Miss Rosalyn and those Romper Room recollections
14:27 18 April 2014
Romper, bomper, stomper, boo, tell me, tell me, tell me do... and I can still see Miss Rosalyn sitting in the nursery surrounded by boys and girls in one of the most enchanting TV shows produced by Anglia Television from its studios in Norwich.
It really is 50 years since the Evening News and Eastern Daily Press announced that Anglia was launching a new infant teaching series to be known as Romper Room and it turned thousands of tiny tots into stars of the small screen.
And one reason why it was such a success was that the hostess of the series was the delightful and much-loved Rosalyn Thompson, from Attlebridge, who was chosen from 230 women, including one Esther Rantzen, who wanted the job.
She was the Norwich nurse and nanny turned hostess that both the children and grown-ups across East Anglia took to their hearts.
This “live” and often chaotic kindergarten, for boys and girls aged between three and six who had never met before, was compulsive viewing for thousands of people and those who appeared on it have never forgotten their five minutes of fame.
The idea and the name for the revolutionary new show came from America. In 1953 Bert Claster, a producer in Baltimore, installed his wife, Nancy, a former nursery school teacher, as the original hostess.
Other television stations were allowed to copy the programme just so long as they stuck to the original format and that every Miss Romper Room, wherever they were, was sent to them for training.
And so it was that Rosalyn, who had been a nurse at the Jenny Lind Hospital before becoming a nanny, was sent to the USA for formal training with Bert and Nancy – quite a bold adventure in those days.
“The Anglia job sounds just wonderful. I can hardly believe I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen from so many,” said Rosalyn whose father, Mr G J W Thompson was the Conservative agent for Central Norfolk.
The idea was that the new programme would go out daily and would include songs, games and stories for the under-six-year-olds.
Anglia announced that in each of the programmes with Rosalyn would be six children from the Anglia region, a different half dozen in each show.
Rosalyn told our writer Jennie Cassels half a century ago that she thought appearing in front of the cameras would be an ordeal at first, although during her film test she was so absorbed in trying to keep the attention of the children she forgot about her surroundings.
When the show finally went on air it was a smash hit and Miss Rosalyn kept smiling as the children ran, jumped, shouted, painted and just enjoyed themselves.
She was also helped by her two puppet bees – Mr Do Bee and Mr Don’t Bee – and she also spotted many other children through her magic mirror...such happy days for the young and young at heart.
Rosalyn went on to present more than 2,000 shows over 12 years.