My Dad, Captain Mac
by Bob McCarty

Burl McCarty’s son Bob contacted the BIG 13 web site to express his appreciation for keeping the memory of Capt. Mac alive. 
Bob has kindly shared some family stories and history of his father.

In the photo above we see father and son rigging a human-sized kite that lifts a water skier into the air.  Burl used it to fly under the Skyway Bridge!


“My father Burl McCarty and his family came to St. Petersburg from Lexington, Kentucky in 1924 or ’25.  Dad went to St. Pete High where he met my mother, Francis Harkey, who was two years younger.  My mother’s family were from Mississippi.  My grandfather Harkey became wealthy in Pinellas County real estate in the mid-20’s...he practically owned all of Treasure Island!  My mother and her two brothers were driven to St. Pete High in a limousine.  All of that fell apart when my grandfather lost it all in the crash of ’29.”

 “Dad was a stage manager at St. Pete High, and he painted his name on the backstage ceiling up where nobody could remove it.  He painted it there in 1928 and his name was still there when I went to St. Pete High in 1952.”

 “Dad’s parents were sticklers for proper use of the English language and although he only had a high-school education, his use of the language was exceptional and it served him well when he got on the radio. Dad graduated from St. Pete High in ’29, and went to New York for a couple of years.  I’m not quite sure what he did there during that time.  My mother graduated from St. Pete High in ’31 and returned with her father and brothers to Mississippi." 

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“Dad left New York driving an ‘Indian Chief,’ a big, red motorcycle that had no headlight.  He drove to Egypt, Mississippi, to pick up my mom.  The plan was to take her back to St. Pete where they both had relatives.  Grandfather Harkey objected to Dad driving with my Mom all the way to Florida on a motorcycle, so he got a Model ‘A’ and they headed south.  They married and a few years later I was born and two years later I got a baby sister, Patty Sue.”

“Dad was a Corporal in the National Guard when World War II broke out, and was about to be called up into the Army.  What kept him from being a regular G.I. was his talent for drilling the troops…he could call cadence and knew all the maneuvers.  He was drilling the troops one day at the old Armory on 16th street when a naval officer saw his competence and offered him the rank of a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy’s maritime service.  Dad served in Port Tampa and near Albert Whitted Airport.  His job included the supply and inspection of ships, but mainly he marched troops in patriotic parades to generate public support for the military war effort.”

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“After the war, Dad went to work for the city power plant at 18th St. and 9th Avenue North.  They generated DC power for the streetlights and trolley cars.  My dad was a night mechanic…oiling the diesels and all.  He started listening to the disk jockeys on WTSP radio.  He would get off work early in the morning and started visiting the station before 8 am and made friends with the on-air staff.  Dad always had a natural gift of gab, as they say.  The next thing he’s pulling records and doing a station break here and there…and then running the place while the jockey went out with his girlfriend.  Dad was eventually hired as a D.J. at WTSP.”

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“As I got old enough in the late 40's, Dad taught me to sail out of the Vinoy Yacht Club (this included scraping the bottom and repainting and varnishing the entire boat each spring), swimming (my graduation was swimming from the end of the Million Dollar Pier to Spa beach), playing tennis at the courts on the Pier approach, water skiing, rifle shooting, English grammar and spelling and many other things."

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“Dad started working at other stations like WFLA, and WSUN. He was on staff at WSUN when television came about, and he took all the elements at hand to create Capt. Mac.  My grandfather, Robert Raymond McCarty, had been a Hialeah police lieutenant, and that’s where Capt. Mac's gun game from.   Dad had the pith helmet, the riding breeches, and a command of English. He was 5’ 10” but very slender.  The pistol belt he wore was a size 28.  He probably weighed 140 pounds.”

Burl McCarty in his Nash Metropolitan.
Along for the ride are 'Rags the Tiger' and 'Crusader Rabbit'

“In a very short period of time, Capt. Mac was the most well-known personality in the Bay Area.  Every kid in town wanted to be on the show, and they had to do crowd control when he made personal appearances.  Dad would drive his Nash Metropolitan convertible to work and in parades.  It was yellow with ‘Capt. Mac’ painted on the door.  He had a little Harley 165, also yellow with ‘Capt Mac’ painted on the tank.  He opened many supermarkets and stores, like Central Plaza.  He was the favored guest.”

“I visited the WSUN radio and TV studios.  In the early days, I’d take the trolley out to the Million Dollar Pier.  When Channel 38 took over the Pier's trolley turnaround and turned the space into a studio,  I took the bus from our home on 37th Avenue South.  I’d visit Dad in the studio and then do some fishing for sheepshead.”

“At my size and age, I thought Channel 38 was huge, but it was really very small.  I had no idea what any of the equipment was used for, and at the time we didn’t even have a TV set at home.  They got a set later when I was away from home in the service.”

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My father and mother looked after my future wife, Christina Short, while I was overseas in the service.  They would take Christina and her mother, Barbara, to Lake Maggiore and other events.   Dad was an avid water skier, and I later taught him how to ski with a kite strapped to his back…and fly above the water like they do in Cypress Gardens.”


“Dad liked the adulation of the kids and being a role model, which he took seriously.  He liked introducing kids to wild animals.  I remember a picture of him with a boa constrictor wrapped around his shoulders,  Dad wanted to get a mascot for the show, and went down to see a wild animal importer in Miami.  First, he looked at a Cheetah but it was too expensive.  Finally, he settled on this little ocelot…a kitten.  Burl decided to raise it.  I’d come home on leave and find that the ocelot had chewed up all my mother’s shoes.  Other times, the ocelot would stalk you and come bounding into the room and land in your lap and keep going.  The ocelot would get out of the house and the fire department would call Dad and he’d go out and get it.  Finally, Dad was told that if he got the ocelot some kittens it would calm down.  He got two kittens and it worked.  The ocelot adopted the kittens and settled down…and became very tame.  Unfortunately, all three animals got a virus and only one of the cats survived.”

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Capt. Mac was always welcome on the school campus

“The McCarty family owes a debt of gratitude to those who watched Dad on TV.  Thank you for keeping my father's memory alive, although I’m saddened that no video tapes exist to show my grandchildren. However, The BIG 13 web site will help them appreciate our family's history.