The phrase "Peanut Gallery" is a Vaudeville term dating back to the late 19th century. Most theaters were divided into three sections; orchestra, balcony and gallery- with the gallery being the cheap seats. Patrons who frequented the gallery were usually working class folk who would show their displeasure with onstage performers by pelting them with peanut shells. In the 1950s Buffalo Bob Smith dubbed the kid audience of The Howdy Doody Show the "Peanut Gallery." Local TV kid's shows across the country adopted the term to identify the children who sat in the live TV audience to watch their favorite local TV personality.
My older cousin Bob Marklin was on the Auntie Dee show. He was a ventriloquist. When he didn't have his dummy at family gatherings he would use me as his dummy. Somehow I never recovered from that.
I was a regular on the Auntie Dee show for a number of years. I remember being on the show with Ella Fitzgerald and another time with The Chuckles, to name a few. I played the accordion and I remember riding two buses to get to the Maccabees Building to play "live." Commercials were written on cardboard and held up by the stage manager. Our pay was Partytime Popcorn, Eckrich lunch meat, Faygo pop and New Era potato chips.
It was about 1957 that I got to appear live on Bud Davies' Dance Party on CKLW-TV. I was 13 at the time, and my dad picked up my first "official" date in his '54 Plymouth Belvedere with me. Bud Davies was short in stature, but the teenagers loved him. We danced the Chicken to Little Richard's Tutti Fruitti. All the guys wore the popular black patent leather Piatto shoes from Thom McAn (the long pointy toed ones that looked like low-cut cowboy boots), and most of the guys had the D.A. hair style (Duck's Ass), slicked down with Brylcreem.. Quite a flashback!
How excited we were--knowing we were to appear on the Auntie Dee TV show; my friend Raynoma Ossman and me, Sonia Porter. Our ballet teacher, Mrs. Mary Ann FitzGerald, taught us a dance and costumed us as Raggedy Ann and Andy. Auntie Dee was all smiles and wonderful. It was a happy day in 1951 when everyone in our west side neighborhood owing a TV knew to watch for our few brief moments of fame. It was particularly special, since we were the only two "Negro" kids in our ballet class. That experience, and dancing to "Cruising Down the River" that same year on the giant birthday cake stage erected in downtown's Campus Martius for Detroit's 250th anniversary, are never to be forgotten memories in a Detroit that, despite its problems, was a wondeful place to be a kid.
Back in 1954, my cousin and I were to appear on the Callahan School of Music show, then on CKLW-TV, across the river in Windsor. I played the trumpet, and my cousin played the accordion. We arrived at the studio quite early. About that time Toby David, aka "Captain Jolly," was hosting a game show in one of the adjacent studios called "Watch the Birdie." The kids watched a film and looked out for the bird. If you saw him and were able to identify where, you won a prize. Toby was doing a live commercial for the sponsor, Malt-O-Meal, a type of hot oatmeal. He noticed us watching him, and and invited us to help him with the spot. We looked into the camera and proclaimed that Malt-O-Meal was "smooth, creamy and double flavored." We had to use a hand signal for each phrase, and both of us completely drew a blank when we stared out at the monitors. Toby expertly wiggled out of the commercial and let us go. He later came over to our set and thanked us, giving us each a box of Malt-O-Meal.
My sister Karol and I danced on the Auntie Dee show in 1952. Our ballet ribbons unfurled during our Scottish-Irish jig, so the camera stayed above them. Auntie Dee invited us back, but we never got a formal invitation as far as I knew. I always wanted to go back on, but thought that the ribbon malfunction had done us in. I remember they did a live commercial that day with cotton balls in bowls made to look like ice cream with Hershey's syrup over the top.
My dad was a Lincoln Park cop in the early 1950s. The swing shift rotation was weekly, so most of the guys were home around lunch time for at least three weeks a month, and MANY were big time fans of Soupy Sales. Turns out, the admiration was mutual, as Soupy was a cop wannabe! My dold told stories of Soupy riding with some of the patrolmen, cracking them up with some of his material that wasn't quite suitable for the kiddies. He made a huge impression on my father, who called me Pookie until the day he died, and gave nicknames like "Birdbath" and "Black Tooth" to some of my less desirable suitors.
