In the latter years of WWII it was feared that Australia might be bombed, and because of this all kindergartens were closed. In their place a wonderful institution was born….Kindergarten of the Air. The programme was launched on the ABC in 1943 by Lady Zara Gowrie, wife of the then Governor General. I love the photo of her below. Is she giving the thumbs up to the new programme, or performing one of the action songs children would take to their hearts?
Immediately, little ones all over the nation listened in with rapt attention .
The first presenter was Miss Ruth Fenner, who became something of a celebrity among her young listeners (a future PM John Howard was a loyal fan) When she married in 1950, hundreds of children waited outside the church in Sydney’s Pymble to catch a glimpse of her. One little boy had sent her a letter asking if she would be wearing ‘the green dress and the hat with the hole in the top?’ He remembered seeing her wearing it two years earlier.
The radio programme was so successful that it continued long after peace was declared. However, on one occasion in 1946 there was a complaint over ‘sex education’. According to the complainant, identified only as Unappreciative;
At least a quarter of an hour was devoted to sex instruction to the children. Summary of the talk being – The kitten has a mother and father; the puppy has a mother and father; the little child has a mother and father. The mother of the child feeds and washes the baby. The mother cat feeds and licks the kitten, and so on ad nauseum. By the time the instructor had finished, the kitten’s mother and the puppy’s mother and the baby’s mother were all on the one low animal level.
During 1955, Kindergarten of the Air provided me with some of the most precious and closest times with my mother. When it came on at 9.30am my older siblings were at school and my father out working on the farm. Mum and I would sing the songs together, and cavort around the kitchen pretending to be anything from airplanes to elephants. By now Anita Munckton had taken over as presenter.
This is the song I remember best;
Oh, and this one. I’m sure we sang ‘puffer-trains’ though, not ‘puffer-bellies’.
Watch this little film of a youngster being a train! KINDERGARTEN OF THE AIR
Such simple, happy times. Thank you Kindergarten of the Air.
I later joined my siblings on Mr Bowden’s bus and happily went off to ‘proper’ kindergarten. Fortunately for me the teacher was just as loving as my mother and just as engaging as Miss Munckton. You were so special Mrs Harris.
By the way, my mother’s favourite ‘Kindergarten of the Air’ episodes were actually English comedian Joyce Grenfell’s Nursey School monologues, which she chuckled over and quoted from all her life.; ‘George….don’t do that!’