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Birthday House
(Photo above from the soundtrack album.)
by Billy Ingram with Kevin Butler
video from Lorraine Goodman

Paul TrippIt might be hard to believe but forty years ago New Yorkers tuned in every morning to a toddler's birthday party complete with sing-a-longs, animals and staring into a tropical fish tank. For the time, this was big city daytime TV at it's finest - and it was surprisingly entertaining, better than The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, that's for sure.

Lorraine Goodman shares with us a wonderful find, an episode of Birthday House from February 1966 starring Paul Tripp, TV's first child educator. As the producer and star of the critically celebrated Mr. I. Magination program on the CBS network from 1949 until 1952, he influenced and predated Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street and every children's program that followed.

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Paul TrippBirthday House aired live on WNBC 4 Monday through Saturday mornings from April 1, 1963 until September 8, 1967; it was nationally syndicated for a while and two best-selling soundtrack albums were released with songs from the show.

Similar in tone to Romper Room but with a birthday party theme, the broadcast was a smash hit with kids and parents alike thanks to the exemploray talents of Tripp and his spouse, co-host Ruth Enders Tripp. A creative team since the pioneer days of television, they were masters of the intimate, seat-of-your-pants nature of live broadcasting.

Each day one, two or three lucky youngsters were selected from the New York / New Jersey viewing area to attend a birthday celebration with their friends on television. The WNBC studio could only accommodate a dozen or so children at a time so naturally tickets were highly coveted.

NO VIEWER LEFT BEHIND

Ruth Emders TrippIn the excerpts below, Paul and Ruth demonstrate their nurturing technique; teaching through songs with the help of a live pianist on set (the show's musical director Ray Carter).

Notice Tripp stays completely connected with the kids who eagerly recite the lyrics by heart, singing and dancing to songs like "Hi Mike" like it was the happiest time of their lives. The "Mike" they were singing to, by the way, was the microphone.

Paul Tripp's Birthday House TV showViewer Lisa Winston tells us, "I got to celebrate my 5th birthday on Birthday House and remember singing 'Hi Mike,' which must have been the scourge of existence to any kid named Mike for the next 10 years. It went, 'Hi Mike, Hi Mike, I like to say, Hi Mike, Hi Mike, Hi Mike, I like you very much.'"

Tom Tichenor designed, manipulated and voiced the many cheerful puppet characters and portrayed Strawtop the silent scarecrow doll; Jan Lara and Kay Lande also appeared in character roles. In 1964, WNBC Channel 4 received a special citation for Birthday House at the NYC Emmy Awards

Birthday HouseThe underlying focus of Birthday House was on learning, however simple the lesson; this was accomplished with segments like Buzzy the spelling bee, kids drawing together at a chalk board and a milk drinking game to encourage good nutrition.

In this found episode, Paul and his puppet pal Felicia the mouse play around with a couple of gerbils before Paul strolls to a fish tank where he ad-libs as the camera lingers on the exotic fish swimming about.

This is representative of what the NBC flagship station offered for the morning hours in the nation's number one television market, part of a steady diet of quality kidvid available around the dial - all day long - with top talent that included Chuck McCann, Sandy Becker, Officer Joe Bolton and a legion of other virsatile performers who instilled in their viewers a sense of fair play, virtue and a love for education.

Birthday House TV showAfter Birthday House ran its course in 1967, Paul and Ruth turned up on locally produced programs like The Mike Douglas Show and Wonderama. There was talk of revival in later years but Birthday House was the Tripp's last television series.

Paul produced an all-star version Tubby the Tuba for HBO in 1976 that aired in 1980 (he co-created Tuby in 1942 and recorded one of the best-selling LP versions). His last TV appearance was on 50 Years Together - Channel 2 and You on July 10, 1991.

Paul Tripp died on August 29, 2002 at the age of 91; his wife Ruth Enders Tripp passed away in 1999. This notice appeared in the New York Times July 29, 1999: "TRIPP-Ruth Enders. For her love of beauty-her capacity for happiness-her love for us. Thank you, dearest Ruth. Husband Paul, children, Suzanne Jurmain and David Enders Tripp and grandchildren, Sara and David Jurmain. Good night, sweet Ruth."


Here are some video clips
from the February 1966 episode
of Birthday House
(in Real Player Format):

Paul greets the kids
Click here for Real Player Format / Quicktime Format
This ultra-rare kinescope is missing the theme song (and commercials) and cropped a bit askew because it was shot directly from the studio monitor. It picks up with Paul and his elegant co-host Ruth Enders (Tripp) as they open the show, inviting the children into their musical Birthday House, an enchanted cottage in the forest.

The Birthday march, the Spelling Bee, the gerbils and Ruth
Click here for Real Player Format / Quicktime Format
Lorraine Goodman tells us: "I'm the one who's 4 - they called me 'Lorri' back then. My sister is Carrie, the 2 year old who gets all the special attention and stole the show!" More than forty years later you're internet stars.
Is it my imagination or are Paul and the puppet trading double entendres during the gerbil bit?!?

Birthday HousePaul Tripp created and developed the catchy, fanciful songs with Ray Carter.
Click here for Real Player Format / Quicktime Format

Another of the tunes and one of the puppets
Click here for Real Player Format /Quicktime Format
This episode only exists because someone asked that a kinescope be made, a film they could take home - which was highly unusual, somebody had some pull at the TV station!

