Ozarks Life: Celebrating Aunt Norma and The Children’s Hour

The History Museum on the Square has an exhibit on area Children’s Programming
Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 10:04 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 8:35 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Once upon a time, local tv stations had their own children’s programs all across our nation.

KYTV had one of the most-watched programs of all time, The Children’s Hour. It was launched just a few months after KY3 started broadcasting in 1953.

For 34-years, kids from all across the Ozarks hoped and dreamed of one day be “famous” by appearing on the program.

Four years into the show’s run, Aunt Norma took over as host. The rest, as they say, is in the history museum.

“I didn’t see it as an entertainment show,” Aunt Norma Champion said. “I never thought of it. And I didn’t particularly think of it as an educational show, per se. But I thought of it as I was an adult friend to these children.

From now until mid-October, there’s a tribute to children’s television in the Ozarks on the first floor of the History Museum on the Square. The centerpiece, the pieces of KY3′s history.

“It was everything that was good about this area,” John Sellars the executive director of the museum said. “It was children, it was enjoyment. It was hosts, who really cared about the kids.”

Inside a glass case, Skinny McInnis and Rusty Rooster along with their friends like Professor Doolittle sit silent after years of doing their jobs of being friends for area kids.

“It was just a pleasant way to spend some time in the afternoon,” Sellars said.

“After school, they didn’t have the activities they have now,” Aunt Norma said, “Some of them, a lot of them, lived out in rural areas and could not just easily go to someplace. And so television played a very big role.”

“And it was I geared it to a one-on-one,” Norma talked about the popularity of the show. “And I think that made a difference. They weren’t kids just watching other kids play.”

“It was all very personal. And I talked to them personally. And in fact, I would even say things like, ‘Hi, Mary,’ or ‘Hi, Betty Jo’, or ‘Hi Bill’ or something like that. And I would get a lot of the names from what they send in drawings. And it was a lot of interaction.”

To this day, fans from decades ago come up to Aunt Norma to say hello. A wonderful life for a woman who just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

“I felt one day like I ought to go down to KY3,” Aunt Norma said, “it was brand new, we didn’t even have a television then. I made an appointment with Carl Fox, who was the general manager. And he said, ‘I guess you came to audition for Children’s Hour.’ And I said, ‘No, what’s Children’s Hour?’ I’ve never even seen it. And I actually auditioned in his office for a show I had not ever seen.”

But plenty of area kids have seen and grown to love her. And this weekend, the History Museum is inviting the Ozarks to once again be guests of Aunt Norma when it hosts her at the Fox Theater.

“I never got to be on the show,” Sellars said, “so this is my chance to be on the show and do a one-on-one with Aunt Norma and ask her questions about what it was like.”

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Aunt Norma said, “for me and for the kids.”

The “Aunt Norma’s Hour, A Chat With Norma Champion” is at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 18 at the Fox Theatre on the Springfield Square. For tickets, you can click the History Museum on the Square’s website or call 417-831-1976 or you can email info@historymuseumonthesquare.org for more information. The museum asks to purchase your tickets in advance.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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