CLEVELAND — Dec. 17, 2022 marks WEWS-TV’S 75th anniversary. To help us celebrate the occasion, we wanted to hear from viewers. This station has produced so many wonderful programs, and many of those shows were viewed across the country.
News 5 Anchor Courtney Gousman talked to some of our faithful watchers who have been with us for decades. They shared those Channel 5 memories that have lasted a lifetime.
Connie Cotton has been watching Channel 5 all her life, more than 60 years now.
She remembers watching from her Sheffield Village home at the tender age of five. Her earliest memory of watching Channel 5 was waking up every morning to watch “Romper Room” with Ms. Barbara and a changing cast of children.
“She did loads of activities with the kids. I just loved it! It was so fun to watch,” Cotton said.
"That was probably our first preschool because back in the day we didn't have preschool,” Karen Spidel said.
Spidel and her brother, Ken Palosi, are from North Canton.
They remember when their family’s first television set was brought home sometime around 1951.
“We rushed home after school to look at the TV and see what was there,” Spidel said.
Ken Hawkins, Jr. didn’t just watch Romper Room, he was lucky enough to be on the show. His assignment: To demonstrate what a “leaf” does.
“I fell to the ground. I did the whole shake like a leaf was falling,” Hawkins said.
Kids across Northeast Ohio, anxiously waited for Ms. Barbara to bring out her magic mirror.
“Please tell me other people remembered it. It wasn’t just my own desire to have my name mentioned in that mirror.” said Mona Allen.
Allen now lives in Dallas, Texas, but her memories of watching Channel 5 are close to her heart.
The South Euclid native tells News 5, for her parents watching the station, it was a way to better their English, since they were both European immigrants. Allen recalls watching Polka Varieties with them.
“It was this old, old band. And it would be like talking and he’d say this band and this song, and it was like, 'wait, there are people who really know the names of these songs?’”
And who could forget Captain Penny and his frequent guest animal expert, Jungle Larry.
The children’s show launched in 1955, featuring a railroad engineer.
Spidel recalls, "He always said, you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool mom.”
When we asked Allen what sticks out the most about her time watching Channel 5, she quickly responded, “I think I remember it being on in the background, getting ready for school—Morning Exchange.”
The Morning Exchange launched in 1972, and later became the template for Good Morning America.
There was also Upbeat, with Don Webster, which was packed with the “who’s who of music.”
And remember our little Romper Room star, Ken?
Well his dad, Ken Hawkins, Sr., had his own show, here at News 5. The popular Cleveland radio DJ and program director took his act to TV to host The Ken Hawkins Show, which debuted in 1967.
Hawkins was among the first Black men to host such a show featuring R&B and Soul acts like Ray Charles, James Brown and Dionne Warwick.
The show could be seen in more than 195 cities.
Hawkins Jr. recalled, “We would set our alarm clocks. We’d be in bed asleep. And then the alarm clocks, we’d turn our TV on and then tune-in.”
The faithful viewers News 5 talked to, who’ve been watching their entire lives, said WEWS has a distinct quality that has carried over the decades.
Cotton said, “It just seemed that everybody there at Channel 5 was a family. You know they connected with one another. they enjoyed their coworkers and colleagues. It just seems like one great family.”
Allen said, “Let’s just say I woke up and the TV was on. That sucker never turned off!”
Watch live and local news any time:
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.