I remember getting our first television.
I don’t remember the date, the time, or the day, but I do remember the event.
I was young, very young.
I remember sitting in the darkened dining room – which is where we all hung out as not only did it have a table and chairs, there was a couch and Daddy’s big chair, and most importantly, the heating stove for the entire place.
It was a big old Virginia house in the country, efficient – no, happy and comfortable – yes.
But, I digress.
The TV arrived, I was charmed by it.
The earliest show I remember is The Ding Dong School.
Now, it started in November of 1952 – I’d have been five months old; it’s not realistic that I’d remember an event from that time, but the show ended its run in 1956 when I was four and a half – and I do remember running to the dining room to watch Miss Frances as soon as I heard her school bell.
That’s right, she rang a bell at the beginning of each show.
Billed as the nursery school of the air, The Ding Dong School was a ½ hour children’s TV show that began in Chicago and was picked UP by NBC.
Presented from a child’s point of view, it used low angled cameras so kids could see everything at “Lilliputian” eye level, and Miss Frances paced the stories and activities at a rate perfect for small ears and hands.
In other words, she was a genius and a pioneer.
Hosted live by Miss Frances Horwich, The Ding Dong School preceded Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and was the most popular TV series aimed at preschoolers.
It was pretty effective, because I was hooked.
A huge fan.
Really, a devotee.
Frances Rappaport Horwich was born in 1907 in Ottawa, Ohio, earned a master’s degree in education from Columbia and a doctorate from Northwestern. She ran the department of education at Roosevelt College, and eventually supervised the entire NBC children’s programming department.
She also won a Peabody Award.
In December of 1956, The Ding Dong School was canceled to make way for The Price Is Right.
Seriously, not kidding.
About that time, Horwich resigned from NBC in protest of the commercialism of children’s education. She refused to advertise products a child couldn’t use or products that glorified violence.
Oh that she were here today!
Miss Frances retired, moved to Arizona with her husband and lived to the ripe old age of 94.
The Ding Dong School is one of those warm “mac ‘n cheese” memories; it’s comfort food for the mind.
Truly a woman of influence, Horwich changed TV forever; her style gave rise to a TV technique still in use today; speaking to the viewing audience just as though they were in the same room with the performer.
Every time Colbert looks at you, thank Miss Frances.
And, just in case you need a reminder…