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Friendly Giant

Starting in 1958, The Friendly Giant debuted on the University of Madison, Wisconsin's WHA-TV, made available to Educational TV stations all over the United States. Five years later, the charming, low key fifteen-minute show moved to the Canadian Broadcast Network but continued to be offered in the US.

Robert Homme starred as the Friendly Giant, and like TV educator Paul Tripp, Homme wrote his own shows. The Giant liked to hang out with his friends Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Rooster (both hand puppets) - meant to mimic the behavior of children.

Jerome was the rebellious, know-it-all kid and Rusty (who lived in a bookbag) was the inquisitive, younger child. Each episode started with the Giant (who lived in a castle on a farm with tiny doll house antique furniture) saying: "Once upon a time, not long ago and not far away...".

There was a running plotline that was explored through conversation or by the Giant reading books to the kids at home. There was rarely a point of view put across - "What is important is for them (the children) to see is that we adults enjoy learning," Homme declared in 1969. He was serious in his attempts to reach children with new concepts, his was a go-slow, gentle approach, "Witness how they repeat and repeat things and play records over and over again. They like repetition. I think the whole world is preoccupied by the concept of change. But there are a lot of things that had better not change. And one of them is the concept of clarity and coherence."

Ironically, it was change that did in 'The Friendly Giant' (in the US, anyway). He was removed from the Educational Television schedule for a bold, new children's show that attempted to use the techniques of modern advertising to teach - instead of pushing a product, they would insert educational messages. This wildly successful production from the brand new Children's Television Workshop debuted in November of 1969 and was called 'Sesame Street'.

Beloved by generations of children, Robert Homme died May 2, 2000 of cancer at his home in Grafton. He was 81. The Friendly Giant ran on CBC TV for 28 years, from September, 1958 until March 1985, then continued in reruns.


"Dear TVparty;  

"I have just read that Mr. Robert Homme died. His son Richard said, "He was a great father, he gave you a lot to look up to - a lot of integrity & strong beliefs that he lived up to". Rod Coneybeare, who played Jerome & Rusty, called him, "probably the greatest children's performer in Canada".

Mr. Homme received the Order of Canada in 1998 at the Grafton Village Inn, where he played the clarinet. He told the crowd attending, "I'll always remember this day as a perfect cap of 30-odd years of just having a wonderful time simply being friendly". Among those present was Nina Keogh, who got her debut on the Friendly Giant at the age of 11 & came back in 1968 until the show's end in 1986. "One of the big thrills for me was the fact that Bob exposed children to classical & jazz music" Keogh said.

The paper had the story on the first page, with a picture of him as Friendly with Rusty & Jerome, continuing to the last page with a picture of him with his granddaughter, playing the clarinet. He was a very sweet man & he will be missed."

- Sincerely, Linda Gillies


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"My desire to sit in the rocking chair in any room dates back to watching Friendly move his furniture into place in front of the fireplace. He was an integral part of my childhood, and indeed of Canadians in general. At a time when "I am Canadian" has become a popular slogan, having watched Friendly - a true icon - is another part of what that claim means. He will remain in our hearts forever." - Jan Rourke


"Today, Tuesday, May 2, 2000, Bob Homme passed away at his home in Grafton, Ontario, Canada (at the age of 81). He was a long time friend of mine, and I'll miss him."

- Gary F.


"I am impressed by your quick posting of the tribute to Mr. Homme. The news of his passing is a big story in the Canadian media. The obituaries made two points I thought interesting; first, Mr. Homme refused to permit any merchandising or licensing of the characters, second, the shows (except for the opening and closing bits) were unscripted- Mr. Homme wanted the dialouge to sound like a natural conversation between a young child and an adult."

- J5509


"You might be interested to learn that Jerome, Rusty, the castle, the little chairs and castle backdrop as well as Friendly's clothing is all on display next to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Radio and TV Museum located at the CBC Broadcasting Centre, 250 Front Street West in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

There were over 20 duplicates of the backdrop made during the lifetime of the series. The panels in place are from the black and white days, circa early to mid 60's.

Bob Homme (who resides in the province of Ontario) kindly loaned the "furniture", puppets and assorted props. The display was put in place a couple of months ago.

Also did you know that Fred Rogers came to Canada in the early years to help develop children's programming and later returned to the U.S. where of course he starred in his own series, "Mr. Rogers' Neighbourhood".

There were many excellent children's shows developed by the CBC and popular here besides "The Friendly Giant". These include "Mr. Dressup". "Maggie Muggins" and "Razzle Dazzle".

CBC Radio One played the first show Robert Homme did here in Toronto on CBC, it was a radio show called Mr. Homme's House. This was early 1960's. I found the program they aired stood up well today. In fact the believability of script and performance by Bob and the female co-star was first rate.

Robert Homme was recently bestowed the Order of Canada, the highest compliment of the land. They said on the show (Fresh Air) that he often can be seen around town playing clarinet in cafes."

- Don Adams

"I used to love watching Bob Homme as Friendly and Rusty and Jerome, and of course the rare appearances by those musical cats. I recall they did primarily read books on the show...but occasionally, they would perform concerts featuring the cats and of course the whole gang playing various instruments. I seem to also recall they even did a half-hour special, which was also a concert.

The theme song from FG was "Early One Morning", which they mentioned once during a concert was an old song from the 16th century (I think). It was played as part of the opening and also during the closing. In fact, during the same concert where they gave the name of the theme song, they played the song and Jerome sang the lyrics to the song. I don't know if the theme music for the 1959 - 1969...but that was the music used during FG's CBC run."

- Lynda VE


I'm a columnist for RadioDigest.com, covering the Chicago and Milwaukee markets. Consequently, as Bob Homme started his broadcast career in nearby Madison, it fell to me to write the obituary for him that appeared in our "Daily Grind" column.

