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The California Highway Patrolman, Vol. 32. No. 7. August 1992.
[The original article has many photographs that are not reproduced here]

TV's Original "Highway Patrol"

Written (with great pride and fascination) by CHP
Officer Sam Knight, I.D. 11153

It's Monday, October 3, 1955, and you have just purchased a new Philco black and white television set. Proudly, you sit back to watch the sixth game of the World Series being broadcast from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York.

This is truly an eventful World Series, not just because you get to see it in the comfort of your own living room, but because after seven previous attempts at a championship, the Dodgers will finally triumph this year in Game 7. As your Philco aluminized picture tube beams the vibrant images of Dodger pitchcr Johnny Podres and home run hitting Duke Snider into your dimly lit living room, you scan the TV Guide reviewing this evening's prime time menu.

Your eye catches the bold-faced word Debut under the 9 p.m. listing and you decide to watch tonight's very first episode of a half-hour show entitled "Highway Patrol." What you couldn't possibly know is that this television series will become one of the most popular syndicated programs in television history.

Released to television markets in September 1955, Highway Patrol was without question one of the most popular syndicated shows on prime time television from 1955-1959. During this four-year period, 156 half-hour episodes were produced, the last one in March 1959. Each episode was filmed in black and white by Ziv Television Productions at a cost of approximately $20,000 each. Furthermore, each segment required at least 16 hours of filming, which included one day at the studio and two days in the field.

Highway Patrol became an overnight sensation nationwide. At the height of its popularity, from 1958-1959, prime time viewers simply couldn't get enough of their favorite program with just one episode a week. Therefore, starting in February 1958, Los Angeles television station KTTV ran the show twice a week during prime time hours on Monday and Friday evenings. And at one point in 1959, Highway Patrol was broadcast on three different New York City channels each week.

The show appeared on at least 210 stations coast to coast, with estimated 30 million viewers tuning in each week. Highway Patrol also went overseas, having the distinction of being the first U.S. series to be broadcast on West Germany's commercial television channel. The show also became very popular in Italy and Spain.

Accepted as the most professional traffic law enforcement organization in the world, the California Highway patrol had just recently celebrated its 25th anniversary when TV's Highway Patrol began airing in 1955. Therefore, it is a fact that no other medium contributed more to popularizing the the professional image of the real California HIghway Patrol nationwide than did television. Ultimately, with the vigilant technical advice and professional expertise of CHP Officer Frank Runyon, I.D. 475, the show mirrored the realities of a California Highway Patrol officer's work and responsibilities.

As then Commissioner Bernard "Bernie" Caldwell viewed the first few episodes of Highway Patrol in the fall of '55, he liked the show's format but was not enthusiastic about the program's authenticity. The first couple of episodes had a non-uniformed person providing technical advice, and the commissioner found out that this civilian had no practical street experience as a police officer.

Commissioner Caldwell called Officer Frank Runyon and the show's leading actor, Broderick Crawford, on the phone and demanded that they get over to his house immediately. When they arrived, Frank clearly recalls, the commissioner introduced the two men, then said matter-of-factly, "If the California Highway Patrol is going to support this thing, it's going to be technically correct. Whatever Runyon says, that's what goes."

From that day on, Crawford and Runyon established a working relationship and affectionate bond that would never be broken.

Plots and scenes in many of the succeeding episodes were based on Officer Runyon's personal experiences and anecdotes. Among his responsibilities, Frank had to read and approve all the scripts, which proved to be invaluable training for officer safety across the nation. The show received many letters and phone calls from uniformed officers praising the show or asking specific questions. For example, the producers once received a call for Officer Runyon from a law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania who asked, "How come you fellas park your cars behind the suspect?" Frank always provided a ready answer.

Authenticity was meticulously scrutinized, even down to the radio codes used. Typically, a dispatcher would use real codes such as 11-79 and 10-4 in the course of the program. Viewers would often hear radio dispatch calling Crawford with, "Headquarters to 21-50." Crawford, with his burly command presence, would bellow in response, "21-50 to Headquarters, bye."

Just exactly what did 21-50 mean and where did this code for Crawford come from?

