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 theHi Diddle Dayshow. 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.
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 Bandwere 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.
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 Moonstruck, The Hurricane and, Jesus Christ Superstar among many. Please note that Uncle Chichimus is not noted on his Wikipedia page.
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.
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
In 2005 Wayne’s mini me disappeared. Linda would care to know if that puppet ever made its way home?
A replica of Wayne Rostad of On The Road Again has disappeared from an Almonte pub where it had been on display and where the locals turned to it for help settling arguments, JENNI LEE CAMPBELL reports.
The town of Almonte is abuzz over a crime residents are describing as “heinous,” “dastardly,” and “a slap in the face.” Last Thursday, a metre-tall rubber-latex puppet likeness of area icon Wayne Rostad was stolen from the Ironworks Pub and Restaurant. The theft apparently took place under the noses of Ironworks staff and regulars. The puppet, crafted by master puppeteer Noreen Young (creator of CBC’s Under the Umbrella Tree) and commissioned as a gift by Mr. Rostad’s wife, Leanne Cusack of CJOH, was on loan to the neighbourhood watering hole.
“I feel just awful,” said co-owner Ruth-Ann Mackin-non, who called the theft “a heinous act.” She said she called Mr. Rostad as soon as she learned of the theft. “He was clearly not pleased,” she said, adding that Mr. Rostad, who could not be reached by the Citizen yesterday, promised to help recover the puppet in any way he could. The one-of-a-kind puppets, which Mrs. Young creates entirely by hand and decks out in pint-sized clothing, bear uncanny resemblances to their namesakes and are worth about $1,500. Mrs. Young has created about 40 of the personalized puppets for Almonte business owners and personalities.
A parade last Sunday in Almonte featured people and their look-alike puppets. Max Keeping and his “mini-me” led the procession. Many storefronts on Almonte’s main streets feature lifelike replicas of their owners. Mayor Al Lunney declared that he wouldn’t let his puppet likeness out of his sight. Mrs. Young is upset, but able to maintain a sense of humour about the incident. “Maybe he’s sitting in someone’s living room watching On the Road Again,” she said yesterday in her workshop. “It (the puppet) isn’t really the kind of thing you can show off,” she said, surmising the thief must be a big Wayne Rostad fan.
Mr. Rostad, a singer-songwriter and longtime CBC broadcaster, is very involved with Ottawa Valley events and charities. “He’s extremely generous to the community,” said Mrs. Young. “It’s sort of a backhanded compliment, I guess.” Chris O’Brien, who owns the Miller’s Tale bookstore a block away from the Ironworks and there runs a Don Quixote book club, said he was at the restaurant with a group of friends on the night the theft. Between pints sometime before 10 p.m., the group jokingly called on the Rostad puppet a popular fixture who was situated on a window frame directly behind the bar where they were sitting to settle an argument. The outcome of the argument is long forgotten, but the rubber Rostad’s fate is not.
“One of us said, ‘Where did Wayne go?’ and he was gone,” said Mr. O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien and his friends helped the bartender search the restaurant for the puppet, but it was to no avail. Mr. Rostad, it seemed, had left the building. Mr. O’Brien, who bought his own puppet four years ago, can commiserate. “I’d be really upset if someone stole mine,” he said. “It’s not just a puppet. It’s like someone stealing a portrait of you. It’s very personal” While Mr. O’Brien says he’s not so far removed from his youth that he can’t see the novelty in stealing a lifelike puppet, he says it’s an insult to both Mr. Rostad and the community. “The puppets are becoming a calling card for the town,” he said. Mrs. Young still has the original cast and will offer to do another puppet for Mr. Rostad at half price if the plundered one doesn’t resurface.
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
30 Aug 2005, Tue • Page 25
So was his puppet ever found? Well this appeared March 9 2020—- FOUR months after I posted this everywhere this happened.
The mystery of who stole Wayne Rostad’s doppelganger puppet has been solved.
Rostad, a household name in Canada, is a legend in the Ottawa Valley. He is a singer, songwriter, entertainer, host, author, community activist, the list goes on.
