Tip-Top Clubhouse

From Bhamwiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Title card for the Tip-Top Clubhouse

Tip-Top Clubhouse (originally Cliff's Clubhouse) was a locally-produced children's television program hosted by Cliff Holman. It debuted on WABT-TV (Channel 13) on March 15, 1954 and aired weekdays from 5:15 to 5:30 PM. The host's moniker was styled after the station's popular "Uncle Bill", but was modified to "Cousin Cliff" due to the 25-year-old Holman's youth.

The program, sponsored by Ward Baking Company's "Tip-Top" brand sandwich bread, originally aired on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only. Soon Butter-Nut Candy Bars took up sponsorship of the same format on Tuesdays and Thursdays, airing as "Cliff's Comics".

Cliff's father, J. C. Holman, constructed a set painted to look like a kid's back-yard clubhouse. Cliff wore a trademark outfit with a magician's long-tailed coat and top hat over a striped shirt and accented with an oversized bow-tie and flower, and a stuffed rabbit emerging from the top of his hat. He also introduced the hand-puppet characters "Corky" and "Kim", loosely based on Edgar Bergen's Charlie McArthy and Mortimer Snerd, as the first in an expanding cast of puppet animals.

Other features of the program included "Crayon Capers" during which Holman would draw a mystery doodle, "Tip the Topper", a salute to a different small Alabama town in each episode, and cartoon shorts starring Jay Ward's Crusader Rabbit. The show ranked as high as #8 against all other programming, network or local, in the Birmingham market. In 1955 the Magic City Toy Company produced the Cousin Cliff Magic Set as a special promotion.

In early 1956 a labor strike at the local Tip-Top bakery led the company to reduce its investment in the show, which continued with a growing membership of 5,000 viewers who had filled out free applications. Ward Baking Company pulled its sponsorship altogether, leading the station to plan its cancellation that fall. With the departure of Bill Wright, then host of the "Circle Six Ranch" program, however, the way was cleared for Cliff's Clubhouse to expand to a half hour long program with multiple sponsors and a live audience of children. He also inherited the use of Bounce-A-Lot, Wright's 1921 Model-T Ford that Holman Sr repainted in bright yellow with the show's name and station.