PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A new museum exhibit reflects the lasting hold that KELOLAND’s Captain 11 program and its long-time host had on multiple generations of kids — and the young at heart, too.
The TV set from the Captain 11 show is the centerpiece of a display that opens Sunday afternoon at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.
“This is our brand new temporary exhibit, The Great and the Small, which highlights the fact that each museum collects different-sized things. Some are very small, and some like the set that’s behind me are very large,” said David Grabitske.
He is the museum director and assistant director for the South Dakota Historical Society which marks its 160th anniversary this year.
The blue jumpsuit and officer’s cap, trimmed in yellow, and thick black belt and black shoes that Dave Dedrick wore on the set as Captain 11 were already part of the center’s permanent exhibit.
“At the time that Dave Dedrick retired, this was the longest-running show, children’s show, in America. Forty-one seasons,” Grabitske said.
Admission to the museum is free for South Dakota residents. “The Great and the Small” continues through approximately Memorial Day when a major construction renovation is planned to start. The center will be fully re-open again to the public in time for the nation’s 250th birthday on July 4, 2026. In the meantime, the center plans to use temporary space in the Becker-Hansen Building and the Pierre mall.
Regarding the Captain 11 set, Grabitske likes the back-story.
“My favorite part about it is, TV stations are just like the rest of us, they constantly re-used things and made them anew. If they had some leftover parts from something else, they would use it again,” Grabitske said.
The set’s front that TV viewers saw shows a blue-lettered “Captain 11” atop a red and yellow background. On the back, out of viewers’ sight, one piece still shows the marsh scene from a previous set. The largest piece is a long-outdated world map that reflects not only Dedrick’s stature as KELO’s first announcer when the station went on the air in 1953 but also how much the world has changed since 1955 when Dedrick and KELO began Captain 11.
“There are a lot of older names on here. It’s kind of fascinating to look at,” Grabitske said about the map. He pointed to a country in Europe. “West Germany,” he chuckled, “doesn’t exist anymore.”
‘The Great and the Small’ display features many other fascinating pieces from South Dakota history, such as the State Penitentiary’s electric chair and a cutter sleigh with a 36-star U.S. flag painted on it.
Then there’s the enormous guest book that visitors to the South Dakota pavilion signed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. How thick? A piece of heavy equipment was needed to move it from the museum’s storage this fall.
“Imagine what it would have taken to bring this back in 1893 from Chicago,” Grabitske said.