My mother used to take me shopping "downtown" on a weekly basis. Our favorite store was J.L. Hudson's. We would shop all morning and then have lunch at the restaurant. I must have been around five years old at the time. I'll never forget the day we were eating lunch when my mom told me to turn around. Sitting right behind me was my absolute favorite TV star, Captain Jolly! I was awe-struck. He smiled at me and said "BOO!" I stared at him for the longest time and was so excited I could barely finish my lunch. I have such wonderful memories of those "good old days" riding the elevator at Hudson's to the 12th floor at Christmas to see Santa and do my Christmas shopping. Then we would walk all along the outside to look at the beautiful Christmas displays in the windows.
I graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1976. At the time, like any teenager, I held a a jaded view of most of the stuff I grew up with. As an adult, I've grown to appreciate that many of the things I had thought were beneath me as a young adult were really kind of cool, as anyone who eventually raises a family does. Our senior prom was held at Pine Knob. The big draw was, of course, the band and I can't even remember who they were. What I do remember was that Clare "Milky the Clown" Cummings was the warm-up act. When I heard who he was I felt a bit embarrassed. You know, "We're not kids anymore! Who's idea was this?" Well, I've got to say the guy was terrific! Magic and comedy. A little bit adult with double entendres, great magic and an amazing way to connect with a bunch of angst ridden teenagers! When I think back to that night, it's just so ironic and proves the talent of Mr. Cummings, that i don't remember who the band was, but I do remember who the warm-up act was. God bless you Mr. Cummings, for all the years I watched you as a child and reminding me as a young adult that Milky was cool!
Our Cub Scout Troop (Warren-Southfield-Greenfield area) was on "Our Friend Harry" with Harry Jarkey in the late 1950s. The program had cartoons, entertainment, talent shows and the peanut gallery that we sat in. To keep us occupied they also had a contest where they showed us an image of something magnified many times larger on a monitor. The person who first identified the item won a prize. I recognized the image and mumbled to myself, "It looks like corn." Some guy in back of me with sharp hearing took my suggestion and shouted it out. Of course, he won the prize and I learned a valuable lesson about human nature. He who mumbles the answer first loses out to the guy who steals it.
I was one of the Smile Contest winners on Milky's Party Time, appearing on the show in 1955. They were peddling buttermilk that day. My mother told the crew that I wouldn't drink buttermilk, so they hid a stagehand under the table where Milky and I sat. When the camera was not on me, the stagehand appeared from underneath the table and switched my glass of buttermilk for a glass of whole milk so that when the camera came back to Milky and me, the TV audience would see me drinking the "buttermilk."
I remember running home from school every day to have lunch with Soupy. I still have my Birdbath pin, which I got for free from a United Dairies store. I remember begging my dad to take me to the store to get it. I went to school with Trudy Welch, whose father was a camera man for WXYZ. Every Christmas she got to be on Channel 7, along with all of the other Channel 7 kids.
P.S. I can still do the Soupy Shuffle!
I remember being on the Poopdeck Paul show several times for their limbo contests. After winning all of the contests Paul took me to some of his charity shows in the Detroit area. Of course, being a kid I was very nervous. I also remember doing the limbo under two Coke bottles. Awww, to be young again!
Our freezer was filled with hundreds of chocolate bars that I won. There were other great prizes like a pool table, bicycle and endless toys, not to mention a pony that my parents later sold to Boblo Island. I remember going out to Paul's home in Belle River and having my choice of the ponies he had in the stable. I still remember the kindness shown to me by Paul Schultz. He was a very special person indeed.
