Waxing Nostalgic Over Classic TV

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ding Dong School is in Session

I'm going to go on a scary journey now, way back to my very earliest memories of sitting in front of our new TV, a 4-year-old boy mesmerized by the light and shadows. The object of my attention was named Miss Frances and she taught me the ways of the world on Ding Dong School. There she was, talking right to me and nobody else (well, maybe my little brother). It was like she could actually see me.

Her real name was Dr. Frances Horwich, and she was a pretty smart cookie. She actually pioneered the technique of talking directly to children, a technique later made popular by Fred Rogers and the folks at Sesame Street. She did hawk her wares (as in the video), but she was very careful about the sorts of things she endorsed, not wanting to push anything she considered harmful to children.

Ding Dong School opened its doors in Chicago, but soon began to be broadcast nationally by NBC starting in 1952. At one point, the show was said to have attracted 95% of the pre-school market. In 1954, Miss Frances moved to New York City, where she supervised all of NBC's children's shows. The show was cancelled by NBC in 1956 and a new game show called The Price is Right took its place - a show that hasn't done too badly.

Miss Frances also wrote a very successful series of Ding Dong School books. She died in Arizona in 2001 at the age of 94.

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