Romper Room Children's Television Programming

Romper Room is a children's television series that ran in the United States from 1953 to 1994 as well as at various times in Australia, Canada, Japan, Puerto Rico, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The program is targeted at preschoolers, children five years of age or younger.

Television franchises
Romper Room was a rare case of a series being franchised and syndicated, so local affiliates – Los Angeles and New York were prime examples – could produce their own versions of the show instead of airing the national telecast. For some time local shows all over the world used the same script but with local children. Kids would be on waiting lists for years (sometimes before birth) to be on the show. It was called "an actual kindergarten". Originally filmed in Baltimore, Romper Room eventually moved its broadcast facilities to Chicago, then moved back to Baltimore in 1981. River West Brands is the current owner of the Romper Room trademark and intends to re-launch the brand.

A typical episode
Each program would open with a greeting from the hostess and the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the hostess and her group of children would embark on 30 or 60 minutes of games, exercises, songs and moral lessons, which were regularly accompanied by background music. The young cast was rotated every two months and ranged from four to five years old.

Romper Room tried to teach its young charges to be polite. For instance, the hostesses were always addressed as "Miss." Many of the hostesses had prior experience in working with small children, as many were former kindergarten teachers.

The hostess would also serve milk and cookies to the children, with prayer offered before eating. The famous Romper Room prayer went "God is great, God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen."

A recurring character was Mr. Do-Bee, an oversized bumblebee who came to teach the children how to be well-behaved; he was noted for always starting his sentence with "Do Bee", as in the imperative "Do be"; for example, "Do Bee good boys and girls for your parents!" There was also a "Mr. Don't Bee" to show children exactly what they should not do. Do-Bee balloons were also manufactured. Each balloon featured a painted sketch of Do-Bee on it. When the balloons were inflated and then released, they would fly around the room slowly emitting a buzzing sound. These balloons were made available for purchase to the public.

The show used the then-popular Mattel Jack-in-the-box for its opening and closing titles, with its traditional nursery rhyme "Pop Goes the Weasel" theme song.

At the end of each broadcast, the hostess would look through a "magic mirror" – actually an open hoop with a handle, the size and shape of a hand mirror – recite the rhyme, "Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, have all my friends had fun at play?" She would then name the children she saw in "televisionland", saying, for example, "I can see Scotty and Kimberly and Julie and Jimmy and Kelly and Rodney and Judy" and so on. Kids were encouraged to mail in their names, which would be read on the air – first names only.

Romper Room and Friends
In 1981, the format of Romper Room was overhauled and re-titled Romper Room and Friends. 100 syndicated versions were taped in Baltimore with "Miss Molly" as host. The biggest change to the program was the introduction of a series of new puppet characters, including a full costume character named Kimble, and puppets, Granny Cat and Up-Up. Kimble and UpUp were performed by Bruce Edward Hall and Granny Cat by Molly McCloskey aka "Miss Molly". The three characters were developed by The Great Jones Studios in NYC. The new characters starred in a series of vignettes, somewhat similar to the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" segments on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and were meant to introduce or reinforce simple moral lessons. About 100 of these skits — each running three to five minutes — were produced for insertion into local Romper Room programs; the host would introduce each segment and comment after its conclusion.

In addition, a new opening and closing credits sequence, and lyrical theme – "Romper Room and Friends", containing mostly non-sensical lyrics, but also naming the characters Up-Up, Do Bee, Granny Cat, and Kimble in the lyrics as well – were used, replacing the "Pop Goes the Weasel" theme that had been used.

"Miss Nancy" Terrell, was the hostess in the 1960s and early 1970s when Romper Room was seen on ABC owned and operated stations throughout the United States in locales that did not have their own hostesses.

The first Romper Room hostess was Nancy Claster, who helped produce the series with her husband under the Claster Television banner. Miss Nancy hosted the show, located in Baltimore, Maryland, from the first episode in 1953 until 1963, when she was replaced with Sally Claster Gelbard, Miss Nancy's daughter. Miss Sally hosted the show, in Baltimore and the surrounding area, until 1981 when it was retitled.

Miss Jean was in the Boston area Romper Room. She was an English major and Education minor and a graduate of Salem State College, in Salem, Massachusetts. A Swampscott native, she now makes her home in Florida. The show aired with Miss Jean from 1958-1972.

Cleveland hostess "Miss Barbara" Plummer hosted the local version of Romper Room on WEWS from 1958 until 1971. She died on March 20, 2010, at the age of 80 from pneumonia-related complications.

