The Famous Kids on Spear Street

The Famous Kids on Spear Street

When Burr Tillstrom had visitors to his Saugatuck home he would often bring one of his famous puppets into the conversation.

First there was Kukla, then came the egotistical Ollie, followed by the whole troop: Madam Ooglepuss, Beulah the Witch, Cecil Bill, Fletcher Rabbit, Colonel Crackie - all of whom were called "the kids" by their creator, Burr Tillstrom.

Millions of Americans watched the kids' antics in the Kukla, Fran, and Ollie show, television's first big puppet show. At one point the kids received fifteen thousand fan letters a week. Burr moved them and gave them voice and soul from behind the curtain and lovely Fran Allison visited and sang with them in front of the camera. Their television shenanigans and gossip became legendary. They even performed musicals and operettas. Burr could make several kids appear to sing at the same time.

He once said, "You don't need a script when you're talking to your friends."

Burr spent much of his life with the "Kuklapolitans" in Chicago - at Marshall Field's department store for Saturday puppet shows, at the NBC and ABC television studios, at their Chicago home - and frequently "on the road" for special appearances.

Kukla, Ollie, and the others lived in Saugatuck as well - at Burr's house on upper Spear Street - and it was on various Saugatuck and Holland occasions that they gave some of their best performances. One of the best remembered performances was as narrators for a Saugatuck civic celebration in 1971.

Fran once said that Kukla and Ollie "are as real to me as people."

Burr Tillstrom died in 1985, Kukla and Ollie were recently discovered in the attic of Burr's old Saugatuck house, patiently waiting for Burr.

The Famous Kids on Spear Street
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