When I was a kid, Saturday Mornings were a special time. I remember getting up as close to 6:30 as I could… hoping to catch at least some of the Dukes of Hazzard or Berenstain Bears (wasn’t so excited when it turned out to only be Mr. Peppermint)… but I definitely had to be ready in time for the real cartoon lineup to start at 7:00. I don’t even remember eating breakfast… although I’m sure that my mom insisted that I have a bowl of cereal at some point. I can’t seem to recall what my parents were doing during the time… but somehow us kids had the run of the TV for a few hours those mornings. CBS was my main jam… Muppet Babies, Garfield and Friends… seems there are so many others I can’t recall… but there came times to turn to ABC or NBC… (unless my brother insisted that we watched Pee Wee’s Playhouse… which I hated… but other than that, it seems we rarely fought over what to watch)… and after a few years we also had FOX… no need for cable on Saturday morning. If I was lucky, the toons would last all the way to 12 Noon… but sometimes they were over earlier than that to make room for some boring sports program.
This was a magical time for us as children… almost a sacred time it seemed. Yet it never occurred to me just how special that time was… that there would come a time when I would stop caring so much about what cartoons would carry over to the next season, or what new ones would pop up. (Remember the sneak previews the networks would show on the Friday night before the new season began?) I certainly NEVER imagined there would come a time when those Saturday Morning Cartoons would come to an end. Over the past few years, I have looked for some cartoons on Saturday mornings a couple times and have been disappointed by how few I could find, as well as how uninteresting those few were. A couple weeks ago, I came across news that the last network that was still playing cartoons on Saturday morning, was about to cease doing so. Now, there are still cable networks that air cartoons all the time, and maybe some that are still programming them specifically for Saturday morning… but I don’t have cable or satellite…and all of the over-the-air networks have officially ceased the Saturday Morning Cartoon ritual. Hearing this news affected me pretty deeply. I know there were a lot of years where I never gave it a second thought, because I had grown up and sorta forgotten… but it makes me kinda sad that I can never enjoy that experience again.
I suppose it’s kinda pathetic to get that mournful over something so juvenile… but maybe that’s really the point. It’s just that there are so many memories wrapped up in those times… not really distinct, specific memories, I suppose… just a vague feeling of nostalgia. As I have dug through the archives that YouTube has made available, that feeling comes back… watching the Muppet Babies episodes that I remember every detail of… watching other cartoons that I remember watching, but aren’t quite as consciously vivid in my memory… even finding old commercials and commercial break bumpers takes me back. In a lot of ways, nothing takes me back to my childhood or evokes that nostalgia as intensely as these videos do…not even my loyalty to the music I grew up with. It seems I’m at this weird place in life where bringing back those memories is pretty heavy… I think it’s sort of a mid-life point where I’m trying to figure out where my future is headed… and it’s really easy to look back and long for the simpler times. Plus, it stirs up all these feelings of not being a parent… remembering all the things of my childhood, and wishing I had children to share and pass those things on to… a feeling that often comes up around Christmas time… all the classic Holiday specials/movies and retro/vintage decor and gifts… (and now I want to make it a point to get people together to watch the Halloween and Thanksgiving specials too… as it seems to be getting an early start this year).
This recent trip into my televised past has me remembering other pieces of my childhood. Last week we went to the store to buy some school supplies for a charity package, and I was reminded how I used to spend my own money on pens, pencils, and notepads… (not that my parents didn’t supply that stuff… I was just fascinated with buying my own for some reason)… and I remembered standing in Buy-For-Less/Jubilee Foods, looking at all the options… (probably something else that happened on Saturdays when I was a kid… as well as garage sale hunting). And then yesterday at work, out of nowhere, I swear I could smell McDonald’s… but not just McDonald’s… I mean SPECIFICALLY what I remember McDonald’s smelling like as a kid. Man, THAT took me back…to the days when the playground was OUTside…and happy meals came in those kinda-house-shaped boxes, with those yummy cookies… and I had to scrape all the condiments (and most of the cheese) off and douse my cheeseburgers in a ton of ketchup to try and overcome the remnant of mustard, pickle, and onion flavor, because my dad didn’t like to wait for them to special make ‘ketchup only’… and the Happy Meal toys were pretty legit toys that featured some of my favorite cartoon characters.
As a response to this ‘no more Saturday Morning Cartoons’ situation, and all the feelings of nostalgia it has stirred up, I have decided to propose and encourage that we do something to honor our memories and the tradition. My proposition is that we take back Saturday Morning by digging through the Internet (or cable/satellite/on demand tv) to find our favorite cartoons… and making a point to take some time on Saturday Mornings to try and relive some of that childhood experience… to set a few hours aside and lay down the concerns and schedule of the rest of the week… to let ourselves be children again, and enjoy the simplicity and joy of what Saturday Morning once meant to us. And let’s make it a point to include our children in this endeavor. I mean, I realize that I can’t have my childhood back… but really, the whole point is to try and revive and pass on this beautiful tradition and experience. So, let’s take our children on that journey with us. We might have to share some of that time with their favorite cartoons… but hopefully we can share some of our favorites in the mix… and it can make for some simple, yet powerful family time in the process.
And let’s share this experience with each other and the rest of the world… let’s post, tweet, blog, whatever… share what we are watching… share our memories and personal experiences… share what kind of effect the time is having on our families. And I am proposing the hashtag #takebacksaturdaymorning so that we can appreciate each other’s experience and create a place where our memories can mingle together. And let’s be sure to pass the word and encourage, even challenge our friends and loved ones to help us Take Back Saturday Morning.
Maybe this proposal won’t work for everyone. I realize we have busier lives than we did as children, and we might not be able to dedicate time every Saturday Morning. Of course, it doesn’t have to be restricted to Saturday Mornings… but maybe we can find some time in our schedule to set aside for this kind of purpose and experience as adults and as families. If we can make an effort to reach out and express what this time meant to us as children, then maybe we can send a message that we are not willing to let this tradition and special experience die without a fight for future generations… maybe, just maybe, we could work together to try and bring some of our childhood back.