Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men
They'd been imported from BBC sources, since Australian television and cinema possibilities were so limited and totally uninspired at the time, in an era in which Australians were trying to get a grip on their own national identity and how they could break free from the English/American strangling of their own personal perceptions.
It was something so funny and totally enthralling for the little ones at the time, and in hindsight so totally silly that it is far too worthwhile to ever be able to forget.
In 1952 The Flowerpot Men were added to [the BBC's] Watch With Mother on Wednesdays. The identical puppets, Bill and Ben were made out of flowerpots, their hands made out of large gardening gloves, and feet of hobnailed boots.
With their 'flibadobs' and 'flobadobs' as their way of communicating, they lived in two giant flowerpots at the bottom of the garden, behind the potting shed. They would secretly pop their head over the parapet that was the flowerpot when the gardener went home for a bit of lunch.The merest hint of the approach of 'The Gardener' was enough to send them scurrying back to their pots.
Keeping counsel was their neighbour Little Weed, who alerted them to any danger and a tortoise friend called Slowcoach made frequent visits. The burning issue of the day was always "Was it Bill or was it Ben?".
The storyline of Bill and Ben was more or less the same in every episode: The gardener goes off for his dinner; Bill and Ben appear from their flowerpots; Little Weed says "Weeeeeeed"; a minor mishap occurs; someone is guilty. "Which of those two flowerpot men, was it Bill or was it Ben?" the narrator trills, in a quavering soprano; the villain confesses; the gardener's footsteps are heard coming up the garden path; the flowerpot men vanish into their pots and the closing credits roll:
and I think the little house knew something about it! Don't You?
I loved the series in so many ways... it was familiar, it was fun and somehow as a child I also realised it was a bit of a sendup of something else, although I could have totally no idea of what... in later years I had a bit of a giggle about the double meanings of both weeds and pot, leaving me wondering if the BBC had ever considered these possibilities :P
Hilda Brabban wrote three Bill and Ben stories which were broadcast on the children's radio programme Listen with Mother in 1951. The television version, adapted by Frieda Lingstrom, appeared a year later.
Hilda Brabban originally wrote the stories for her younger brothers, William and Benjamin, who were always getting into mischief. If one of them had been naughty, their mother would shout: "Was it Bill or was it Ben?" - which became a catch phrase of the series. Bill and Ben's companion, Little Weed, was Hilda's youngest sister Phyllis; and the colloquial term for Bill and Ben's strange language, "Flobadob", was based on what the boys said when one of them broke wind in the bath.
The BBC paid Hilda Brabban just a guinea apiece for her three original stories; but she never received a penny in royalties from more than £2 million made by BBC videos of the series. "Freda Lingstrom always denied having heard about my stories," she recalled. But she did not really mind and took great pleasure in the television series: "My enjoyment was in the writing," she said. She was highly amused in 1996 by reports that Wakefield District Council was considering backing a plan to erect a statue in her honour at Castleford, where she had lived as a child.
Why should I feel that this guy bears a suspicious resemblance to Jon Pertwee, of Dr. Who fame?
Hilda Brabban's brothers, Bill and Ben, made successful careers in the greengrocery business; Ben died several years ago, but Bill and Phyllis (the original Little Weed) are still alive.
I love these little bits of retrospective... they're special and so totally worthwhile...