The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia deals with Philly broadcasting, so you may wonder why we have the bio of the lady who wrote, produced and directed “The Children’s Hour” in New York City.
The reason? She lived in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania and commuted to NYC (and Radio City Music Hall where the show originated) for the broadcasts. Her name was Alice Viola Weast Clements. Born in 1901, Alice on Childs Avenue right here in Drexel Hill. She lived there from 1928 until 1990 when she moved to the Haverford Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Through the years, it is estimated that she auditioned over 300,000 youngsters. The show in the “Big Apple” was patterned after the hit broadcast here in Philadelphia, created by Stan Lee Broza, the host of the Philly program and our first president.
Sometimes called “Aunt Alice,” she claimed that the show developed separately from the Broza program. She said that she got the idea while watching some children play at a baby-sitting area for shoppers at the new 69th Street shopping area. The kids were playing with a toy microphone.
What she didn’t know was that the “Stores at 69th Street” were the first sponsors of “The Children’s Hour” in Philadelphia and that Stan Lee Broza created the play area complete with make-believe microphone to tie into the broadcast.
She convinced her husband, I.W. (Ike) Clements, a local advertising executive, that the show would work and asked him to find her a sponsor. One of his clients was Horn & Hardarts that was already sponsoring “The Children’s Hour” here in Philadelphia. H & H picked up the broadcast after 13 weeks of the “Stores at 69th Street” sponsorship.
Esther Broza, Stan Lee’s wife, produced the Philadelphia broadcast. And there is no doubt that the Philadelphia edition was first by at least a year and a half.
On the New York program, there were many to go on to stardom including Connie Francis, Robert Q. Lewis, Roberta Peters and Ann Sheridan. Ed Herlihy was the host in New York and Mrs. Clements thought it would be a good idea for Herlihy to learn to sing and dance so he could be part of the action with the children. He did.
She was born in Schuylkill Haven and moved to the Philadelphia area at a young age. She also worked with her husband at his advertising agency, and upon his death in 1950; she took over the business and continued to run it until 1966 when she retired. The couple had no children. “Aunt Alice” died at the nursing home on Monday, July 1, 1996.
Ann Guiliano, a visitor to our website e-mailed:
I appeared on the New York Children’s Hour from 1948 when I was 5 years old until 1954. My sister, who was 10 when we started, and I were known as “The Toscano Sisters” and we sang. My sister and I and our younger brother Joey, who started in 1950 or ’51 when he was about 3 each have a poster in our dining rooms that was used for advertising purposes. The entire cast is in the photo with our names at the bottom.
I have very fond memories of “Aunt Alice”, “Aunt Marilyn” (a producer) and “Uncle Morty” who played the piano for us all. We were ALWAYS treated like the children we were and felt loved by all. By the way, she never forgot us. She sent us Christmas cards for many many years, and from her many travels all over the world. I was married with children and still receiving and sending cards to her. She was a wonderful person.
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