Romper, bomper, stomper, boo.
Tell me, tell me, tell me do.
Magic mirror tell me true.
Did all my friends have fun today,
did all of our friends have fun with us today?
Miss Mary Ann (Mary Ann King), Romper Room host extraordinaire, died yesterday. The children’s TV series, beloved by Gen Xers, ran from 1953 to 1994. It had several local hosts across the United States and Miss Mary Ann was the host in Los Angeles where I lived from 1967 to 1974. My husband grew up in Northern California and also watched her.
We both loved Miss Mary Ann and her magic mirror. I also loved the puppets, stick horses, cardboard box cars and Bozo the Clown punching bags. I had many happy days watching her. Rest in peace, Miss Mary Ann!
About Romper Room
Romper Room was a rare case of a series being franchised and syndicated, so local affiliates—Los Angeles and New York were prime examples—could produce their own versions of the show instead of airing the national telecast. For some time local shows all over the world used the same script but with local children. Kids would be on waiting lists for years (sometimes before birth) to be on the show. It was called “an actual kindergarten”. Originally filmed in Baltimore, Romper Room eventually moved its broadcast facilities to Chicago, then moved back to Baltimore in 1981.
Each program would open with a greeting from the hostess and the Pledge of Allegiance (unless the episode was not broadcast in America). Then the hostess and her group of children would embark on 30 or 60 minutes of games, exercises, songs and moral lessons, which were regularly accompanied by background music. The hostess (or sometimes the children in cadence) would always ask “Mr. Music, please.” to prompt the background music into playing. The young cast was rotated every two months and ranged from four to five years old.
Romper Room tried to teach its young charges to be polite. For instance, the hostesses were always addressed as “Miss”, and many of the hostesses had prior experience in working with small children, as many were former kindergarten teachers.
The hostess would also serve milk and cookies to the children, with prayer offered before eating. The famous Romper Room prayer went
“God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”
A recurring character was Mr. Do-Bee, an oversized bumblebee who came to teach the children proper deportment; he was noted for always starting his sentence with “Do Bee”, as in the imperative “Do be”; for example, “Do Bee good boys and girls for your parents!” There was also a “Mr. Don’t Bee” to show children exactly what they should not do. Do-Bee balloons were also manufactured. Each balloon featured a painted sketch of Do-Bee on it. When the balloons were inflated and then released, they would fly around the room slowly emitting a buzzing sound. These balloons were made available for purchase to the public.
The show used the then-popular Mattel Jack-in-the-box for its opening and closing titles, with its traditional nursery rhyme “Pop Goes the Weasel” theme song. Starting in 1981, a new, original theme song was used.
At the end of each broadcast, the hostess would look through a “magic mirror” – actually an open frame with a handle, the size and shape of a hand mirror – recite the rhyme,
“Romper, stomper, bomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?”
She would then name the children she saw in “televisionland”, saying, for example, “I can see Kathleen and Owen and Julie and Jimmy and Kelly and Tommy and Bobby and Jennifer and Martin” and so forth. Kids were encouraged to mail in their names, which would be read on the air – first names only.
Cities With Romper Room Hosts
Quad Cities, Iowa/Illinois
Little Rock, Arkansas
New York City
Salt Lake City, Utah
St. Louis, Missouri
Here’s another picture of Miss Mary Ann at a promo for Romper Room. She handed out Do-Bee stickers to fans. The picture was taken at a furniture store in Covina, California.
Many original Romper Room hosts have passed away. Frequently, their deaths have been covered in local media because they were so beloved by their young (now old and older!) fans.
RIP Miss Mary Ann!