It was at 5pm on October 16, 1958, a Thursday, that presenters Christopher Trace and Leila Williams, the previous year’s Miss Great Britain, first welcomed viewers to what would become the fourth longest-running show on British TV. The items included a story called Sparky and the Talking Train, and a demonstration of “tricks that every boy can do”.
Girls were not left out, with those so inclined invited to write in and choose their favourite among five dolls.
Today, as past presenters gathered for the show’s diamond anniversary, one recalled that she “got away with loads” in her private life during her four-year stint. Janet Ellis, whose daughter is the singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, said: “We were at a time when it wasn’t an age of social media.
“Our private lives were allowed to be much more private. I got away with loads. Of course I did.
“We all did. It is a children’s programme. We’re adults. We had adult lives.”
Ms Ellis has previously dismissed suggestions she was sacked for being an unmarried mother, saying she resigned because it would have been impossible to stay with the demands of a newborn child.
Richard Bacon, who was sacked in 1998 after he admitted taking cocaine, was also part of the reunion, with former presenter Peter Purves saying he was “welcome back”.
Purves – who was part of the most enduring team, alongside Valerie Singleton, Lesley Judd and Halifax-born John Noakes – said of the show: “It means everything to me. It was an iconic programme. It was a fundamental part of all our lives.”
Noakes, the longest-serving host, died last year, aged 83.