When looking at the history of premiums on the Captain Midnight radio series, one should understand that there were two separate periods determined primarily by sponsor. The first period was under the sponsorship of the Skelly Oil Company from October, 1938 to March, 1940 and the second under Ovaltine (The Wander Company).

The Skelly Years

The type of premiums offered from each period were very different. During the Skelly years, kids could join the Flight Patrol, an exclusive club for those who had the Flight Patrol Membership Card and Membership Medal. Only some premiums were mail-ordered; most could be picked up at a nearby Skelly Gas Station. Because Skelly was an adult sponsor, whose product appealed to adults, the exclusivity concept of the club was mostly ignored - anyone could join at anytime if the premiums were still available at the Skelly stations. You did not have to be a member to sign up for the premium. It was to the sponsor's advantage to get parents into their station. Some items required membership to get, but that was generally relaxed and some Skelly dealers even hated dealing with the premiums and would give them away to anyone who came in.

During the 1938-39 season the following premiums were offered:

Flight Patrol Membership Card

This was a wallet-sized card that indicated the holder was a member in good standing as a "Junior Pilot in the Captain Midnight Flight Patrol." It entitled one to be able to wear the Flight Patrol Badge (see next item). The card contained a sketch of Captain Midnight's plane rounding a clock tower at midnight. There was also a code of honor that read:

As a Junior Pilot of the Captain Midnight Flight Patrol, I pledge myself to be Honest in all things, Fair to all others, Brave in the face of danger, Courteous to my superiors and elders and Alert at all time to the fine principles of our Flight Patrol.

Flight Patrol Commander Brass Badge

Flight Commmander Brass Badge

This was a small solid brass badge that displayed a banner at the top entitled "Flight Patrol Commander" and displayed the Skelly Logo as well as the twin-engine plane of Captain Midnight. When the membership card was picked up, kids could then sign up for the Skelly man to order the badge.

Other premiums offered during this season included a Trick and Riddle Book, The Flight Patrol Reporter (four different editions of a small newspaper which featured information on the cast of characters as well as some clues to secret passwords and so forth)Flight Patrol Reporter, Air Heroes Stamp Album, Happy Landings Photos, Pictures of Chuck and Patsy, and a Treasure Map.

For the 1940 season a new membership card was issued (even current members were exhorted to join the 1940 Flight Patrol) along with a medal of membership.

Flight Patrol Membership Card

Similar to the previous year's card but with plane designs along the left edge. The Junior Code was on the back.

Medal of Membership

This was a "burnished bronze medal" with its obverse showing a three-bladed propeller with bas-relief representations of Captain Midnight, Chuck Ramsay, and Patsy Donovan. Its reverse was a clockface showing a time of 12:01, representing midnight. A dimple in the center of the back (making a bump on the front) enabled the medal to be used as a "spinner," with the clock hands pointing when the rotation stopped, rather like the "Spin the Bottle" game. Note: An authorized replica of this medal was manufactured in the 1970s. It can be differentiated from the original by a tiny "R" inside the bottom of the Skelly logo on the reverse side.

Ringo-Jumpo Game/Jumping Beans

During the "Perada Treasure" episodes the Skelly dealer offered Mexican "jumping beans" along with an 8 X 10 piece of paper with a game that would allow the beans to "jump" and score depending upon where the beans landed.

Mysto-Magic Weather Forecasting Flight Patrol Badge

This was a metal bronze-colored badge shaped like a propeller with the Skelly Logo. Behind the logo would sit a piece of litmus paper that changed color as the weather conditions affected it.

Other premiums during this time included more photos with the Captain, Chuck and Patsy, a Wright Airplane balsa/paper assembly kit and new editions of the Flight Patrol Reporter newspaper.

Some of the premiums were a part of the show: the propeller spinning medal had the secret word "COBRALHOFA" on it. The word was not so secret, however, as it was regularly announced on the series, though never spelled. During the time that Chuck was captured in some 1940 episodes, he would send out messages to the Captain which were coded messages. By taking a message and selecting every tenth word, the messages could be translated. Why ten? Because the COBRALHOFA was equal to ten letters. For example, one message was:

"Hello, Captain Midnight and everybody. It sure seems a long time since I have seen you and the old home at Black Gulch. I am feeling fine. This is on my word of honor. Do as Ivan Shark asks, flying to any point he says as swiftly as an arrow. Ivan Shark is a snake, a Cobra but..."

The second message was almost the same as the first in that the code words were repeated. Captain Midnight discovered that every tenth word in both messages were the same. He also knew that the coded words corresponded to the last five letters of the secret password, COBRALHOFA and that it was intentional for Chuck to use the word Cobra:

"Hello, Captain Midnight and everybody. Please do not delay long. Fly where Ivan Shark says. I will not be home again if you refuse. To do all these things on my account is a lot, I know. Remember that flying to Ivan Shark's direction as straight as an arrow is essential..."