Bob started "The Friendly Giant" in 1953 on WHA-AM 970 Radio in Madison, the University of Wisconsin station and the oldest continuously operating radio station in the country. (WHA is now also the flagship station for the Ideas Network of Wisconsin Public Radio.) He was something of a jack-of-all-trades there, also newscasting, announcing weather reports, and even co-starring in a comedy program with Ken Ohst that wasn't too far off from the BBC's "Goon Show," which made a star in England out of Peter Sellers.

In 1954, WHA started a television station on Channel 21 in Madison, to which Bob transferred "The Friendly Giant." Kineoscopes of the program were distributed to the few other non-commercial stations in the United States (this was not only before the formation of PBS, but even before NET), and some of them wound up running on the CBC stations in Ontario. They became so popular there that, in 1959, Bob accepted an offer to transfer production to the CBC's studios in Toronto and Ottawa. The program continued to run on several U.S. public TV outlets, especially WHA-TV and Milwaukee's WMVS-TV Channel 10, well into the '60s as part of the deal Bob struck with the CBC.

Unfortunately, when I called WHA to inform them of Bob's death, the people I spoke to there hadn't even been called by someone at the CBC yet, although my initial source on the story was the CBC's own "NewsWorld" web site. I wqound up being the bearer of bad news, and some at WHA -- which, being a University outfit, still have some on staff from the days when Bob was there -- were totally unprepared.

Interestingly, just yesterday I wrote a piece for RadioDigest.com in which Terry Wogan, the longtime staple of the BBC's Radio 2 network, claimed the programming policy of his bosses was "buying people instead of ideas." Bob Homme was *all* ideas, and we remember how Gigantic he was...

- King Daevid MacKenzie, UltimaJock!


Growing up was so much easier with Friendly, Jerome and Rusty. Those were easily my favorite 15 minutes every day and growing up, they seemed much longer as the stories and music played out of the magic castle of the Friendly Giant. I wouldn't look away till the last note of Early One Morning had played and the cow had jumped over the moon... I was upset when the show was pulled and still miss Friendly. Now with Bob's passing, the pain is renewed...

My condolences to his family, and all 30 million of his kids... us.

- Griffin Howe


Linda Gillies points us to this amazing story: "Just saw on the news, then checked the Globe & Mail online for the details. Apparently the CBC used the Friendly Giant puppets, Rusty the Rooster, & Jerome the Giraffe, without permission - in a skit performed for the Gemini Awards show. Family of the late Robert Homme are very upset & have taken all the Friendly Giant paraphernalia from the CBC Museum permanently." Read the story here.
Ed Golick writes: "My friend Grant D. Fairley is the author of a new book, Look Up!- Way Up! The Friendly Giant. Grant spent many hours interviewing Bob Homme at his home in Grafton, Ontario for this authorized biography.

"I am giving away three autographed copies of the book on my Detroit kid show website. Here's the link.

"There's also a secret link, exclusive to my website, where you can get $2.00 of the list price of $19.95."

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The Friendly Giant


I loved The Friendly Giant with his pals Rusty the Rooster and Jerome the Giraffe. He always played the recorder flute every show. He would be in this castle and he would reach down and arrange tiny furniture for his guests. "And for those who like to rock, a little rocking chair by the fireplace..."

- Pete Jock

'The Friendly Giant' with Bob Homme had the castle drawbridge open and close at beginning and ending of each show. Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the rooster (in a bag on the wall) were there along with the Jazz Cats (puppet cats playing jazz) and two chairs to curl up in at the end of the show.

- Patrick Meindersma

You mentioned 'The Friendly Giant' and it reminded me of the show that preceded it or came after it. It was called The Storyteller - about a bookend elf that comes to life when 'Greensleeves' is playing and then proceeds to read a story of the day for us kids.

- BM

The CBC produced The Friendly Giant long after Sesame Street started up (perhaps the US stopped importing it because of SS).

Budget cuts to CBC led to them canceling FG, even though it was still very popular. Many thought that CBC canceled FG instead of other less popular shows to try and create enough public outrage to get the cuts reversed (CBC is government funded). Now when other government funded enterprises are given budget cuts, and then turn around and announce some popular/needed program will be cut because of it to try and get the cuts canceled, the strategy is called 'killing the Friendly Giant'.

- Paul

Robert (Bob) M. Homme of Friendly Giant fame retired & lived in Grafton, Ontario. He played regularly at The Grafton Inn, accompanied by a pianist.

There is an exhibition of kids' shows at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Museum in Toronto called "Show & Tell - Growing Up Canadian" which has on display original puppets from The Friendly Giant & more. It is located at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, 250 Front St. W, Toronto, phone (416)205-5574. For more information, look at their Web Site: www.cbc.ca/museum - Admission is free!

- Linda Gillies

I was two when my mother died. As there were 7 children in the family with 2 younger then me, I was sent to my dear great aunts home to be cared for until my Dad could arrange for me to come back home. I lived there with my Aunt who was in her 70's at the time and my cousin, whose mother, my great aunts sister - in - law, had also died.

I spent many happy years with her and one of my strongest memories from my childhood was watching the friendly giant.

My Aunt would have my lunch ready for me, when I would come home from school at 6 years of age in 1966, positioned in front of the tv so that I wouldn't miss my favorite show. I can still feel the excitement I felt when the music would start, the draw bridge would open, and the friendly giant would put the chairs, and rocking chair in place, and then I would look waayy up. It was only 15 minutes but it was the best 15 minutes of my day.

A sincere wish of sympathy to all his family, and a thankyou for sharing him with so many children who will remember him, and the warm, gentle, feeling he left me with after every show.

- Mary

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