Small Time was Independent Television’s 15-minute slot for the under fives broadcast from 1955 to 1966.
Produced and Presented for the Network by Associated-Rediffusion Television.
Researched by Malcolm Batchelor, with thanks to the TV Times and the British Newspaper Library at Colindale.
Small Time began the day after Independent Television’s Opening Night in London on Thursday, 22nd September, 1955.
At 12.15pm on Friday, 23rd September, 1955 the very first Small Time programme was broadcast. Johnny and Flonny, a glove puppet series, with Paul Hansard.
The following week on the Monday saw The Big Black Crayon with Rolf Harris and Jean Ford and on the Wednesday was Toybox with Susan Spear.
There were no Small Time programmes on Tuesdays nor Thursdays until Tuesday, 8th November when The Little House That Stood On The Hill joined the 12.15-12.30pm line-up and on Thursday Snoozy The Sea-Lion made the complete original Monday to Friday set.
From Monday, 28th November, 1955 the slot was moved back a little to 12.08pm and ran to 12.20pm according to the TV Times. But this initial lunchtime transmission was short lived because from Monday, 9th January, 1956 Small Time was moved to a 4.05-4.15pm slot.
But then we were soon to lose our five slots a week. Because from week commencing 20th February, 1956 we were down to a Tuesday and Thursday 4.30-4.45pm slot only.
This lasted until May 1956 when Small Time disappeared completely and the only remnants that were left could be seen on Tuesdays when Rolf Harris appeared in the Children’s Hour from 5.00-6.00pm and on Thursdays when Snoozy The Sea Lion had a fortnightly run at 5.27pm in the same programme. Only Snoozy remained from June 1956 though and lasted as the programme became Jolly Good Time with Jimmy Hanley in September 1956 right the way through to September 1957.
On Monday, 16th September, 1957 at 4.30pm the Small Time 15-minute slot was back.
The programmes were hosted by Mr. Happy, the controller of birthdays, script was written by John Myers and Mr. Happy read your birthday greetings before presenting a different Small Time programme each day, Monday to Friday. This format lasted until Christmas.
Wednesday, 13th November, 1957 saw the very first episode of The Adventures Of Twizzle.
No Small Time programmes were broadcast between January and April 1958.
But The Adventures Of Twizzle were shown on Tuesdays in the Jolly Good Time show with Jimmy Hanley between 5.00 and 5.30pm.
In April 1958 Oliver Postgate joined the team with Mr Happy and from Monday, 14th April Small Time was running in the 4.45-5.00pm slot with a different programme each day.
Monday, 8th December, 1958 debuts Muriel Young reading the tale of Little Rocky.
Thursday, 11th December, 1958 saw the very first edition of the long running series
The Musical Box, but not with Wally Whyton until 12th August, 1959. This first edition was compered by Jill Adamson. Rolf Harris hosted the programme from 21st April, 1959.
Small Time didn’t settle into its 4.45-5.00pm slot until Monday, 14th September, 1959.
Although the programme continued to run five days a week from Monday, 14th April, 1958, after Christmas on Monday, 29th December, 1958 it was moved back to the lunchtime slot of 12.47-1.00pm and if that’s not enough musical chairs on Monday, 5th July, 1959 it was moved forward again to a 5.05-5.15pm slot! Throughout the rest of its life it did settle at 4.45-5.00pm apart from a very short period between Monday, 28th December, 1964 and Monday, 1st February, 1965 when for the first month in the life of Crossroads, the new ATV soap serial, Small Time is designated to a 4.20-4.35pm slot.
On Friday, 16th October, 1959 Patrick Boyle told us the very first Tum story which was followed by Muriel Young talking to Pussy Cat Willum, a glove puppet devised and animated by Janet Nicholls. This started regular birthday chats following the Small Time programme and over the years Pussy Cat Willum appeared with Liz Shingler, Bert Weedon and Wally Whyton as well as Muriel Young. The other “soon to become famous” puppets started life here before making it big in the Five O’Clock Club were Ollie Beak, voiced by Wally Whyton and Fred Barker, voiced by Ivan Owen.
Monday, 28th December, 1959 heralds the start of that little engine from the Welsh valleys Ivor The Engine.
Tuesday, 23rd February, 1960 saw the launch of Torchy The Battery Boy.
Tuesday, 27th February, 1962 gave us the first adventure with Sara and Hoppity.
Who can remember that song? This was the theme song to the show: –
“Sara Brown has a toy as naughty as can be, he’ll start to sing if you wind up his key.
He’ll sing and he’ll dance all over the floor and when he stands still you wind him some more. Dear old Hoppity, naughty Hoppity, there is no toy more naughty than he. Dear old Hoppity, clever Hoppity, he sings diddle-lee-dum and he sings diddle-lee-dee!”
In September 1962 one of Children TV’s greatest glove puppets Basil Brush was born on ITV in Small Time. He appeared with his friends Bert Scampi and Spikey in The Three Scampis. His voice was created by Ivan Owen.
From Monday, 27th September, 1965 Pippy The Telephant made regular appearances.
The final week of Small Time commenced on Monday 19th September, 1966 and the line-up of programmes looked like this: –
Mon: Kuff. Tues: Twizzle. Weds: Musical Box. Thurs: Pippy’s Party. Fri: All At Sea.
Then from Monday, 26th September, 1966 away went the Small Time header along with all the regular programmes and into the 4.45-5.00pm slot came Playtime where Gwyneth Surdivall and Jennifer Naden invited the younger viewers to join in the singing, dancing and painting in their magic park. This programme ran from Mondays to Thursdays leaving Friday free for the Adventures Of Twizzle into 1967. By 1968 Playtime had gone and was replaced with Hullaballoo and various other programmes filled this slot including Ivor The Engine until Rediffusion lost its franchise to Thames Television in July, 1968.