I remember my Brownie troop going to see Bozo the Clown. I was a little disappointed when I saw him because on TV you couldn't tell he had on makeup, but in person it was obvious. I guess in my little kid brain I believed he was a real live clown, and not a man dressed as one. I was also disappointed that I didn't win the trunk of toys. Being Mr. Whoodini's assistant on TV was pretty cool though. I remember I thought I would win some kind of prize for assisting him, and when that didn't happen I was hurt.
In 1960 my Cub Scout troop went on Milky's Party Time. Before the show, they picked the kids who were going to play the games and have a chance to win a prize. I was one of the kids chosen, and as we were on stage before going into the studio they realized that there was one kid too many and proceeded to do "eeny, meany, miney, moe." Unfortunately I was moe, so I had to sit with the rest of the kids as I watched my best friend play a game and choose a prize.
I remember when my sister Marlene and I were on Poopdeck Paul's show after winning a limbo contest at Eastland shopping center. My father had to drive us over to Windsor to the CKLW TV station. We made a valiant effort contorting our bodies under the limbo bar to the strains of Chubby Checker singing "How l-o-o-o-w can you go?" but to no avail. Marlene and I both lost the limbo contest but we EACH won a year's supply of "Whiz, The Best Candy Bar There Izz." The candy tasted awful and my mother gave it away every Halloween for years. So much for our fifteen minutes of fame........................
When I was about 7 or 8 years old (circa 1957 or 58), my Boy Scout pack was on Milky's Party Time. I remember the Twin Pines milk truck that was on the set. The one side of the truck that faced the camera was clean and shiny. The opposite side had dust and cobwebs on it about a half inch thick. Milky asked several of the boys in my troop different questions about the Scouts. Later on in the show he had two ladies tie us up in chairs with heavy rope, and the fastest pack that could untie their fellow scout got to reach into a fishbowl and grab two handfuls of pennies. The losing team was entitled to one handful of pennies. Must have been a big budget show at the time. I mean, how much can an eight year old hold? Maybe 30 to 40 cents worth.
I was on the Wixie Wonderland Show when I was about 4 years old 53 years ago!!). There was a contest on the show to name a parakeet or a dog. Whatever names were judged best, that person won the pet. My mother entered to name the parakeet and won! (She named the parakeet "Echo.") So I got to be on the show. I remember our mother driving us there in a 1949 Ford. She hollered at Soupy as he was going into the Broadcast House back door to channel 7. Amazing memories.
We were watching Popeye after school one day when Captain Jolly pulled the postcard entry for that day's contest. We could hardly believe our ears when my younger brother Tommy's name was announced. We all jumped up and down and screamed so loud that our mom thought someone had gotten injured. Then the phone rang and it was the Captain himself, asking to speak to my little brother who promptly ran and hid, scared to death of actually speaking to this "famous star." We couldn't believe when the prize actually did arrive in the mail, just as Captain Jolly had promised. It was this rubbery green goop that you poured into molds and baked in the oven, which smelled awful, but we thought it was wonderful.
I took dance lessons when I was a child from Bernie Tederington. She took four boys and four girls and taught us to Square Dance. We formed a group called "The Square Eights" and appeared on Starlit Stairway, The Johnny Ginger Show and we were Sunday regulars on the Sagebrush Shorty show. Boy, we thought we were really stars. It was so much fun, and after the taping we were allowed to go to the prize closet and pick out a game or a stuffed animal to take home. It was like hitting the lottery.
I remember, I think, about 1959 or 60, Mary Ann from Milky's Party Time was a substitute teacher at my school, Samuel Gompers in Detroit. The whole school was agog with the "super star actress" appearance. After school she signed autographs. I waited, but the line was around the school and it seemed like kids came from other schools to get in on the action. I was raised by my grandparents and was taught to always come straight home. When I told my grandmother, she said that I could have waited to get Mary Ann's autograph, knowing what it meant to me. I always regretted to this day that I didn't stay and get the "super star actress'" signature. Those were the days of innocence.
Darlene Marie Schoenherr-
My kindergarten teacher from Wilkins Elementary School had a children's television show that aired on channel 56 every Wednesday morning. Her name is Anne Ingals and her television show was "The Children's Hour." It was definitely on through the 1960s.
