As the host of "Percy Platypus and Friends," Marijane Landis will always be the queen of Saturday morning television for people of a certain age in Lancaster County.
The show started in the early days of television, when just about all the shows on WGAL were broadcast live.
On live television, she also had to handle kids who threw up and wet themselves because they were so excited to be on the popular show. Yet Landis, who died Dec. 22 at the age of 87, never missed a beat.
"When you were live, you had to be there. You had to be ready," Landis said in a 1997 story that ran in the Sunday News. "You had no teleprompters. Everything had to be in your head. You ad-libbed."
Behind the scenes, she juggled other challenges, especially working in a new industry that didn't always welcome women with open arms.
Still, for nearly 50 years, she was an important part of WGAL, including stints as a game show host and being a station "weather girl." She also worked in the personnel department, where she helped hire the next generations of talent.
Landis is remembered as a smart, no-nonsense trailblazer with an edgy sense of humor.
When Kim Lemon, the station's news anchor, would pass Landis in the halls at WGAL with a new female staffer in tow, Lemon had a message for the new hire.
"There goes Marijane Landis," Lemon said she told them. "You need to walk up to her right now and kiss her ring. Because she's the reason you're here today."
Landis, who retired in 1999, first appeared on WGAL's "Name the Brand," a radio game show adapted for television in 1952. Later, she wrote, produced and hosted commercials and promos, and was a weekend "weather girl" for 28 years.
But she is probably best known for her role as a host of the children's show "Percy Platypus and His Friends." Landis and puppeteer Jim Freed collaborated on the popular Saturday morning program, which aired from also 1954 to 1974.
Landis also hosted the children's show "Sunshine Corners" from 1974 to 1979.
"The things that we are most concerned about are children and, honestly, the weather," Lemon said Monday. "She focused on those things."
When Landis transitioned to management, she trained Lemon to be her replacement on the weather beat, and served as a mentor.
"She was a trailblazer," Lemon said. "She was breaking ground for women that I don't even think she understood."
Memories of 'Percy'
Robert Brock remembers a Saturday morning ritual: riding a pillow down the staircase and watching the "Percy Platypus" show.
It was his first exposure to puppetry.
"It was very well-written, and the magic of the puppets," he said. "And they were simple puppets.
She communicated with the puppets and she made them real."
The show inspired Brock to open his Hole in the Wall Puppet Theatre in downtown Lancaster. He called Landis' death the end of an era.
"My dream was always to recreate 'Percy Platypus' with her," he said.
That didn't happen, but he still treasures the photos she signed for him to "a truly faithful Perki pal."
A role model
At the time the puppet show started, women were hired as on-air talent but were not allowed to be full-time staff members. They also were not allowed to do hard news stories, she told a Sunday News writer in 2007.
Landis wanted to run the cameras or direct, but was told that wasn't going to happen, she said in a 1993 New Era story.
So she gave her notice in 1978. WGAL-TV, however, offered her a full-time job managing its community service and equal opportunity programs. It was her first full-time job at the station.
Former WGAL news director Ed Wickenheiser said he believes she was the first woman to work full-time at the station.
He said he knew he could count on Landis to shine on any type of show. She had a way of speaking to the camera, straight to the people, a gift not everyone has, Wickenheiser said.
Lemon credits Landis with helping make her career possible.
Growing up in Lancaster, Lemon watched Percy and went to the show as a Brownie Girl Scout.
After college, she called Landis about possible jobs. They met and immediately connected. It was 1979 and there were few women on the air and no female producers, Lemon said.
"Meeting her changed my life," Lemon said. In 1998, Landis became the first woman who worked in television to be inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
News of her death was shared on another medium, Twitter:
Saddened to learn of passing of WGAL Marijane Landis https://t.co/U96kTKsDVu My First time ever on TV was on her show.— George Sheldon (@GeorgeSheldon) December 27, 2015
Just now learned of the passing of #WGAL 's legendary Marijane Landis. A TV trailblazer. Always had encouraging words for me as a newbie.— Matt C Ritter (@MetMattRitter) December 27, 2015
Marijane Landis and Jim Freed were a BIG inspiration on me, my life and the Hole in the Wall Puppet Theatre. RIP... https://t.co/TOK4zfkcBY— Hole in the Wall (@HIWPuppets) December 28, 2015