Interestingly enough, even this piece of minutia was clearly authentic. Commissioner Caldwell's badge number was 150. In the 1950s, CHP regulations stipulated that you added 2000 to your I.D. number when broadcasting. Hence, Broderick Crawford was assigned Commissioner Caldwell's I.D. number and call signs: 21-50.

The Highway Patrol series was filled with many such fascinating trivia. For instance, Frank Runyon's badge number, 475, was broadcast over the nation's television airwaves on several occasions. This was due in part to another close friendship Frank established with actor Frank Miller.

Miller played the role of Officer Simpson on 14 episodes of Highway Patrol. Whenever Officer Simpson would receive a radio call, he would broadcast his call sign as 24-75. This, of course, was Officer Runyon's call sign while working out of the Compton CHP office. Additionally, Miller would wear Frank Runyon's real CHP uniform badge, I.D. 475, during the episodes in which he portrayed Officer Simpson. Runyon says that this is the only time a real CHP badge was used on the set. All the other badges were nondescript pewter lookalikes. The only exceptions to this were the cap piece badges, all of which were authentic CHP cap pieces.

In researching this story, I had lunch with Frank Miller last April near Palos Verdes Estates on the Southern California coast. Miller recalls wearing Runyon's badge during filming. He also beamed with nostalgic pride and admiration when I mentioned Broderick Crawford and Ziv Productions. Miller said he is currently writing a book about Broderick Crawford.

Besides his 14 appearances on Highway Patrol, Miller also had roles in Ziv Television Production's "Sea Hunt" and "Ripcord." It should be noted that many television historians consider Highway Patrol and Sea Hunt among the leading most popular half-hour syndicated shows in television history. (For you TV trivia buffs, "I Love Lucy" is the top vote-getter).

Perhaps the most humorous moment in Broderick Crawford's career occurred during the filming of a tag line for Highway Patrol. Tag lines are now considered a production technique of the past, but were very popular during the 1950s. A tag line was a short, 30-second clip televised at the end of each episode. Many, if not most, of the half-hour drama shows used them, although most are now lost.

Tag lines are no longer even remembered except by the earliest television viewers and, of course, fans of Highway Patrol. This is because during the 1960s and early '70s when reruns of Highway Patrol were aired nationwide, most stations left out the 30-second tag line at the end in order accomodate extra advertising.

A typical Highway Patrol tag line showed Broderick Crawford standing next to a Patrol car in a casual stance saying, "Remember, the careless driver isn't driving his car --- he's aiming it! See you all again next week."
CHP Officer Frank Runyon:
Technical Adviser Then;
Our "Reliable Source" for CHP History Now

Retired California Highway Patrol Officer Frank Runyon, I.D. 475 was the technical advisor for the television series Highway Patrol. Frank and Broderick Crawford, the star of the show, were inseparable friends from the time they met in 1955 until the actor's death in 1986.

From the time Frank was a young boy growing up in Inglewood, Calif. he wanted to be a police officer. At age 19, during the depths of the Depression, he was unable to find a job in police work, so in 1933 Runyon joined the peacetime Navy and went to sea for four years.

During his final year as a Navy seaman, Frank attended a police academy in what is now Culver City. In 1938, he was sworn in as a police officer for the Inglewood Police Department and remained with that agency for four years.

In 1942, Runyon joined the California Highway Patrol and attended the CHP Academy in Richardson Springs, near Chico. Frank says at the time the CHP Academy training took only 10 days (compared with 4 weeks now). After working for many years out of the old CHP Compton office, Frank retired out of the South Los Angeles office in May 1972.

Frank Runyon's experience as a law enforcement officer spans well over 30 years. Included in his professional contributions to the CHP, Frank proudly recalls his role as training officer for then State Traffic Officer Maurice J. Hannigan, now commissioner of the CHP. Wit the recent L.A. riots fresh in his mind, Frank vividly remembers 27 years ago, when he worked with Maury during the 1965 Watts riots.

Frank has been officially retired from the California Highway Patrol for 20 years, but he will never completely retire from law enforcement. Frank stays busy as the California Highway Patrolmen Retired Committee's southern representative. He also carries much of the CHP's history in his mind - and in his heart.

CHP Officer Frank Runyon   1914-2001

Another memorable tag line used often was, "This is Broderick Crawford. Tune in next week for another episode of Highway Patrol. Until then, leave your blood at the Red Cross, not on the highway!"

