Tag Archives: hi diddle day

I’m Your Puppet! — Hi Diddle Day and Uncle Chichimus

I’m Your Puppet! — Hi Diddle Day and Uncle Chichimus

Once upon a time I found out from the locals that the front of my home in Carleton Place was featured in the opening of the Hi Diddle Day show. Hi Diddle Day was a CBC Ottawa production designed to entertain and inform young viewers for years. The uniquely-produced series starred a number of puppet characters (created, manipulated and voiced by Noreen Young) who “lived” in an unusual household.

Noreen Young, producer Audrey Jordan and the rest of the Hi Diddle Day crew always felt that Gertrude Diddle and her menage were different. Moulded from latex, they were capable of much more than “lip-syncing” to the words put in their mouths by puppeteers Young, Johni Keyworth and Stephen Brathwaite. The puppets indulged in enough horseplay to keep the very young giggling while, through situation gags and punning jokes, and they also appealed to the more sophisticated youngsters and older teenagers like myself.

Anyone that knows me knows how much I worship the ground puppeteer Noreen Young walks on. I have been honoured to participate in the late great Puppets Up! parade in Almonte, Ontario and try to follow her every word like:

“Linda, your Elvis puppet is looking a little ragged. His hair is “off” and he needs an eye!” You know things like that.

The setting of Hi Diddle Day was a remodeled Victorian house in Crabgrass, in a typical small Canadian community (Carleton Place). In the house lived Mrs. Dibble, and a host of zany puppet characters. Other puppets were Basil the Beagle, Durwood the Dragon, Wolfgang Von Wolf, Granny, Chico The Crow, a French-Canadian moose called Ti, Lucy Goose and others.

Being an extreme puppet lover I was thrilled that my home on Lake Ave East was home to Hi Diddle Day. When my youngest son vacated the house for his own new home Mom converted his room into a Puppet Room. She took apart his gun case and fashioned it into a puppet theatre filled with vintage puppets– mostly from the Hub in Almonte. Her grandchildren still look at the room today full of strange puppets and do not want to go in there— and their poor grandmother wonders why. I believe the word creepy has been used.

This week Gord Cross, who has been sending me in some local stories, sent in one that had me screaming in the house. I have a hard time moving these days but I can still scream.

Museum of History- Ottawa

When I was young and lived at 16 Rochester St. we knew your home as the Raeburn house. During the 50’s a picture of it was used in the CBC TV show “Uncle Chichimus” (this sounds right but I am not sure of the spelling). The show was in black and white, of course, but the Marching Saints Marching Band were invited to the show once and I, as the band leader, was invited to interview with the puppet Uncle Chichimus. I was amazed to see that he was red and green with lots of paint chips . The band was lined up on one side of the room and played a number. Hopefully, someone may have a picture for you because that would be an interesting sidelight about your home.You might have to poll retired members.

Gord Cross

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
27 Jun 1953, Sat  •  Page 31


Granted I was 2 when the program began but I knew nothing about this and was really intrigued that another puppet had graced my home. Uncle Chichimus was an intellectual puppet down on his luck and scorned almanacs. Knowing a good thing he moved in with puppeteer John Conway and Hollyhock, the mop-haired secretary housekeeper. The program, which originated in Toronto was seen in Ottawa five times weekly. Weatherman Percy Salzman used to drop in to do the weather and they would all talk about what was on TV that night. The director of this show was none other than Norman Jewison. Yes, that Norman Jewison who went on to make Hollywood films like MoonstruckThe Hurricane and, Jesus Christ Superstar among many. Please note that Uncle Chichimus is not noted on his Wikipedia page.

Percy Salzman

To make this story way more interesting Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock were kidnapped in 1954. In what became front-page news in Canada Toronto’s CBLT-TV studio switchboards were jammed with calls by worried friends and admirers of the popular puppet stars. John Conway, creator of Uncle Chichimus, publisher, and world traveller decided to act as a detective to find his two puppets. He offered a $300 reward for the return of the two missing 24 hours after the daring kidnapping on the downtown streets. The CBC coughed up an additional $25 reward the next day. About 200 children called the studios offering their dolls or puppets as replacements for the two “stars”. Who would guess people would steal puppets? Apparently, it is a common thing as in Was Wayne Rostad’s Puppet Ever Found?

