“Romper, bomper, stomper boo,
Tell me, tell me, tell me do,
Magic mirror tell me today,
Did our friends have fun
With us at play?”
Remember the children’s television show of the ‘60s? What child did not know the rhyme that opened the very popular children’s show, “Romper Room?”
It first appeared on Baltimore television in 1954, and ran in almost every major market for over three decades. It has been referred to as “truly a gem in the world of children’s television.”
Each week, six children, preschoolers, were selected to be on the show, where they played games, read books, learned the alphabet, were taught good manners in a gentle way and were presided over by a teacher. In 1955, the Lansing, Mich., franchise hired a teacher who was featured as “Miss Jean,” and whom we know in Green Valley today as Jeannie (Mrs. David) Moore.
At the tender age of 3, Jean started singing on “Uncle Howdy’s Kiddie Jamboree” in Lansing on station WJIM. She was so tiny she had to stand on a piano bench to reach the microphone. She continued singing from kindergarten through sixth-grade for any special school events.
Took private lessons
At age 9, Jean began private voice lessons at the Wilde Conservatory of Music in Lansing. She sang in holiday programs, and in many special school events. At 12, Jean sang every Saturday morning on local radio for over two years. She was also a regular soloist at several churches.
In school, she performed in operettas and other special musical programs, and entertained at clubs such as Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis.
In 1948, Jean was named “Miss Lansing” in the Miss America pageant, while a student at Michigan State College. At that time, she sang in the Lansing Civic Light Opera. Also, Jean married, and became mother to three children.
After a move with her family to Grand Rapids, Jean sang in the Grand Rapids Light Opera Company. It was at this time, that she heard “Romper Room” was in town auditioning for a teacher; she auditioned, and, to her great joy, was hired.
After training in Baltimore, Jean, now “Miss Jean,” went on the air Nov. 19, 1955. The program aired every morning, Monday through Friday. With this busy schedule, Jean says, she was still able to be home at lunchtime to eat with her own children.
Lots of visitors
In addition to the aforementioned activities, the program had visiting firemen, doctors, dentists, policemen, even a zoo official who brought live animals for the children to see. On one visit, the zookeeper brought a live python, who wrapped himself around “Miss Jean’s” arm and up her sleeve— zounds!
“We talked of health habits, good manners, sharing and caring,” explains Jean. A bulletin board, prominently displayed, had a message on it every day. The board depicted a bee, called “Mr. Do-Bee,” who gave worthwhile messages to the children.
Says Jean, “The children loved Mr. Do-Bee.” She continues, “The children watching at home were encouraged to take part in all of the activities. We also had school groups visit on Thursdays of each week.” Jean was cited for her outstanding work with the preschoolers, which the program helped cultivate.
Outside of the television studio, as “Romper Room” teacher, Jean’s responsibilities included visiting children’s wards at local hospitals, take part in parades, and the various activities created by her sponsors, such as breakfast with the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, to name a few. In 1964, Jean was honored by the Grand Rapids Education Association with a Certificate of Appreciation and Honorary GREA Membership, of which she is very proud.
WOOD-TV’s “Romper Room” was unique in that Jean was it’s teacher for 13 years, a record among Romper Room teachers! In 1960, a management decision was made to discontinue the program. There was such an outcry from parents and children that “There is no doubt, ‘Romper Room’ was ‘King of the Hill’,” claims Jean. She continued as teacher through 1968, and then retired from broadcasting.
Jean then went to work for United Way, and, later, when she and her husband David moved to Kansas City, she continued her work for United Way and totaled 19 years with that organization.
In 1984, Jean and David felt it was time to retire. At the suggestion of a real estate agent friend, the Moores came to Green Valley to “look it over.” They liked what they saw, had a home built and have been here seven years. They are avid golfers, and belong to the Desert Hills Golf Club, and the Country Club of Green Valley.
They are also members of the Arizona Opera League and help with fund-raising. And, no surprise, of course, Jean sings with the Valley Presbyterian Church choir, where she has met a faithful viewer and admirer of hers from her “Romper Room” days.
She is Cyndy (Duyser) Hargreaves of Green Valley and is thrilled to know her old “Romper Room” teacher.
Jean and David share six children: Greg, Cindy, Amy, Kim, Stephanie and David III, and do very much enjoy their seven grandchildren.
Lois Weinert is a free-lance writer who lives in Green Valley.