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It was the golden age of children’s television in Cleveland. Let’s go behind the plywood sets, costumes, and greasepaint for a close-up look at some remarkable personalities …Children’s TV once sprang from the creative minds of actors who made it up as they went. Despite their low-budget productions, those classic shows and hosts of the 1950s–1970s formed lasting bonds with generations of Northeast Ohio kids.Gene Carroll created Cleveland TV’s first kids' show, “Uncle Jake’s House,” in 1947 with a menagerie of animals (Clarence the cat and Phillip the parrot were an uneasy pair!) and child stars. Linn Sheldon wanted to be known as a serious actor but became such a hit as an elfBarnabythat he could never shake the character. Woodrow the Woodsman lived in a fantasy forestbut when Clay Conroy lost his Woodrow wig, the story made real newspaper headlines. Captain Penny (Ron Penfound) introduced Cleveland kids to the Three Stoogesannoying parents and TV critics alike. At least he reminded young viewers to behave themselves: “… you can’t fool mom.” “Miss Barbara” Plummer of Cleveland’s “Romper Room” (a franchise produced locally) catered to the kindergarten crowd live on set while all dressed up in full skirts. (“At all times, one had to be a lady.”)Marty Sullivan alternated between straight-laced station announcer and goofy Superhost, sometimes broadcasting news while still wearing Supe’s blue longjohns (behind the announcer’s desk).Sideman “Jungle Larry” Tetzlaff parlayed a childhood love of snakes into a regular on-air gig … Jim Breslin of Ashtabula transformed weekdays at 5:15 p.m. into cowpoke Texas Jim for “Prairie Palace” …Plus other intriguing Cleveland children’s TV trailblazers!
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