Originally from Oklahoma, Mary Ann King’s father was “a newspaperman” and she followed in his footsteps, taking a job as a reporter before becoming the host of the “Romper Room” children’s TV show in Los Angeles from 1966 to 1976. Photo by James Carbone[/caption]
There’s still magic in Mary Ann King’s mirror.
And its reflection has made its way all the way to the Inland Empire, where Sherry Fischer, executive director of the Oakmont of Chino Hills senior community, has a beloved new resident: King.
You might remember King if you were a child in in the 1960s and 1970s, and were anywhere near a TV set.
“Romper, bomper, stomper boo …”
Famous words from the then popular children’s show, “Romper Room,” on which “Miss Mary Ann” was a host.
For Fischer, having the venerable teacher figure at Oakmont has her thinking about her childhood.
“Watching the ‘Romper Room’ was like eating ice cream for dinner,” Fischer said. “It was the ‘Sesame Street’ of that era. I remember crowding around the TV and waiting to see if she said our name. She really was an icon.”
Seated on the plush chairs in a cozy library, King, 81, reminisced about her life and what brought her to Southern California, where she hosted the program’s L.A. version.
Originally from Oklahoma, King’s father was “a newspaperman” and she followed in his footsteps, taking a job as a reporter. But that wasn’t enough for her, and after she read a commercial for a few producers, they hired her on the spot. People finally saw her face in black and white for the first time.
“She always wanted to be a star,” said King’s daughter, Kandace Del Rosario.
One thing led to another and after moving twice, King found herself as the Los Angeles host of the “Romper Room,” a live children’s television show that mimicked a preschool.
“It was a grand journey,” King said. “When you do a daily show it stretches your mind and keeps you busy. You really work hard. But I would have done it for nothing. I just loved it.”
The daily show would have six children, ages 4 and 5, and games, songs, exercise and teaching how to be a “Do Bee,” or a well-behaved child. A “Don’t Bee” was a child who misbehaved. But the highlight of the show would be when King would hold up a “Magic Mirror,” a plastic hoop with a handle, and call out the names of children watching the show, many of them submitted by their parents.
Del Rosario said she decided to move her mother from her home in Hacienda Heights because of a string of break-ins and because her mother is “too nice.”
“She’s kind to a fault,” Del Rosario said. “She would invite strangers into her home and offer them tea and cookies.”
Del Rosario said that people who grew up watching her mother on television as children would often feel a connection so strong that they would seek out King at her home. Strangers would often appear at her doorstep, asking to meet her.
Things are a little different now.
“It’s a safe environment for her to enjoy her life,” Fischer said. “It’s a good place to meet a lot of new friends.”
Although the move was initially difficult for King, she said she enjoys the opportunities to go on “new adventures.”
“Life is a grand journey,” she said with a smile.