Lois Lilienstein: 1936 – 2015

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Trunk space: (l-r) Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein and Bram Morrison with Elephant

Twenty years ago, when my young adults were  young children, Sharon, Lois & Bram were superstars. Because I worked at TV Guide at the time, the children’s entertainers were also on my radar thanks to their very successful TV ventures, The Elephant Show and Skinamarink TV. Eric Nagler and Fred Penner were frequent guests. It was an era when kiddie TV hosts looked like folk entertainers. My kids responded to the songs and to these older adult entertainers, as they did to Kratt’s Creatures and especially Bill Nye the Science Guy. The big purple dinosaur Barney was also a kiddie superstar back then, years before he started slumming as a mascot for Raptors games.

News of Lois Lilienstein’s passing this month at 78 brings sadness and is another one of those tempus fugit moments. As a parent, I recall my kids’ faces lighting up seeing Sharon, Lois & Bram at live events and I also recall how kind and patient Lilienstein and the rest of the trio were in paying attention to their adoring young fans. I remember thinking that, besides talent and drive, it must take a certain amount of grace to be in the kiddie racket. Those warm memories really do last a lifetime.

I was always grateful a generation earlier to have been raised by The Friendly Giant. Bob Homme, who played the soft-spoken CBC children’s host for over a quarter century, shared the same gift as Sharon, Lois & Bram or Fred Rogers, or Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) or Ernie Coombs (Mr. Dressup) or any of the wonderful adults who knew best how to reach the youngest viewers. They never talked down to their audience and that gift of trust and communication lifted all of us at a most important time.

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