Saturday, April 5, 2014

When every day was a Saturday morning...

I know I went to school as a kid, Monday through Friday. (I didn't start skipping class until much later...).

I know there were days (weeks...months...eons...) of snow and wintry weather.

Utah is a four season state, and I've had the allergies, the sunburn and the hypothermia to verify it.

And yet...

When I think back on my childhood, every day seems like a summer Saturday morning. The sun is rising, flooding Little Cottonwood Canyon with light, pouring down into our neighborhood. The air is still, the grass is green, and the breakfast cereal is sugary.

A Saturday morning was a blank canvas, a brilliant, plain white sheet, begging to be painted on, and our art was our lives. Every day we splashed on the color, and the texture, with bold strokes and vibrant colors. And every night we hung the painting in the Grand Gallery of Childhood, and the next morning, another canvas awaited.

Saturday was freedom -- as free as a kid ever got.

And it all started with the cartoons. I didn't come to appreciate the value of sleeping in on a Saturday morning, until many years later -- when there was yard work to avoid. The joy of Saturday morning television is an experience that is lost on modern children, who live in a world of unlimited access and instant gratification.

With the exception of Sesame Street, the Electric Company and Mr. Rogers, and other PBS crap that you were forced to watch when you were home sick from school, there were only two other times where television programmers aimed for the kid audience. The first was the two, or so, hours after school each day, when you'd catch a GI Joe episode, or Battle of the Planets -- or whatever it was that girls watched -- that little window between the time that the soaps ended and the evening news began.

The second time that advertisers were looking to a younger demographic -- the real kid programming -- was Saturday morning. This was worth getting up early:

Land of the Lost: so bad it was AWESOME! I now own the complete series.

Scooby Doo: Zoinks! I loved the Mystery Machine. I loved the fact that every villain was some disgruntled old farmer. I loved that Batman and Robin, The Harlem Globetrotters and Mama Cass guest starred on the show.  And, mostly, I loved the fact that Scooby and Shaggy were so easily bought off with a dry doggie treat -- it reminds me of my son.

Looney Tunes: These were classic cartoons by the time they got to us. They're still classics.

And, on top of this Hanna Barberra sundae...

...Drenched in Warner Bros. sauce...

...With a healthy sprinkling of Sid and Marty Kroftt...

...Was perched the cherry:

The Superfriends: Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman, Aquaman and revolving cast of lesser characters, including the worst superheroes off all time, the Wonder Twins. I loved this show, but I could never figure out why the Legion of Doom, with apparently enough power and resources to do anything they pleased (including, but not limited to, time travel, freezing the entire planet, or luring the ever gullible Superfriends into the pages of magic story books) only wanted to steal money. Think bigger Lex!

Now you may get the impression that I sat mindlessly in front of the television on Saturday, while my brain turned to Jell-O. You'd be wrong. Saturday morning was the very model of educational programming. Among other things, I learned about:



American history.

Government and civics.




And Conjunctions.

Thank you Schoolhouse Rock!

Following Saturday morning television, it was six or seven quick bowls of whatever cereal had the best toy in the bottom of the box, and then the day was yours.

Up and down the street, and all over the neighborhood, screen doors are slamming and wheels are rolling, balls are bouncing and kids are yelling -- the sounds of unbound adventure.

It was a different time. A time of fewer fears and greater imagination. A time of greater trust. When you left home on a Saturday morning, you didn't plan on coming back until dark. This worked for two reasons. First, I think my parents were generally happy to get me out of the house, and secondly, I knew I had a mother in every other house up and down the street. And a phone call was faster than I was -- even with my fast shoes AND my cape on, so it paid to behave.

To a point, anyway.

Maybe the best thing our parents ever did for us, was to let us roam, unstructured, into the world. They let the kids be kids, and children, unbridled, can be remarkably imaginative.

Children are dreamers, and when they dream, they only dream big.

Saturday mornings were for the dreamers.

We left home. Sometimes we left the Galaxy altogether. We reached out and grabbed hold of the world. We touched it, we tasted it. We looked at it minutely and broadly. We conquered it, took it apart, put it back together and disregarded the left over parts. We stood in awe of it, and then we looked the world in the eye and dared it not to stand in awe of us.

There's nothing like a Saturday morning.

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