Miller recalls that during one particular tag line take, Crawford accidentally - or purposely some claim - said, "This is Broderick Crawford. Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Highway Patrol. Remember, don't drive ... unless you drink!" Miller recalls that the director didn't catch this mistake until after it was broadcast.

Many now-famous actors got their television start in roles on Highway Patrol. Such actors include Clint Eastwood, Stuart Whitman, Barbara Eden, Robert Conrad, and Leonard Nimoy.

Frederick W. Ziv, the pioneer of television syndication in the 1950s, did not originally intend Highway Patrol to last any longer than one season (39 episodes). The show had been hastily put together on a very small budget in the back corner of Ziv Productions in West Hollywood in order to meet strict production deadlines. But, within a few weeks of the show's debut in October 1955, Ziv realized that his show was a major TV success.

The series brought in huge amounts of money, even though it continued to operate on a relatively low budget. Elaborate stage arrangements and costumes weren't necessary because most all the filming took place on location during the daylight hours. The most popular "on location" filming sites included Griffith Park and the vast expanses of the San Fernando and Simi valleys, which at the time were sparsely populated, rural areas. Very few evening shots were ever produced because the cost was seen as prohibitive.

Broderick Crawford lived only a short distance from where most of the filming took place. Living in North Hollywood, he could easily drive to Ziv Studios in West Hollywood or to the various shooting locations, which were always located nearby. He looked forward with eagerness to the filming of each episode because Crawford's role as Capt. Dan Mathews of the State Highway Patrol felt so natural to him.

Frank Runyon affectionately relates the story of how he and "Brod" made an enforcement traffic stop on a speeding motorist. The two men were returning from the San Fernando Valley and were traveling on the Ventura Highway when Frank said, "Look Brod, there's a speeder." After the violator yielded to the patrol car's red light, Frank ordered, "Brod, you go talk to that man."

Crawford, who was never a sworn peace officer, exited the CHP vehicle, still dressed in his customary felt hat and suit, and approached the driver. Runyon recalls that Crawford was such a natural he had no problem convincing the violator that he needed to slow down. Then, with his famous and much celebrated tap on kis felt hat, he told the speeder, "Have a good day."

Runyon emphasizes that Crawford never wore a distinctive uniform because he was intended to represent the head of any State Highway Patrol, not just California's.

Born William Broderick Crawford on December 9, 1911, Brod was the consummate, quintessential actor. In 1949, he became an overnight sensation for his leading role in "All the King's Men." He won the 1949 Oscar for Best Actor, as well as the New York Film Critics Award for the same year. As recently as 1978, Crawford played J. Edgar Hoover in the movie, "The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover."

Sources close to Crawford during the filming of Highway Patrol say he never wore makeup. Runyon claims the reason the actor used to touch his hat so often with an upward tap was because the felt hat would regularly slide down on his forehead, creating an unwanted shadowing effect.

Further attesting to Crawford's innate talents before the cameras, Frank Runyon says the actor never studied a script before he stepped onto the set for any given episode of Highway Patrol. Instead, he would immediately memorize the entire script with perfect recall.

The filming of Highway Patrol continued for four years under two separate producers. The first two years (1955-1957) were under the direction of Vern Clark. It was during these years that the Highway Patrol officers portrayed in the episodes wore real CHP uniforms. Although Capt. Dan Mathews was supposed to represent any highway patrol organization, it was obvious to all viewers that he and his officers represented the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP uniform regalia was authentic right down to the shoulder patch with the embroidered California state emblem. The CHP's traditional soft cap was worn by all uniformed personnel portrayed on the episodes including, interestingly enough, Highway Patrol motor officers. Today, it's quite interesting to view an episode from 1956 and see a motorcycle officer wearing a CHP soft cap. It must be remembered that this was prior to the advent of the CHP motorcycle helmet. (The motorcycle helmet was worn in later episodes of Highway Patrol.) Those first few motorcycle enforcement episodes are now priceless vignettes of history.

