I am deeply saddened by the loss of one of my childhood icons. Del Monroe, who played Seaman Kowalski on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea passed away on Friday. Voyage was the show I spent more hours watching in my youth than any other. It (and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) started my enduring love of submarines and sent me applying to Annapolis -- except they wouldn't let women on submarines back then (they still might not) which derailed my intended career as a submarine captain (much to my dad's relief).
While I loved every character on the show, Captain Crane and Kowalski were my two original favorites, and I can't honestly say which one I liked better. One was an officer, the other a crewman, and they got to do different things on the show. Kowalski got in on plenty of adventures and action, from piloting the flying sub, to being taken over by aliens, to being nearly blinded, to simply manning his station. Kowalski was always cheerful, always enthusiastic, and always looked like he was having a blast, no matter whether he was facing spies or mad scientists or crazy alien monsters. Watching the show, he made me feel that excitement too. It was part of the joy of watching the show. Sure, there were some bad cheesy eps, but they were almost always still fun. And the good episodes just stood out even more. Or the episodes that were so outrageous they're good (I'm thinking "Deadly Dolls" here... Vincent Price, the opening puppet show, and the Nelson puppet's absolutely hilarious dialog and one-liners put this ep easily on my top ten list... yeah, I'm serious. I think my family quotes that doll's lines more often than any other character's dialog from the show, period! Back before VCRs, we used to sit beside the tv with a tape recorder and my mom would hold it up beside the tv's speaker and record our favorite parts so we could replay them when we wanted. We also recorded our entire favorite eps that way. Ahhh, the good ol' days.)
I even had a red jumpsuit and white sailor's hat I used to wear. Wore it quite a bit too. Yes, I am a dork.
Del Monroe guested on various tv shows and movies throughout his career, and I was always excited to see him whenever he appeared, but his work on Voyage is what I will always remember him for. Even though I've never met him, the world is an emptier place knowing he isn't around any longer.