WITH little else to do on these cold winter nights except brew up a nice, hot cup of tea and sift through a long list of unsuitable TV programmes to watch, we would once again like to switch on for a few minutes to Alan Keeling, as he recalls more memories of watching the television in days gone by: “Children of the 1950s, who have now grown up to be possibly grandparents in their own right, will well remember Children’s TV favourites such as Harry Corbett and his beloved glove puppet Sooty, and larger than life characters such as Billy Bunter.
"But describing the appeal of these somewhat antiquated classics to the youngsters of today, who have such a wide variety of hi-tech animated heroes to watch on dozens of channels, can prove tricky. However their existence laid the foundations for the development of modern television and all its gizmos, and for that we should always remember them with a great deal of affection, not to mention nostalgia.
“In 1963 an imported children’s programme from Canada caught the imagination of the 6 to 8 year old age group, and it was called Mr Piper. Thirty-nine half-hour shows were made in colour by Pied Piper Films for ITC, produced by Allan Wargon from an original idea by Martin Andrews.
The host of the show was a rather large Canadian opera singer and actor named Alan Crofoot, who also appeared in several other TV series including The Forest Rangers and R.C.M.P.
As Mr Piper, Crofoot came dressed in a colourful costume with a flower in his hat and would introduce four segments to each half-hour show. He began by performing magic with his bag of tricks, followed by narrating a semi-animated cartoon fantasy story — for example Ali- Baba or The Magic Horn.
Travelogue The third segment was a short travelogue called Port of Call about children from other lands, and the programme ended with Animal Farm, featuring the three live animals, Bessie the bunny, Rupert the rat and Kookie the kitten, all filmed on a miniature farm yard set. ATV in the Midlands began screening Mr Piper in 1963 on a Monday afternoon at 5.25 pm, and because of its success school holiday reruns continued until 1975.
The theme song was quite catchy and some readers might be able to sing along to the following lyrics: “Come with me, come and see, all the wonders there will be. In my stories, in my songs, in everything where fun belongs. We’ll meet heroes, giants, bold, visit lands both hot and cold. Have magic tricks that shiver your skin, and laughs galore with animals in; our world of fun in the Pied Piper house.”