I was reading a news article about a woman who had an adult son who still liked to watch Worzel Gummidge. I am in the US; I had never heard of the UK children’s program Worzel Gummidge from the early 1980’s. So I looked the program up on Youtube and found a certain kind of charm to the show about a scarecrow in shabby clothes who comes down off his pole and walks around town regularly speaking to people and children.
The first episode I bumped into online was about a marriage to Aunt Sally. The female character Aunt Sally is another classic stuffed human-looking figure that was used at country fairs for throwing games.
In the episode there are two Aunt Sally figures walking stiffly about town. There is the regular character who is a shrew to Worzel Gummidge who loves her. And another nice Aunt Sally figure chances to come into that town and agrees to marry Worzel Gummidge. A scarecrow and a sideshow target would make a lovely couple – in a children’s show. Or, for children of all ages to see. We are all somebody”s children.
This half hour episode gives a real flavor of the show.
The original story comes from a series of children’s books written by Barbara Euphan Todd. The first volume appeared in 1936. The first book in the series was the first paperback book put out in 1941 by Puffin Books a division of Penguin Books.
So, of course, I fell in love with Aunt Sally.
Aunt Sally is a traditional English game usually played in pub gardens and fairgrounds, in which players throw sticks or battens at a model of an old woman’s head; Aunt Sally has a wooden pipe in her mouth and the aim is to knock the pipe out of her mouth. Leagues of pub teams still play the game today, throughout the spring and summer months, mainly in Oxfordshire and some bordering counties in the UK.
It has been suggested that the term was based on a blackface doll itself inspired by a city slums underworld character named “Black Sal”, who appeared in an 1821 series of novellas entitled Life of London by Pierce Egan, a contemporary of Charles Dickens.
The Worzel Gummidge series of popular books were used to create radio programs and television programs. The one staring John Pertwee from 1979 to 1981 and again from 1987 to 1989 are listed in the Top 50 British Children’s Television Shows.