Archive for March 27th, 2011

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Proof I recalled 1950s TV correctly!

March 27, 2011

Susan, flying on her magic chair from her kitchen

I was born in October of 1954, and I recall a black and white TV show from when I was very, very young with a girl named Susan and, believe it or not, a talking table named Pegasus. Recalling it later my parents said they remembered no such show. In fact, I couldn’t find anyone who had remembered ever seeing it. I knew I had, because when my brother was going to be born three and a half years after me I wanted to name him Susan, after the character in the show. That my parents remembered, but not why I liked the name. (I finally got my wish with my daughter – her middle name is Suzanne!

A rare color photo of Susan on the set

Anyway, teh intertubes is a wonderful thing, as we know. I finally decided to hunt on YouTube. It turns out there was one episode available – or at least part of one! Sorry – you’ll have to follow the link – it won’t embed.

The girl’s name was Susan Heinkel and she was a very grown-up thirteen years old when I saw her. Apparently the shows were broadcast live, hence no recordings. Videotape was in its infancy, and the first videotaped broadcast was only made in 1956. Kinescope recordings, essentially film recordings made from video monitors, had been made for some years but I have never seen one with very good quality. This episode must have been kinescoped. (It also must have been the one where the LIFE magazine photographer did his photo shoot; the sets all seem to be dressed identically. Perhaps I don’t remember, and the show looked about the same in every episode!)

Susan – all images must be from the same shoot at the same episode

Apparently the show started in 1956 as a local Chicago show, shot at WBBM’s TV studios on McClurg Court on the north side of Chicago. It was called “Susie’s Show.” The following year it was picked up on CBS, when I saw it, probably on WTOL Channel 11 from Toledo. At that time it was given the more formal name, “Susan’s Show.”  It was only on TV that one more year.

There were only three cast members: Susan, John Coughlin, who did all the voices, including Mr. Pegasus, and Rusty, a live dog. Broadcasting a live show with a preteen girl, an offstage voice actor and a live animal had to have been daunting!

Susan and Rusty, apparently admonishing Mr. Pegasus!

I only remember three TV shows from my very early youth…”Susan’s Show,” “Supercar,” and “Superman.” Yep, even back then I seemed to have an affinity for science-fiction and fantasy. None of that cowboys and Indians stuff for me!

(My parents say I was a great fan of the Mickey Mouse Club, though; I remember it from later, but not from that early age.)

I really was believing I mixed things up that I saw when I was young – maybe a skit on a special, or something like that – not a series. I couldn’t imagine it would have that much of an impact on me, though, if I had seen it only once. It turns out this show would have aired just prior to my brother’s birth, so it makes even more sense.

Anyway, this was a very fond memory. The actual clip is a little spooky, now. John Coughlin, who was a weatherman on WBBM Channel 2 in Chicago for many years, has that bit of an acerbic edge to him that I hear in a lot of 1950s men on TV and film…sort of like the one Clark Kent/Superman has in the Superman 1950s series. They almost sound a little PO’d, or something. Here’s an interesting article about her and the show, from Time Magazine. (Particularly interesting is that one of the mechanical characters in the orchestra is named Gregory – which was my brother’s name!)

The orchestra “operators”

What happened to Susan? The comments in the video said her married name was Susan Heinkel Bayer. A Google search found someone by that name who did some audio dramas, perhaps originally done for radio. There’s not much information to go on, so I don’t know where she is today!

Supercar – one of the first Gerry Anderson marionette TV shows

What is really odd is how Susan’s voice on the YouTube clip does sound familiar, somehow – and kids don’t talk like that nowadays! As a grandparent of girls roughly that age, I wonder how the huge amount of video they have been exposed to will affect them. We had so little, our parents even less, our children somewhat more. Now, it’s a constant onslaught. Kids learn to filter at a very early age – at least, I hope they do.

That’s something to ponder on another day. It was just nice to see Susan again, and to know that she actually did exist!

And thanks to alert reader thirteen (see comments below), here is her wedding announcement:

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