Willie the Worm - The
puppet worm character featured on the live Philadelphia based
children's program JUNIOR HI-JINX/CBS/1950-52 that aired on WCAU-TV
Willie, who sported a beanie cap and glasses,
lived under a college campus and squiggled out of hole to tell
Aesop's fables, jokes and teach science lessons in between the
cartoons shown on the show.
The show was so popular that once loyal fans
swamped the station switchboard with phone calls of protest when
the San Francisco United Nations Telecast forced a broadcast delay
of the popular Sunday morning children's program.
Newton the Mouse (never seen or heard) was the
show's off-camera assistant who projected the cartoons. "Roll that
Warren Wright was the creator of the program, as well as the voice
of Willie the Worm. No one ever knew who was behind the Willie the
Worm character while the show was on the air.
Wright built the Willie the Worm puppet for the show even though, as he
recalls in a phone interview, "had never made a puppet before." He
got the material for the puppet at a Pep Boys auto supply store.
As Wright reported on the 40th anniversary special "The First 40
Years" a one-hour special aired on WCAU-TV in 1988: "I walked
in to a Pep Boys just searching blindly for something and I found
some air intake hose which would be big enough to put my arm
through. And I cut it apart and you know it looked like a worm.
And that's how it really became Willie the Worm. I patched it here
and I patch it there."
The cost of the parts used to make the puppet totaled about $4.95.
The Willie the Worm show was also broadcast nationally on the
CBS-TV national network.
TRIVIA NOTE: Another Willie the Worm character (a tiny squeeze
puppet) appeared on THE SOUP SALES SHOW/ABC/1955-56 & 1959-61.
This Willie the Worm was used when Soupy Sales sang the "Happy
Birthday" song on his show.
The worm was just a small novelty toy
that when squeezed would produce a protruding little worm. The
worm toys were not very sturdy and consequently Soupy went through
a lot of them. When the toy was no longer available from the
manufacturer, the skit was discontinued.
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