After seeking advice from the team behind the TV phenomenon, Muffin the Mule, Bob hit on the idea of making marionettes simple enough to be manipulated by children - not something that had previously been considered realistic. He was a resourceful man without funding. He built prototypes with legs made from war surplus duffel coat toggles and the bodies were made out of bits off ammunition boxes. Although early heads were machine made, he soon began to make them from wooden balls previously intended for coconut shies.
Millions of puppets were made between 1947 and 1993 by Pelham and it is believed that, at any one time, there are around 500 on sale on ebay.
One of the ranges they made was The Jumpette Range, and mine is one of these. It was particularly aimed at very young children and was a simple three string affair with a single bar control held by the child.
My Jumpette Girl (see left) has a small round wooden head with yellow woollen hair, painted features, blue eyes, early composite open hands, bamboo arms and legs, with white blouse and purple shirt and blue demi-ball feet.
There is a single string attached to each hand going through the control bar and the head is on a separate piece of elastic also connected to the bar. When the bar is moved the puppet automatically jumps on the elastic, hence the name "Jumpette".
- The 50's had brown boxes with a dark blue and white label (and other colours)
- In the 60's the boxes were yellow and had pictures of other puppets from their range.
- By the end of the 60's, the boxes had cellophane fronts so that the puppet could be seen inside.
- Throughout the 70's the yellow cellophane fronted boxes continued, reinforced with a band of card across the front.
- The late 80's saw a change to red and yellow striped boxes.