Baby Boomer Alert: How Many Remember “Miss Frances And The Ding Dong School?” (VIDEO)
Long before Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and Mr. Roberts this show was the number one pre-school children’s show in America.
Frances Horwich was an education administrator in Chicago when she was tapped to host this very early children’s educational show. The budget for the show was very limited and it aired initially on just one TV station, WNBQ-TV in Chicago. Her fame and the show soon spread from coast to coast.
She began each program by “ringing the old school bell” to call the nation’s children together for a half-hour of music, crafts and reading. Miss Frances was the first TV children’s show host to actually look into the camera as if talking to the children. This innovative technique would later be employed by virtually every kid’s show host, from Buffalo Bob Smith to Fred Rogers.This plain-looking woman from the Midwest was no pushover, however.
When the grasp of commercialism started to invade her show she resisted. She said she would never advertise a toy a small child could not play with. This found the schoolmarm butting heads with the corporate heads and money men of the advertising world.
And she won.
In 1956, Miss Frances folded her show and walked away fro it (much to the dismay of those who were eager to make money from “The Ding Dong School”). And, she not only left the show…she took it with her!
A sly businesswoman herself, Frances Horwich had successfully negotiated all ownership of the show for herself. She syndicated it, and brought it back on TV where it ran successfully until `1966.
Charles Schulz credited Horwich as “a true pioneer” and mentioned her in many of his “Peanuts” comic strips.
Miss Frances died in 2001 at the age of 94.