The zany host of “Ranger Bob’s Buckeroo Club” has traded his western wear for a white collar as the Anglican priest of a new church in Winter Garden.
The bushy white mustache and eyebrows are gone, and the hair, once painted a fake white, has turned that color with age. He’s an Anglican priest now, but when the 67-year-old speaks, he can’t help but occasionally break into a character voice from the past.
He is the Rev. Canon Tim Trombitas, the bishop’s chaplain of Anglican Community Fellowship, a new church in Winter Garden.
But there was a time when Central Florida folks knew him as Ranger Bob, the kooky and over-the-top country-western host of “Ranger Bob’s Buckeroo Club,” a children’s show on Orlando’s WKCF-TV 18.
The television host greeted his audience members in a western shirt and an oversized cowboy hat and with a “Howdy, buckaroos!” from his fictional town of Gooberville. This one-man show had dozens of characters and featured cartoons, improvisational skits and clean-but-terrible knee-slapper jokes when it aired for several years starting in 1992.
With 30,000 pint-sized members in Central Florida and a personable host who was out meeting and greeting in the community as much as possible, the show was a phenomenal success in the Orlando market. It first aired weekdays in a two-hour afternoon timeslot.
“We did appearances everywhere,” Trombitas said. “We did this thing with the kids — if you had a Buckaroo Club card, you could get in free (to places such as Mystery Fun House). Parents had to pay, but the kids had power.”
Ranger Bob held look-alike contests with children. He invited his young viewers to send in their pictures and drawings, which he showed on TV for all to see. He eagerly met his fans, signed autographs and posed for photographs at public appearances.
“Those were the golden days of television,” he said. “It was deregulated. It was competitive. You could build a relationship with your audience.”
Before Trombitas was Ranger Bob in Orlando, he was Ranger Bob in Rochester, New York.
When he landed that first television gig up north, he was doing a stint as a morning-show radio personality who liked to break out in various character voices. A new children’s channel was starting, and they were looking for a colorful host. Several people attempted to take on the role but weren’t a good fit, he said.
The radio and television stations shared a building, someone suggested Trombitas “from down the hall,” and that’s when he made the leap from behind a microphone to in front of a TV camera, he said.
He already had quite a following with his radio show on a country station, so when he was asked to host a children’s show, he agreed — with stipulations:
“I said, ‘OK, I have this experience on this country show and I have this following. I want it to be an old guy. I want him to be country. He’s not going to talk down to kids.’ I colored my hair white, I put on this mustache. It was fake in the beginning, but it bugged me because I sweated so much, so I grew one out. And it looked the same.”
The show was so popular at one point that it beat Phil Donahue’s talk show in the ratings, Trombitas said.
A few years later, WKCF in Orlando was hoping to create a kids show to rival one on WOFL-TV 35. Again, Trombitas was suggested for the host position.
Ready for a change, he relocated to Central Florida and introduced Ranger Bob to a whole new audience.
THE REV. TIM
Trombitas, who studied broadcast and telecommunications at Kent State University, Ohio, after serving three years in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, started his own production company in the mid 1990s.
“Around 1997 … I had this feeling that I wanted to get out from in front of the camera and get behind it and write and produce,” he said.
This began a new direction for Trombitas as a freelancer and, later, a producer with health and medical TV segments and shows, and it was a good plan for a while. But with his wife at home with two children, this didn’t work out financially.
He felt himself losing hope, he said.
His wife suggested he attend a men’s retreat their church was holding.
“I went to this thing, and it really was a turning point for me,” Trombitas said. “It was the one time I sat down and said, ‘God, I know you’re there. The sun doesn’t rise without you. I know I sinned in my youth and I ask you to show me the way.’”
He became thirsty for knowledge about God.
“Bit by bit, God was moving me along … and that’s where it got me to where I got today,” he said.
“The biggest thing that happened to me after I left that retreat is that I saw a sunrise for what it really is,” he said. “I don’t have anything to do with the sun coming up, the sun going down, the planets aligning. You have to take that path and really try to seek the truth — not your truth, but the truth.”
The Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy is the endorsing body for the Anglican Church in North America, and it provides military, hospice, hospital, vocational and workplace chaplains.
The Diocese of the Armed Forces & Chaplaincy had been wanting to plant a church in West Orange County and began looking for places to start a church. Trombitas, with the assistance of Father John Ellington, began his leadership at the new Anglican Community Fellowship about three months ago.
ACF rents space from a Seventh-day Adventist church on East Plant Street. The congregation is steadily growing, Trombitas said.
“There are people looking to get back into the Bible-based church,” he said. “It’s traditional, reverent worship. … We believe that we reverently go before God. … We believe scripture is the final word of God. … We follow the liturgical and sacramental worship from the beginning of the church.”
He has been humbled in this life, and he is excited to see what is in store for the rest of his days on Earth.
“I see what God has done in my life,” Trombitas said. “I see all the choices I made that were wrong, and how when I asked for His help, He really did come to my rescue.”