Conway had insured the puppets for $150 each and said that it would take about four days to reproduce them. No ransom demands had been received by the puppeteer. Conway, whose studio was on downtown King Street West, left his station wagon parked in front of his offices. On the rear seat was a duffle bag with the pair enclosed. Conway, unfortunately, forgot to lock his car door, and when he made a search of the car the next morning, the bag and its contents were missing.

CBC-TV officials were concerned over the disappearance and featured the kidnapping on the News Roundup films. The kidnapping had occurred on the eve of Chichy’s, Hollyhock’s and Larry Mann’s departure via a recently-acquired sailing vessel from Lobster Landing, in the Maritimes. Departure had been delayed when corks, used in the hull to stop leakage, kept coming out.

Uncle Chichimus was actually the first personality seen on CBC TV when it began broadcasting. He was revived for a for a 26-episode The Adventures of Uncle Chichimus in 1957. Later he and Hollyhock jumped ship to CJOH in 1961 as nothing seemed to be the same after the abduction as part of a new show called Cartoonerville. CBC replaced their time slot with a show called AdLib– and trivia buffs should note that: no, it was not the game show AdLib. This is CBC we are talking about, and the AdLib we are talking about was set in a rural setting. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Since then, the surviving puppets have been put into mothballs at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, and the collection is reputedly complete. John Conway became a teacher in the Glebe. The original puppets were never found and it does not look like everything ended up happily ever after.

Mrs. Gertrude Diddle
Mayor Gertrude Diddle, the star of the 1970s CBC children’s show Hi Diddle Day, became an object of fascination for Ronnie Burkett, a devoted fan of the show. “She was the most outrageous, gayest, campiest puppet in history at the time.” Her creator Noreen Young would later meet Burkett, promising to leave Mrs. Diddle to him in her will. But Burkett was far too impatient to wait for Young’s demise and so one day the puppet arrived in the mail. “She’s my muse. She can’t be topped.” He says he’s always had a version of Mrs. Diddle in his shows.
A regular on the show was the mailman, Mr. Post, played by Bob Gardiner. Musician Wyn Canty appeared occasionally as music teacher. There were also guest appearances by experts in the fields of music, art, science, entertainment and sports. The show was originally seen only in Ottawa, Montreal and the Maritimes. By 1970, its popularity led CBC to turn it into a national children’s series.
Edmonton Journal
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
05 Mar 1971, Fri  •  Page 62
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
22 Aug 1970, Sat  •  Page 2
noreen young 2016 Puppets Up! Parade
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
11 Apr 1955, Mon  •  Page 11

Carole Ann BennettMy mother took me to see a live show I believe being broadcast from Ogilvy’s Department Store around 1952 or 53.I think that Chich was coloured green and Hollyhock was yellow!-Lost Ottawa

Skip LaytonI was on this show with my art class, and won a pencil sharpener,shaped like Timothy, the mouse who rode around in Dumbo’s hat. I still have it. Fun memories. I remember being startled that Chichimus was green. Guess it looked better on B&W TV.-Lost Ottawa


Mikey Artelle has some great info on shows-– CLICK

Vicki Racey and I working the street.. Almonte’s Baker Bob with his fans in the back of us! 2016

Puppet Stories

Was Wayne Rostad’s Puppet Ever Found?

I Just Followed Baker Bob – PuppetsUp! Parade August 7th

The Hi- Diddle-Day House of Carleton Place – Puppets on a String

Isn’t Life Really Just One Big Puppet Show? A Photo Essay about Puppets and more

Did you Know Nick is not a Millionaire?

Jane Austen and Linda Comment on the Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers

So What Happened to Laird Keller and His Ventriloquist Dummy Woody?

Related stories on Springside Hall- Home to the Storyland Bunny and the Balderson Cow

Moving Doorways– How Houses Change — Springside Hall Then and Now — Finlayson Series

The Hidden Dumbwaiter in Springside Hall –Finlayson Series

The Story of a Local Family -Finlayson- Richard Finlayson

The Case of the Disappearing Back Staircase — Springside Hall — Finlayson Series

A Houseful of Whimsy- Springside Hall 1982

Do You have a Hidden Room in Your Home?

