One of the early daily children's shows to be seen on CFTO-TV in Toronto starred British comedy performer and former circus clown Bobby Ash as Uncle Bobby. After four years as a local program, Uncle Bobby's show and his collection of puppets and guests (including frequent appearances by magician Ron Leonard) made it to the Network in 1968 for a two-year run as a Saturday morning show. Maclean's writer Richard Gehman described him as "avuncular without being condescending", and he developed a very strong following of "Bobbysoxers", as he referred to his thousands of viewers.
One of Bobby's most popular features was the recognition of children's birthdays. These were introduced by Bimbo the (cardboard) Birthday Clown. There were also several puppets, including a trio with the unlikely names of Wilson, Keppel and Betty - unlikely except to those viewers who were ex-pat Brits like Bobby, and knew that these were the names of the members of a well-known British music hall act. Ventriloquist Cy Leonard and "Happy" were also regulars, as were singer Alex Laurier and naturalist Barry Kent McKay.
It was this aspect of Bobby's style that impressed Maclean's, and made the program one which adults could enjoy themselves while watching with their children. Even so, the series lasted only two years on CTV. It started on the Network on Saturdays at 10:00am in the fall of 1968, and ran through to the end of the 1969-70 season. However, Bobby and his people and props continued to entertain Canadian kids for many more years on CFTO-TV and in syndication.
Written by Pip Wedge - November, 2002