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Hood's Winks – Dancing bear still recognized (July 8, 2015 issue)

Back when I was peddling airplanes for a living in Alabama, Jess Krall was a tech rep for Piper Aircraft and he was good at his job. Jess was a big, good looking fellow with broad grin, broad face, and broad knowledge of the innards of airplanes. When you saw him coming you knew your day was about to become more pleasant.
Jess could pull a joke or take one, and enjoy it either way. He was a natural for the old Dancing Bear trick.
We had a combination open house/airshow at the Montgomery, AL, airport, and Jess came to provide moral support. At one point the ramp was covered with people, I was emceeing on the public address system, and Jess was out on the ramp in deep conversation with a mechanic. Things were dragging a bit until I picked up the microphone and said:
“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. At this time we’d like to direct your attention to a very special guest with us today, the young man standing at the far end of the ramp, Mr. Jess Krall. Jess, can you hear me down there?”
Jess, in total innocence and thinking perhaps I had a telephone call for him (this was long before cell phones), raised his hand.
“There you see him folks,” I said. “Mr. Jess Krall. I’m sure you don’t recognize Mr. Krall with his street clothes on, but I want you to know that Jess is one of the foremost entertainers in America today.” Jess began to appear confused.
“You may not realize it folks, but you’ve seen Jess Krall many times before, on your television sets at home.” At this point Jess had his hand down, his head down, and his feet headed for the hangar.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give Jess a big hand. We want you to know that Jess Krall—the young man walking toward the hangar—is the original, one and only, Dancing Bear on the Captain Kangaroo show. Jess, would you give ‘em a wave please?” As I said, Jess was a good sport. He did wave to the audience just as he ducked into the hangar, and they did give him a big round of applause.
That was in the mid-seventies, and Jess didn’t live it down for years. It was one of those jokes that mushroomed. Jess traveled a lot, and his friends at Piper made sure his fame preceded him.
When he checked into a Holiday Inn anywhere in the country, the marquee was apt to read “WELCOME JESS KRALL—DANCING BEAR.” Likely as not, the girl behind the desk wanted his autograph. Jess signed it graciously.
Jess’s customers introduced him as the Dancing Bear at conventions. He received mail addressed to “Dancing Bear, Piper Aircraft.” He took it well in stride and even developed a little jig for those who wanted to see him dance.
Jess became a big shot with Piper, and traveled the world. I usually saw him at the world’s largest air show in Oshkosh, WI.
As soon as Jess saw me, he would break into that little jig, and I knew my day was about to become more pleasant.