If you were a child in Pittsburgh during the 1950s and watched Channel 13 on a black-and-white television, you probably got to know Josie Carey, the warm, giggly host of “The Children’s Corner.”
At ease in front of the camera, she was a multi-talented television pioneer whose accomplishments included author, songwriter and entertainer. Fred Rogers, who later became the star of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” wrote music for her lyrics.
Together, this young duo wrote 68 songs as well as the episodes for the successful show, which aired on public television station WQED from 1954 to 1961. In 1955, “The Children’s Corner” received a national Sylvania Television award that honored its high quality in educational programming for young viewers.
Born in Butler, Pa., Josie Carey began life as Josephine Vicari; her parents ran an Italian restaurant. After learning secretarial skills at Duff’s College in Downtown Pittsburgh, she landed a job at the nation’s first public television station six months before WQED went on the air in 1953. The station offered programs about history, painting, remedial reading and how to write in shorthand.
Josie Carey did not start out in the studio. Instead, she served as secretary to WQED’s first manager, Dorothy Daniels. One of Josie’s tasks was to obtain local funding for the nascent TV station. She went door to door soliciting $2 and giving subscribers a program guide. Then, Dorothy Daniels shortened her name and put her in front of a camera.
In 1961, Josie Carey was hired to create children’s programming for KDKA, a local commercial television station where she wrote “Funsville,” “Josie’s Storyland” and “Mr. Wrinkle.”
A television station in South Carolina lured her from Pittsburgh to produce a children’s program called “Wheee!” One of the most famous interns from that show was a fellow named Rick Sebak, who has produced many successful documentaries for WQED.
After Mrs. Carey returned to Pittsburgh, she lived in Squirrel Hill. During the mid-1990s, she created a Saturday morning show for children called “Josie’s Attic” that aired on WQEX. She died in 2004.