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Zeebo the Clown and Me

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Bowen "Bo" W. McClellan entertained central Texas children in the 1950s and 1960s by transforming himself into "Zeebo the Clown". His wife named him "Zeebo" as a funny French way of saying "Bo" that she thought made a cute clown name.

Bowen "Bo" McClellan was born in El Paso in 1907 but grew up just north of Waco in a town called West. He started drawing at the age of 10 studying with the retired art instructor Emma Humphreys at Baylor University. He went on to college at SMU, the Dallas Art Institute and eventually the Los Angeles Art Institute.

During the 20s, 30s and 40s, he did freelance work painting posters and banners for movie houses and vaudeville shows. He also did hand-lettering on tags and signs for department stores and designed a few corporate logos.

By the summer of 1950 he was back in Waco and was hired as a set builder and artist for local TV station KCEN-TV. He retired from KCEN in the 1970s. While there he designed TV advertisements, news programs and weather maps.

What I didn't know about Zeebo the Clown was that he was the star of a local children's show five days a week on KCEN-TV. On this program he had a live audience of children come up and squiggle on a pad of paper set up on an easel and he would then make something out of the squiggle and it became known as a "Zeebo-gram". This was a game he often played with his own sons at home.

Zeebo's "cigar" was actually a duck call painted to resemble a cigar. He used the whistle to express himself rather than talk.

Zeebo died in 1986.

An original Zeebo the Clown rendering of KCC Big Country done in Bellmead, Texas in 1966 at the age of 3-4 yrs old

An original Zeebo the Clown rendering of KCC Big Country done in Bellmead, Texas in 1966 at the age of 3-4 yrs old

When I Met Zeebo

I personally met Zeebo when I was three, perhaps four years old. With a late November birthday, it's certainly more likely that I was not yet 4 years old when I sat quietly and patiently in a chair as Zeebo drew the sketching of me that you see above. I remember the experience as if it were yesterday. I found him to be a very nice clown and not at all scary as some clowns can be to young children.

For the next 40 or so years, I've often wondered about Zeebo the Clown. I wondered what his story was and how it all came about. There is so little about him on the internet. I did find some pictures of him online (that have since been deleted) and I find it interesting that one of them was of an advertisement for him appearing at the Eastgate Plaza in Bellmead. That plaza is the same place I sat in for the sketching above, but years later.

Zeebo looked exactly like a remember him in the photos and it really took me back to see them for the first time in decades. I wish they hadn't removed them.

It brought a smile to my face. Thanks, Zeebo.

Links

  • Waco History Project: Moments in Time
    Waco History Project is a joint effort to provide a resource base on Waco history and to generate curricula and other learning resources for teaching local history in the Waco and surrounding communities.

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Comments

KRC (author) from Central Texas on October 24, 2019:

Thanks for sharing your story, Ameade. I'm sorry you don't still have it. At least you have the fond memory of it.

ameade on October 23, 2019:

I was just telling my grandson about Zeebo and found this page when I looked him up. I went with my father to Mr. Neely's grocery store in Killeen, TX when I was about 4 (about 1955) where Zeebo was drawing his Zeebo grams. I was a shy and quiet child, but Zeebo pointed to me, and my dad took me up on the platform. I drew a squiggly line on the paper, and Zeebo made a beautiful picture of a house next to a little stream. I loved that picture and kept it for a long time. I'm sorry it was lost or thrown away, because now I'd love to have it framed in my house.

James riojas on February 23, 2018:

Finally,found some info on Zeebo the clown,who I used to see on channel 6,Temple-Waco.I was about 9 or 10 years old.This website brought back fond memories of this early time of my life.Thanks for posting it,Karen.

KRC (author) from Central Texas on January 28, 2015:

Thanks for stopping by Alyce. There is a link above that has a photo of him. He died in 1986.

Alyce Morgan Reach on January 28, 2015:

I wish that I could see a picture of ZEEBO the clown. I am wondering why they have been deleted off the internet. Is he still alive?

Alyce Morgan Reach on January 28, 2015:

wow! I have been wondering if anyone remembered Zeebo. From about 1960 to 1963.I was 4 years old in 1960. I lived in Killeen Texas because my daddy was in the Army at Fort Hood. All that I remember of Zeebo the clown was watching him on his TV program. I do know that my sisters brownie troop did get to go and be a part of his show. I was so young I did not get to participate and had to stay in the back with my mother.

KRC (author) from Central Texas on July 21, 2009:

Thank you so much Maggs!

maggs224 from Sunny Spain on July 21, 2009:

Loved the story, loved the photos and loved the drawing

KRC (author) from Central Texas on July 21, 2009:

Thanks mayhmong: I was told that I was a very well-behaved child. :) But, things were just a bit different in the 60s than today too.

mayhmong from North Carolina on July 21, 2009:

You must have been a very good still child! Zeebo the Clown sounds pretty catchy.

MellasViews from Earth on July 21, 2009:

I will one of these days. I'd first have to find that old picture in the attic. I was wearing purple, and I have brown eyes. He made mine pitch black. Scary looking.- I was also only 4.

KRC (author) from Central Texas on July 21, 2009:

Oh no, Mella! Sounds like a bitter artist taking out his frustrations or something! Perhaps you could do a hub about it? I'd love to see it!

MellasViews from Earth on July 21, 2009:

I have an old portrait by an artist as well. Mine is scary though, too scary. I hated it. I think the guy who drew me thought I was evil or something? lol. Yours is sweet and innocent looking.

KRC (author) from Central Texas on July 21, 2009:

Thank you MellasViews! That's me... :) I've grown up just a tad since then. :)

MellasViews from Earth on July 21, 2009:

Very cool, and the drawing is fantastic!

KRC (author) from Central Texas on July 21, 2009:

Since he died in 1986, about the only thing I can hope for is that others will come forward with their stories and/or pictures. Those pictures I found (link above in the text) is really what made me want to post my drawing that I've lovingly held onto for 43 years.

Sioux Ramos from South Carolina on July 21, 2009:

What an interesting story from your memories. I hope that you are able to find more current information. He is very talented. Thank you for sharing.

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