Captain Midnight figured that Chuck would send a third message using the first part of the secret password which he alluded to in the earliest message. And a third arrived:

"Hello Captain Midnight. This is your last chance to come to an agreement with Ivan Shark. Please think it over. If you do not aggree, this will be the bridge that will separate us forever. You should do the right thing. The thing that will surely bring us together at last..."

Once all the messages were placed in the order of the secret word, the message gave away Ivan Shark's hiding place:

Come Over Bridge Right At Long Home On Flying Arrow

The Ovaltine Years

In the fall season of 1940, the Wander Company had purchased the Captain Midnight show and took it to a national exposure. The company had been looking for a more commanding and heroic figure to sponsor their product, Ovaltine, as the country seemed to be moving toward World War. Continuing the tradition of their previous series, Radio Orphan Annie, the company began to integrate coded messages and club identification into the episodes. The Flight Patrol was replaced by the Secret Squadron. And Pierre Andre, the spokesman, urged the young (and sometimes older) listeners to join the Squadron in order to help Captain Midnight and the others.


Mystery Dial Code-o-graph and manual

So called because the center of the inner disk (cryptologically, the rotor: it had the cipher alphabet [scrambled letters] on it) was supposed to look like the dial knob of a radio. Turning the dial proved to be a bit of a chore, particularly with the setting windows being on the backside. The secret messages to decode were always given at the end as a "Secret Squadron Signal Session."

This premium first appeared in the episode from December 31, 1940, script #67 according to Larry Zdeb, who has the script. This timely introduction could be related to the original fear of the Japanese attack, which did happen on December 7th nearly a year later.

Flight Commander Ring

This premium was only available via the 1941 manual. It was not offered over the airwaves. Inside the ring, on the reverse side of the crown, in raised letters, it says, "Captain Midnight Super Code 3." As explained in the manual, a message might be sent to Flight Commanders (i.e., those who'd earned the rings by recruiting other Squadron members) without a "code" setting. They were to look inside their rings to get the setting for their "special" messages.

Whirlwind Whistling Ring

It was a brass fits-any-finger ring with a miniature siren on its crown. This one was used in the program by Chuck and Joyce to summon help in the drains under Hong Kong while being held prisoner by the Barracuda's Tiger Tong. The siren is very similar to all such, like the one in the Tom Mix Arrowhead. They're not loud.

Aviation Wings

These looked similar to those worn by pilots on their uniforms; it was made of brass. It has nothing to identify it as a Captain Midnight item except for a piece of paper that came with it.

5-Way Detect-O-Scope

A metal-and-cardboard device for sighting objects and estimating their distances.

"Flight Commander" Handbook

This handbook from 1941 came with a Flight Commander Brass Decoder Ring that wasn't the typical decoder, but contained a secret code inside the ring. This handbook along with the ring meant you were a "fully qualified Flight Commander in the Secret Squadron." You now had rights and privileges that meant you also had special duties to follow in the Secret Squadron.


Photomatic Code-O-Graph and manual
(Click on the code-o-graph for a high res picture)

So called because the owner was to insert a photo of him- or herself into a small square area at the top of the badge, replacing the (supplied) photo of a pilot's face. The manual touted it as a personalized identification, like those used in defense plants. Actually, once the user removed the pilot's picture and substituted one of his or her own for it, the user was supposed to use a hammer and nail to fix the picture in permanently. This was shown pictorially, and consisted of pushing down the four metal tabs at the picture corners so that the picture couldn't be removed. There was enough of an overproduction of these so that they were issued throughout the war to new listeners.

Flight Commander's Flying Cross and handbook

Flying Cross MedalThis was another item orderable only from the catalog accompanying the Code-O-Graph. It was plated in 24 karat gold. The instructions that came with it told of how the inscription on the (back of the) medal had a secret setting for Flight Commanders. The inscription is: "Awarded for distinguished service," and signed "Capt. Midnight," with the "SS-1" under the signature, and in quotes.

The 1942 Sliding Secret Compartment Ring

A brass ring with a crown that slides off and is hollow. Suitable only to conceal a folded postage stamp or microfilm, if the kids could find any.

Mystic Eye Detector Ring

A "look around" ring. This had a tiny stainless steel mirror in the crown, situated so that if the wearer brought his or her fist up to an eye, the viewer could see almost directly behind (actually about 160 degrees). This was not used in the show, and an equivalent ring was offered by Radio Orphan Annie, the Lone Ranger and Tennessee Jed.

MJC-10 Plane Spotter

MJC-10 Plane SpotterA wartime premium consisting of a cardboard tube with "slides" (inserts on onionskin paper framed by thin cardstock) with plane silhouettes of Allied and Axis aircraft. It came with an instruction sheet, also printed on onionskin, that could be used to make more slides. A children's equivalent of the "aircraft recognition silhouettes" used by the Civilian Defense plane spotters.

Marine Corps Ring

An adjustable brass ring with the Marine Corps emblem that was available in 1942. Each side has eagle and shield design while top has high relief insignia.

