Tribute to Marge Payne from the Tallassee Times

"Don't worry if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing a song"

It's always difficult when an icon of your youth passes away.

A piece of your innocence disappears; a warm and fuzzy memory of growing up in central Alabama will now be just that, a memory, from now on.

Marge Payne, founder of Greengate School and the legendary host of "Young World" on WSFA-TV 12 from the early 1970s through the late 1980s, died at the age of 82 on Saturday.

Her influence may never truly be recognized.  Mrs. Payne had a childlike curiosity that enabled her to make puppets come to life, and to make children seem more important than the adults who visited with them on her show.

My friend, Art Williams, the music teacher at Alabama Christian Academy, would be the first to say that his life was changed by knowing Marge Payne.

When he was eight years old and growing up in Elba, Alabama, he was so infatuated with "Young World", Mrs. Payne, and Dan Atkinson (her co-host at that time), his parents turned his room into his own television studio.  Via closed-circuit broadcasts, Art was able to practice his craft as a ventriloquist and puppeteer.

One day in 1982, after receiving fan letters from young Art, Mrs. Payne asked him to appear on her show.

From that day until this past Saturday, Art was in constant contact with perhaps the greatest role model of his life.  And, through that relationship, Art has been able to transform the lives of the children in his classroom with the lessons Mrs. Payne taught on "Young World" for all those years.

She was never seen without makeup or pearls; she seemed to perpetually have a smile on her face.  And in today's cynical society, it's hard to imagine how a program like "Young World" could have ever existed at all.

The era of Bozo the Clown and Captain Kangaroo, of Cartoon Carl and Princess Pat, of Romper Room and Young World, has officially ended.

The sounds of the theme song, "Sing," by the Carpenters, will always bring back cherished memories of that time gone by.

I would like to imagine that when Mrs. Payne made it to her great reward this past weekend, the gates of Heaven opened up, and the theme of her show played as she walked in: "la la la la la, la la la la la ..."

Written by Michael Bird, band director at Southside Middle School and former radio talk show host in Montgomery