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Romper Room

The slightly creepy Romper Room clownKids in Baltimore woke up one day in 1953 to find a brand new television show just for them. It featured a host named Miss Nancy (Nancy Claster), and was conducted as a school session, beginning with the pledge of allegiance, and ending with something you never saw in school: a magic mirror.

The kids were four and five years old. They rotated in their appearances, so that fresh faces were always on. And the concept was a hit.

In fact, Claster and her husband marketed the Romper Room idea to television affiliates all over the US.

Syndication was in its infancy. Perhaps that's why the package that the Clasters offered was strange by today's standards.

You see, you could either purchase the show intact, straight from Baltimore, or you could produce your own local version, which would strictly follow the same format.

In my area, we got the Baltimore (or possibly Chicago, where the actual show relocated) package, although by the mid 60's, Miss Nancy had stepped to the side and allowed her daughter, Miss Sally (Rogers) to take over on the show. I remember her well.

Miss Sally Rogers, in a newspaper photo, training a local Romper Room hostBy the time Romper Room showed up on my local TV station, I was past the age of its intended audience. But I still got a kick out of watching it on those summer days when I was home in the morning on a weekday.

Miss Sally was a shameless hawker of Romper Room goodies. The Romper Stompers, in particular, were a hit among the neighborhood gang's younger brothers and sisters. Truth be told, we would sneak a little play time with the "kiddie" toys ourselves.

In case you grew up in a cave, here's a definition of Romper Stompers. They were like small plastic buckets that had a strong string through the narrow end. They were designed to stand on, open end down, while you firmly grasped the strings and walked around on them.

Simple, cheap to manufacture, and a hit with kids. Combine that with daily TV coverage advising you to tell your parents to buy you a set at the local TG&Y, and you have marketing brilliance.

A bit too brilliant, perhaps. In 1968, a group called Action For Children's Television threatened the show's producers with legal action if they didn't cool the sales action during the show. Romper Room relented.

The Romper Room Magic MirrorOf course, perhaps Romper Room's greatest contribution to American culture is the Do-Bee/Don't Bee concept.

Similar in concept to Children's Highlights' Goofus and Gallant, Mr. Do-Bee did things the right way, but of course, Mr. Don't Bee was a perennial screw-up.

Nowadays, he'd probably be diagnosed as suffering from Asberger's.

Anyhow, there was a song that said "I'm a Romper Room Do-Bee, a Do-Bee all day long!" I'm sure I haven't heard it since LBJ was in the White House, yet I can still recall many of the lyrics. Such is the effect of TV on a kid's mind.

In 1981, the name of the program was changed to Romper Room and Friends. Normally a renaming is a death-knell for a show, but in this case it survived another thirteen years before sailing off into the sunset, a victim of the easy availability of kid's programming on cable networks.

Many video clips survive from Romper room. Try YouTube. Also, check out this article at TV Party for a true-life encounter a Romper room kid had with a creepy clown on the air, complete with video footage. And a big thanks to my buddy Mike Ransom over at Tulsa TV Memories for a graphic. Enjoy his own Romper Room recollections.

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