…and we still miss you John…
…and we still miss you John…
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…
There were lots of moms on Pollyanna Avenue when I was growing UP. Twenty nine houses, only one bachelor, no widowers, so there were at least 28 at a time.
All of them had an impact on our lives, my own mother aside, two come to my mind the most.
Helen and Hazel.
Hazel I’ve posted about before. Her love story is a great one, and you can find it at the bottom of the page.
She knew every kid on the street by name, knew if they were UP to no good, and knew how to get them in line.
She cut our hair on her front stoop early in the morning before it got too hot and we got to sticky.
She knew who our teachers were going to be and would sit on the same stoop and tell us all who we’d drawn – good or bad!
She was fun, she was funny, and she was always ready to help out when she was needed.
When we moved in to our new house, the power wasn’t on, Hazel took mother’s percolator and plugged it into the electrical outlet on the same stoop so Mom and Dad could have coffee!
Hazel’s best friend lived across the street from her and next door to us.
Enter Helen Wooddell.
Helen wasn’t too thrilled with the Baptist Preacher living next door at first, but eventually she came around in a big way and ended UP becoming a member of the church he pastored.
Helen was fun as well, and Helen was talented, creative, and artistic.
Rather than just buy a doll house for her daughter, Brenda Ann, she bought the doll house, created a landscaped lot on a sheet of plywood, and cut and painted sponges to look like hedges and shrubs. She made her own Christmas bows from tissue paper, painstakingly shaping pointed tips around a pencil end and gluing each one on.
She created “thinking” games for birthday parties. One particular game included household items arranged in groups that were supposed to symbolize famous paintings.
A high heeled pump represented “The Old Corn Crib” and block painted black and white was “A Study in Black and White”. Pretty heady stuff for a bunch of preteens who were itching for cake and ice cream.
Looking back, both ladies were there for mom. Helen, who unlike Hazel, drove, would pick us UP if we needed a ride, or take us to a school program early with her own daughter so mom could finish UP with the other kids.
And she didn’t go ape when someone broke her picture window with a line drive from the cul-de-sac softball games we held all summer long.
Hazel would “let us come over” and stay until Judy got home if Mother and Daddy had to go out.
Neighborly stuff. Helpful stuff. The things friends do.
They were there when the street lights came on to round the kids UP and send them home.
They were there with cookies for Bible School and kool aid in the summer and hot chocolate at Christmas.
They were just there.
Their small kindnesses showed all the kids on the street what neighbors did and what neighbors should do.
They were women of influence.
He took them seriously; his wedding vows, and believed it when he read “…For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh…”
Knowing for years their love was strong enough to withstand buffeting winds, trials, and tests, it hit him hard when the news came.
It was sudden, swift, and sorrowing.
She was dying, “No cure, no hope,” the Doctors said.
As she slipped away and his heart broke, he knew the verse was real, they did cleave and become one flesh.
And only death at last, would cleave them apart.
Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. Click on the link right here to find out more and link your own post. While you’re there, click on the blue frog button to find more stories from some wonderful storytellers. This week’s prompt was CLEAVE.