Here's an article we found in our archives. It dates from July of 1954. We do not know who wrote it or where (or if) it was published. What we have is a bad xerox of the original. Parts of it were unreadable.
The rather touchy task of holding the attention of a group of three to six year olders; while in front of a television camera, was assigned to 22 year-old Miss Claire Coleman when WFIL-TV recently introduced Romper Room to its Monday through Friday, 10-11 am audience.
If anyone believes that keeping six small tots attentive ‘midst a surrounding of TV lights, cameras, monitors that are flashing the “little ones” images, etc. is an easy way to make a living, forget it. It takes talent, training and a very special knack, as even “Miss Clair” will admit. But it would seem this same “Miss Clair” possesses this combination; a Liberal Arts degree from Temple University (majoring in radio), experience on both radio and video programs of the Philadelphia Board of Education, acting and writing children’s show scripts for the Temple station, teaching a Lutheran Sunday School class for the past five years.
The “light manner” is Miss Claire’s method. She believes that if a child is treated condescendingly, he both notes it and resents it. Yet if a serious subject is broached with a bright touch and a man-to-man attitude, she finds the youngsters absorbing the subject, following instructions and generally enjoying learning while seemingly playing. This is not only true of the six young kindergarten pupils who participate on the show in two-week periods, but also of the young viewers who are following the proceedings at home.
The Romper Room set has been made to simulate the average small child’s playroom. Toys, dolls, play sets, small …(unreadable)… the size of the occupants; cartoon characters hanging on the wall are all part of the make-believe.
Favorite educational lesson of both the pupils and the teacher is the “Don’t Bee and Do Bee” session. Subject is rules of conduct, those, which should be followed, and those to avoid. The do’s and don’ts are illustrated with a big pair of colored “bees” and seems to be an effective, short and simple method of making the youngsters understand to fact, all of the drawing sessions meet with the pupils’ approval and usually elicit sample which the home students mail to their TV teacher.
In addition to charming the small ones, Miss Claire has the charm that charms the older students, too, as …(unreadable)… by her selection last year as both the “Sweetest Co-ed of Philadelphia” and as ”Temple’s May Queen” and as that university’s “Homecoming Queen” this year. (end of article)
The photo of Claire came from a 1953 WRTI photograph of a dozen students in Studio B which were then located in the basement of Thomas Hall. Broadcast Pioneers member John Roberts gave us the photo. John, a former President of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, was a professor of communications at Temple University and was one of Claire's instructors. The Temple station mentioned in this article was WRTI (both AM & FM). The director of Romper Room was Lew Klein who would later become Exeucitve Producer of American Bandstand.
Claire Coleman had an article written about her in the Philadelphia Inquirer during the time the show was on the air. Remember that both WFIL-TV and the Inquirer had the same owner, Walter Annenberg. A young man (a little older than Claire) named Richard was given the clipping by his mother who said, "Dick, this is the kind of girl you should be seeing." Richard knew the author of the article and called him. Richard and Claire were introduced and months later, they were married. She announced her engagemnet in the spring of 1955. Richard had an interest in politics and ran for the U.S. Congress and won. He then became a Senator from Pennsylvania. In 1976, Ronald Reagan selected him as his Vice-Presidential candidate in an unsuccessful run for the White House. However, when President Reagan did finally win in 1980, he appointed Richard to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. His name was "Dick Schweiker!"
FYI, Miss Claire's "Romper Room" was still on the air in May of 1956. A press article reported that during this era, 1956, she added two new features to her 8:30 am live broadcast. They were: "Tell a Story" and 'Let's Gallop." The first spotlighted children continuing with a story that Claire Coleman started. The latter featured races to "distant places on wooden horses."
Chana Zelasko, a visitor to our website e-mailed:
I was one of the Romper Room's original kids. I was on the show in the beginning of 1955. I actually remember it quite well. I was surfing the web and wondering if there was anything about Romper Room on the web. I eventually became a religious Jew and today I live in Israel. It would be interesting to know what happened to all of those kids.
Glenn Stackhouse, a visitor to our website e-mailed:
I was one of Miss Claire’s children on Romper Room in 1953 or 1954 at the WFIL Studio. I don’t remember the exact dates I was on but I have some very vivid memories of what went on during the broadcasts. I recall a baby elephant brought on the set that caused great excitement with the children and some mild havoc with the crew. For many years my mother kept the 8X10 B&W glossy photos from my appearance and we also had a copy of TV Guide Magazine with a photo ad using my picture. Unfortunately these cherished items have been lost or misplaced over the years.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member John Roberts
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