(Image via Shorpy.com)

Posted by Ellen

Last week, Betty White turned 94. She's probably been an animal person for at least 90 of those years. And of course she's been a Golden Girl for a really long time, and the Happy Homemaker for a long time before that. In fact, by our calculations, she's been in show business for at least 77 years.

She first worked in front of a TV camera in 1939, when she was three months out of high school and the medium was still experimental. After volunteer service in World War II and a few postwar years working in radio, she came back to TV, and by 1952–when she was only 30 years old and still living at home with her parents–she was producing, directing, hosting, and singing and dancing in her own show.

This picture was taken on the set of the Betty White Show, in 1954. It was a noon-hour talk show; Betty chatted with guests, traded one-liners with the boys in the orchestra, sat at a desk to read jokes and riddles sent in by viewers, and swallowed a slug of Geritol to prove it tasted good and gave her lots of energy. 

YouTube has preserved at least a couple of the show's episodes, from November 29th, 1954, when Rin Tin Tin makes a brief appearance near the end, and December 6th.  Sadly, neither of those videos is any help in figuring out why Betty's got her hand on a baby elephant.