Join the Club 

28 February 2022 tbs.pm/74902

 

Muriel Young and Pussy Cat Willum

Associated-Rediffusion were the first London ITV company on weekdays and as such they held themselves in great esteem, seeing themselves as the ‘BBC with adverts’. They were extremely paternalistic in their approach and their children’s output generally followed suit, even their most lightweight children’s shows carrying the implication that “after watching this you may want to go off and read about it…” They also had another trick up their sleeves that took the BBC at least twenty-five years to cotton on to.

From 1959 A-R put its pre-school children’s output into a strand known as Small Time where the station’s continuity announcers found themselves involved in some of the programmes as well.

The station would come on air around 4.45 with a welcoming announcement from the continuity announcer, possibly Muriel Young, who would have a quick chat with Pussy-Cat Willum, one of the station’s cast of puppet characters. This would lead into the under-five’s programme, one of which would be Musical Box where ex-Vipers skiffle group player Wally Whyton would sing songs requested by viewers and also have a quick chat with Pussy-Cat Willum. Another under-fives favourite would be one with Muriel Young or Wally Whyton reading a bedtime story to Willum.

In either case the programme was rounded off with a piece of ‘grown up advice’ such as a reminder to “clean your teeth before bedtime” and ending with a jolly little song:

“A-B-C-D-E, Goodbye from Willum and me / F-G-H-I-J-K, it’s the end of another day”

(or something like it) probably finishing off with

“V-W-X-Y-Z, and now it’s time for bed”.

Rousing stuff, eh? But my parents are convinced that it kick-started my learning of the alphabet and I bet I’m not the only one.

 

Puppets

Small Time – the adventures of Chippy

 

With Small Time over the real fun could start at 5.0 when Muriel Young (or whoever was on duty) would be back in the continuity chair playing with Ollie Beak and Fred Barker, an owl and a dog voiced by Ivan Owen (who later became the voice of Basil Brush). Ollie and Fred also starred in their own show Fred and Ollie’s Five O’clock Club, also co-hosted with Muriel Young and Stubby Kaye, again, station announcers becoming part of the programmes.

Five O’clock Club was networked across the country but only viewers to Associated-Rediffusion in London got to see Muriel, Ollie and Fred in between the programmes.

Typically A-R’s paternal approach made sure it was not all fun and games, there was some learning to be done as well. At the end of each continuity link Muriel (or Wally, or whoever) would point us to the station clock. Back then every TV station had its own on-screen clock which would usually appear just before the news or something of equal importance and let’s face it, you’d quite like the Associated-Rediffusion clock with it’s rotating adastral star hanging on your lounge wall, wouldn’t you?

 

Mitch, the Associated-Rediffusion clock

 

A-R would show the clock before every children’s show, not quite in the manner of “the big hand’s on the nine and the little hand’s on the five” which would come with Play School in 1964, but a more simple approach like “…so we can see that the time is a quarter-to-five, time for…”. A clever little trick where we could recognise the hand ‘shapes’ on the clock without actually being taught how to tell the time.

Not all A-R’s announcers joined in. If chief announcer Redvers Kyle was on children’s watch he’d have none of this, just his customary straight to the camera announcing the next programme, Ollie and Fred had to wait until the next day. It was Redvers Kyle who, during a continuity break in the mid-sixties and without a trace of sensitivity informed London’s children “We’ve just heard from Hollywood that Walt Disney has died. Now this afternoon’s edition of…”.

Some other ITV regional companies spiced up their continuity presentation of the children’s strand with puppets and station mascots.

 

Tingha, Tucker, Jean Morton and a camera

ATV’s Jean Morton with Tingha and Tucker.

 

Westward’s rabbit Gus Honeybun springs to mind as does ATV’s Tingha and Tucker Club in the Midlands but it was Associated-Rediffusion who were able to interact between continuity and programmes with such panache, something that their successors Thames Television never managed.

It was not until the early eighties that the BBC took up the idea which would morph into the Cbeebies and CBBC strands and eventually into their respective channels.

Now, how did that song go? Oh yes, “A-B-C-D-E, goodbye from Willum and me…”

Goodnight children… Everywhere.

 

You Say

2 responses to this article

Paul Wheeler 2 March 2022 at 9:13 am

Some great memories there.

Frustratingly for me, personal recollections of Rediffusion continuity is mostly just out of reach. I was around in the 60’s, but was very much a ‘BBC child’ as my parents controlled the dial in to roof of the set (an old Murphy set with a pop up lid).

Interesting Rediffusion could be very pally with children’s continuity, but totally stuffy at other times- evening announcements normally all out of vision, apart from (I think?) the final closedown announcement.

So- am I right in thinking ‘5 O’clock club’ and it’s variants like ‘Tuesday Rendezvous’ were done entirely from the continuity studio? Until reading this article I assumed they were more substantial programmes, requiring a main studio in the way ‘Magpie’ or ‘Blue Peter’ did- otherwise Muriel Young would have been dashing back and forth between studios! But it does explain why I have very vague memories of Muriel Young announcing the first programme at 4.45 (on the odd day my mum let me find out what was on ‘the other side’).

Geoff Nash 4 March 2022 at 7:56 pm

Replying to Paul Wheeler.
From what I recall the continuity shifts were separate from the presenting ones, so someone else would be in the continuity chair while Muriel was doing ‘Five O’Clock Club’, quite possibly it would be Redvers Kyle with his straight announcement minus owl and dog. So there would be variations throughout the week, but overall the ‘joined up’ effect was still there.

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Sunday 14 August 2022