Chinese Bells

“Today, I want to do it on the table!”

Miss Frances. Frances Rappaport Horwich, star — if that’s the word — of Ding Dong School. A show that I watched with recollected docility in the early Fifties. Perhaps the best way to think of Miss Frances is as Mr Rogers’s fairy godmother,  by way of Joe Jervis — qua Ruth Draper’s Mrs Grimmer, of Doctors and Diets, a routine that Joe can recite by rote. (Cue it, Joe!)

A show from this popular series is included in the DVD set, Hiya, Kids!!, which takes its name from another old favorite, Andy’s Gang (“Plunk your magic twanger, Froggie.”). On the one hand, these shows are amazingly innocent of all TV allure. Production values are sub-nil. On the other hand, it is impossible to watch them without imagining their hosts being led away in chains, by federal marshals.

You think I’m joking? Consider this wholesome activity.


The ew factor of this image sent Kathleen into paroxyms of revulsion. I knew that she’d react unfavorably to Ding Dong School, but the extent to which she did so surprised even me.

The commercialization can only be called Nudist. It is that frank. There are two ads for Kix. Both of them feature serving suggestions of which this is the most naive:


There is, strangely, no mention whatsoever of milk, or cream, or water, or any liquid. I suppose that liquid would dampen the crunchiness, which is billed as lasting until “the last spoonful.” The last spoonful in the box, that is. (In those days, nobody worried about how that was managed.) Every time Miss Frances mentions the “crunchy corn” deliciousness of “Kix,” all I can think of is Mrs Grimmer’s trying to squeeze out “the juice of eleven lemons.”

In addition to blowing bubbles, Miss Frances recites poems (by Vachel Lindsay and Robert Louis Stevenson), folds handkerchiefs, and bounces a ball.


I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a child requiring instruction in bouncing a ball.

After all of this edification, Miss Frances summons the parents and/or guardians, bustles the kids out of the room, talks up the handkerchief trick, plugs Kix all over again, and then — this is why you have to buy the DVD — urges her listeners to teach their little ones to “evaluate plans.” Stalinist or anti-Communist? It’s hard to tell.

The good news is that Kathleen has all sorts of new nightmare material, what with Miss Frances and watching Toy Story right afterward.

As for the title of this entry: it refers to a prepubescent joke that I was telling within five or six years of watching Ding Dong School. In those days, five or six years made a completely different man of me; now it only means that I have lived to benefit from more effective medication. Sadly, I still think that this is one of the funniest jokes that I have ever heard. The fun is in the setup, not the punchline. (Actually, the fun is in the souvenir of boyishly imagining that a grown man might conceivably mistake X (Chinese bells) for Y (read on.) That darn keyhole: curse or blessing? If you’re up for some childishness, click on through.

A man and a woman are in bed together when the woman’s husband unexpectedly comes home. The woman shoves the man into her closet. The closet is so small that there is no room for his testicles, which hang out through the keyhole.

The husband walks into the bedroom, sees the testicles, and asks his wife, “What’s that?”

“Oh! Those are some Chinese bells, darling. I was out shopping this afternoon and I just had to have them.”

The husband goes up to the closet and flicks a finger against the testicles. Not a sound. “Bells, you say,” muses the husband…

(Much ensuing buildup, delaying the climax — and the sympathetic misery — as long as possible.)

The husband takes a mallet to the testicles. The man in the closet, pushed beyond endurance, bellows, “Goddamit, ding dong!

5 Responses to “Chinese Bells”

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    That joke is so old………..but I stilled laughed….Ding Dong School, eh? No memory of that. But Howdy Doody, Kukla Fran & Ollie yes, and of course the Mickey Mouse Club, esp. Spin and Marty. Esp. Marty

  2. Nom de Plume says:

    I actually appeared as a five-year-old “panelist” on the local version of Romper Room, which played during the commercial breaks of the national Romper Room. The privilege bestowed through nepotism on the station manager’s daughter. My sister was on a later show and was featured in a commercial for whipped cream produced on the set. She was given a bite of pumpkin pie with a generous dab of the local dairy’s canned whipped cream sitting jauntily on top. After pushing the cream aside with a sneer-y,” she replied to the saccharine query, “don’t you want the delicious whipped cream on top, dear?” with a wrinkled nose and a curt “ew.” I was so embarrassed. She was so bush league.

  3. Nom de Plume says:

    As for the Chinese bells, I can’t get past the mental image far enough to laugh. Double “ew.”

  4. LXIV says:

    Having been “treated” like Kathleen, to a private viewing, I must say I was torn between the naivete and the raw commercialism of the show. The awful creepy feeling lurking below the surface is something else altogether – a Tim Burtonesque element that seems ready to burst forth at any moment. The fact that it never actually does is almost worse than one could image – like a windlass that is relentlessly wound and never relaxed, yet the line of which always threatens to snap with horrid consequences to ensue; I think more Hitchcockian than Mr. Rodgers…

  5. corvidillis says:

    I remember DD school, dear old Doddering Mrs. F. I’m 59 and am still mal-adjusted Hmmmm! I wonder?