Does anyone remember the “Kids America” Radio Show?

Kids America aired from 1984-1987, stationed out of New York but syndicated on a couple dozen public radio stations. I have some very fond memories of this program, and was even put on the air a couple of times. Here’s my first ever appearance on radio…

This is probably the thing that got me into radio in the first place. The show didn’t last long, but I loved it. Kathy O’Connell, one of the hosts, is now with “Kids Corner” on WXPN-FM in Pennsylvania, which can also be heard online. I’ve never listened to the program before, but I probably will now that I have discovered it.

Information on the cancellation of Kids America in 1987 can be found in this New York Times article.

On Dec. 15, Mr. Orfaly and Ms. O’Connell told their listeners they were going off the air for what they described as complicated reasons that had to do with money. Since then, WNYC has received hundreds of letters, expressing more indignation than sadness, according to the general manager of WNYC radio, Wally Smith. Many children have sent in money to try to keep the show on the air.

I’m kinda depressed after reading that.

Does anyone else remember the program?

EDIT: I just found another article by Googling Larry Orfaly’s name (he was one of the hosts). It links to the Ocala Star-Banner on Google News Archive Search, and it’s a newspaper from 1986. This is the first time I’ve seen this Google/Microfiche thing. Check it out!

EDIT #2: Another search result, this time with audio! This comes from the original program, called “Small Things Considered,” in 1984. (you have to go to the page that says “Small Things Considered” in the left hand column)

EDIT #3 (and the last one): I really should have Googled before posting this entry. If you Google Larry Ofraly, there are tons of sites that mention Kids America. I’d like to find a site that is actually a tribute to the show and nothing else, but I’ll be happy with whatever I find. Here’s a page from New York Magazine back in the day.

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About JT

Christian. Husband. Dad. 911 dispatcher. Baseball fan. Horror nut. Music nerd. Bookworm. Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year.

Posted on November 7, 2009, in music and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. First of all, I very much remember “Kids America”. I also remember that “Evening Music” started in those days at 7:00PM.

    Ah, those were the days. John S had New Sounds on not only every night at 11:00PM, but two hours on Saturday and two hours on Sunday. I still have – now digitized to .mp3 – the broadcast premier of Steve Reich’s “The Desert Music”, complete with John’s priceless interview of Maestro Reich. We had Steve Post, Sara Fishko, probably David Garland. We had Stan David and someone whose name slips by me on “Music Through the Night”

    I see the name of Wally Smith. I did not know that he was once at WNYC. I know that most recently he has been at WLIU. I first heard about him by someone bemoaning his departure from KUSC, Los Angeles.

    I searched high and low for whose weblog this is. I finally used the Twitter thing.
    Jason Carter? You have a long and good memory.

    Best,

    Richard S. Mitnick
    Highland Park, NJ

    Please check out my weblog, “Whither Public Radio and serious music” at
    http://richardmitnick.wordpress.com

  2. Andre Bernard, that was the other person on “Music Through the Night”. He also taught a class in something called ideokinesis to Dance students when my daughter was a dance major in the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

    Boy, are you making me feel old.

    But, hey, those were great days.

    >>RSM

  3. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the comments. The post was a walk down memory lane for me, brought on by finding an old cassette tape in my closet (converted to digital and uploaded to Youtube, above). After posting this, I continued my stroll down memory lane by looking up information about television shows that I faintly remembered from my childhood, such as Nickelodeon’s “The Third Eye.” It was fun. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and was interested in your recollections about the program and other things going on with public radio at the time.

  4. Ahhh… Kids America. That show was what radio was invented for. I was just 40 years old when I became addicted to the show on public station KPCC in Pasadena, CA. I scheduled my day to listen to it. I daydreamed I was just out of college and looking for my “life’s calling” and then I found a job as an intern/gofer/janitor on the show. When I heard they were going off-the-air, I prayed to win the Lotto and become Mr. Benefactor. Oh, well. Now I gotta be a grown-up.