Johnstown, PA
A version of the program aired on WJAC-TV out of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with "Miss Patti" Patti Hewitt as the hostess.

Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, Romper Room aired on KCOP-TV. There were only two hosts of the Los Angeles version of the series. The second host of the program was Socorro Serrano, aka "Miss Soco", who hosted from 1977 until it ended in 1989. Miss Soco is still fondly remembered by Angelenos in their late 20s and 30s.

Little Rock
One hostess would later find some measure of success in music. Margaret Jones, who hosted the Little Rock show as "Miss Peggy" between 1963 and 1966, went on to sing and to play tabla and keyboards for a locally popular psychedelic rock band called Campbell's Lavender Circus (or sometimes simply Lavender Circus). The sextet sold 2,000 copies statewide of their single, "I Have No Time for Time"/"Mr. N. Bourbaki's Multicoloured Jam."

The Miami, Florida hostess "Miss Iris" Maxwell from WCKT (now WSVN) Channel 7 was formerly Miss Miami Beach 1953. She was also the author of the children's book Terri and Mike in Lollipop Land, named after her first two children, Michael and Theresa Martin, who had appeared on the show several times. She later married philanthropist and real estate developer Ben Tobin, with whom she had a daughter, Benita Tobin.

New York City
In New York City, the first hostess was "Miss Gloria" Flood on WABC-TV for the years 1955-57. "Miss Joan" Thayer became the new hostess when it moved to WNEW-TV (now WNYW) in 1957. "Miss Louise" Redfield took over hosting duties at the same time the program moved over to WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV) in 1966. From 1966 to 1971, in the New York City market, Romper Room aired at 11 a.m. In 1971 it moved up to 10 a.m. in order not to conflict with PBS's 9 a.m. airing of Sesame Street. "Miss Louise" was followed by "Miss Mary Ann" Pedersen, who began filling in for Louise in the early 1970s.

After Louise Redfield left in 1975, Mary Ann Pederson took over the show until 1981. In 1981, the name was changed to Romper Room and Friends with new host "Miss Molly" McCloskey and was now syndicated to other markets outside of the NYC area. Miss Molly gained a great deal of popularity with viewers and is still fondly remembered today. WOR-TV continued to produce the show, moving it to 9 a.m. in the fall of 1981 and then back to 10 a.m. a month later, due to complaints that it was interfering with the airing of PBS's Sesame Street. The show was aired "live" until 1985. Children who were on the show for a week were on a waiting list for three to four years. It would remain in that time slot until the summer of 1985 when it was pushed up to 8:30 am. A few months after WOR-TV was sold and renamed WWOR, Romper Room was reduced to 30 minutes and moved to 6 a.m. in September 1987. Production in the New York area was discontinued a year later. While many local versions ended in the late 1980s and early 1990s (and some ended in the early-to-mid 1980s), nationally syndicated episodes of Romper Room and Friends with "Miss Molly" stopped airing in 1994.

Another early Romper Room hostess was Claire Coleman, who was the original "Miss Claire" at the Romper Room debut in Philadelphia in 1954. Miss Claire hosted the show at WFIL (now WPVI-TV) from 1954 until 1956. During this time she shared an office with Dick Clark from American Bandstand. Claire Coleman is married to former U.S. Senator Richard Schweiker.

San Francisco
Miss Nancy Besst hosted the San Francisco broadcast from 1958 to 1969

Two controversial events were connected with Romper Room:

Miss Sherri
In 1962, the hostess of the Phoenix franchise of Romper Room linked her own name with that of the ongoing controversies over abortion. Sherri Finkbine, known to television viewers as "Miss Sherri", sought hospital approval for abortion on the ground that she had been taking thalidomide and believed her child would be born deformed. Finkbine made a public announcement about the dangers of thalidomide, and the hospital refused to allow an abortion, apparently because of her announcement and its own fear of publicity. Finkbine traveled to Sweden for the abortion. Upon completion, it was confirmed that the fetus had no legs and only one arm. The incident became a made-for-TV movie in 1992, A Private Matter, with Sissy Spacek as Finkbine.

Action For Children's Television
After the children's television watchdog group Action for Children's Television was organised in 1968, the group's first target was Boston's version of Romper Room at WHDH-TV (today's WCVB-TV), which at the time was a children's show that focused on the promotion of its branded line of toys to its viewers. Threatened with referral to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), WHDH scaled back the host's role in pitching the program's products ("host-selling").

Through the 1980s, Hasbro (which had purchased the program in 1969) sold branded Romper Room toys and products, but since ACT's intervention, ads and promotions for the items were not seen in the Romper Room program.