‘Bertie the Bunyip’

Vague memories

OK, here’s what I remember: A multilevel parking garage. A TV studio. A lot of people. And then, for the rest of my life, my mom telling anyone who would listen how I was once taken to a taping (or live broadcast?) of “The Bertie the Bunyip Show,” but when host Lee Dexter tried to speak with me on the air, I was too preoccupied with my own image on an overhead screen to reply. I was 4.

This would have been 1962-ish. The Sunday morning kiddie program “The Bertie the Bunyip Show” (1955-66) aired over Channel 3 at 1619 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Dexter was a kindly Aussie ventriloquist who built his own puppets. They were fanciful and adorable.

According to Dexter (1904-1991), a bunyip is a mythological creature in Australian lore. His Bertie puppet is at center in the above photo, the one with the long ears and red nose. I had forgotten all about the show, but about 10 years ago, I came across a photo of Bertie which revived vague memories of it. (I was very little, and don’t remember tuning in once I started Catholic school, after which Sunday mornings were largely devoted to attending Mass.)

Here’s the gang (from an early ’60s “Bunyip”-themed premium). I can’t say the “whole” gang, because Dexter apparently continually added characters throughout the show’s run.

More illustrations of Dexter’s characters (although wavy-haired Fussy is shown twice instead of his buddy, bald-headed Gussy).

An advertisement for Channel 3’s show, with Bertie and pointy-eared Nixie.

A rate sheet for potential advertisers calls Bertie the “Pied Piper of Philadelphia Television.”

A Bertie-themed toy. Children’s entertainment was so wholesome and innocent back then. There were no angry birds.


In the above video, Dexter’s nephew demonstrates the original Bertie puppet.