What Did Adam Dowdall Find in My Carleton Place Yard?

The Sundial of Springside Hall

Then and Now Springside Hall 1920s-1930s Photos

Reusing the Past of Carleton Place — The Morphy’s and the McCann’s

October 13, 1977 George W. Raeburn of Lake Ave East— Artist and C. P. R. Man

My Neighbours –Photos of the Cliff- McCann House and Springside Hall

Update on the Time Capsule in Springside Hall

The Spirits Are Alive and Well

They Once Lived in My Home– The Cram Children — Margaret — Angeline “Babe” and Arthur

They Once Lived in My Home– Arthur Cram

The Morphy Cram House — Springside Hall

The Hi- Diddle-Day House of Carleton Place – Puppets on a String

Glory Days in Carleton Place– Linda Seccaspina

So Where Does the Water come from Under my House?

The Ghost Lovers of Springside Hall – A True Love Story

Do You have an Archaeological Find in Your Carleton Place Basement?

Feeling Groovy by the Lake Ave East Bridge

October 13, 1977 George W. Raeburn of Lake Ave East— Artist and C. P. R. Man

What if You Had a Fire and No One Came?

Just Another Day in Fawlty Towers — Part 2 — To Hell and Back

Just Another Day in Fawlty Towers

Dumbwaiter Calamities of Crockery

While You Were Sleeping —-The Storyland Bunny Moves to the Hi Diddle Day House

Time Capsule in the ‘Hi Diddle Day’ House?



Ottawa Journal 1971–Photo from the Wanda Morrison- Joan Kehoe Collection


I have written many stories about my home the Morphy Cram house, called Springside Hall in Carleton Place on several occasions. Jennifer, from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Museum, has often wondered why there is very little information or photos of the house throughout the years. Imagine my surprise when yesterday going through a scrapbook lent to me by Wanda Morrison that there was an article about Springside Hall in 1971.

To some of you that don’t know, the facade of my home was once the opening background picture to famed puppeteer’s Noreen Young’s  CBC children’s television program called ‘Hi Diddle Day. When we bought the home in 1981 the interior of the house had been stripped right down to the brass push button light switches, but the outside still had the red roof shingles and window shutters which we later changed.

I had been told it was William Morphy, son of the founder of Morphy’s Falls (Carleton Place) in 1860 who built the house, while this article says another son, Edmond Morphy built it. The only other records I had is that it was bought in 1905 by former Carleton Place mayor Albert E. Cram and then occupied by the Raeburns.  But now I know the house also was once a residence to the Johnson and Merrick families.

During the fire of 1995 we changed the position of the dining room doorway and the back staircase, but imagine my surprise to find out that somewhere through the years the interior had also been changed.


Front Staircase- photo by Linda Seccaspina

Most of the main floor woodwork, which I fought to be restored after the fire, is quarter-cut oak, which indicates a turn of the century change from the simple upstairs woodwork. When interviewed, Mr. and Mrs. Raeburn had lived in the house for 32 out of the total 40 years they lived in my home. They recalled that the front staircase had been changed early on. The elaborate gilted curtain rod that once hung in the dining room from Mrs. Raeburn’s family home, the Finlayson House in Clayton, is no longer there, but there still remains one plain but original rod over the french doors that open to the study.

It mentions the ell (0ver the kitchen wing)  having three bedrooms which were part of the servants quarters, as it connected to the back staircase. But in reality when we moved there there were only two, so where was the third bedroom?  We know that the newel post and stair rails on the back staircase are from the 1860s, as when we changed the back staircase we reused the original wood.


Photo by Linda Seccaspina-Last year Blair White gave me a folk art oil painting that George Raeburn did of his home The Morphy Cram House/ Hi Diddle Day home. He had given it to Blair a good many years ago. When I die I want it to go back to the White family and have Blair’s son Ben look after it until he can pass it on. I met May Raeburn once and also met her son Burt when she passed on.


The property that was once a whole city block is now an acre in total, and the raspberry bushes that grew wild all over at the back of the house made way to a residence in the 60s when the Raeburn’s sold part of their property. The old carriage house mentioned in the article is now gone as it was in very bad shape when we bought it.

