Claire Coleman
at the WFIL Studios
46th and Market Streets, Philadelphia

We have sad news. Claire Coleman Schweiker passed away on Sunday, April 28, 2013. She was hospitalized for a fractured arm and suffered from respiratory problems.

Claire was "Miss Claire" on WFIL-TV's Romper Room on Channel 6 from 1954 to 1956. The program aired Monday through Friday from 10:30 to 11 am. She graduated from Temple University in 1953 and married Dick Schweiker in 1955. The couple have 5 children and 23 grandchildren.

Dick Schweiker later went on to be an United States Senator from Pennsylvania. He was selected as Ronald Reagan's running mate for VP in 1976. While that bid was unsuccessful, Reagan did get elected President four years later and Schweiker became Secretary of Health and Human Services (1981 to 1983). Our Chairman of the Board, Gerry Wilkinson spoke with Secretary Schweiker Friday afternoon about 2 pm to express our condolences.

Claire Coleman on "Romper Room"
at the WFIL Studios
46th and Market Streets, Philadelphia

Claire hailed from Glenside, Pennsylvania just outside of Philadelphia. She was valedictorian of her high school class and became the Temple University May Queen.

Claire was the Traffic Manager for the campus radio station, WRTI-FM. After her college graduation, Claire was hired by WFIL-TV (now WPVI) to be the new host of a local version of "Romper Room." She was just 22 years old. Before his "Bandstand" days, Claire shared an office with Dick Clark, who was a staff TV announcer and radio DJ at the time. Former President and former Chairman of the Board of this organization, Bill Webber (also a staff announcer at the station) told us one time that Claire had dated both Clark and Webber before meeting Richard Schweiker. Besides being "Miss Claire," she was also a Sunday School teacher.

In a December 10, 1954 article appearing in the Temple University News talked about Claire. It said:

The job is exacting and she loves every minute of it. "This is what I have always dreamed of doing," Claire said. When it was suggested that greater things might be in store for her on TV, Claire commented that she is completely happy in teaching little children.

She mentioned an instance when one of the small boys on the program spontaneously helped a little girl with her chair during a broadcast, explaining to Miss Claire: "I am being friendly," a term which she has emphasized in encouraging helpful behavior.

"It makes me feel good to have this opportunity to teach children how to be nice to one another. My experience in teaching Sunday school has been helpful to me in handling my little charges," she said.

Claire spends a good bit of her time in the library finding material for her show and although she spends only a half-hour on the air daily there is considerable preparation necessary. She interviews her little guests and selects those to appear with her. She also personally answers the mail from her large audience, most of it from children who follow her show daily.

She has found the children most observant and considers their reactions when buying a new dress to be worn on the program. Since the children are often startlingly natural in their comments Claire has found she must be constantly alert.

College student Claire Coleman
at the WFIL Studios
46th and Market Streets, Philadelphia
(Temple University students used Channel 6 studios for classroom work)

Here's another article about Claire on Romper Room from the same year .

Broadcast Pioneers member Lew Klein said:

There were a few of us who directed Romper Room at various times. I was one of them. As to producing, I think Claire served as the producer. Romper Room was a program where WFIL-TV bought a syndicated format and was provided with program features to be used in the show. The syndicator was based in Baltimore and they would visit the station from time to time.

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
© 2013, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved

The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is pioneers@broadcastpioneers.com