  5. PS – Somewhere under a pile in my office I HAVE the final KIDS AMERICA show on an audio cassette.

    • Please let me know if you find it. I have one of the final shows since I was on it, but I didn’t listen to the last show because our station in Boston WBUR DIDN’T CARRY IT! They canceled Kids America 5 days early! Ugh. We never listened to that station again!

  6. Oh, I remember it. I never stopped remembering it. I’m a teacher now (though I did have another career in, well, children’s radio) and I credit the best of my work to that show. I credit the best of myself to that show, really. Kathy O’Connell and I are still in touch.

    I have quite a few cassettes of the show.

    I try to stay anonymous on the Internet so I’m not signing this with a name, but please email me if you are so inclined. Any fan of Kids America is a friend of mine.

  7. P.S. Thanks so much for those audio clips!!

  8. Right now my 9 year old daughter is listening to an old “Kids America” show I taped when i was living in Minneapolis and going to grad school. My sister and I used to listen regularly — I googled kids america to see if there were any other episodes online that she could listen to on her mp3 player — thankfully that old cassette tape made it through multiple moves/states and amazingly still holds kids’ interest today. she listens to it often….. i used to be able to digitize cassette tapes but my hard disk crashed. i should probably pay for this one to be digitized and add it to the archives on YouTube….thanks!

  9. Christine, that’s awesome. If you ever do digitize it, be sure to post a link so we can all hear it!

  10. Margaret Hoffmann

    I adored that show! My understanding was that the cancellation was all about money and trying to move the ownership rights away from the actual creative team and on air talent. That show is so sorely missed!
    I would love to be able to buy recordings of the show– loved the segment ” Dr Rita Book” (Read-a-book) and The Mystery History Guest.

    One of the original team members just passed away, the remarkable Martha L. Dodge.
    Wish we could bring back this great radio show.

  11. Hello all,

    I was a dedicated listener, (starting when it was “Small Things Considered”). I recall winning a book for guessing a Mystery History guest. I also loved Martha’s Friday Night Party. For those of you who have cassettes of some broadcasts, how might I be able to obtain copies of them from you (I’d be glad to pay shipping and handling and reimburse you for your time and cassette)? I would love to listen to old shows, and wished I had taped some myself.

    Best,
    Deanna

  12. Margaret Hoffmann

    Wish we could mobilize and organize and get some CDs made of any and all Kids America programs that anyone has out there. I would gladly pay to preserve these treasures.

    • I have a *lot* of old cassettes. I am not sure how to go about digitizing them, though I’d be more than happy to.

      I was so, so sad to read about Martha’s passing. How did you know about that?

  13. My sister and I were huge fans of the show growing up. She recently started a facebook group called “I listened to Kids American in the 80s” – so please feel free to join! We just found a tape recording of the song that Susan Diaz made up for us and sang on the spot. We recorded it onto the computer and posted it. Would LOVE to hear other people’s recordings.

  14. Great idea Sarah! Here’s the link for others who are interested in joining:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=186436433360

  15. I was a frequent caller to the show and even visited the broadcast once. I know some “behind the scenes” info about the canceling of the show which remains a real tragedy. Along with many cassettes of the show, I have maintained contact with some of the show’s cast – though I have lost track of the producer Marcy. Feel free to contact me for more info. I think that if CPB/WNYC had not canceled Kids America, NPR would not be i n the position it is in today: failing to recapture the ears of the millions of 30 somethings who were alienated for life when their favorite show was stolen from them.

  16. My husband and I listened to “Kids America” all the time, to learn songs to teach to our nieces and nephews, whose ultra-strict parents wouldn’t let them listen to the radio. We taught them “Dancing with Bears” and “The Cat Came Back” and “Fish Heads” and the song about being bored that goes “There’s nothing to do, no way to have fun. I’m gonna go crazy if I can’t find something to do. I’m bored, so bored.” (I’d love to have all the lyrics to the bored song … “we could roller skate on the moon … paint the cat a different color ….) “Kids America” was a TERRIFIC show!