I was born on the east side of Detroit in 1951. We had the first TV set on the block, and I was weaned on all these shows. I was on the Sagebrush Shorty Show back in 1956, or was it 57? My mom and I entered the "Name The Flame" contest for Schaffer's Bread, and I was one of the winners. Somewhere in my files I still have the letter informing my mother of my winning and directing us to the station. I was one thrilled little cowpoke to be on the show. I had won a bike.
I met Toby David as Captain Jolly at Jacobson's in Ann Arbor right around 1960 or so. He spent a few minutes with each kid and gave them a 8x10 picture of himself. I remember that he used to do a bit with a set of boxer shorts pulled up over his arms and a potato on the end of a fork in each hand. It made him look like a short guy doing a soft-show with potato feet.
I was a lucky winner of the Schwinn bicycle on Sagebrush Shorty. But the winning of the bicycle was overshadowed when I saw the puppets stuffed in the back of a set-prop! Broke my heart to find they weren't real! How wonderful to reminisce about my long lost youth- particularly as I reside now in the UK for 35 years.
Do you remember during the Soupy Sales show he would hit kids in the face with a pie? Soupy would pay each kid a dollar to do this. One thing about it though- the pies weren't real. All they were was an aluminum pie pan filled with shaving cream. This I know for a fact because my younger brother David skipped school one day to go to the TV studio on Woodward, where Soupy (who was on the street) was hitting kids with fake pies. David got hit with one, and was paid a dollar for it.
I remember always watching Milky's Party Time. I loved the puppet show with Gee Whizzer and Applesauce the Dragon (G.W., "Applesauce..?";"Uh-uh..."; "Ap-plesauce...";" Uh-UH!"; "APPLESAUCE!!!"; "Yuk, yuk, yuk,yuk.") One day at Jefferson Elementary School in Wyandotte we were visited by the Ed Johnson Marionettes, and Gee Whizzer and Applesauce were their main characters! Here I was seeing my TV favorites "live" at school. Then we got to tour backstage afterwards. I planned to be a puppeteer for the next eight years of my life after that. I understand Ed Johnson's son is still out there doing shows.
I was five years old when I made an appearance on the local talent television show Starlit Stairway with hostess Rita Bell. My father Leonard Strother tapped out International Morse Code signals to me from off stage as I verbally translated them into letters and words on camera. As I remember, I spelled out several difficult words, including the name of then Russian political leader Khrushchev. I was invited back several times over the next five years or so. All together, I made four appearances. It was rare in those days to see African American children as audience members, let alone as performers. I have faded but fond memories of the show's television crew. I got double treats at the end of the show- two pieces of candy or whatever was being passed out that day. I was saddened to hear of Ms. Bell's passing this past December.
I was on the Milky show with my Brownie troop. I attended Ferry Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Woods, so the Boy Scouts and us went to the show. (mid 60s) I remember them handing us all an "Eskimo Bar" and the majority of us disliked them so we dropped them under the bleachers we were sitting on. Also, I participated in a 3 legged race around some paper turkeys (this was obviously around the holidays) but when me and my partner's legs came untied the Boy Scouts kept going and won the race. I remember being very shy and trying to hide behind Milky before the race started. And that wall of toys that seemed to go on forever on TV was really two 6 foot wide bookcases. All and all it was and still is a pleasant childhood memory.
I remember when the Auntie Dee show was at the Hudson's store on Fort Street and Emmons in Lincoln Park, in the late 50s. My cousins were on the show that was broadcast from outside, in the parking lot on the west side. They set up bleachers for the audience. My brother and I walked up to the Lincoln Park Plaza to see our cousins perform a pantomime of All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth and Whatever Lola Wants. I remember singing Say Hello To Auntie Dee in the audience.
My story is from The Wixie's Wonderland show. Since my Dad played Gee Whiz the clown on the show, I was given the chance, as a very small child, to do a live commercial for Bosco with Wixie. To prepare me for this I was given lots of Bosco to drink. Lots and LOTS of Bosco. The next day, sitting on Wixie's lap on live TV, he gave me some Bosco and asked how I liked it."Bosco makes me sick!" I told him.
