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Wormwood Forest was a local children’s program developed by Tom Tichenor, a Nashville puppeteer, who wrote and performed on the show. The program began on Nashville’s WSM station in 1947, and was picked up by NBC for 16 episodes, running nationally from January 8 to April 30, 1949. The program was on the air into the June 1951 on WSM and other stations.
The program told stories using farm animals (with verbal abilities, of course) in “real-life” situations… like a pig (Barbara Q. Pig) going to the ballet… or wanting to build a hotel!
Tom Tichenor played the role of Dippy Dwarf in the NBC series. He started puppeteering in 1938 doing children’s shows at libraries and local events. After serving in World War II, he took a job at WSM. He would eventually become a nationally known puppeteer.
The program received two awards from Billboard Magazine for locally-produced radio programs for children on a 50,000 watt station. Tichenor also received a pleasing letter from a PTA (Parent-Teachers Association) group that showed the positive reception for the program: “We are recommending your program to adults and children alike as one of the outstanding programs for education and entertainment.”
The program had quite a
following in its local area, getting about 100 fan letters a week. No
audiences were allowed for fear of disillusioning the children by letting them see how it was all done and taking their attention from what they were hearing and how their imaginations were filled with images of what the characters might look like... if they were real.
The program did have a television show starting in 1950. In 1959, Tichenor became WSM’s “Bozo” on their local version of Bozo the Clown.
Tichenor kept staging shows with his puppets locally, and eventually found work in New York on the Shari Lewis Show. He had a Broadway break in his career, designing the puppets for the show Carnival, and his puppets appeared on the May 5, 1961 cover of Life magazine with show star Anna Maria Alberghetti . He stayed in New York and became an actor on the popular children’s program Birthday House which starred Paul Tripp. He returned to Nashville after these successes, and continued developing his puppets and presenting local shows, and occasionally working on local, regional, and national television. He wrote several books about puppetry, and books for children. He retired in 1988, and passed away in 1992.
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These recordings are part of the Joe Hehn Memorial Collection. Mr. Hehn (1931-2020) was a pioneering collector of radio recordings when the hobby emerged in the 1960s. Digitizing his collection of reel tapes and discs is the effort of a wide range of North American volunteers, and includes assistance of some international collectors. The groups supporting this effort with their funds, time, technology and skills are the Old Time Radio Researchers and a small group of transcription disc preservationists who refer to themselves as the "The Knights of the Turning Table."
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