    • Gordon G. Andrew

      Ann…if you’re interested, I might be able to send you a copy of that song. It’s on a cassette tape along with the other Andrew Family songs, so I need to digitize it first. Let me know. Gordon

      • Gordon, I can’t speak for Ann but I would absolutely love to hear some of these old songs again. You can upload them to YouTube for everyone to enjoy! 🙂

  17. Gordon G. Andrew

    My kids and I wrote a few songs as The Andrew Family for Kids America…including I Hate Homework, Homework Excuses and the I’m Bored song that Ann mentioned in the previous post. My kids and I had a great time listening to our songs on the radio, and we we’re really sad to see the show end.

    • Cool! Thanks for doing those songs. I remember the Homework song! Nice job on those. I’m not sure if I have any of your songs on my tapes so I’d love to hear them again. Are you in touch with Kathy? She’s still at WXPN. I have some other staff emails lying around too. Had a nice chat with the Duke of words a few years ago. Neat!

  18. I just watched “Dirty Dancing” and recall the song “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” being integral with Kids America… it brought back a flood of memories of listening to such a wonderful NPR show–and, I was a young, married (pregnant) adult! The song became a reminder of my love for my son… I’m sure all sappily tied to the radio show. Thanks for the memories!

  19. I was on Kids America several times (Jonathan from Harvard – not the college) and even performed the “Health Rap” in the shows last few months. Thankfully I have about 10 shows on tape including the day my family went down to watch the show. Got to meet everyone – how cool. I’ll try to post pictures and audio soon. If anyone wants to get in touch with me, just email. contrabassoon@westerling.com Thanks!

  20. We didn’t have a TV and my daughters listened to Kids America every week. They still have an autographed picture of Kathy O’Connell and the other DJs. I wish I could get recordings of those shows to give to grandchildren. It fills me with sadness to know there are no radio shows for children. I will never forgive NPR for getting rid of this show (and Bob Edwards). So sad.

  21. Thane Maynard, zoologist was also a great feature of the show. He is now Director of the Cincinnati Zoo and still a great guy. I am not a facebook person but would love to share the tapes with my grandkids.

  22. Small things considered was great stuff. I grew up in Brooklyn and listened all the time.

  23. Hello there. Yes, I remember “Kids America” very well. I discovered it late, it was summer of ’86 and was 12, almost 13…and I thought it was just a little too childish for me. I grew up fast, and had crazier interests, which included getting into trouble, haha. I mean I was already listening to Howard Stern at that point.

    However, being a huge movie fan already, and having interest in the media (Film, TV and Radio)…I kept listening to “Kids America”, I thought it was the perfect way to actually get on the radio, as it was pretty damn simple to get on. I was on the show about six times. I introduced a song twice “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was one of them; I was on “Stump the Duke” twice; and I did some sort of acting game where I was a rich bidder in an auction…and I can’t recall the final time…but I did record the portions I was on…not sure if I still have them.

    Once thing I do remember, they ALWAYS played that Steve Martin “Dentist!” song from “Little Shop of Horrors”…I mean it was almost like every other day at that point in time. Haha.

    What also peaked my interest was that they would have occasionally have celebrity guests. I remember Elizabeth Shue was on promoting “Adventures in Babysitting”…that’s summer ’87 I guess…but I pretty much tuned out of it quickly.

  24. I remember this show fondly, I was even on a couple of times. I was just telling my children about it. Thanks for posting!

  25. Oh, I’ve had a page on my website for a while now about Kids America, and should have posted the link here: http://westerling.com/?page_id=25 There’s some pics from my visit, some recordings and the promo reel they used to get underwriting for the show and pitch it to stations. Enjoy! – Jonathan

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