The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour

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The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour, as seen from WCAU-TV's control room in 1948.

The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour (later known as The Children's Hour) was a variety show with a cast of children, including some who later became well-known adult performers. It had a long run for more than three decades. The program was sponsored by Horn & Hardart, which owned restaurants, bakeshops and automats in New York City and Philadelphia.

Radio[edit]

Launched on Halloween day, October 31, 1927, the program was initially broadcast on WCAU Radio in Philadelphia, hosted by Stan Lee Broza, and was later aired on NBC Radio in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. The original New York host was Paul Douglas, followed by Ralph Edwards and finally Ed Herlihy.

Horn and Hardart's slogan was "Less work for Mother," and there were several versions of this song heard on the program:

Less work for mother; let's lend her a hand.
Less work for mother so she'll understand.
She's your greatest treasure;
Let's make her life a pleasure.
Less work for mother dear.[1]

Television[edit]

When the program went to television, it was a radio-TV simulcast. The television premiere was on WCAU-TV in Philadelphia in 1948, followed by WNBT(TV) in New York in 1949, telecast on Sunday mornings. The hosts were Broza in Philadelphia and Herlihy in New York.

A number of performers became quite successful after their work on the Philadelphia TV series, including Ted Arnold (musical director for Glenn Yarbrough and José Feliciano), Frankie Avalon, Rosemary Clooney, Buddy DeFranco, Eddie Fisher, Connie Francis, Dan Gralick, Joey Heatherton, Kitty Kallen, Rose Marie, Bernadette Peters, Ann Sheridan, Arnold Stang, Ezra Stone (radio's original Henry Aldrich) and Bea Wain. Al Alberts (of The Four Aces) had a 30-year children's variety show modeled on the Horn & Hardart show where he had appeared as a child.[2]

David Soren recalled the show of the mid-1950s:

This nickel-plated Horn & Hardart Automat coffee dispenser panel with embossed foliate and scroll devices dates from 1902-25.
In 1956 I joined The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour in Philadelphia located in WCAU CBS Studio One at City Line Avenue. I was nine, I think, one of the youngest regular cast members they had, although some guy named Jerry Donahue had been taken by them at age five years before. I was certainly the youngest of this bunch though. They paid for singing lessons for me, and acting coaching, and I remember that it became hard to stay in regular school, do my vaudeville shows and rehearse my parts for the show plus attend rehearsals, singing lessons and the actual live performance every week. I became a team with a young and very cute girl named Cheryl and we sang songs such as "Sioux City Sue," "I'm Blue Every Sunday" and our big one. "On the Beach with You," for which they built us a beach set with parasols and brought in actual sand onto the soundstage! The one thing I really recall about the Children's Hour is that all the little girls were gorgeous. Unlike public school where you were around "ordinary people" as we called them in our little niche at WCAU, everyone here or nearly everyone was gorgeous and talented and smart too, because if you couldn't adapt to the vagaries of live tv you were gone in a hurry, and everything did often go wrong. The Children's Hour, I learned later, was the most prestigious kiddie show you could be on in Philadelphia. It had been founded by Stanley Broza (who insisted on being called Stan Lee Broza). He was a big baldheaded guy with lots of energy who founded the show on radio in 1928. Since that time many famous stars got their start on it. I can remember that the Nicholas Brothers and Kitty Kallen the band singer were on. A sister show was started successfully in New York City but the Philly show was the original. By 1948 it was one of the first radio shows to successfully make the transition to tv and featured such future greats as Eddie Fisher. It was on Sundays from 11:30am to 12:30 at WCAU.[3]

The closing song was sung to the tune of "A Bicycle built for Two":

Childhood, childhood
Sweetest days of all
Children playing hide and seek and ball
Tripping to school so merry
The Golden Rule to study
Oh, how we'll miss, the years of bliss
When our childhood days are gone.[1]
Interior of New York Automat at 1165 Sixth Avenue showing areas for beverages and pies in right foreground with change booth at extreme right.

The series came to an end in the summer of 1958. Stan Broza died on December 15, 1970.

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