Random Boston Memories
by Jim Moran
I'm on a mission to track down our Boston Romper Room teacher "Miss Jean."
I found out she dated a onetime Boston Red Sox player and may now be married to an heir to the Marshmallow Fluff fortune. Did you ever eat Fluffernutter sandwiches as a kid (peanut butter & marshmallow)? Anyway she married a man named Durfee, whose family fabricated the famed Fluff (how's that for alliteration?); they are from Lynn, Massachusetts.
"Miss Jean" D'Allaire had been going out with Harry Agganis, a young Red Sox prospect and all-pro football player before that. He died tragically of complications from pneumonia & phlebitis back in the 1950s.
She then wed Bill Harrington, a reporter at our old Channel 5 (the first WHDH-TV), who also dressed up like Bozo (but with a pointed nose) to play "Nozo" after our Boston Bozo Frank Avruch's skiing injury - a broken leg, I think. They actually worked the injury into the show and had a segment with "Bozo" in the hospital.
Oh how Frank must have loved getting made up and putting on his Bozo garb when he was bed-ridden with his leg in a cast half up his ass? And in those days they kept you in the hospital longer (pre-HMOs), with your leg elevated on one of those contraptions that looked like a gymnast's rings, only triangular.
She then was Jean Harrington, whom we all knew as our beloved "Miss Jean," and from what I've seen of the other cities' Romper Room teachers, she's got them all beaten hands-down - including original teacher Nancy Claster!
By the way, Nancy's husband, Bert (of Claster Productions) also produced "Candlepins for Cash," which may also have been a franchise, hosted in Boston by Bob Gamere, a sportscaster with a crazy and sordid history. Before his fall from grace, he was an all-American-looking jock who did sports on the (then) CBS outlet, WNAC.
Back to "Miss Jean" and "Romper Room. She divorced Harrington in the '70s and was last known to be an editor at a lifestyle magazine in southwest Florida. She's disappeared and the current staff says they have no record. She did re-marry and had the new name of "Durfee."
That struck me as interesting, since the Durfee/Fluff family is from the Lynn area, which is also the area in which Harry Aggannis was from. So I suspect she's got ties to that northern suburb of Boston - Lynn, Revere, Swampscott, etc. I seem to recall her having lived or been from Swampscott when she was "Miss Jean," so I think my investigation may take me to that area next.
Have you ever heard of, seen or known about a TV program, I believe shown in syndication in the 1960s (though it may have been in production as early as the 1950s), called "B'Wana Don?"
The show's titled character dressed up in safari suit, looking like Johnny Weismuller (Tarzan) as "Jungle Jim." In fact, I had always thought it was Weismuller in another guise. He certainly resembled him.
He had a pet chimp on the show, and it was aimed at a kids' audience. I think it used to be on one of our independent UHF channels as a kid, but it would probably be useless to contact them now, as they are both UPN and WB stations and I'm sure have no records of such.
In Googling it, I could only come up with a program with that title being on local stations in Washington, D.C., some station in Florida and in Detroit, I think.
The guy's name who played him, in Detroit at least, was Don Hunt. Another Google result mentioned another fellow with the same surname of "Hunt," so maybe his son/grandson? Other results netted me "Bongo Bailey" as a chimp on a show with that title. But all these references implied it being a locally-produced kids show, and yet we saw it in Boston, and it was not produced here locally - which rules out it being a franchise in the manner of "Bozo" and "Romper Room."
In fact, it was either film or kinescope, and really had the look of the former, whereas most kids shows were done live or live on tape, so any remaining stock of them is usually kinescope or video. Really, the show looked old even when I saw it - so was probably reruns even then. That would have been in the mid-1960s.
I am totally perplexed - I am not hallucinating, this show did exist and was aired in Boston, mornings I'm thinking, or early afternoons on either Channnel 38 or Channel 56 (then WSBK and WKBG, respectively). Help!!
- Jim Moran
(Jim was successful in finding "Miss Jean" and we hope to see an interview some day!)
"I found your site while Googling my Uncle. Bill Harrington was my Uncle, he passed away in 1998. Miss Jean was introduced to him by my mother June (Harrington )Pierce while she and Jean were at Salem State in 1958. She got the job on Romper Room because of my Uncle’s affiliation with WCVB as a reporter. Miss Jean is from Salem and now lives in Naples Florida."
- Alison Connelly