Lynn Dwyer, better known to Twin Cities kids as Roundhouse
Rodney, was born in Pittsburgh on November 22, 1927. He
earned a degree in theater from the University of
Pittsburgh, where he met his future wife Marion Hibbard in
1949. He skated with the Ice Capades from 1950 to 1954 -
Dwyer was described as an “acrobat” on ice, and performed on
the Ed Sullivan Show with the troupe. In 1952 he married
Marion, and they skated together in the Ice Capades until
1954. Marion was from Duluth, which contributed to their
decision to move to Minnesota. They first lived in St. Louis
Park when they came in 1954, and moved to Edina in 1956.
Once in the Twin Cities, Lynn attended Macalester College,
where he earned an education degree with a minor in English,
all while working part time as a floor
manager at WTCN-TV. Dwyer would occasionally lip synch
to comedy records on the Jack Thayer Show. 1954 was also the year the station first
aired a program called “Noon-Time Express," with Roger Awsumb as Railroad Engineer Casey Jones.
original sidekick, “Joe the Cook,” moved to Seattle in 1959,
Lynn Dwyer was hired to play Roundhouse Rodney. (The name
Roundhouse Rodney was first used by Don Doty in a previous
visit to Casey's show.)
As Roundhouse, Dwyer was a huge hit with the kids. He was
just over 5 feet tall, with a trademark pixie felt hat that
was made by shaping it around the end of a football. (In
1966, when the show went to color, we found out that his hat
was green.) He told hundreds of jokes: knock-knock jokes
with Casey, elephant jokes, and anything else that would
make a youngster laugh. Dwyer, Awsumb, and Director Al DeRusha teamed to create over
a decade of silliness, with their skits and songs and
slapstick. These included Tarzan, the Count, Superman, a
wigged out weatherman, a daffy sportscaster, Lippy Lois, and
of course there was Roundhouse in drag in the "I Love
Onions" skit. His impersonation of Jimmy Durante was
dead-on, and Durante told him so when he paid a visit. Once
the camera was turned around, the furniture was nailed to
the ceiling, and Casey and Roundhouse were stuck on the
ceiling! And on Halloween, Roundhouse was shrunk and
had to live in a pumpkin.
of the most memorable was the “Oswald” character, who was
made from a little paint on Roundhouse’s upside-down chin.
Kids and their parents recreated the stunt in their homes,
but nobody could duplicate the hilarity of Roundhouse’s
Oswald. He was so bizarre that some kids were actually
afraid of Oswald.
ABC took over WTCN’s daytime schedule in 1960 and “Noontime
Express” was dropped, but in response to irate letters, a
new show was created to be broadcast after school. That show
was called “Grandma Lumpit’s Boarding House.” Roundhouse
played Grandma ("If you don't like it, lump it!") who,
according to the story line, ran the boarding house where
Casey and Roundhouse lived. Dwyer described the character as
"a swinger, just like today's modern grandmas." Reportedly
Grandma Lumpit only served beans.
In April 1961 the station lost its ABC affiliation and
became independent. (From 1964 to 1971, it was "A
Chris-Craft Station." Us kids had no idea what that meant.)
The noontime show was back in business, now titled “Lunch
With Casey.” The afternoon show stayed on, as did a new
morning show, “Wake up with Casey and Roundhouse.”
There also was an hour-long "Lunch With Casey on Saturdays
in 1962-65 (probably longer), followed by a half hour
"Roundhouse Rodney" show at 1:00 pm. Roundhouse's show
aired from at least September 8, 1962 to at least April 17,
estimated that he and Dwyer did 8,000 TV shows together.
A two-part article on Dwyer was featured in the April 13 and
April 20 issues of TV Times magazine.
Casey and Roundhouse were very popular at public
appearances, and did upwards of 200 every year. They could
be found at amusement parks, hospitals, schools, and other
places where kids congregated. They signed endless
autographs and posed for thousands of pictures. They also
wrote educational pamphlets for kids - but joke books, too,
featuring those elephant jokes. In 1972, Awsumb and Dwyer
released Casey's Comedy Album for Kids, quite collectible
Here's an ad for a personal appearance that Roundhouse made
at Zayre Shoppers' City in St. Louis Park on April 14, 1971:
By the early 1970’s, live TV kiddie shows were on their way
out. Fewer kids were coming home for lunch, but also the
Action for Children’s Television organization lobbied to
prohibit show hosts from doing their own commercials. The
last “Lunch With Casey” was broadcast on December 23, 1972.
Casey and Roundhouse were still viable characters, even
after their cancellation, since WTCN did not own the names
and characters. They were still in demand, and continued
making public appearances around the TV viewing area.
Dwyer temporarily worked as a church janitor in St. Louis
Park after the show went off the air, but then he produced
his own “Roundhouse Show” on public television in 1974. He
raised the money for the show himself, and put in $20,000 of
his own. He produced 26 shows at KTCA-TV, which were shown
locally and redistributed in Asia, and had six more shows in
production at the time of his death.
On September 3, 1976, at age 48, Lynn Dwyer had a fatal
heart attack while jogging in Brainerd. A childhood bout
with rheumatic fever contributed to his weakened heart. His
death came as a shock, because Dwyer always emphasized
physical fitness and kept himself in top shape. He performed
stunts like tearing a telephone book in half and walking on
his hands to amuse kids and demonstrate his strength. And he
loved to flex his muscles to show the benefits of exercise
and a healthy diet – he especially extolled the virtues of
Lynn Dwyer was survived by his wife Marion, of Minnetonka,
and two sons Keith and Loren.
In 2008, Dwyer was inducted into the
Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame.