Tweety Bird

Tweety Bird always managed to outsmart Sylvester the Cat and foil his “meal.” — PHOTO: Wikipedia

One evening last week, I twisted and turned as I laid in my bed. It was about 3 a.m. and as hard as I tried, I could not go back to sleep. I tried counting sheep. I considered getting a glass of milk. Finally, I went downstairs, turned on the television and started channel surfacing.

I came across television shows of the past that were once my favorites. Those shows included my all-time favorite, “Columbo,” but also “The Rifleman,” “Bonanza,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Lone Ranger,” “The Honeymooners,” “Dragnet,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Lassie.” These shows were of no interest to me in the “wee hours” of the morning; I kept searching and eventually came to that distinctive tune for “The Looney Tunes.” I stopped dead in my tracks as cartoons have always been a favorite since my childhood. So, I sat back, kicked up my feet, made myself comfortable and started watching these enjoyable cartons from back in the day.

I visited this subject back in 2011. Thus, some of today’s memories are not new. I strongly believe that no one can ignore the clever character Bugs Bunny, who could outsmart everyone. This animated cartoon character, created back in the late 1930s, was known for his infamous words, “What’s Up, Doc.” Bugs was not one of my favorites. How he portrayed himself, and I will say this gingerly, was not in keeping with “my style.” Hopefully, you get my drift. Yet, I enjoyed his interactions with Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck. I was not “big” on Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig. I saw them both as “establishment types.” I thought Elmer Fudd had a “stuffy look.” Do you recall that he lived in a huge home, resembling a mansion? Recall how he spent much of his time hunting Bugs Bunny but usually ended up hurting himself. When he spoke, he replaced his R’s and L’s with W’s. Thus, road became “woad” and rabbit became “wabbit.” His stammering caused most of us to laugh.

Who would miss a cartoon that featured Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Bullwinkle or Deputy Dawg? Were you a big fan of Mighty Mouse? Then there was Popeye the Sailor Man. Because of his popularity, let me pause and allow you to sing along with me: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man; I’m strong to the finish, cause me eats my spinach; I’m Popeye the sailor man.” Well, those were the words if you grew up on Main Street. If you grew up in one of our inner city neighborhoods, you will recall the last part of this jingle being substituted with “I live in a garbage can; I love to eat worms and spit out the germs.” Or, “I love to go swimming with bowl-legged women.”

Like most of you, I watched with anticipation when Popeye encountered challenges, in particular, at the hands of Bluto, also known as Brutus. Although beaten down, I knew that he would eventually find some way to eat his spinach and become stronger than steel. In spite of the joy I received from watching Popeye, I have come to realize that back then, there may have been some politically incorrect messages in the minds of cartoon series creators.

For example, where did Sweat Pea come from? I know that some accounts indicate that he was found on Popeye’s doorstep; another version says he arrived in the mail. I do not know about these versions and wonder if the producers of Popeye were trying to protect Olive Oyl’s image.

Reflect for a moment on the relationship between Olive Oyl and Popeye. Is it possible that Sweet Pea was the son of Olive Oyl who, by the way, was unmarried? Then again, this could be questionable given Olive Oyl’s “two-timing” Popeye with Bluto. We all know from watching just one Popeye episode, that Olive Oyl was not a one-man woman. So, who was Sweet Pea’s father? While many of us were huge fans of Popeye the Sailor Man, without a doubt there are unanswered questions about the political correctness of the behavior of Popeye and his cohorts back in the day.

As I watched the Looney Tunes last week, while half sleep, I perked up and smiled when I heard, “I tought I taw a puddy tat; I did, I did tee a puddy tat!” You may remember these words, characteristic of the Tweety Bird. The Tweety Bird was my “main man” or should I say, my “main cartoon character.” I loved to see Tweety Bird outsmart Sylvester the Cat, another of my undesirable cartoon characters. I saw Sylvester as one of the “bad guys” because of his on-going efforts to eat Tweety. Do you remember how Sylvester, with an annoying lisp, spent the bulk of each episode using an elaborate scheme to try to get Tweety. Do you recall that there was always an obstacle in his way; usually Granny or her bulldog, Hector, or in some cases a flaw in his tricks or devices? By the way, do you recall that you never saw Granny’s face, only her legs? I loved to hear Sylvester say, “You’re desthpicable.” While Tweety Bird was introduced in my life as a young child, this yellow canary makes me laugh today, just as it did, back in the day.

Many of you were fans of the Road Runner. Like most of you, I always knew the outcome, as the template was always the same; yet, I would spend time watching the Road Runner being pursued by Wile E. Coyote. The Coyote’s complex efforts to trap and catch Road Runner suggested that he was a genius; unfortunately, his ideas and strategies failed. Whenever I watched the Road Runner, my hope was for Wile E. Coyote to catch the Road Runner. Unfortunately, it never happened; it would have destroyed the script. Then there was Mickey Mouse. Its theme song immediately brings to mind the cartoon featuring a black mouse that typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes and white gloves. It also bring to mind Mickey’s sweetheart Minnie Mouse, his dog Pluto, his friends Donald Duck and Goofy, and his nemesis Pete. If you can visualize Minnie Mouse wearing a feminine bowler hat with a daisy, white gloves, a short dress and her over-sized high heeled pumps that are clearly too big for her feet, then you are clearly from, back in the day. I must admit that I was not a fan of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Nor did I care for Donald Duck. My problem with Donald Duck was his inability to control his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. They were three bad ducks. Now, here is a bit of Trivia for you. Did you know that they were triplets and were the sons of Donald Duck’s sister, Della?

There is no need to remind you of the many challenges that we face today. The horrific economic conditions; our disappointing politics that results in our representatives accomplishing nothing; unnecessary and unpopular wars; poor interpersonal relationships; violence all around us; a lousy educational situation; you name it. Much of what you see and hear can only make you sick! One way to “sooth the soul” when you are really depressed is to turn to our cartoon heroes and villains; you are almost certain to receive some relief, if only temporary, by engaging in roll on the floor laugher. The same kind of laughter the cartoons gave us, back in the day.

Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at backintheday@phillytrib.com or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146

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