Birthday House with Paul Tripp and puppets


Kevin S. Butler writes: Host Paul Tripp was able to discipline a naughty little boy on one episode of WNBC TV 4's Birthday House and it worked.

In my interview with Mr. & Mrs. Tripp (which is sadly lost to history) they told me of one incident that occurred on the show. The Tripps were handing out pinwheels for a game to the kids in the studio that day. Everyone got a pinwheel except one little boy who was very impatient and instead of waiting for his pinwheel the naughty little fellow snatched a pinwheel from the birthday girl.

The poor little lady started crying and Mr. Tripp confronted the brat on the show and said to him, "Johnny (or whatever the little boy's name was) that was a very naughty thing that you did. We're all here to have fun and to learn here at Birthday House but we're also here to share. Now, if you don't have one of these (Paul Tripp holds a pinwheel in his hand in front of the boy) then I'll give one to you but you must never take anything away from anyone and you must never hurt anyone and you hurt that little girl and that is our birthday girl."

The little fellow started to cry and Mr. Tripp said to him, "Oh please don't cry we don't want you to be sad but you should apologize." The little fellow started to apologize. to Mr. Tripp - "No, not to me, you didn't hurt me but you hurt that little girl, the little birthday girl, and you should return her pinwheel to her and you should apologize to her."

The little boy returned the pinwheel and apologized to her and she graciously accepted and kissed him.

"Then I turned the whole thing around," recalled Tripp. "I went up to him and I said to him, 'Now I want to shake your hand (which Mr. Tripp did) because it takes real guts to admit that you were wrong and that you are willing to apologize."The Tripps and everyone connected with the show got lots of positive mail and phone calls from parents and educators praising them on this proper way of dealing with unruly children on their show.

As Mr. Tripp told me, "No. We would not put up with any nonsense on Birthday House. We'd treat the children on our show as we would our own children at home. If you're looking for a kick in the pants you're going to get it."

I doubt that the Tripps would be foolish enough to slap a kid on camera in front of their audiences on any of their kid's TV programs but they did know how to put a bratty kid in his or hers' place on the show.

That is something that you'll never see on any PBS/cable or network kid's show today because parents feel that discipline creates serious trauma in children.

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Paul Tripp

DID YOU KNOW:
Besides Mr. I. Magination, Paul Tripp also hosted On the Carousel, a newsmagazine for teens from 1955 until 1959 (Allen Ludden hosted from 1953-54) and It's Magic for CBS.

Alton Alexander, Lester Lewis, Paul and Ruth Tripp were producers and co-creators of Birthday House.

Paul turned up in dozens of dramatic roles on Perry Mason, Route 66, Checkmate and Ben Casey and even played the heel on an early Dick Van Dyke Show episode (he was Sally's slimy boyfriend in 'Sally is a Girl').

In Mr. I. Magination, Paul Tripp played a magical train engineer who could make dreams come true as children travelled with him to Imagination Town to learn about the world and history.

In 1966, Paul and Ruth Tripp took some time off from Birthday House to act in a movie with Sonny Fox. That same year, he was writer, director, singer, songwriter and actor (he played Sam Whipple) for The Christmas That Almost Wasn't live action film.

Birthday House TV show


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MORE ON BIRTHDAY HOUSE
I can remember Mr. Tripp playing "King Midas" and the King in the stories of King Midas and Rumplestiltskin. Mrs. Tripp played the Queen in 'The Princess Who Couldn't Cry' which also featured two of Mr. Tichenor's puppets "Ducky The Ugly Duckling" (who appears with Mr. Tripp in the video capture on this page) and an old lady mouse puppet who's name I have since forgotten.

Prior To Birthday House going off the air on WNBC TV Ch.4 in NYC, Tom Tichenor's puppets appeared on The Hank Stohl/ Bill Biery version of WPIX TV 11's Sunday morning kiddie comedy show Let's Have Fun during the 1966/1967 TV season.

Child actor Robert Broderick and "Doakey the Clown" (played by my dear friend and fellow performer the late Mr. Ed Alberian also appeared on the show.

When Birthday House debuted on WNBC 4 on Monday morning April 1, 1963 the kids didn't appear at the front door of the House with Mr. Tripp when the show opened for that first broadcast. Instead, the show began with Mr. Tripp talking to the children at home and read invitations to the party that were in his mail box near the front door. He would then starting counting and the camera would fade out - when the camera faded back in, Paul Tripp was inside the Birthday House. He would then introduce the characters, after which the birthday kids would appear on camera.

He then would ask the kids in song, 'How old are you today?' The kids told him their ages and the Birthday Parade would begin.

The tradition of the kids coming to the front door of the Birthday House where the Tripps would sing 'Shake Hands and How Do You Do!' didn't happen until later in the series' run. In fact, Mrs. Ruth Tripp didn't appear on those first shows; she appeared on the show with her husband and regulars Ms. Lara, Ms. Lande and Mr. Tichenor later on in the series' run.

There were two Birthday House TV soundtrack records - the first disk was titled 'Paul Tripp Presents Songs and Music from Birthday House' and the second disk was titled 'Paul Tripp Presents More Fun at Birthday House'. Both records were produced and released by Musicor Records, Inc.; they produced with Mr. Tripp "Mr. I. Magination Meets Rip Van Winkle' and 'Billy On A Bike.') There were two Birthday House song books printed and distributed by Musicor Records.

 

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