Television was in its infancy in the early 1950s. Most stations only broadcast shows for a few hours each day, and most programs were geared towards children or housewives. In 1953, Bert and Nancy Claster of Baltimore created a television program called Romper Room. Targeted at preschoolers, Romper Room aimed to teach children good manners, morality, and civic mindedness. The program quickly became popular and was soon syndicated in local markets throughout the United States and beyond.
Romper Room came to Channel 5 in Cleveland in 1958. Barbara Plummer, a housewife from Norwalk, answered an advertisement for a job as a television host, never thinking she would get the job. However, Channel 5 hired her after one interview and, with no prior experience in acting or in television, she became “Miss Barbara” in 1958.
One of the most memorable parts of Miss Barbara’s show involved her Magic Mirror. When she held the mirror up to the camera, she could see children at home watching Romper Room. She would then call out, “I see Sarah, and Patty, and Whitney…”. Children sat glued to their televisions hoping to hear their names called.
Although Romper Room stayed on the air until the 1990s in some places, Barbara Plummer left the show in 1971 and pursued her passion of giving back to the community. She worked with many Cleveland institutions, including Playhouse Square and the Western Reserve Historical Society. Sadly, Miss Barbara passed away in March 2010.
To honor Barbara Plummer, the Museum Advisory Council of the Western Reserve Historical Society produced the following video, Miss Barbara: Reflections from the other side of the magic mirror, in September of 2005: Watch Video Here.