INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — If you’re a certain age, your childhood memories live on VHS tape, and if you’re really lucky, those memories even appeared on TV.
Jean Ann Shirey is lucky like that. Her TV memory is when she was just six years old.
“I don’t even look like I’m six years old. I look three, four years old,” said Shirey.
Shirey appeared on an episode of the Janie and Friends show in the 80’s. Her Girl Scouts Brownie Troop from the south side of Indianapolis were a few of the thousands of children who appeared on the popular cartoon and puppet program over its 23-year run on WTTV Channel Four. She was only six, but Shirey remembers it well.
“I saw that, and I was mesmerized. I had silver dollars. I just couldn’t believe that, I couldn’t believe that I was on TV,” said Jean Ann.
Janie Woods Hodge was the singing, ukulele-playing star of the show, but her show was more than just cartoons. The Janie Show was filled with everything from singing to safety tips and a segment called “Janie’s Tree House” that featured local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops.
“We tried to do as many different kinds of things. We tried a variety of people that came on. You know, just try to bring in the whole community into the show,” said Hodge.
“It was like the number-one big deal. It was about as big a deal as meeting the President of the United States. That’s how big of a deal it was.”
Hodge was a trained teacher and performer. She graduated from the prestigious IU School of Music before starting her career on local TV.
“Mine was sort of a unique thing because I was a music major, and I wanted to bring all that to the kids,” said Hodge.
Children waited on a list for months to appear on her show. It was that big of a deal to get the chance to share the screen with Hodge.
“The children would say, ‘My mommy says that you are a movie star! Were you?’ And I said, ‘No, I wasn’t a movie star.’ But as far as the local people knew or felt about us, we were just as important as any movie star coming in,” said Hodge.
Today, Hodge lives in comfortable retirement on the northwest side. She was recently inducted into the Indiana Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. It’s another fitting tribute to someone who meant so much to so many Hoosier children just like Shirey.
“She still showed a tremendous amount of kindness and warmth to us girls even though we were six, seven, eight, and just to have someone to be so kind and motherly warmth to say, ‘Welcome, I’m glad you’re here.'”