h1

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 thirteenyears 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!

Advertisements

14 comments

  1. Impressive research, Jeff. I’m glad the history and images of the show haven’t been totally lost. I was a little too young to remember this one, but it looks like something that would have captured my attention.


    • I too watched the Susan show. If I remember correctly, it was on after school about 4 pm weekdays when it aired in Chicago. I was born in 1949 – I think I was about 6 when I watched it. Similar to your journey to discover the show, I looked it up on the internet. Once a couple of years ago, and then again to discover the Youtube clip and your post. There were a slew of programs I liked to watch — “Ding Dong School” “Pinky Lee” “Garfield Goose” that you don’t hear about any more. These had enough impact on me to begin a long journey that eventually led me to a career as a film director. I must confess that a few times a year I would embellish some very mild cold symptoms into an excuse to stay home from school just to watch these shows and the great quiz shows that were on during the time period – “Truth or Consequences with Bob Barker was my favorite. It’s nice to know that someone found “Susan’s Chair” to have the magic and appeal I found it to have. Maybe it was the self-sufficiant responsible, imaginative, caring Susan that was alluring. A girl who might be a fine baby-sitter for a 6 year old was probably what I was thinking. Can you imagine a girl doing a one-girl show like this today and sustaining the interest of her audience? It was a bygone era whose qualities can live on if we choose to teach our kids and grandkids and share what these things meant to us.


  2. Gosh, I remember this show! My mother used to sit me in a chair and pick it up and I would pretend I was Susan!


    • It’s why I was so mad when my mother told me I was going to have a baby brother or sister…and then got a baby brother. I wanted a baby sister named Susan!


      • Heh-heh, cute. I could have only been about 5 years old, if that, when I watched this show. We lived in N.Y.C. at the time. I also liked the old Savarin coffee commercial. Thanks for posting this, by the way, I also wondered if I had remembered the flying chair show correctly or if it was my imagination! Too bad you didn’t have a sister named Susan, btw!


  3. I am 66 now. When I was 5, about 1950, there was a tv marionette show that no one I can find can remember. When it opened, in the evening, a very skinny pupette man would be playing the piano while smoking a cigarette. He would explain what tonight’s episode was about. There was a mouse character but not Mickey. It was a children’s mystery I think, all done with strings showing on each character. It was only on about a year or so. What’s the name of it?


    • I have no idea. You are ten years older than I; I’m afraid I’m no help to you!


  4. Thank you thank you thank you! I was born in 1950 and grew up near Chicago. I thought my memory of this show was faulty. I’ve asked others about it, and no one else recalled it. Yay! I’m not crazy.


  5. I’m 60, and I remember seeing a few minutes of the show on one occasion, probably in 1957. For 55 years now, I’ve been haunted by the memory of some nameless girl and her talking table. It recurred to me again today, so I decided to Google “talking table”. Well, I finally know who Susan and Pegasus were, and I guess I’m not crazy either. I think this Google thing might just catch on some day.


    • Glad I could be of service! 🙂 Now if I could just find out who performed a song that was on WJR Radio in Detroit in the 1960s – “No Deer Are Born In Dearborn, Michigan”!


  6. This is amazing (especially the youtube link). I too don’t know anyone else who remembered this show, and I had only vague memories of it myself. I was born in February 1953, fyi, on Long Island, NY.


  7. OMG I have talked about this show (could not remember the name) so many times over the years and no one knew what I was talking about. All I could remember was a talking table and a girl. Everyone thought I was crazy. Then I decided to check on Google and there it was. Such fond memories of a slower and fun time in life. Thanks for doing the research and finding the proof that I too recalled 1950’s TV correctly!


  8. I have talked about this show for years and no one ever remembered it. It was my favorite show!


  9. Thanks for putting this up and identifying the show. I grew up in Connecticut and had a very vague memory of watching a girl in a flying chair who went to some magical land. It captured my imagination as a child. I found the kinescope on YouTube and it looks so quaint now and very much a slower paced and more innocent world.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: