Here’s a House. Here’s a Door. Windows, one, two, three, four. Ready to knock. Turns the Lock. It’s Play School.
Those were the words introducting that great institution of British kids television, Play School. Starting in 1964, it ran until 1988 when it was replaced by Playdays, which was similar in structure, but not half as good.Â Still, at least Playdays made more sense than the Teletubbies and other similar creations who no longer speak anything close to proper English, but I digress…
What was so good about Play School was the range of friendly presenters who used to sing, dance and tell stories. Brian Cant, Floella Benjamin, Derek Griffiths, Johnny BallÂ and Carol Leader were my favourite presenters, and I used to love the way they addressed the camera as though they were talking to you directly.
When I was little I really believed they were talking to me, and was completely suckered in when they would ask a question, I’d answer and they would respond appropriately. When I got a bit older I realised what was going on, so used to spoil it for my younger sister by answering all the questions the wrong way. For example:-
Presenter: Do you like playing football?
Presenter: So do I!
Then there were the toys, who would be brought out to aid the presenters in telling a story or singing a song. I used to love Humpty the best, a big green egg shape with tartan legs and pom pom hair and nose. Jemima was a floppy rag doll with massively long stripy legs, and then there was Big Ted and Little Ted, two very similar looking teddy bears, except in size. Finally, there was Hamble. I didn’t like Hamble much. She was a sort of Tiny Tears style doll, but with a much uglier face, and as a kid I felt that Hamble wasn’t really a name. It sounded more like a hamster.
I believe there was also a pet Cockatoo, called Katoo, but I don’t remember quite what they did with him other than say “look at his white feathers” or “hasn’t he got a big beak”.
Then there was the clock where you’d learn to tell the time (“the big hand is pointing straightÂ up, so that means it’s something o’clock”)Â and of courseÂ the windows. We had to guess which one, square, round or arch, we were going to look through today. The camera would then zoom in on a random window and a short film would be played, normally about some small child going somewhere with there parents to learn about something.
The BBC website has a fair bit of information about Play School, although unfortunately most of it is pre-1980.Â Still worth a look though.