In 1964 I was on the Poopdeck Paul show with my baby sister Ann. We participated in a game that involved other kids and their baby brothers and sisters. After Poopdeck Paul interviewed everyone he spun the big baby wheel, which was divided into different sections, like noisiest baby, quietest baby and sleepiest baby. Well, the wheel stopped on noisiest baby. As luck would have it, my mother fed my sister before we went on the air so she was very full, content, and quiet. The winning family won a turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. I received a sailor hat, a box of Bonomo Turkish Taffy and a neat story to tell my friends at school the following Monday.
My memory is from the Milky the Clown Show. A group of girls were brought there as a special, very exciting surprise- our friend's eighth birthday party. I was selected to participate in one of the contests, which involved having your hands tied behind your back, and then moving model trucks from one circle to the next. Long story short- the boys won. The losers (the girls, in this case) were allowed to choose one gift from the Mattel toy display. I had been coveting a toy ukulele for YEARS on the display shelf. However, once I got on the set it was VERY clear from the placement of the toys that the display was divided into "boys" and "girls" toys, with neutral items such as crayons in the middle.
I remember standing there for what seemed like several minutes just DYING to get my paws on that ukulele, but feeling the ridicule that would surely follow if I selected a so-called boy's prize. I stood there in torment and finally, dejectedly, selected a stupid looking Barbie doll that I didn't even want.
I took it home, played with it once, and her head broke off the next day. Thank goodness the women's movement was afoot at that very moment!
I can remember when we young hippie students hitched rides all around Oakland county to and from school in the late 60s, a van stopped to give me a lift. The driver was wearing crazy long shoes and a red nose. It was none other than Ricky the Clown in full get up! I was riding with one of my best friends in his painted up circus van!
When I was a Cub Scout in the fall of 1958, our den went to see a live broadcast of the Harry Jarkey Show. While waiting for the show to begin we saw the last part of the Soupy Sales show. I was surprised at how small the set was, and that the window Soupy sat in front of was just a cardboard backdrop.
When our show started, Harry held a contest between two Cub Scouts (I was one of them) and two Brownies. We had to nudge little mice through a maze. Whoever got their mouse through the maze first was declared the winner. The girls didn't like handling the mice, so the boys had a distinct advantage here. My mouse decided that enough was enough, so he climbed out of the maze box, walked to the edge and jumped to the finish line where some cheese was. Since time was running out Harry declared me the winner, much to the protestations of my fellow contestants, who were quickly ushered to their seats.
Harry asked me some questions, then announced that my prize for winning the contest was a canary. We just had two parakeets at home that died and my mother announced an edict of "No More Birds!" which I dared not disobey. So I told Harry, live and on the air, that I did not want the canary. "Whattya mean you don't want it?" he said, and then quickly went back to his smiling persona. He asked me to give it to someone in my den. I picked a kid whose name I've forgotten, but he was overweight and picked on, and I felt sorry for him. I was an outcast for having done this.
When I got back to school that Monday, I found that everone had watched the show, and was continually asked, "Why didn't you want the canary?" The explanation of my mom's edict seemed to answer that question satisfactorily.
I was four years old in 1955. My father had a bar in Hamtramck, MI. He had saved thousands of bottle caps, which would be the currency to win prizes on the Sagebrush Shorty Show. I had bag-loads, and was certain I would win the first prize- a Schwinn bicycle. My dad drove me to the WJBK studios. I recall pandemonium backstage- technicians and cameramen dodging each other; kids and dads with Vernors caps in big bags, bigger than mine. I immediately got the sinking feeling that I would not win. Still, I was excited until my excitement turned to terror. A gruesome looking little person, dressed as the Vernors Gnome, jumped out at me. I was so scared that I began to cry. I cried as I walked with my father before the TV camera to introduce myself. As it turned out, I won third prize- a miniature, battery operated yacht. We took it to Belle Isle. My dad tied a long spool of string to the boat. It sailed out into the river, when the string broke. The boat disappeared as it made it's way to Lake St. Clair. I cried again.
