By Rick Howser –
Many times I have said my youth was the 1950’s, 1960’s and maybe even some of the 1970’s. I say it again to remind any and all who grew up in this time to try and recall a time when we were given a time just for kids. It is pretty safe to say that we all experienced and participated in this time for we all were kids once.
Saturday mornings from approximately 7:30 a.m. until noon the three channels on the television aired cartoons and only cartoons as this was children’s’ time. This made children rise and shine and get a comfortable spot in front of the television set. Probably you brought along some cereal or toast and jelly and a glass of milk so you wouldn’t have to leave the television. From Mighty Mouse, Underdog, or Huckleberry Hound to Tom and Jerry along with Looney Tunes with the cast of Bugs Bunny to Wiley Coyote and the Road Runner and all in between.
These are only a few because over the next decades there possibly were a million cartoon shows and they were all aimed at kids and made for kids. Yogi Bear was a favorite to me along with Rocky and Bullwinkle. Every kid had their favorites and it came as no surprise that our likes crossed paths since there were so many to choose from.
To me Saturday mornings were pure nirvana. I got to the television before daylight and it would have to have been an emergency to remove me from in front of the screen. I think this worked two ways as it gave my parents Saturday mornings without my presence directly under their feet. I’m pretty sure they were as disappointed when the cartoons were over as we were. Also on a Saturday when there was bad weather and little to do outside, one could find Dad along with my brother Ben and maybe my sister Peg sitting on the couch deeply engrossed in my cartoons and laughing along with me. (We all know cartoons are ageless and timeless.)
Late on Saturday mornings a couple of half hour cowboy shows could be seen. One was “Sky King”, a show about a crime fighter who spent the show flying in a plane with his niece Penny. (A cowboy show with an airplane?”) The other was “The Lone Ranger.” Need I say more about this awesome show about the masked man and his Indian sidekick.
The reason behind kids’ time on the TV was that children were and still are prime targets for marketing toys and I loved to see the toys for sure, but in 1955 two major events occurred that changed my life forever. First, in September of 1955 I entered the first grade. This goal was more a major event to my parents than me as I think I felt going to school was just alright and something to do. The second event happened at 5 p.m. on October 3 of 1955. That was when the first episode of the Mickey Mouse Club aired. So at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday I’m sure you can guess where I was. It was designed so I got off the bus in time to prepare some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a large glass of milk for the same reason as the Saturday morning cartoons. I just couldn’t miss any of this show or I would lose track of what was going on.
The show had so much going on. Each day had a different theme and the Musketeers would perform songs and dances and along with a continuing story there would be a cartoon. (I always wished for it to be Donald Duck.) Most of all there was one Musketeer I had fallen deeply in love with. Annette Funnicello became my girl friend as she did for millions of other boys but I knew she would always pick me first out of all of them. This I knew because I wrote her a letter and she sent me an autographed photo of herself and signed it to me. Solid proof! What other conclusion could be drawn other then I had gotten her attention? The other girls in the cast were pretty but Annette was more than pretty, she was special.
In October 1960 on a Friday evening at 8 o’clock the first animated sitcom made for prime time was aired. “The Flintstones” became an immediate success and different forms of cartoons grew from there and began showing up in all places and times of the week other than Saturday morning, but until lately Saturday continued to rule for the younger crowds.
When my daughter was little the Smurfs hit the air and became huge in the ratings. During that first season our television set gave out and Meghan and I went to New Richmond to AP Appliance to buy a new set. It was then and I must admit a little embarrassing to learn that the Smurfs were blue and not green like they looked on our old set. I think my daughter felt I had been pulling a mean trick on her but I swear I didn’t know.
When Brendan came along, believe it or not, he ran to the set to see none other than the Looney Tunes and quickly learned to say “I taught I taw a Puddy cat!” Later on there was a childrens’ show entitled “Pee Wee’s Playhouse”, a show that was full of childish and adult nonsense that made us all laugh. Today when my grand kids come over they turn to a cartoon channel that plays cartoons 24/7. My how the times have changed.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that the cartoon is timeless and draws children front and center to the television. I don’t know if you noticed but no matter if the cartoon was in black or white or color or on Saturday morning or in the evening in the form of a pretend clubhouse or sitcom or even a channel of its own, I have always been there to watch.
You see this form of entertainment is focused on the children but notice that never does it say at what age a childhood begins or ends. When it comes to the animations ,be they Tom and Jerry or The Jetsons or George of the Jungle, I am still a child and glad I am.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics.