Remember When, Chattanooga? Does anyone remember Romper Room on WDEF?

Photo contributed from ChattanoogaHistory.com. This 1969 photo of the Romper Room program on WDEF-TV 12 recalls a time when the children’s show was at peak popularity.
Photo contributed from ChattanoogaHistory.com. This 1969 photo of the Romper Room program on WDEF-TV 12 recalls a time when the children’s show was at peak popularity.

For baby boomers who were children in the 1960s and 1970s, the set of the "Romper Room" television show on WDEF-TV 12 brings back vivid memories.

Across America, "Romper Room" was a franchised program for pre-schoolers featuring local hosts and children. TV stations would purchase a package of weekly content that would be shared as part of their morning children's programming.

The show featured such staples as "Magic Mirror," which involved the host reciting the names of children in the television audience -- whose parents had secretly requested the shout-outs.

At its peak, the show aired on 79 television stations in the U.S. and 47 other nations, according to news reports. It had about 4 million daily viewers worldwide.

This accompanying photo of "Romper Room" on WDEF was donated to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga by the estate of the late Mayor Ralph H. Kelley, according to Sam Hall, curator of ChattanoogaHistory.com.

Kelley's daughter, Ellen Kelley, confirmed in a telephone interview this week that she is one of the children in the photo -- the girl with dark hair nearest the teacher.

"I do remember being on the show," Kelley said. "I remember the Magic Mirror and thinking it was really magic. ... I would have been 4 years old."

News reports of the period identified the "teacher" on WDEF's Romper Room as Clara Register. A report in the Chattanooga News-Free Press in November 1969 noted the show had by then been airing for about three months. Register, known as "Miss Clara" on the show, was a graduate of Chattanooga High School and the University of Tennessee who had taught first grade in the Atlanta area.

"Romper Room" appeared at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. The show originated in the Baltimore TV market in 1953 and was created by Bert Claster, founder of Claster Television Inc.

"Romper Room" was originally associated with WTVC-TV 9 here, according to Marcia Kling, who took over the show there in the early 1960s and changed the name to "Funtime," which aired until 1978.

Kling said in a phone interview that the children's programs were designed to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten and elementary school.


ChattanoogaHistory.com

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available. If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

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"Remember When, Chattatnooga?" publishes on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.