Captain Sandy: R.I.P.

Joe Cox remembered as a true Savannah legacy

Captain Sandy and his sidekick Wilbur

Yo ho, yo ho, what’s the weather going to be?

Here’s the man who knows, let’s take a look and see.

Here is Captain Sandy with the weather he has found

For Savannah, and for Chatham, and the counties all around.

Two weeks ago at a neighborhood Thanksgiving supper, my friend Carmela and I sang this ditty to six amused and bewildered friends, all transplanted residents or out-of-town visitors.

Knowing this tune, the theme to WSAV-TV’s Captain Sandy nightly weather segment from the 1960’s and 70’s, serves as an alma mater for Savannahians of a certain age, and a litmus test to determine whether someone is a local or merely a new arrival—say from 1980 or so.

For me and other kids growing up in Savannah, Captain Sandy the weatherman was a fixture in our lives, beamed into our living rooms every weekday evening for nearly 20 years, a friendly, mellow-voiced man dressed for a day aboard ship in his zippered windbreaker and his signature white captain’s hat.

Though a fictional character, the captain breezily shared the facts of the local weather as part of the otherwise traditionally-announced local news show — making the weather the only interesting part of the nightly broadcast for most kids.

“As a child growing up in Savannah in the ‘70s, I rarely missed watching Captain Sandy,” emails Kim Gusby, Coastal Sunrise anchor for WSAV News 3. “In fact, no one was allowed to touch the television dial (we didn’t have remote controls back then) until after Captain Sandy’s weather report.”

Captain Sandy had a sidekick — Wilbur the Weather Bird, a stuffed pelican who descended from above the nautically themed set, suspended from a plainly visible cable. Wilbur’s wardrobe choice predicted the next day’s climate conditions. If the pelican wore a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, the day would be hot and sunny. Rainy days ahead? Wilbur was ready in full-body yellow “fowl” weather gear.

The captain also had his nemeses. Calamity Clam was a plate-sized mollusk, living in a hutch called Davy Jones’ Locker. Calamity was the keeper of the tide report. To retrieve the data, Captain Sandy snatched the report from the snapping “mouth” of the clam.

Arthur Mometer, the captain’s other rival, was a temperamental thermometer — a thick red cord that tried to fool the weatherman that the next day’s temperature might be 95 degrees in January, or 35 degrees in July.

Even for the ‘60s it was cheesy and irresistible.

More than one person played Captain Sandy over the years, but the man who embodied the role was Joe Cox, who died Saturday at age 80. Cox stepped into the character in 1965, keeping the role until the late 1970s.

“We moved to Savannah in 1975,” says Pooler resident Katharine Harrington, who watched Captain Sandy every evening. “He was part of the Savannah legacy. I think he was the first one to reach out to younger viewers to make it interesting for them, so they would learn something.”

Even as a teenager I had trouble separating the character from the man. In 1979, during a year abroad, I watched a broadcast of Hurricane David making landfall on Tybee, with Joe Cox reporting. I remember thinking “Hey that’s Captain Sandy without his outfit,” while worrying about my family.

In Cox’s later years, as a WJCL “regular” meteorologist and radio announcer, and in retirement, he was recognized around town.

“I used to see him in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s at the bank where I worked,” says Harrington. “He was such a nice, approachable man. He never minded having people come up and say something. I think he’d just as soon answer to ‘Captain Sandy’ as ‘Joe.’ ”

“I had the opportunity to work with Joe Cox for a short while during my time at WJCL,” writes Gusby. “He had a commanding voice and a gentle spirit. No one knew weather or this community like Joe. He will be truly missed.” cs

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