From 1959 to 1961, West Hartford native Tom Vater hosted a television program on Hartford’s Channel 18 called Teensville. Similar to American Bandstand, Vater played the hit songs of the day and hosted musical acts such as teen heartthrob Bobby Rydell, all while teens from the Greater Hartford area danced along to the music.
The CHS recently acquired a collection of material related to Tom Vater and Teensville, including photographic negatives taken of the musical acts, teenage dancers and the host himself. Though short-lived, the program inspired devotion among the youthful participants and viewers, as evident in the applications from local youths to appear as regulars on the show and fan letters from some of those same teenagers.
Just as interesting are the two letters from disapproving parents, who worried that their children were not seeing proper behavior modeled on television. The business side of the show is represented in professional letters from record labels and musical acts, as well as ad copy from local businesses.
The collection is a fascinating glimpse into the world of youth culture just as the first Baby Boomers were entering adolescence, asserting their individuality from their parents’ generation, and embracing rock and roll music and teen idols.
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