A Wunda-ful adventure: In local TV’s earliest years, Ruth Prins touched the youngest of hearts

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

The cover of the Jan. 9, 2022, PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times (Photo courtesy Debra Prins, design by David Miller)

We are delighted that PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times granted Clay the opportunity to prepare a cover story on Ruth Prins for the print edition of Jan. 9, 2022.

Below are links to:

  • The cover story
  • The personal backstory
  • A wide array of “web extras.”

These items include kinescopes of “Wunda Wunda” shows unseen since they first aired in the 1950s and 1960s, along with photos, children’s drawings, fan letters, news clippings, songs, promotional items and original writings by Ruth Prins — all of which document the saga of the local TV pioneer who many of us as youngsters learned from and knew fondly as Wunda Wunda.

Enjoy!

COVER STORY

Ruth Prins as “The Story Lady” regales grade-schoolers with the 1960 book “The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear” by Oliver Butterworth on “Telaventure Tales,” which ran 16 years on KING-TV. (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections UW41317)

A pioneer for preschoolers: With ‘Wunda Wunda,’ Ruth Prins reached kids as an educator, an entertainer and an enduring emotional touchstone.

Enjoy this illustrated profile of a local legend!

THE BACKSTORY

Clay Eals, age 2-1/2, watches “Wunda Wunda” circa 1953-54 at his childhood home near Wedgwood Rock. (Virginia Eals)

Ruth Prins inspired an early devotee — and an entire audience

 

 

 

 

THE KINESCOPES

A few of the two-dozen cans of “Wunda Wunda” kinescopes that are being transferred. (Clay Eals)

Enjoy this ever-expanding collection of recently transferred films of Ruth Prins’ “Wunda Wunda” shows, most of them not seen since their original broadcast — until now.

‘NOW’ VIDEOS

Paul Hansen — the son of Edward Hansen, who served as Music Man for the “Wunda Wunda” children’s show on KING-TV from 1964 to 1972 — speaks Dec. 5, 2021, about being on the show’s set as a youngster and about his appreciation for Ruth Prins, who played the title character. (Clay Eals)

Longtime fans of “Wunda Wunda” sing the show’s welcome song and “I’m a Little Teapot” on Dec. 5, 2021, in Ruth Prins’ home neighborhood of Magnolia.

They also are interviewed about Ruth’s enduring and endearing legacy.

THE EXTRA PHOTOS

Dressed as Wunda Wunda and backed by a display of mailed-in children’s drawings, Ruth greets young fans June 5, 1954, at the grand opening of The Toy Shop at Seventh and Pike. (Forde Photographers, courtesy Debra Prins)

Enjoy this assemblage of additional images of Ruth Prins from her early days acting at the University of Washington up through her KING-TV and preschool days and beyond.

THE DRAWINGS

In the mid-1950s, Kathleen Duckworth draws a Hostess cupcakes-related picture. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

This sampling reveals artwork sent to Ruth Prins by her youngest of fans.

THE LETTERS

May 16, 1955, letter from Spieler. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

The parents of preschool “Wunda Wunda” fans overflow with praise and appreciation for Ruth Prins.

THE NEWS CLIPS

May 24, 1959, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, TV cover.

More than 200 articles, photos and ads from local — and occasionally national — publications illustrate Ruth Prins‘ impact.

THE PROMOTION

June 1958 TV Junior Star Album. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

No effort was spared by KING-TV and others to promote the jewel they had in Ruth Prins.

THE ENDORSEMENTS

1950s ad for Old Yankee peanut butter. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

From tasty treats to delightful dolls, Ruth Prins was an eager saleswoman, as reflected in these materials.

THE SCHEDULE

An ad for “Wunda Wunda” acnhors the right-hand page of this spread from the May 24, 1963, TV Guide. (Joey Beretta)

“Wunda Wunda” generally aired at noon weekdays, but not always. Click here to see the schedule changes over its nearly 20-year run.

THE ARTIFACTS

(Courtesy Debra Prins)

What did Wunda Wunda’s costume, hat, puppets and dolls look like in color? Find out here.

RUTH’S WRITINGS

Ruth Prins’ World War II memoir: “Over Here! Over Here! Sketchbook of an Army Wife (1942-1945).” Click on image to see the entire 51-page pdf. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

Unknown to many were Ruth Prins‘ writing skills. Out of her typewriter came down-to-earth, conversational and amusing prose. Here we present key samples.

THE MUSIC MAN’S SONGS

1950s song “I Always Stop, Look Both Ways and Listen” by the Music Man. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

In her nearly 20 years as TV’s Wunda Wunda, Ruth Prins collaborated with several off-screen Music Men. The two longest-serving were Elliott Brown and Edward Hansen.

Here are two of Brown’s songs with a public-service theme.

See two more of Brown’s songs on The Endorsements page.

SPECIAL THANKS

Debra Prins’ birth announcement, June 11, 1950.

This package of materials wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity and trust of Ruth Prins’ daughter, Debra Prins.

Click here to see acknowledgments as well as the clever birth announcements Ruth created for Debra and her brother Bob.

 

An alternate cover image: A 1960s promotional photo of Ruth Prins as “Wunda Wunda” rests atop the corresponding original costume and hat, loaned by Prins’ daughter Debra. Though her attire was quite colorful, many of those who viewed her on TV when they were children remember her only in black-and-white. (Clay Eals, with design assistance from Leslie Howells. Photo and costume components courtesy Debra Prins)

Now & Then here and now

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