|Miss Rhea & Sunshine
Rhea Feikan of MPT fame hosted "Miss Rhea & Sunshine" in the early 1960's on WBAL. The show aired during the late morning hours Monday through Friday. Joining Rhea was a giant dog puppet named "Sunshine," created and voiced by local puppeteer Cal Schumann, who would team with Rhea years later as "J.P. Puppet." Together, they presented the weather during Channel 11's evening news. Cal Schumann died in the late 1990's. Numerous efforts to reach Rhea at MPT have been unsuccessful.
"With Curly Eyes and Laughing Hair,
Sing Polly Wolly Doodle all the day..."
If Stu Kerr was the King of Baltimore Kid's TV, Royal Parker was certainly nothing short of Crown Prince. Born in Baltimore April 8, 1929, Parker (real name Royal Pollokoff) got his start in broadcasting at the old WASA-AM in Havre de Grace, MD. Moving to television after a hitch in the Army, Royal landed at WAAM-TV, Channel 13, working as a staff announcer and children's show host (See Channel 13). Only when station executives decided his character, "Mr. Poplolly," needed to be replaced by a fresh face in 1962 did Parker jump from 13 (by then WJZ) to Channel 11. That fresh face at 13, by the way, was Gerry Wheeler, whose principle character Lorenzo became a local legend in the years that followed. Parker was offered the role of announcer for "The Lorenzo Show," but declined.
Recalling a 1962 luncheon meeting with WBAL's program director, Royal said, "I was concerned because Lary was doing 'Pete The Pirate' and he was a big draw at 'BAL, and there was Rhea and Cal doing 'Miss Rhea & Sunshine,' and I wanted to be sure I was not replacing anybody. I asked what are you going to do with three kiddie personalities?"
Convinced he wasn't anyone's replacement, Royal moved to WBAL-TV to host "The Mickey Mouse Club." But a month before he was set to resurrect "Mr. Poplolly" for Channel 11, Westinghouse Broadcasting, owners of WJZ, threatened to sue The Hearst Corporation, parent company of WBAL, claiming ownership of the Poplolly character. Although Royal insisted that he alone created Poplolly, WBAL's general manager Brent Gunts asked Royal to come up with something else. That's when the freckle-faced, overgrown kid "P.W. Doodle" was born. For the next three years, Baltimore youngsters dropped in on P.W.'s newsstand each afternoon to catch Mickey Mouse, Annette, Moochie, the Hardy Boys, and an assortment of visitors who passed behind the newsstand fence, identifiable only by their hats which moved along the top powered by an unseen treadmill.
"The proudest thing about it was that I was back-to-back with 'Pete The Pirate,' which was the biggest thing in town," said Royal in June, 2001. "The closing credits would come out of the knothole in the fence. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed it, and I guess it was an outlet for some sort of creative drive we had."
Late in the show's run, a young, unpaid intern named Susan White (later Susan White-Bowden) joined the cast. In time, Susan would become a successful author and reporter for WMAR-TV.
Big name guests like Vaughn Monroe, Lloyd Thaxton, and Dizzy Gillespie also stopped by the newsstand. Royal came up with his own costume for the character, and applied his own makeup. "That was torture every day, putting those freckles on," he said.