Magic Blackout Lite-Ups

The premium was two sheets of paper impregnated with luminous chemicals. The accompanying folder suggested ways it could be used during blackouts, such as gluing a small strip of the material at light switches, on stairsteps, on flashlights, etc. In the program, this was the fallout of Dr. Barbados' portable chemical lab in the Andes when they were investigating the Phantom City. Scraps of the material were used to help people find their way in a labyrinth under the city.
With the two sheets of luminous paper came some suggested uses. Some were extremely practical, such as pasting small bits of the paper on light switches, firefighting pails, and stairsteps. Others were silly, such as eyeglass decoration. One really silly idea suggested using the paper for a bullseye on a dartboard for use in a "Blackout Party."

Insignia Patch

This was the conventional winged-clockface-with-hands-at-twelve Secret Squadron symbol/logo. It was introduced in the story where Chuck was flying an experimental jet in England and had to land at a military field, without identification (he couldn't show his Code-O-Graph). After he was rescued by the intervention of Sir Allen Brundage, the Squadron decided on a patch ID. Ovaltine offered it as a shoulder patch.


Magni-Magic Code-O-Graph and manual
(Click on the code-o-graph for a high res picture)

1945 Magnifier DialSo called because the center of the rotor was a magnifying glass. This was the first of the dated Code-O-Graphs. the manual had "key messages" scattered throughout that were printed in a typeface so small that the owner needed to use the lens to read them. Brass was still a critical material, and the badge was actually stamped sheet steel, with a "gold" paint atop it.
The lens in the rotor was plastic, of course (indeed, all postwar Code-O-Graphs were at least partially plastic; one was completely plastic), and scratched easily. The manual had short messages printed in very tiny type that required the Code-O-Graph's magnifier to read. These were called "Key Messages," and were numbered. The Squadron member might pass a note to a friend who was also a Squadron member. The note might say, "KM-3," meaning "Expect important news soon."


Mirro-Flash Code-O-Graph and manual
(Click on the code-o-graph for a high res picture)

1946 Mirror Dial Code-o-graphThe center of the rotor on this one was a mirror. The manual described the mirror as a "reducing" mirror, so that the user would be able to survey a room unobtrusively. The only weakness this unit had was that the pin on the back snapped off easily.

Mystic Aztec Sun God Ring

Mystic Sun God RingA "souvenir" of a Mexican adventure by the Squadron. It looked pretty good: it had a red-plastic "ruby" that slid off: it was hollow, and thus the ring had a "secret compartment." The difficulty was that the "ruby" slid off _too_ easily. Most that survive intact today had something crammed into the secret compartment to make it harder for the "ruby" to slip off.


Whistling Code-O-Graph and manual

This was a plastic whistle with the cipher disk on its side. It was the first non-badge Code-O-Graph, and the first (and only) all-plastic one for the radio series. The rotor popped out of this one very easily; and the cipher alphabet was on it. Fortunately, it popped back in easily, too.

Spy Scope

A miniature Galilean telescope. Extended, it was about the size of a mechanical pencil. It was black with red trim at the lenses. It worked pretty well for a Galilean. Regrettably, the red plastic rings holding the lenses was pretty fragile, so many broke.

Orange Shake-Up Mug

This was an 8-ounce plastic container with a blue top that could be used in the manner of a cocktail shaker to mix up Ovaltine drinks. A bas-relief picture of Captain Midnight is on its outside. [This was also offered in 1948 and 1949]


Mirro-Flash Code-O-Graph and manual
(Click on the code-o-graph for a high res picture or the manual for a pdf copy of the manual)

1948 Mirror Code-o-graph1948 decoder manualIt had a removable red plastic back and a "secret compartment." A largish stainless steel mirror insert was good for heliographic signaling. The Code-o-graph was unbelievably awkward. The cipher rotor and numbers were on two disks that held together for deciphering (only one number and one letter were visible through windows on the front). They were kept together with a ring of dimples to prevent slippage. That often didn't work. Also, the red back usually warped severely, both making it impossible to keep as a back for the unit, and also causing the stainless steel mirror to pop off.

Initial Printing Ring

A "souvenir" of the adventure of the "Jewels of the Queen of Sheba." The ring had a removable top with an inkpad, with an initial that could be stamped on any notes to "authenticate" them. This one lost its stamp pad easily.


Key-O-Matic Code-O-Graph and manual
(Click on the code-o-graph for a high res picture)

1949 Key-o-matic code-o-graphUsed clutch mechanism and key to change cipher settings. Most people lost the keys quickly. It had no other features than enciphering and deciphering. Some people used a paper clip or some such to set the gears including field stripping them, then snapping it back together.

Extra special thanks to Stephen Kallis Jr. and Ted Rosenberg both for some of the premium photos.

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Created: Monday, November 03, 1997
Material in this web page, copyright © 1998-2000 James F. Widner.
Photos courtesy Associated Press, Broadcast Pioneers