In 1956, a KMTV director who was searching for a host for a children’s show selected 26 year-old Norma out of 25 other women because she had a desire to teach children about the love of God. Norma became “Miss Jean” and proceeded to teach children for the next 38 years until health reasons caused her to turn over her position to her daughter-in-law, Maribeth. Jean’s Storytime started out in black and white on live television and saw the advent of color television and pre-taped programs before it ended in 2011 after a remarkable 55 years.
Miss Jean kept many of the thousands and thousands of letters and drawings she received over the years. On the show she encouraged children to draw a picture and send it in, and then, using the drawings for the lessons, she wrote and often adlibbed the stories. If she received 100 drawings in a week, she used all of them so every child’s drawing was shown. She remembers the name of the first little boy who sent her a photo of himself. Her heart was for the children, and her love for them is still evident. Initially she got over her camera shyness by imagining one child and speaking to that one child. She imagined the studio was a Sunday school class, when she was actually speaking before a camera crew, two puppets and the puppeteer--her son, Fred.
Norma’s gracious daughter, Eileen ushered me in, and I spent almost an hour and a half with the two delightful ladies. Cheerful and full of warmth and joy, Norma was as excited to meet me as I was to meet her. She had read my books, and she was full of questions. We shared our love for telling stories and how it’s always a surprise to be recognized by someone you’ve never met. Once when Norma was touring the temple in Salt Lake City, she and her husband were on an elevator and a little girl spoke up. “Are you Miss Jean from Miss Jean’s Storytime?” As it turned out the family was from Omaha and were also visiting, but she recognized Norma’s voice.
She thanked me for my time in visiting her, but the pleasure was all mine. Norma asked me to send special thanks to Romance Authors of the Heartland for their gifts. I assured her it was only fitting that children with whom she had shared the gift of storytelling had grown up to return the favor.
Dr. San Guinary took over Miss Jean's set. Watch this fun video.