By the time Jack Herzberg took over the production reigns from Vern Clark in 1957, a heated controversy had arisen concerning the wearing of the official CHP uniform by non-sworn personnel. Frank Runyon believed that the official CHP uniform looked extremely professional for filming, even though none of the actors were sworn peace officers. Runyon insists that a couple of CHP sergeants were behind all the squabbling and dissension in an apparent attempt to remove the official CHP uniform from the show. As a result, during the final season of Highway Patrol, officers wore a facsimile uniform without any authentic CHP regalia. The educated viewer can watch a final season episode and determine in which year that particular episode was filmed by the shoulder patch on the "costume-uniform." Jack Herzberg had his Highway Patrol officers wear a shoulder patch designed by Ziv Productions.

The introduction to every episode included the familiar Highway Patrol theme, composed by Richard Llewelyn, and Art Gilmore voicing the words most fans knew by heart:

"Whenever the laws of any state are broken, a duly authorized organization swings into action. It may be called the State Police, State Troopers, militia, the Rangers or the Highway Patrol. These are the stories of the men whose training, skill and courage have enforced and preserved our state laws."
At the end of each introduction, just prior to an advertisement interlude, a shield would appear, the purpose of which was to represent all highway patrol organizations throughout the nation. CHP Officer Frank Runyon was indirectly acknowledged at this point since overlaying the shield were the words: "This program is dedicated to the Highway Patrols throughout the nation and their contribution to the safeguarding of public welfare. We are deeply grateful for the technical advice and assistance which made the authentic production of this program possible." Runyon holds the distinction of being the only technical adviser to routinely receive written credits at the introduction of a television series. (Note: Even Frank was unaware of this until we did the research for this article.)

Retired Officer Frank Runyon likes to brag that "I was the only CHP officer ever ordered by the commissioner to go work for someone else."

But Runyon was more than just an employee at Ziv Productions. Perhaps more than any one person, other than Broderick Crawford, Frank was the catalyst for the show's authenticity and renowned success. Four or five times, Crawford rode along with Officer Runyon during his assigned patrol duties trying to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for his lead role in the series. During such ride-alongs, the endearing friendship and mutual respect between Broderick and Frank grew ever stronger.

In addition to Crawford, Runyon had producer Jack Herzberg at his side on a regular basis. Frank reminisces that Jack would accompany him on patrol so that quality scripts and realistic story lines could be created. By the end of the first season, Ziv Productions had already made plans for, or was in the process of purchasing, its own black and white cars for production use. This made it less costly for the CHP, and maintenance costs were low for the studio.

Of nostalgic interest is the fact that Runyon recorded and provided all of the siren variations heard on the show. This was before the days of the electronic yelp-wail siren, when mechanical sirens would wind up and emanate sound over a long distance. On one lonely stretch of highway, in what is now part of the CHP's West Los Angeles Area, Runyon recorded a full hour of siren variations. The large recording device was placed on the patrol car seat next to him as he drove back and forth on Culver Boulevard between the Old Roosevelt Highway (State Route 1) and Jefferson Boulevard. For sound engineering purposes, Frank was instructed to activate the patrol car's siren simulating different types of enforcement stops (i.e., pursuit and normal traffic stops). With that one hour's recording, the producers had enough variations of the siren to last over the entire four seasons. The recordings were then used within the sound studios of Ziv Productions to match any film situation that arose.

As he looks back on the good times he had with Broderick Crawford, Frank recalls - at LAPD's expense - one particularly humorous situation. One day on the set, two LAPD officers showed up in a patrol car. Crawford distracted both officers and kept them busy talking while Runyon crawled on his belly and stuck CHP decals on the side doors of the LAPD unit. The police officers, unaware of Frank's mischief, drove off into the sunset with their patrol car displaying the distinct CHP decals. Frank and Broderick laughed out loud for several minutes. Later, it was learned that an LAPD sergeant chewed out the two officers for four days and threatened to destroy their assigned patrol unit.

In recent years, detractors have attempted to tarnish the reputation of Broderick Crawford. Such efforts are futile, however, because the man who may very well have known him best, Frank Runyon, has set the record straight. Like all men before him and all men since, Crawford was human and, therefore, had his weaknesses. But Broderick Crawford loved the CHP and was personally responsible for many facets of the positive and professional image the Department enjoys today. During the late 1950s and for much of the'60s, Crawford promoted and embodied the public's idea that, "The CHP always gets their man." And for such a legacy, Broderick Crawford has earned and shall forever deserve the CHP's respect.