I’ve been watching the news about New Jersey and the devastation from Superstorm Sandy. It has me thinking back on growing up in south Jersey, near Philadelphia.
It was an interesting place to be from, although I really don’t define myself as “from” there. Yet looking back, probably the most fun, most innocent days as a kid were spent there. After all, as a kid, growing up in the late sixties and early seventies in south New Jersey, I had a pretty cool life.
We lived in Moorestown, in Burlington County, near Cherry Hill, and in the afternoons, I’d get home from school and go out with my friends in the neighborhood and ride bikes, or play army fort, or tag, or hide and seek, or two on two street football. And every mom on the street looked out for all the kids. We did Cub Scouts together, and Little League and Pop Warner football. We waited for the Mister Softee truck and the Good Humor Man to come by in the summer, and did really stupid things, like get impaled by a lawn dart, or play tackle football on frozen ground in sneakers and no pads.
And we’d have the most serious discussions about television. About which cartoons were the best to watch. Sometimes we’d go in and watch weekday afternoon shows (Channel 17, “Wee Willie Webber’s show was the place to be, although Channel 44 was also cool). But for a kid, cartoon gold was on Saturday morning.
This was the time of three networks, no cable, and all networks thought producing shows for kids on Saturday morning was an awesome thing to do.
I ran across this video montage someone put together on YouTube a year ago. It’s a bit long – almost 15 minutes – but I swear, at one point, I owned, watched or played with everything in there:
Oh, the shows… Davey and Goliath… Tennessee Tuxedo… Top Cat… The Mighty Heroes… Spiderman (“does whatever a spider can…”)… Sid and Marty Krofft shows – H.. R Pufenstuf! Sigmund and the Sea Monsters! Lidsville! The Bugaloos!…
And the toys! Ideal Toys with Kerplunk and Rebound, Milton Bradley with Mouse Trap and Stratego and Battleship (long before Hasbro bought them all up)… And I still HAVE a Rock’Em, Sock ‘Em Robots just waiting for me to play…Johnny Lightning cars…
Oh, yeah, Saturday mornings with Captain Crunch are a fond memory.
Sadly, with the advent of cable and the balkanization of viewership in America, the idea of destination Saturday morning has been abandoned. Viacom uses it a bit to aim at the preschool set on CBS, and NBC has in recent years produced a few half-hearted attempts. But mostly, now, it’s a wasteland of infomercials leading up to college football kickoff.
Kids don’t have as many shared experiences to discuss… and as those shared experiences diminish, we find ourselves with less and less in common with anyone around us.
That’s the reason people look back on times like these so fondly – because then, we shared. We played somewhat nice with each other.
Kids nowadays don’t know what they were missing… and I can’t help but wonder if we adults haven’t missed that mark as well.
Maybe a few shared mornings with Captain Crunch and Scoobey Doo, or maybe now Reese’s Puffs and Transformers: Rescue Bots would put the leaders in Washington on a level playing field, with something more in common than just they are air-breathing mammals.
Couldn’t hurt, right?
But that’s way too serious. Those years shaped me. I was, and am still, an animation junkie. I think making animated for programs for kids is still, to this day, the absolutely coolest thing in the world you can do. I’ve been privileged as a fan over the past year to get to know some folks currently on the industry – Nicole Dubuc, Brian Swenlin, Tom Hart, Kurt Weldon, and Chris Bailey. While the entertainment landscape has changed, they are still dedicated to their craft, to telling good stories that an 8-year-old can have a serious discussion about with his or her friends, in the way only eight-year-olds know how to do.
So maybe there is still hope for us, after all.