WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: Remembering Miss Carol's Clubhouse

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

With my recent column on Saturday morning cartoons, I began thinking of other children’s television shows. I have seen some depicted on current shows about the 1950s, 60s and 70s. “Captain Kangaroo,” “Romper Room,” and “Sesame Street” are among the best, along with “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”

But there were also many locally produced children’s programs during this era. And around here, one of the best if not only the best remembered was “Miss Carol’s Clubhouse.” The afternoon show was on KXII-TV, Channel 12 in the 1960s and 1970s. Miss Carol was a perky – and for kids, you need to be – blonde host that inhabited a western theme set. Songs were sung; and games played.

The best part of the show? There was a live studio audience right there at the Channel 12 studios on US 75 (now Texoma Parkway). Yes, right where the station is now! The audience was all children all the time. I never heard how that audience was picked each day (the show went five days a week), but it was so cool to see my peers on TV.

‘Miss Carol’ interviewed the children as she walked in the audience with her microphone. She asked questions and they answered. Carol McManus was a local woman whose husband was on the weather staff at the station. She talked to the kids and showed cartoons; and people would bring their children in groups such as a birthday party to the show.

“Carol was a real nice lady,” said Norman Bennett, who also had an afternoon show at Channel 12, “Dialing for Dollars.” “It was a very popular show; and Carol worked wonders with those kids. She was so good with them; and they just loved her.”

Bennett, who went on to act in national projects after his stint at Channel 12, recalled the children lined up on risers in the studio. ‘Miss Carol’ would be dressed in her western shirt and skirt, ready to have the children be the stars of the show.

And if I’m writing about a subject, then you know I have a personal connection to it. Yes, when we lived on US 75 during those ‘Clubhouse’ years, I got to be on the show! I think it was in the summer; and there was an open invitation to be on the show. You didn’t have to make reservations; you didn’t have to be asked. I believe that it was the largest audience ‘Miss Carol’ ever had.

There were several of us sitting on the floor by the risers; me and my sisters were dressed in our only western wear attire (or reasonable facsimile thereof). I wasn’t asked any questions; there were so many of us! I’m surprised she had the chance to ask anyone anything. If I am remembering right, it wasn’t a very long show. I just remember sitting there and listening. I watched the cartoons and smiled when they told me to.

It was a fleeting moment of fame, but it was in my hometown. In fact, it was right near my house! That was the best part. I watched the show before that day, but afterwards, I don’t think I ever missed it. I was a veteran of the show, so I had to support it and ‘Miss Carol.’

After the show ended, Bennett recalled that McManus moved to Dallas where she managed real estate. He lost track of her after a few years. He doesn’t recall her doing any more television after Channel 12.

I realize that ‘Miss Carol’s Clubhouse’ is a footnote in a small television market’s history, but it’s our history. It was one of the things that was in the background of our lives; and a few of us actually got to be part of it. Carol McManus was exceptional to do it; and she was great at what she did with those kids during every show. It was cool to have such a thing in your own hometown.

Sherman, a hometown that had great people and good things for children growing up and their parents. In the 1960s and 70s (and 50s for that matter), it was a great place to grow up and learn about life. There were special places. It was full of interesting and talented people doing neat things; and one of them was Carol McManus…

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.