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Worms & Snails

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 Channel 10.

Willie the Worm - JUNIOR HI-JINX

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 cartoon, Newton!"

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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