1 9 5 5 – 1 9 6 6 (UK)
The children’s series Small Time was designed as Rediffusion’s 15-minute slot for the under fives and greeted a new arrival in Pussy Cat Willum, a glove puppet devised and animated by Janet Nicholls.
Torchy was a dim battery-operated boy, while Twizzle was able to twist himself to great heights watched by his fat feline companion Footso. But none became as popular as Pussy Cat Willum.
Accompanied by Wally Whyton and Muriel Young, Willum (who was a proper little know-all) built up quite a following, receiving some 400 letters a week.
He reigned supreme for six years before being ruthlessly axed – a cruel deed that warranted a half-page story in the Daily Express. A television company spokesman said coldly: “We just thought it was time for a change”.
In those days, Wally and Muriel had to ad-lib in the continuity suite between programmes if there weren’t sufficient commercials to air. This could be for anything up to eight minutes.
Whyton remembered one such occasion, a New Years Day: “My character, Ollie Beak, came in with a balloon and announced ‘I’ve been to the Chelsea Owls’ Ball’.
To which Muriel replied innocently ‘I didn’t know Owls had balls’. I don’t know how we carried on without cracking up completely”.
Wally Whyton died from lung cancer in January 1997. Muriel Young passed away on 24 March 2001.