Almost two decades ago, Rostad’s puppet, crafted by master puppeteer Noreen Young, was lifted from the former Ironworks Pub in Almonte, never to be seen again — until now. Click below to read more…
PuppetsUp! MIGHT be coming back next year 2022 as a POP UP
Thank you to everyone who liked, commented on or shared our announcement yesterday! Did you know we also have a mailing list? If you want to be among the first to know about pre-festival shows, ticket sales and more, sign up today!
So what happens when the parade is over after everyone turns that corner?
They say there are no faeries or clouds of magic in Lanark County, but some might disagree. The magic that the enchanting Noreen Young has created for many decades has made many of us follow the beat of this amazing woman who resides in Mississippi MIlls.
Noreen Isabel Young, was born on the 10th of May, 1952 and is a Canadian producer and puppeteer, and still actively involved in puppeteering through her corporation Noreen Young Productions. Young grew up in the capital of Ottawa, Ontario and knew from the beginning that puppets can say things that humans can’t.
Young, a founding member of the CBC children’s television programming developed a children’s show called “Hi Diddle Day” from 1968-1976. The uniquely-produced series starred a number of puppet characters (created, manipulated and voiced by Noreen Young) who lived in an unusual household. It was originally seen only in Ottawa, Montreal and the Maritimes, and by 1970, its popularity led CBC to turn it into a national children’s series.
But the magic didn’t stop there- the fascinating Young was also the creator of “Under the Umbrella Tree” – another popular CBC television children’s series that ran from 1987 – 1993 on the CBC network and subsequently on The Disney Channel from 1993-1997. She received Gemini Award nominations for all her love, imagination and her mastery of puppetry in 1986, 1990 and 1994.
Dodie”, a character on Sesame Park, also became part of Noreen’s repertoire when she replaced Rob Mills on the Canadian version of Sesame Street. Her puppet characters also appeared on many TV Ontario productions including Readalong and Telefrancais and they were also featured in the second 1984 Care Bears television special, The Care Bears Battle the Freeze Machine.
Young is also known for her fabulous caricature puppets of public figures: former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson, CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge and hockey commentator Don Cherry, and also of community personalities from her beloved Mississippi Mills. She was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995, honoured by the Canadian Institute for Child Health on November 18th, 2015 at the 16th Annual Crayons and Cravats Gala for her tireless energy and dedication to the use of puppetry to teach and entertain children.
No one had a clue what Noreen would do next until she and her astonishing puppet community brought the PuppetsUp! International Puppet Festival to Almonte, Ontario. Her band of volunteers, businesses, sponsors, angel investors, and of course the city of Almonte brought the community to another level with family-friendly original theatre.
In 2017 the PuppetsUp! Festival sadly ended after 12 years. Noreen was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen:
“This is not the end of Puppets Up!” she insisted, “I think that we will reinvent ourselves!”
People are so quick to talk about puppets. Some think that Nick and his crew are walking around with diamond Rolex’s on, BUT, the fact is- they don’t reap any Kardashian perks from their craft or event-they do it for the love of the people.
I could never be on the stage on my own. But, puppets can say things that humans can’t say– so here are the facts Jack! As we walked around the Carleton Place Farmer’s Market Saturday Nick filled me in on things I had no idea about.
Nick told me that last year, the money PuppetsUp! brought in from selling tickets to the Festival, did NOT cover the direct costs of bringing the amazing talent they showcased in Almonte. Now if you have ever been to PuppetsUp! you know the quality of what I am speaking about.
That’s right…Nick said they brought in just over $57,000 in ticket sales to the festival and they spent almost $70,000 to bring first class talent from around the world to Almonte!
This doesn’t include the money they spent locally on promotion, on expenses to create the 5 additional theatre venues out of tents, or the administration that takes place year-round.
If all the “economists” were laid end to end, they’d never reach a conclusion-but the puppets know you have to spend money to make something fantastic happen like PuppetsUp!
To keep the PuppetsUp! prices reasonable and family-friendly, they rely heavily on the support of community, money from both from individual donors, and corporate sponsorship. They can’t exist without the amazing volunteers who give their time and their talents. They are VERY appreciative of that support and they really and truly could NOT hold the Festival without them.
