It is very likely that some of us will remember Pete Boyle as a local television celebrity. I was very young and can barely recall the white-haired robust man who stood before a large white pad on an easel and chattered away as he drew cartoons. He was among the pioneers of television broadcasting, and came to it by accident.
In 1947, as a commercial artist for the Philadelphia Electric Company, his employers hired Pete to fill the time by drawing and speaking on an early television program called “Chalk Talk.” The program provided cooking demonstrations on the electric stoves the electric company wanted to sell. Pete found his instincts to be a ham, drawing and telling stories. In 1949, he was invited back to star on a new television show, “Chuck Wagon Pete,” broadcasting on WPTZ. It entailed an offering of Westerns and Our Gang films, and, of course, intervals of Pete gabbing to the kids while sketching. He became a children’s favorite and a staple of Channel 3, an NBC affiliate. For more than a dozen years, his several programs always followed a similar format, concluding in 1963 when it was a weekday show, “Lunch with Uncle Pete.” Throughout his career he was generous with his time and talent, making personal appearances at local elementary schools and children’s wards, and he died too soon in 1967.
The Philadelphia Sketch Club knew all too well Pete’s readiness to ham it up. He had joined our club in 1937. In our archives are to be found photographs of Pete performing in the club’s amateur production of “Thesmophoriazusai” by Aristophanes. When not in costume he was given to loud shirts and tweed jackets. He remained a member of our club for life, and in 1949, “The Year of the Termites,” he began service as our president.
Uncle Pete is yet another Philadelphia Sketch Club member who studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He worked in both oils and watercolors, had won two Cresson scholarships at the Academy, and he remained a serious artist even though he would be best known as a cartoonist. It was while he was at the Academy that he met fellow artist Alice Lewis of New Orleans, and she became his wife. Together, living in an eighteenth century fieldstone house in Berks Country, they had a daughter and two sons. One son, Peter Boyle, grew up to be the famous film actor and a television star just like his father.
Our fellow member and former president, the avuncular Pete, was born Francis Xavier Boyle on the 13th February 1903. He was known for his joviality and his ability to mimic the sounds of animals, to be appreciated by children and club members alike.