“Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…”
Do you remember looking forward to hearing those words on the wireless every weekday at 1.45 pm? Ah, those were the days – days when the wireless was your rather large, often wooden, radio and not your internet connection.
Listen with Mother
The words were first spoken by Julia Lang in 1950 as she presented the first ever broadcast of Listen with Mother on the BBC Light Programme.
Aimed at the under-five age group, children listened with delight to a daily selection of stories, nursery rhymes and songs, with popular favourites including ‘Polly Put the Kettle On’ and ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’. Of course, they didn’t always listen with mother, because housewives in the 1950s were far too busy to sit down for 15 minutes!
Watch with Mother
By 1953, and in no small way prompted by the televised coverage of the Queen’s coronation, more homes in Britain had a TV set – albeit a rented one. Listen with Mother was now joined by Watch with Mother, and so began a cycle of children’s TV shows that would continue until 1975.
The programmes aired from 3.45 pm to 4 pm each weekday, switching to 1.30 pm in 1955, and it seems the classic line-up is fondly etched into the memories of those who watched them.
Many members of the Spring Chicken community have commented: “Monday was Picture Book, Tuesday was Andy Pandy, Wednesday was Bill and Ben, Thursday was Rag, Tag and Bobtail, and Friday was The Woodentops,” demonstrating just how important these shows were in their childhood.
Which programme was your favourite?
Of course, Daddy was at work at 1.30pm!
Picture Book was all about making things, and original presenter Patricia Driscoll would say to viewers, “Do you think you could do this? I am sure you could if you tried.” In 1957, Patricia left Picture Book to play the role of Maid Marion in the TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood.
New presenter Vera McKechnie was joined by a talking dachshund puppet named Sausage, and regular features included the Adventures of the Jolly Jack Tars and the story of Bizzy Lizzy with her magic flower and doll named Mo.
But, did you ever join in and make hills and valleys in your own sand tray?
According to Spring Chicken Facebook followers, Andy Pandy was a bit like Marmite – you either loved it or you hated it! Everyone who remembers Watch with Mother remembers Andy Pandy, Teddy and Looby Loo, but not always fondly. Some say,
Lovely memories… I just loved Andy Pandy.
While others say, “It was last ditch if I had to watch Andy Pandy; it was barmy!”
So, what do you remember about the programme?
The building blocks that turned over at the beginning of each programme to spell Andy Pandy; Andy’s striped romper suit and hat; the picnic basket the characters lived in, or perhaps Looby Loo’s ‘Here we go Looby Loo’ song? Andy, Teddy and Looby Loo were clearly puppets, but as one Facebook follower said,
“As a child, I didn’t see the strings.”
Each episode would end with a song:
“Time to stop play, just for today, Andy and Teddy must now go away. Time to stop play, just for today, Andy is waving goodbye…, goodbye…, goodbye” –
with more than one Facebook comment saying,
“I used to cry when they said Andy is saying goodbye… goodbye… When he and Teddy climbed into the basket, I sobbed every time!”
Bill and Ben
Bill and Ben were flowerpot men. They each lived in a flowerpot in the garden, and between them grew Little Weed.
It’s fair to say that not much actually happened in each episode, but everyone remembers Bill and Ben’s Oddle Poddle or “Flobbalob” language, created and spoken by Peter Hawkins who also voiced the Daleks and Captain Pugwash, and Little Weed’s answer to every question, “Weeeeeed!”
The memory of Bill and Ben lives on in gardens to this day…
Rag, Tag and Bobtail
If you can remember watching Rag, Tag and Bobtail, can you remember which animal was which? In case you need a reminder, Rag was a hedgehog, Tag was a mouse, and Bobtail was a rabbit, and they were all glove puppets. The stories were simple and there was little drama beyond baby bunnies getting covered in mud, but as so many of the Spring Chicken community have pointed out, “Children were much more innocent back then, and allowed to grow up in their own time.”
At the start of every programme, the Woodentop family were introduced one by one. See how many you can remember: Daddy, Mummy, Jenny, Willy, and Baby Woodentop, and, the star of the show, Spotty Dog – “The very biggest spotty dog you ever did see.”
The Woodentops were a “middle-class” family living on a farm. Daddy had Sam Scrubbitt to help him outdoors, and Mummy Woodentop had Mrs Scrubitt to help her in the house. Buttercup the cow made an appearance in some episodes, but everyone who loved The Woodentops loved Spotty Dog the most… “especially the episode where he drinks the baby’s bath water!”
Watch with Mother certainly brings back many happy memories, and it seems that many children in the ’60s did watch with their mother, creating treasured moments that have never been forgotten. The shared fondness for Children’s TV back in the day can be summed up in this frequently echoed comment: “My mum would let me watch this every day. I so looked forward to sitting with her and I am sure she loved it too. Oh, what a lovely memory.”