Sunday, June 04, 2006

Aunt Norma's Dark Past

I was thumbing through some old Springfieldians and came across an interesting article that delves into state senator Norma Champion's early days at KYTV as host of the Children's Hour. Champion parlayed her television notoriety into a city council seat and eventually defeated Craig Hosmer in 2002.

Her record as a legislator has been, arguably, one of the least distinguished and vacuous in southwest Missouri political history. You can read more about Aunt Norma at All About Norma.

Anyway, back to the crack investigative reporting on Aunt Norma from Issue #1 (Summer 1992) of the Springfieldian.

"Champion hosted the popular Saturday morning children's show "The Children's Hour", sharing the stage with puppets, pets and shy, embarrassed children.

". . . While Champion's service on City Council raised no question of character, a closer look at Champion's television years may reveal another side of the candidate. . . .The controversy centers around a contractual dispute between KYTV and children's entertainer Skinny McGinnis, who performed along with Champion on The Children's Hour broadcasts.

Department of Labor documents indicate that McGinnis filed a complaint against KYTV in April of 1975, a year before the show went off the air. McGinnis, a lifelong resident of Bois D'Arc, now lives in a rehabilitation center in north Springfield and is openly bitter about his relationship with Champion.

"Oh, she was all smiles while the cameras were rolling and the kids were there," said McGinnis, who insisted no pictures be taken. "I was the main draw on the show, and everybody knew it. Me and Rusty. When we asked her to go to bat for us she laughed in our faces - called us glorified prophylactics. Rusty was crushed."

Rusty Rooser, McGinnis's life-long friend and co-star, fell upon hard times with the close of the Children's Hour. After touring the midwest doing shows at libraries and county fairs, he was tragically killed and eaten by a group of transients at a north Springfield park in 1987. McGinnis does not speak of the incident.

Democrat Doug Harpool is challenging Champion for Missouri's 30th District senate seat.


At 9:41 PM, Blogger Granny Geek said...

ROFL! We didn't move here until 1994, so this is the first I've read about her TV days.

Do you suppose there are any old film clips out there?

At 11:17 PM, Blogger RSmith said...

I bet there are in the KY3 archives somewhere. I'd love to see Skinny and Rusty and Pistol Pete - and Norma, too. Skinny was right, they carried the show.

At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up watching "Aunt Norma" on Children's Hour. Dealing with the real Norma Champion is a very different memory. She used to be a customer at a retail business where I worked for a short period of time. Difficult does not even begin to describe the horrors of waiting on this woman. Everyone would run to the back to avoid being the person having to fulfill her demands. I would never vote for her.

At 7:26 AM, Blogger RSmith said...

It just kills me that she replaced one the area's best young leglislators in Craig Hosmer. The woman is clueless.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been reviewed and removed by the Department of Homeland Security.

At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Skinny said...

Damn tootin' we carried her skinny (no relation) butt. If it hadn't been for our talents she would still be doing sing-song songs and smearing birthday cake all over the faces of the tots who were forced onto the show for two hours of agony.

Our acting compared to hers was like comparing Sir Lawrence to Paris Hilton.

We hated her. The only one worse in town was Captain Briney and that damn monkey on Channel 10.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure Children's Hour continued airing past 1976 because I was one of those embarrassed children in the 1980s.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger RSmith said...

I think you're probably right on that one. The Springfieldian never won any awards for accuracy in reporting, but other than that, the story stands as written.

At 11:46 PM, Blogger MrsThurstonHowell said...

Is her competition, Channel 10's Aunt Alice Lowe of "Birthday Party" still around?

I always thought Rusty finally croaked from a bad case of the Poultry Pox.

At 9:54 PM, Blogger Gina said...

Yeah, I was also a watcher while just a wee most memorable moment was when Skinny once said "We'll be right back after these mAssages" rather than 'mEssages'. Yep..good times.

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very funny stuff! I was the audio guy for the last 4 years of the Children's Hour. It was a lot of fun. Fred Rains who did the voices of Skinny & Rusty stopped by the station last week, we got to chat for quite a while. Still a character as he nears 90.

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raines was also the voice of Pistol Pete, right? He was a pretty versatile guy around there.

Captain Briney was on every day after school, wasn't he? With Popeye cartoons and a fidgety monkey - was his name Mr. Salty?

Once the Stooges started up, I quit watching Popeye.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Jacke M. said...

