Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: Educational Television

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National Educational Television presents The Magic Window program, 1956 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary! We’re posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting. This is our third post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, and this week we are highlighting the longest-running, locally produced children’s educational television program ever made in America: The Magic Window.

 

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Intro title of The Magic Window, 1954 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

“The Magic Window, which for forty years was hosted by a woman named Betty Lou Varnum. In every episode, Betty Lou would introduce a craft-making segment by announcing the materials needed. These were always kid-safe items that could be found around the house. But the kids had to find everything fast, really fast or Betty Lou would go on without them.” –The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow (Gotham, 2010)

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Frame still from The Magic Window, 1956 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

Betty Lou Varnum was a TV personality at WOI-TV in central Iowa. She began her career in 1954 as host of a program for children, “The Magic Window.” She also hosted other WOI-TV programs “Dimension 5,” “Status 6,” and “Stringer’s Newscast.” Varnum was an announcer for a number of televised VEISHEA parades at Iowa State University and Iowa State Fair parades in Des Moines, Iowa. She retired from WOI-TV in 1994.

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Betty Lou Varnum, host of The Magic Window, 1955 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

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