Joy Ringham Munn

Honored by:David A. Munn
Brick location:D:26  map

My mother, Joy Munn, was born Joyce Muriel Ringham on December 15, 1924. She was born on a homestead in the area known as West Plains near the town of Maple Creek in southwestern Saskatchewan. Her parents had both come from England to homestead in Canada and they met in Canada.

The land on which they had their homestead was not the best farmland. When Joy was eighteen months old, her father took a job with an insurance company and the family left the hard life of the homestead. During her early years, her family lived in the small Saskatchewan towns of Swift Current and Indian Head. They eventually settled in Regina, where Joy attended school. She actually did have to walk over a mile to high school in the cold Canadian winters carrying all of her heavy schoolbooks (although I will admit I did not hear that story too often while I was growing up). Joy showed considerable artistic talent early in her life and her interest in art has defined much of her life.

After high school, Joy left the open skies and wheat fields of Saskatchewan, which she still loves, for the big city. She received an occupational therapy degree from the University of Toronto. After internships in Vancouver and Montreal, she returned to practice in Vancouver and was instrumental in establishing an Occupational Therapy program for homebound tuberculosis patients there.

Joy's interest in art led her to, of all places, Iowa. Her uncle Geoffrey Shepherd, a professor of agricultural economics at Iowa State, persuaded her to take a break from OT and come to Ames to study with some of the university's outstanding instructors in applied art, including Christian Peterson. She moved to Ames in 1951 intending to stay only one quarter. She enjoyed it so much that she decided to stay for another quarter, or so she thought.

Another of Joy's interests at the time was radio drama, and she was able to join a radio drama club in Ames. Through that group, she met people who were working at the fledgling WOI television station. Joy's connections with WOI and her art background led to a job as the station’s first commercial artist and kept her in Ames a little longer than she had originally intended. For 75 cents an hour, Joy did the black and white artwork that the station used on the air and had the chance to be a part of the early history of television.

This was an exciting time to be involved in television. Joy remembers those days as hectic and intense but also interesting and rewarding. As everything was done live in those days, they had tight deadlines to meet and no opportunity to tape over their mistakes. At that time there were not many stations in the country and people were literally coming from around the world to work in the creative atmosphere at WOI and to explore the potential of this new medium. It was not unusual for Joy and her co-workers to put in many unpaid hours simply to be a part of the action taking place at the station.

There was a group from the Ford Foundation working at the station at the time. They were helping to produce award-winning public interest programs and were particularly concerned about the effect passive television viewing would have on children. Joy's occupational therapy and artistic background was perfect for helping to devise programming that could involve children in stimulating activities. Joy was obviously destined for much more than the background role of a television artist. In the fall of 1951, Joy became the creative director and host of one of the first children's television programs in the country "Magic Window." At that time the program ran only one-half hour three times per week and only during the school year (children would obviously have no interest in watching television during the summer when they could be playing outside). During its brief first year, however, the show gained enough attention to win a national award.

WOI was the only station in central Iowa in the early days and Magic Window enjoyed a much broader audience than just children. Joy was a popular television personality in her day. I still remember going to Des Moines with my mother in the late 50's and early 60's and having people come up to her and tell her that they remembered her show and how much they enjoyed it. Sometimes people would recognize her just by the sound of her voice even before they saw her. I found that fascinating and recall that it was kind of fun to be related to such a celebrity.

Joy is obviously still very proud of her work in television. I never got to see any of her shows, but I can still remember some of the stories about the show that we used to hear as children. There was a parakeet that played the piano, a lost dog that "talked" about how it wanted to find its owner, and the many craft projects from the show that we got to do as children. She truly felt that she made a contribution to the lives of many children.

Joy continued to work as the station's commercial artist and did one more season of Magic Window. In the spring of 1952, she met Alfred "Fritz" Munn, the fourth generation of the family had started Munn Lumber Company in Ames in 1891. Although the Ford people tried to persuade Joy to follow them to St. Louis to produce children's programs there, Fritz won out, and he and Joy were married in March 1953. The demanding schedule required to produce a live evening show was difficult to reconcile with family life, and Joy left the show in other hands after the end of that '52-'53 season. When the show was taken off the air more than 40 years later, The Magic Window was the longest running children's show on the air.

My mother told me that I had to mention the children and grandchildren that she is so proud of. I came along in 1954, Steve came in 1956, and Erik followed in 1959. I am now general counsel of the Pella Window Company in Pella, Iowa, and am married to Linda Luksan. Steve is a horticulturist and landscaper in Glenwood, Minnesota, and is married to Ruth, a nurse. They have two children, Ashley and Tommy. Erik, the fifth generation Munn, is married to Shelli; they have a son, Nathan.

Over the years, Joy was active in Munn Lumber Company in the areas of advertising and merchandising, and for a number of years had a dollhouse miniature shop, "Joy's Corner," in a corner of the retail store. Joy is a very talented artist, but she rarely finds the time to paint or draw. Sometimes it seems she is involved in every community organization in Ames. She has served on many boards and committees, including Central Iowa Mental Health Center; Open Line; Ames Beautification Committee; Ames Greeley Medical Center; and the Ames Foundation. She belongs to Book and Basket Club, Soroptimist, Playmakers, AIOFA, the Octagon, Chapter AA, PEO, Mary Greeley Auxiliary, and Friends of Youth and Shelter Services.

Joy selflessly volunteers her time and talents to help with many projects. She always has time for others, including elderly friends and relatives, her children and her grandchildren. She had the opportunity to leave Ames for bigger and better things in the world of television, but I don't think she ever regretted the decision to stay in Iowa and do her best at raising her three sons and helping to make her community a better place.

I have been extremely fortunate to have had Joy Mumm for my mother. I am very proud of her, and am pleased to have the opportunity to honor her in this way.