Romper Room Memories
by Michael R Dougherty
Photo Courtesy of Monica Hall (girl on the left)
Romper Room Set KTVA Channel 11
"Romper stomper, bomper, boo, tell me, tell me, tell me do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?”
Those words were spoken weekday mornings on KTVA channel 11 in Anchorage, Alaska at the end of every live broadcast of Romper Room by the show's hostess.
Over the years, Romper Room Hostesses included Carol Larson, Carolyn Guess and Nielia LeSchell. The children always called them “Miss Carol, Miss Carolyn and Miss Nielia.”
The program was for children 5 years of age and under, and they loved it. Of course, so did their moms because for 1 hour every morning, their children were watching the show and playing right along with the hostess and the children who joined her on the show that week.
My Romper Room memories are not those of a child who was on the show, but of a television crew member at KTVA where the show was broadcast live.
The show's theme song was the classic nursery rhyme, “Pop Goes the Weasel” and if you remember the show, the camera would focus on a Jack-in-the-Box that would “pop up” right when the song went “pop goes the weasel.”
The kids who came down to be on the show were always cute and loved all the activities. From playing with the toys and games, to drawing and to scooting around on the floor in their cardboard box cars.
If you watched the show, or were on the show, one of the characters you'll remember was an oversized bumblebee known as “Mr. Do-Bee.” Children were told, “don't be a “don't-Bee”, but always “do-Bee” good boys and girls for your parents.
Occasionally, the children in the studio would have to be reminded to be “Do-Bees” when they would get rowdy, or upset with each other. And once in a while, a mom would have to come into the studio on live TV to “remove their child” from the set to calm them down.
About half-way through each show, the hostess would serve the children milk and cookies.
On Monday morning, a supply of Milk and cookies was brought into the studio and placed in the refrigerator on Norma Goodman's kitchen set. These were, of course, for the children on Romper Room.
But the television studios were located in the Broadcast Center, which also included the radio studios of KNIK and KBYR, and the radio announcers would sometimes get hungry, and come in and help themselves to the cookie and milk supply.
This practice would sometimes result in a cookies and “water” break for the Romper Room children. For the record, the taking of Romper Room cookies and milk was more than frowned on at the studio. But hungry announcers are hard to tame.
There was a lot of music used on Romper Room. There were songs for every game and activity. The music was all on a series of records. During the show, we had a script and a music play list, and we would cue up the record and wait for those famous words – “please Mr. Music, are you ready?” At that moment, the song would begin.
But sometimes, live TV doesn't go the way it is supposed to. And there were times when we didn't have the music ready when called for. So, the show hostess would say something like, “well, I don't think Mr. Music is ready right now, so let's go ahead and start our game and hopefully Mr. Music will catch up with us.”
At the end of each show, it was time for the “Magic Mirror.”
The show hostess would take a hand mirror out of her desk. The back of the mirror was all sparkly. The hostess would say “Romper, stomper, bomper boo, tell me, tell me, tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?”
Right after the hostess started saying “romper, stomper, bomper boo” we would go to a film clip of a kaleidoscope. While we were on the film, the hostess would put the hand mirror back in her desk, and then take out another hand mirror that was specially made and had no mirror, just a space to look through.
We would then come back live to the studio camera as the hostess looked through the mirror and said, “Oh I can see all my friends in television land. I see Mary and Sammy and Joan and Bobby and Sybil,”
One morning, the hostess put the first mirror away and brought out the specially made mirror. As she did, a little boy sitting next to her was picked up on her microphone as he said “Oh, I saw what you did with the mirror. You have two of them.” After the show, we all had a good laugh over what the boy had said.
The Romper Room show was always a lot of fun for the TV crew. The kids were great, and they had so much fun.
When the show went off the air, we all hated seeing the set being taken down and all the props removed from the studio. And I think the radio announcers missed the cookies and milk.
I worked in Hollywood in the 1970s at a station that also produced Romper Room. I was assigned to the show as a camera operator. When the hostess came into the studio before the show went live, she saw me and came over to speak with me.
“I see we have a new crew member. Have you ever seen Romper Room before?” I proudly answered by saying “I've done Romper Room TV shows in Anchorage, Alaska, I'm a card-carrying Do-Bee.”
The lady looked at me, smiled and said, “it's always nice to meet a Romper Room Do-Bee.”A Note from Anchorage Alaska Memories
Because Romper Room was broadcast live from KTVA channel 11's first floor studio in the McKinley building in downtown Anchorage, and following the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake, from the KTVA studio in Spenard, there are no videotapes of the program.