A look at Twin Cities Kids shows in 1967

Casey and Roundhouse on the set

An article in the Minneapolis Tribune, dated May 5, 1967, provides a glimpse at the various local children’s programming in 1967. I don’t have the full article, but these excerpts provide some great commentary on these shows.

“Lunch With Casey” and “Clancy the Cop” are described as the most popular locally produced children’s shows. “Neither show has any competition at its time and each one claims to go into about 50,000 to 60,000 homes.” It continues “WTCN… produces more children’s television than any of the other three Twin Cities stations. Casey and Roundhouse return each weekday afternoon to break up the cartoons in an hour long program that takes place in “Grandma Lumpit’s Boarding House. Dave Lee works with puppets and gives away bags of goodies to a live audience of about 40 children on a half hour weekday program called “Popeye and Pete.” The article then describes a program on channel 11, called “Miss Barbara,” which aired Sunday mornings. “Barbara De Valario of the St. Anthony School District uses puppets to present short reviews of new children’s books.”

Over on KSTP, channel 9, there was Romper Room and Grandpa Ken. “On “Romper Room,” teacher Betty Douglass teaches music, numbers, games, and letters to a class of six preschoolers. On “Grandpa Ken,” a slow moving, white bearded, old gentleman fills a half hour on Saturday and Sunday mornings with riddles, simple drawing lessons and, again, cartoons.”

Channel 5, KSTP, was noted for showing movies and cartoons on Saturday morning, but did not produce any live kids shows. They quoted Ken Barry, the program director: “We were the first station to produce children’s shows around here… but later we found we were duplicating what the other stations were handling very well.”

Lunch With Casey is well described and includes quotes from Roger Awsumb and Lynn Dwyer. “Perhaps the two best qualified stars of local children’s television are Roger Awsumb, who has been doing Casey Jones for 13 years, and Lynn Dwyer, who joined the show in 1959…” It continues, “Both are college graduates and qualified teachers. Both are parents of school age children.”

“Casey is something of a father image and the straight man. Dwyer, a highly capable acrobat and a former solo skater with the Ice Capades, identifies more with children as Roundhouse. Neither character acts ridiculous or absurd. Neither talks down to children. Much of there material although never of double meaning, is also funny for adults. And that’s fairly important since almost as many mothers have lunch with Casey each day.”

The article describes a recent broadcast as having four cartoons, four commercials (for a toy, two deserts, and a record album), and a visit from Bob Duerr from the Como Park Zoo, with an African pygmy goat. There was also an “interview with Oswald” and a lip-sync segment for “I Love Onions.” “The program always ends with Casey reading from a monitor screen a list of 100 names of children who have birthdays that day…”

Roger Awsumb is quoted, “We hope the image we put across is a good one, but we don’t try to hit the kids over the head with education. Kids have enough adults telling them what they must do — teachers, parents — we try to help them through suggestions.”

“Casey and Roundhouse’ desire to show instead of tell has resulted in one frequent of their show that’s not duplicated by any other stations. The two go outside of the station and make films and video tapes. These may demonstrate bicycle or water safety. They may trace milk from the cow to the table. “

Lynn Dwyer is quoted, “We treat these subjects lightly, and at the same time we get some important points across. We try to expose the kids to things they are not going to learn about at home or school. We also try to show them dangers or values of various activities.

The article notes that “Casey and Roundhouse have no budget, for their shows, so whatever masks, costumes or props they use, they must buy themselves.”

The article continues with information about Clancy and Willie, noting the show is taped the day before broadcast, compared to Casey which was produced live. The formats of Casey and Clancy are similar, but Clancy usually features an “continuing mystery plot.”

“John Gallos, who plays Clancy, is a WCCO television announcer. Allan Lotsberg, who plays Willie, is a promotion assistant at the station, who appears frequently in Bloomington Civic Theater presentations.”

Allan Lotsberg says, “John and I sit down every morning and set down a format of basic ideas we want to get across. These may be traffic safety, respect for parents, and our plot, and we ad lib from that. Hopefully we try to end each segment of the story with some kind of cliff hanger situation so the kids will want to watch the next day.”

The article notes concerns from parents about the Clancy show. “Some parents feel that the Clancy-Willie plots which evoke great squeals and screams from the studio audience, get the children too worked up and excited before school.” Another concern is violence in cartoons, including a recent Hulk cartoon where “women and children were cut down by the bullets of enemy planes.”

Miss Betty on the set of Romper Room

Last, the article talks about Romper Room, noting the program is owned by a national company which hires local hosts and provides scripts or lesson plans. “The Minneapolis Romper Room teacher is Miss Betty Douglass, who holds a bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology.” Miss Betty says the purpose of Romper Room “is to try to make learning fun for preschool children. We try to teach them good manners and habits, a little reading readiness, some healthy exercises, and music. We feel like we’re helping mother get the little ones ready to start to school.”

There are some criticisms of Romper Room. “Many mothers feel that the purpose of Romper Room is to sell Romper Room toys.” The article continues, “The program has also been criticized because of its dogmatic approach that tends to train a specific reaction in a child leaving him no room for choice and a limited opportunity to exercise his imagination.”