Funny, I was one of those shy, embarrassed children who actually appeared on the show. I remember Aunt Norma quite well, and for all his ego stroking about how everyone knew "Skinny" and "Rusty" were the real draws of the show I don't have any memory of them at all. :0

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Camera Obscura said...

Not only did I grow up watching "Aint Normal" and Co., but my first stepfather was a field cameraman for the station during the mid-to-late 70s and I was in their Junior Achievement company for the 1978 - 79 school year. I can assure you that Children's Hour was still going on as late as 1980.

I think the reason Jacke M. may not remember Skinny and Rusty is because Norma was so frickin' terrifying in person as to wipe the rest of the experience from one's mind. The station staff's kids were the sacrificial "guests" for the annual Christmas show, so I lived through several tapings whilst my younger brother and sisters clung to me, rather frightened.

The woman wore too much make-up even for a TV show, had a "smile" that would frighten away carnivorous wildlife, and had 2-inch long acrylic fingernails that she used instead of a spatula to serve the end-of-show cake. And she spoke to everyone, even the floor crew who could have made her look horrid on camera, as if they were brain-damaged.

The fact that she could be elected to any position is just one of the reasons I got the hell outta Dodge at 18.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Lee C said...

DR. Norma Champion Is an amazing woman. She was my favorite professor at Evangel University, and in many ways a true mentor. I am a better man simply for knowing her. Folks I urge you to look at Her simply as a "servant". Not as a perfectionist but a person who always strives for excellence in all she does.
p.s. as far as politics goes you are indeed blessed to have her in office. I implore you...Be Thankful.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger RSmith said...

While I'm glad you had such a gratifying experience with (which is it, Dr. or Aunt?) Norma in the classroom, her political life is anything but gratifying for those of us who like to see progress in government. She appears to have never had an original thought, let alone a putting forth one piece of meaningful legislation. After working with puppets during her tv career, she is now in perfect lockstep with a Republican Party that is completely out of touch when it comes to solving very real problems that face our state and nation (poverty, education, infrastructure, environment). She has, in effect, become a puppet herself.

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's obvious that the article about Mr. McGinnis was done as satire, since Skinny McGinnus was one of the puppets, as voiced by Fred Raines. The show ran until the 80's, and characters getting eaten by transients is just too funny. Whoever wrote it was having great fun!

I was one of the camera operators on the show from 1973-1978, and just had to add my comment.

At 12:45 PM, Anonymous The Federalist said...

It's amazing that so many people will jump on the hate bandwagon started by a SATIRICAL piece. Did you not notice that Fred Raines voiced Skinny? That there IS no Skinny? How hilarious.

And by the way, I have known "Aunt" Norma since her Children's Hour days. She is a very sweet person. She continues working at Evangel as a professor while she represents the area in the legislature.

And any of you considering making a comment about not being able to devote enough time to the legislature, etc., might want to go read James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and others who did not believe that government service in the legislature should pull citizens away from their activities at home.

At 1:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the show as well, around 1977 or so. Aunt Norma didn't interact with the kids, but then again, neither did anyone else on the show. At all. Seriously. I actually kind of remember the puppeteer sneaking in to avoid us. No one spoke to us before taping began.

I also remember walking up to Fred Miller's weather map and moving a magnetic cloud model an inch or so to see if I could spot my "contribution" on TV that evening. It was corrected before airtime.

I do remember the castle and locks and keys on the set, but I wasn't chosen to pick a key. Oh, well. As I recall, the place smelled of paint and carpet.

In case you were wondering, my internet digging has found that the theme music is called The Syncopated Clock.

At 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evangel is, what? A fourth tier school? Is there a tier below fourth where "schools" like Liberty and Regents function as Adult Day Care Bible School?

No one should be surprised that Dr. Senator Aunt Norma is a success among peers, some of whom are sock puppets. The bar is as low as it is dry.

At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember Childrens Hour and Skinny and Rusty. It was my favorite time of day when I was small. I spent some time in the hospital when I was ill for a few weeks and Aunt Norma came and visited me after my parents contacted the TV station and told them how much it would mean to me. Please quit playing politics and don't comment on things you obviously know nothing about. You seem to be unhappy miserable people who try to take everyone else down with you.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that the surgery to remove your sense of humor went well. I hope you get over it someday.

At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing remains of the Captain Briney show (according to the TV station) -- no archives, nothing. Pity...they used to have a raffle at the Fox theater and feature kids on the show who won. Some of those kids might be famous today... oh well, it was probably live TV.


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