During its five decades on the air, Romper Room gave millions of young children their first exposure to a preschool/kindergarten environment. The show featured a hostess who would lead a group of 7-8 children in various educational and play activities. The children were about 4-5 years old, and were rotated every couple of months. Running from 1953-1994, Romper Room was originally filmed in Baltimore, later moved to Chicago, and then returned to Baltimore in 1981. The show was franchised and syndicated, which means that local stations could opt to produce their own versions of the show instead of airing a national telecast. So if you watched the show when you were little, chances are that you saw a different hostess and different kids on the set than viewers in other parts of the country did.
Just like real schoolrooms in those days, each show would begin with the hostess leading the kids in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the hostess would read books to the kids, teach them the alphabet, and direct them in playing games, doing exercises, singing songs, and learning moral lessons and polite behavior, all accompanied by background music.
Consistent with the show's schoolroom ethos, many of the Romper Room hostesses were former kindergarten teachers who knew how to deal with young children, and they were always addressed as “Miss” by the children on the show, as real teachers were addressed by their students in those days. When Romper Room debuted in Baltimore, its first hostess was Nancy Claster (“Miss Nancy”), who helped produce the series together with her husband. She was later replaced by her daughter, “Miss Sally.” In New York City, Romper Room was hosted by “Miss Louise,” followed by “Miss Mary Ann” and then “Miss Nancy” (Nancy Terrell).
The show also featured Do-Bee, a recurring character in a bumblebee costume, whose role on the show was to teach the children manners and proper behavior. He would always start his sentences with “Do Bee…” and then add a statement about how children should behave (e.g., “Do Bee polite to your parents!”).
One of the show’s features that I remember well would come at the end of the show, when the hostess would hold a “magic mirror” up to her face (actually just an open hand mirror frame, minus the mirror) and look through it to see all the viewers out in “televisionland.” She would then recite this rhyme: “Romper, bomper, stomper, boo! Tell me, tell me, tell me do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, have all my friends had fun at play?” Then she would start naming some of the children that she could “see” watching at home: “I can see Scotty and Kimberly and Julie and Jimmy and Kelly and all of you boys and girls out there!” Parents would mail in their kids’ names, so that they would be read out loud on the show. Of course it was quite a thrill if you heard your name called out (and if you had a fairly common name, chances were good that you would hear it at some point)!
Nancy Claster, the original hostess of Romper Room, wrote several books that are still available, including The Romper Room do bee book of manners and Romper Room Exercise Book: Physical Fitness for Boys and Girls .