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Saturday Morning Cartoons

Mighty Mouse, here to save the dayWe learned early to appreciate the weekends when we were kids. Even before we were old enough to be subjected to the drudgery of going to school five days a week, we lived for Saturday morning cartoons.

I think it's probably safe to say that every US household with kids and a television set was tuned into cartoons every Saturday morning. You would wake up, turn the set on, and go make yourself a bowl of cereal. Then, for the next four hours, you were planted in front of that screen, accompanied by the likes of Bugs Bunny, Heckle and Jeckle, Superman, Mighty Mouse, Astro Boy, Tennessee Tuxedo, Underdog, and many, many more.

And advertisers knew that the way to reach our demographic was to place their commercials on that Saturday morning slot. Thus, we were all subjected to the same commercials over and over that are permanently stuck in our minds even now.

Heckle and JeckleEvery kid had a routine of what shows to watch. VCR's and DVR's were many years in the future. You had to have your favorite show on in front of you at the time of broadcast to see it. That meant channel flipping as each episode ended and you favorite started on another network.

I learned early to appreciate the shows from the 50's. I noticed that toons like Heckle and Jeckle, Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, and other oldies were much better drawn than the Hanna-Barbera and Filmation offerings.

However, that didn't keep me from watching Huckleberry Hound, Secret Squirrel, King Leonardo, and other more recent offerings of the era.

Oh, how politically incorrect those shows were. The villages required to raise kids today would never stand for the violent shenanigans that went on as Wile E. Coyote would attempt to dispatch the innocent Road Runner, or Mighty Mouse would swoop in and punch some bad guy into next week, or Elmer Fudd's relentless pursuit of Bugs Bunny with (horror of horrors) a GUN!

Huckleberry HoundOne of the earliest attempts to keep Bugs from blowing up Elmer with bombs was made by Peggy Charren, who founded Action for Children's Television in 1968. Though strongly against censorship, she was quoted as saying "Violent television teaches children that violence is the solution to problems, that violent behavior can be fun and funny, that criminals and police make up a larger percentage of the population than they really do, and that violent behavior is practiced by heroes as well as by villains."

Whatever. My friends and I were subjected to a steady stream of make-believe conflicts, and I don't know of a single one of us who went to prison because of emulating Quick-Draw McGraw.

Today, of course, Saturday morning cartoons are a thing of the past. What's the point, when cable channels broadcast cartoons 24/7? Why would a kid get up early to watch something that he can see any time?

But we who were around in the 50's and 60's can remember when the high point of the week began at about 7:00 Saturday morning.

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