I was sad nothing was mentioned of the dumb waiter that is blocked in a wall in the previous galley kitchen that went up the old servants quarters. I really wanted to know more about it, but what I learned next was even better. What was shocking is that Mrs. Raeburn told the newspaper that one of the cornerstones of the house contains artifacts the Morphy’s put there, but no records exist of the original contents. She said she wasn’t inquisitive enough to investigate. I most certainly am.


Related reading:

The Morphy Cram House — Springside Hall

The Hi- Diddle-Day House of Carleton Place – Puppets on a String

The Ghost Lovers of Springside Hall – A True Love Story

Do You have an Archaeological Find in Your Carleton Place Basement?

Feeling Groovy by the Lake Ave East Bridge

October 13, 1977 George W. Raeburn of Lake Ave East— Artist and C. P. R. Man

What if You Had a Fire and No One Came?

Houseful of Whimsy 1982 Ottawa Journal


So What Happened to Laird Keller and His Ventriloquist Dummy Woody?

So What Happened to Laird Keller and His Ventriloquist Dummy Woody?

Latest issue of Screamin’ Mamas Magazine from Florida. Cover is of Linda Seccaspina with her Elvis puppet on Bridge Street in Carleton Place shot by our local Lanark County gal Sherry Crummy. 

Everyone knows I love puppets and worship the ground iconic Noreen Young walks on. My house used to be featured in the opening of the old CBC show Hi- Diddle-Day and I even have a room devoted to puppets. They are not expensive ones, but just the ones that have been given away to thrift shops. Everyone and everything needs a loving home.


I found this ad in one of the old Carleton Place Canadian newspapers at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum last week and I knew I had to search for an update about Laird Keller. I don’t know this man from squat-but what was he doing decades later? What I found was not what I expected to find. I sadly found a crowd-funding page.


Looking for a Home for my Ventriloquist Dummy– 2015

  • Old Man And His Dummy-Smiths Falls
  • You can help Laird afford to give his 53 year old partner (dummy) away, so the dummy can go on long after Laird is gone. 60 years as a Ventriloquist, and at one time Canada’s youngest ventriloquist.
  • Making it in show biz has always been Laird’s love, but it doesn’t always pay the bills.  He had planned on traveling around to Fairs to perform when he retired.  (From the age of nine years old Laird has entertained at children’s parties, store openings, hospitals and when old enough, weekend in night clubs.)  Alas this is not to be.  Like most in his family he smoked.  Not anymore, but to late to stop from getting COPD.  Now if he walks 9 feet from the bathroom, he has to sit down for 2 minutes to catch his breath.  An entertainer at Country Fairs is not going to be.
  • Woody, his partner is his concern, after all he has been by his side for 53 years.  Costing a lot of money at the time of creation, with a present value to Laird of priceless.  Laird has a very short time left, but like most people didn’t save up for this ailment.  He can sell his partner Woody to a collector to keep on a shelf and just rot, or give him away to some young performer that can’t afford to buy his own dummy.
  • This makes 2 people who can’t afford to do what is right, Laird to sell and the young performer to buy.
  • Here is what he would like to do.  Collect a small offering from many people so as Woody can be passed on to a young starving ventriloquist.  At the time of his passing all contributors will be offered a ticket to his last performance (my funeral).  Woody will be sitting on top of his closed coffin, thanking everyone one for coming.  I dare you to see his lips move.
  • After this his wooden pal, (dummy) will be given to someone who needs him, all with the support of all you people.

This was the last item I posted about Laird… Today is his birthday and I found out he passed away in 2019. I am heartbroken…

Thank you everyone for the kind condolences, thoughts and memories.

We will be holding a Celebration of Life for Laird Keller.
All friends and family are welcome to join us for a drink and share some stories at Ye Olde Orchard Pub … and if we are truly honouring my Dad, even naps are permitted.

Sunday, November 3, 2019, from 2:00 – 4:00pm

Ye Olde Orchard Pub & Grill (the Bridge Room)
66 Boulevard Salaberry S,
Châteauguay, QC J6J 4J5
(450) 692-5454

Casual setting. Children welcome