in China) and had a natural interest in his project.
Jim Doney (hat) with Steve Allen and Jane Meadows
and producer Dick Weiner (note the beards!)
The Perfumed Handkerchief is still available through Civil Universities on the Internet. Jim grew a beard in Hawaii that Steve Allen liked it so much he tried to grow one. Jane Meadows was not happy about the new "gruff" look her husband was sporting.
He became friendly with Jack Lord and Jim Nabors, who lived in Hawaii. "Honolulu lives up to its reputation, it's simply beautiful. Of course it's not cheap, but you get your moneys worth."
Jim Doney with Hawaii Five-O's
Jack Lord and wife Marie Lord
He's not interested in writing a book, but he has written a lot of political satire. He wrote a production by the name of "The Grid Iron" with Phil Upton and performed in it for many years at formal press club presentations.
He wrote a script for a benefit for the Honolulu Symphony "A Night of Stars." He rounded up celebrities from all over to participate, including his friend Jim Nabors, David Ogden Stiers, Loni Anderson and stars from Hill Street Blues and Happy Days. "Some actually used the script I wrote." He laughs, "But of course there's always a lot of adlibbing."
He was part of the Dick Clark produced "Most Beautiful Girl in the World" which was hosted by David Hasselhoff and Jayne Kennedy. Jayne actually recognized him and remembered him from his Adventure Road days. She watched him in her home in Willoughby where she grew up.
Jim and Pinky Doney with Jayne Kennedy
In the year 2000 while living in Hawaii Jim suffered a ruptured Aorta while having a CAT scan in the Emergency Room. After 4 surgeries and almost loosing his leg, Doney says he is doing much better now. "Of course my aorta is half Dacron now" he quips.
His daughter and son-in-law live in Rome, Georgia. They encouraged him to move to Georgia so they could be close to him after his medical problems and help him as needed. He moved into a Georgia Retirement Home and after 14 months he had had enough and moved out. He found it depressing. So he moved to Atlanta to another retirement home - still depressing.
Jim had put on a lot of weight during his convalescence. "It was a combination of not being able to exercise and babying myself." He met a doctor who put him on a good diet and exercise program, which he followed. He left the retirement home and his depression behind and moved into his own apartment outside of Atlanta.
He goes back to the Retirement Center in Atlanta once a week on Saturday mornings and does a show called "Cultural Corner" - a commentary on what's going on in the world. He talks about books, movies, current events, and of course, he jokes.
"Preparing for the show gives me something to do - and it's something I enjoy doing. I've even met some Clevelanders there."
Jim is a big time Indians and Browns fan. "I've never been much on basketball, but of course I still root for the Cavs just 'cuz they're Cleveland."
He still has a lot of friends in Cleveland, even though he doesn't get back often. As an avid reader he was delighted to find "Full Cleveland" at a garage sale for a quarter!
Nothing aggravates him more than injustice. "I should be out fighting for Martha Stewart. She has been treated criminally by everyone - media, court, people - everyone. And what was she indicted for? For being crabby and having a bad temper. Let's face it - she's rich and people don't like that!"
Jim Doney with Duke Ellington at a WJW radio & TV Christmas Party about 1964.
He loves to listen to good music - especially good lyrics. "Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin. That's good music. And Ira was much more talented than his brother George."
He also pointed out that music buffs should look closely at the drummer in the original version of Cole Porter's life's story with Cary Grant. The drummer is none other than the then unknown Mel Torme.
Jim has had his problems over the years - as have we all. But he has conquered each one as it comes his way and today he is a happy and content man.
Jim Doney awaiting the next Adventure
Jim Doney took us on his Adventure Road with him. He took us to places that, at the time, we couldn't even imagine. We always knew we were in good hands on our "road trips" because Jim took us there with the best of care.
Now, retired and living in Georgia he is on a new road and every day brings him a new adventure. We can only hope life shares good things with him the same way he shared good things with us.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson in 2007
September 8, 2014 Update: Jim's daughter Leslie informed us that Jim was diagnosed with bladder cancer this spring. "While up to a week ago, he was doing fairly well, still active and writing and his old self.. but within the past week, things began to decline, and he was, I think waiting for last Thursday, which celebrated his 54th Birthday of Sobriety in AA... many lives he touched in those 54 years.
After Thursday, he declined rapidly, and I had to move him to a Hospice home yesterday.. within 24 hours be passed.. tonight at 6:30. He had told the nurse yesterday he was ready to go there and then pass so he could be with my mom and husband, and they would have a great time... he refused pain meds today so that it would not delay anything, and he was completely ready to go.
So he passed quickly and is now having fun in Heaven and I am sure either leading a meeting, or entertaining some group or working on a skit, or poem or lyrics for a show.
Rest in Peace Dad."
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