As Nick said, “We are nobody’s puppet without them”!
Once you hand someone the strings they become narrators of life so–always be yourself– gracious, giving and wonderful like Nick and the PuppetsUp! gang! Thank you to all of the PuppetsUp! crew for all you do.
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-Dayand 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.
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
Hi Diddle Day was a CBC Ottawa production designed to entertain and inform young viewers from 1968-1969. The uniquely-produced series starred a number of puppet characters (created, manipulated and voiced by Noreen Young) who lived in an unusual household. The setting was a remodeled Victorian house in Crabgrass, 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.
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 appearred 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.
Since 1981 I have lived in the Hi-Diddle-Day House, and because of my love of Noreen Young’s talent I have created a small shrine in one room to the puppets of Hi-Diddle-Day. I actually own one of Noreen’s older puppets and proudly march in the Puppets Up! parade each year in Almonte that she created. That’s because with a puppet I can get away with a lot more:)– in reality I guess I am just a puppet who can see the strings.
Wikipedia–Noreen Isabel Young, CM (born May 10, 1952) is a Canadian producer and puppeteer, and is still actively involved in puppeteering through her corporation Noreen Young Productions. Young grew up in Ottawa, Ontario.
A Noreen Young caricature puppet
She was the creator of Under the Umbrella Tree, a popular CBC Television children’s series that ran from 1987-1993 on the CBC and on the Disney Channel from 1993-1997, and was also the puppeteer for “Dodie”, a character on Sesame Park, the Canadian version ofSesame Street. Her puppet characters also appeared on many TVOntario productions including Readalong and Telefrancais.
She is also known for her caricature puppets of public figures such as former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson, CBC news anchorPeter Mansbridge and hockey commentator Don Cherry, and of prominent personalities from her hometown of Almonte, Ontario. She currently serves as artistic director of the Puppets Up international puppet festival, held annually in Almonte.
She was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995–Noreen Young will be honoured by the Canadian Institute for Child Health on November 18th at the 16th Annual Crayons and Cravats Gala for her tireless energy and dedication to the use of puppetry to teach and entertain children.
Me on the cover of Screamin Mamas magazine from Florida that I write for. That is one of Noreen Young’s original puppets that I cherish.
In ode to Noreen..The original Balderson cow in the background.. I called her Baldy Welsh after the Carleton Place Canoe great– because her udders swing both way. One must have whimsy…
Truth be told I never was an Elvis fan. Not one single photo of Elvis ever graced my Beatle wallpapered wall as a teen. The closest I came to having some sort of an affiliation with the rock legend was stealing a 45 RPM called “Viva Las Vegas” from the local five-and-dime in the 60’s.
Who knew that yesterday Elvis would become my new “Hunk of Burnin’ Love”. It ‘s no secret to those that know me that puppets have always been a great love and fascination of mine. Each year in August (except for last year) I religiously attend the “Puppets Up!” festival in Almonte, Ontario. I cram as many shows as they feature, and am the number 1 fan of the Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers from Bar Harbor ME.
Yesterday I was given a vintage Noreen Young affiliated puppet of Elvis for my birthday by my “Bossa Nova Valley” sweetie from California.
“Ain’t that Lovin You Baby?”
I have idolized Ms. Young for years and my children worshiped her television show “Under the Umbrella Tree”. I am lucky and honoured to live in the house they used for the opening of her 60’s CBC-TV show “High Diddle Day.” I would safely say that I don’t have a puppet fetish, but just a great admiration for those that use such creativity to entertain.
Each year as I watch the annual “Puppets Up!” parade I envy those that participate in the yearly extravaganza. This year I proudly announce I will be in that very parade mingling with the puppeteers in section B with my “King of the Whole Wild World”.
Another thing finally marked off my bucket list!
This morning I got up and smiled at Elvis, and as he looked at me he seemed to say,
“It’s Now or Never” baby!
Today, there is finally “Peace in the (Ottawa) Valley” for me.