The Canadian Museum of History opened a new exhibit in September 2022 highlighting the history of children’s television in Canada. The museum is located in Gatineau, just across the river from the Canadian capital of Ottawa. It is planned to run until August 2022 and is included with Museum admission.
I’ve been eagerly anticipating this exhibit, officially named “From Pepinot to Paw Patrol: Television of Our Childhoods“. I grew up watching many of these shows, so I made sure to visit the first weekend, and I was not disappointed. It will surely bring back a flood of memories to kids of all ages, but those who were children in the 70s and 80s will especially appreciate these displays.
The exhibit features a large collection of puppets, costumes, and props from a variety of TV series produced in Canada. A museum guide informed me that these items have been loaned from a variety of sources, including CBC and CTV studios, as well as the private collections of those involved in the shows. I was especially happy to see some of these items reappear, after having previously been in the CBC Museum, which closed several years ago.
Below I’m going to share just some of the many items on display. Of course, I highly recommend visiting the exhibit yourself, as there are plenty of items I didn’t have room to include in this article.
One of the most iconic Canadian children’s shows was Mr. Dressup. Ernie Coombs hosted the show from 1967 to 1996. On display is his Tickle Trunk, tree house, and the Truffles and Chester puppets. These items were previously on display at the CBC Museum.
The Polka Dot Door
The Polka Dot Door was a popular show produced by TVOntario from 1971 to 1993. In addition to the two human hosts, the Polkaroo became a beloved character to many children. The show also featured four toy characters, Marigold, Bear, Humpty, and Dumpty, which are now on display at the Canadian Museum of History.
One of my favourite shows as a child, Today’s Special was set in a department store in Toronto. At night, a store mannequin would come alive to sing and dance with Jody, the display designer. The show also featured two puppets. Sam Crenshaw was the store’s security guard, and Muffy Mouse was a diva mouse that lived in the store.
In the 1977, Passe-Partout debuted as an educational French-language children’s show. It aired until 1993 and then returned in 2019. The three main characters each wore distinctive costumes, which are on display.
Under The Umbrella Tree
Under The Umbrella Tree ran from 1987 until 1993 on the CBC. It was also carried on The Disney Channel in the US. It features Holly, who lives in a house with a large umbrella tree in the main room. She is joined by three puppets, Jacob Bluejay, Gloria Gopher, and Iggy Iguana.
Fraggle Rock was a series from Jim Henson Productions. It was an international production, featuring a main story of muppets named Fraggles, who lived under ground. The episodes also featured scenes with human actors, who lived above ground. The human scenes were filmed in various countries, to adapt the show to each market. However the main scenes featuring the Fraggle puppets were filmed in Toronto. The museum has Mokey on display.
One of the very first shows on Canadian television, Let’s See featured a puppet named Uncle Chichimus, who was joined by his neice Hollyhock. The character proved so popular, he was given his own show soon after.
While Canadian segments of Sesame Street had been produced for years, in 1996 a revamped fully-Canadian series named Sesame Park debuted. It featured original characters such as Katie, Louis, and Basil.
One of Canada’s longest running franchises, Degrassi has existed in various forms since 1979. Set on De Grassi Street in Toronto, the various teen drama series have pushed boundries and inspired Canada’s youth. The Canadian Museum of History is displaying several costumes worn on the show, including Snake’s famous Zit Remedy shirt, featuring the name of his band.
Sharon, Lois, and Bram’s Elephant Show
Children’s singing trio Sharon, Lois, and Bram developed a series for children. The Elephant Show featured the trio interacting with their friend the Elephant, as well as a variety of children and guests. The original Elephant costume is on display.
Fred Penner’s Place
Fred Penner’s Place ran from 1985 to 1997 on the CBC. It featured children’s singer Fred Penner, who was joined by several puppets and guests. The museum is displaying one of his sweaters and backpack, along with the Word Bird, who would appear in episodes to provide Fred with the word of the day.
If you get a chance, I highly recommend visiting the exhibit. I have only shared some of the very large collection on display. The Canadian Museum of History has put together a wonderful collection that is sure to bring back a lot of memories.