From Captain Penny to Superhost

Tales from the Golden Age of Cleveland Children’s Television, 1950s–1970s

MIke and Janice Olszewski


Children’s TV in Cleveland sprang from the creative minds of actors who often made it up as they went, with few special effects but lots of imagination. Barnaby, Woodrow the Woodsman, Franz the Toymaker, Romper Room’s Miss Barbara, Jungle Larry… Their built lifelong bonds with Northeast Ohio kids. These stories offer a glimpse behind the plywood sets and greasepaint …

Softcover / 189 pages / 5.5 x 8.5 in. / 36 photos / ISBN 9781598511123


It was the golden age of children’s television in Cleveland.

Let’s go behind the plywood sets, costumes, and grease paint for a close-up look at some remarkable personalities . . .

Children’s TV once sprang from the creative minds of actors who made it up as they went. Despite their low-budget productions, those classic shows and hosts of the 1950s–1970s formed lasting bonds with generations of Northeast Ohio kids.

Gene Carroll created Cleveland TV’s first kids’ show, “Uncle Jake’s House,” in 1947 with a menagerie of animals (Clarence the cat and Phillip the parrot were an uneasy pair!) and child stars.

Linn Sheldon wanted to be known as a serious actor but became such a hit as an elf—Barnaby—that he could never shake the character.

Woodrow the Woodsman lived in a fantasy forest—but when Clay Conroy lost his Woodrow wig, the story made real newspaper headlines.

Captain Penny (Ron Penfound) introduced Cleveland kids to the Three Stooges—annoying parents and TV critics alike. At least he reminded young viewers to behave themselves: “… you can’t fool mom.”

“Miss Barbara” Plummer of Cleveland’s “Romper Room” (a franchise produced locally) catered to the kindergarten crowd live on set while all dressed up in full skirts. (“At all times, one had to be a lady.”)

Marty Sullivan alternated between straight-laced station announcer and goofy Superhost, sometimes broadcasting news while still wearing Supe’s blue longjohns (behind the announcer’s desk).

Sideman “Jungle Larry” Tetzlaff parlayed a childhood love of snakes into a regular on-air gig . . . Jim Breslin of Ashtabula transformed weekdays at 5:15 p.m. into cowpoke Texas Jim for “Prairie Palace” . . .

Plus other intriguing Cleveland children’s TV trailblazers!

Additional information

Weight0.594 lbs
Dimensions8.5 × 5.5 × .045 in

Table of Contents


Occasionally, They Surprise You! (Gene Carroll’s “Uncle Jake” Takes TV in a New Direction)

Gene and Glenn and Jake and Lena (Cleveland’s Superstars Return to Scintillate the Small Fry)

Just Don’t Mention the Bookies (Welcome to Kousin Kay’s Korner)

An Uncle, a Kousin—My TV Family! (By Candy Lee Korn)

Schmile at Everybody! (Franz the Toymaker, the Polish Guy with a Swiss Accent)

Romper, Bomper, Stomper, Boo! (Romper Room)

Miss Barbara Remembers (An Interview with Barbara Plummer)

You Can Fool Some of the People All of the Time . . . (Captain Penny)

The Captain’s Voice (by Dan O’Shannon)

If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride (Our Dad, Captain Penny)

From Darkest Africa to Cedar Point (The Adventures of Jungle Larry)

Gimme Dat Shoe! (by Marty Sullivan)

We Became Experts in TV after One Year! (Jim Breslin, from Cowpoke to College Professor)

Have a Good Day Today, and Better Day Tomorrow (The Continuing Tale of Woodrow the Woodsman)

Do What I Do and Get Paid? (A Conversation with Clay Conroy)

The Return of the Woodsman (by Dave and Connie Little)

Tell Them Barnaby Said Hello (There Was So Much More Under that Battered Hat than Pointy Ears)

I Told Them to Turn Off the TV and Enjoy Being a Kid (Conversations with Linn Sheldon)

Growing Up with Barnaby (by Perry Sheldon)

They Weren’t Alone




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