Anstandig- Disk Jockey on WPON Rare Oldies Radio
I remember meeting Soupy Sales in the lobby of the Maccabees Building when I was going for an appointment with my pediatrician. My mother and I met Soupy when he came out of the elevator after he taped his show. When he saw me, he shook my hand and called me "Birdbath." Upon meeting Soupy about five years ago and relaying the story to him he said that he called all the children he met "Birdbath."
Howard- owner of Ta-Dah! Productions
I remember going on Saturdays to dance on Robin Seymour's Swingin' Time. It was a great time in my life. I would get calls from friends who saw me on TV. I even got the chance to see Chubby Checker live! It made me want to get into the TV and production business.
I was on Sagebrush Shorty when I was a Cub Scout. One of the kids won a puppy and they ended up giving it to us. It was sick with distemper and died the next day. I always thought that show was the greatest in any case!
In the early sixties, my mother accompanied a friend as she was going to visit another friend to see her baby that was a few weeks old. The new mother turned out to be the wife of my favorite TV show host, Johnny Ginger. He gave my mother a personalized autograph for me which I still have to this day. I now live in southeastern Kentucky and have just recently become partially disabled, but have very fond memories of that era and the great kid shows featured here. I feel very fortunate to have grown up during that era.
Must've been around 1966. I was invited to a family birthday party for my cousin, and the party was to be at the Milky's Party Time Studio. We were loaded into a car and whisked to the studio. I was pretty awed by the lights and cameras as we were seated in a boxed off area with chairs, and we began to watch the show. There was the Milkman, and Milky himself arrived to big applause. I was chosen for a contest, boys against the girls. The idea was to pull an apple along a paper pathway with a string to the finish line. I was moving right along, then suddenly for some reason Mr. Milkman slowed me down and let the girl win... I never knew why.
As an 8 year old, in 1966 my friend Robert Fine took me and several of his friends for his birthday party to the WWJ studios where we had the pleasure of being part of a taping of Milky's Party Time. During the show I was chosen to participate in one of the games that were played by the kids. My game contest was a relay race involving pulling a sled that was stacked with gift boxes from one point to another without any of the boxes falling off of the sled. Even though my leg of the relay was plagued by tumbling boxes, my team somehow managed to win a prize. I distinctly remember picking my prize, a Milton Bradley's Milton the Monster board game, from a huge wall of prizes for the winners. The priceless memories endure, but unfortunately Milky and Milton the Monster do not.
St. John- former WKNR Disk Jockey,
currently at WCBS FM in New York.
The story I want to tell you concerns Johnny Ginger, who I loved, first when he was a "stagehand", then later when they moved to Broadcast House and he became a "bellboy". I lived about a mile and a half from Channel 7, and one day my buddy and I walked over there (we were around 12 or 13) and a very kind engineer let us in, and there was Johnny! His uniform wasn't buttoned up, he was sitting in a director's chair, stubble on his face, wearing high-heeled, pointed "greaser" boots, a bottle of Coke in one hand, and smoking a cigarette in the other! Talk about a shock! Once he got fixed up, we got to watch him do the show, but I'll never forget that image! He was bad, but he was cool!
Carr- Assistant Manager/Chief Engineer WBFH 88.1
I was on two shows as a youngster. In 1961 our Cub Scout group was on "Fun House" with Harry Jarkey and Ricky the Clown on WXYZ. It was so much fun! I remember walking behind Ricky's pet llama, and playing some games on the show. In 1965 I appeared on "Starlit Stairway" with Rita Bell, also on WXYZ. I did movie star impressions. Johnny Ginger was in the audience and he said he liked my act. It was a great experience. When I got older I entered the field of radio broadcasting and worked in Detroit. After 30 years I took a new direction. I'm now helping high school students interested in radio broadcasting at Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills.
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