What do your children and grandchildren do on Saturday mornings? I know; they sleep late! Children sleep later today than any memory I have of children sleeping on Saturday mornings in the past. Rising early to do things many of us did years ago, such as helping to prepare breakfast, cleaning one’s bedroom, doing assigned chores inside the home and heavier work outside, have virtually disappeared. Just getting your child to make up his or her bed is a real challenge, only realized after numerous reminders.

I suspect that even before they find their way into the bathroom, they are on their computers, using their cellphones or using personal digital music players. Clearly, we did not have the technological advances that children enjoy today, but basic things like helping mothers with shopping and cleaning were things most of us were required to do.

But for me there is one memory of Saturday mornings that I still seek to resurrect by shopping the airwaves on Saturday mornings today. Because the memories are so vivid and the fun and laughter so fulfilling, I do not think I will ever forget watching the animated cartoons that found their way into our living rooms by way of our televisions, back in the day.

We all had our favorite cartoon characters. Some of you could not miss Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Mr. Magoo, Bullwinkle, the Pink Panther, Top Cat and Deputy Dawg. Were you a fan of Clutch Cargo and Paddlefoot? What about Heckle and Jeckle? Or did you gravitate to action heroes like Mighty Mouse? I would bet that Popeye the Sailor Man is on each of your most popular cartoon lists. Popeye was an overwhelming favorite for many, if not most people. I know you recall the jingle: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man; I’m strong to the finish ’cause I eats my spinach; I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.” Well, these are the words if you grew up on Main Street. If you grew up in an inner-city neighborhood, you will recall the last part 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 bowlegged women.” I watched with anticipation when Popeye encountered challenges, in particular, at the hands of Bluto, aka Brutus. Although beaten down, I knew 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 did not think about this cartoon as I do today. I have come to realize that back then, there may have been some politically incorrect messages in the minds of the cartoon creators. For example, where did Swee’ Pea come from? Some accounts indicate he was found on Popeye’s doorstep; another version says he arrived in the mail. d wonder if the producers of Popeye were trying to protect Olive Oyl’s image. Just reflect on the relationship between her and Popeye. Is it possible that Swee’ Pea was the son of Olive Oyl who, by the way, was unmarried? Then again, this could be questionable, given her “two-timing” Popeye with Bluto. So, who was Sweet Pea’s father?

There was a theme song associated with the most of recognized of all cartoon characters.:“M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E; Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse; Forever let us hold our banner high.” While this song is associated with the Mickey Mouse Club, it must bring to mind the cartoon featuring a black mouse that wore red shorts, large yellow shoes and white gloves. It must also bring to mind Mickey’s sweetheart Minnie Mouse, his dog Pluto, his friends Donald Duck and Goofy, and his nemesis Pete. Minnie wore a feminine bowler hat with a daisy, white gloves, a short dress and her high-heeled pumps that are clearly too big for her. I was not a fan of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, or of 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 they were triplets and were the sons of Donald’s sister Della?

Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig, Elmer more than Porky, were also on my “do not care for” list. Growing up in the type of neighborhood that I did, I saw them as “establishment types.” Elmer Fudd had a stuffy look. He lived in a huge home, resembling a mansion. He was not presented as having a high level of intelligence. Recall how he spent much of his time hunting Bugs Bunny, but usually ended up hurting himself. He spoke replacing his R’s and L’s with W’s — road became “woad” and rabbit became “wabbit.” As for Porgy Pig, I suspect you will remember him for his stammering that made most of us laugh. It was heard on the closing of Loony Tunes cartoons: “Th-th-That’s all, Folks!” Bugs Bunny was one of the most popular cartoon characters. In spite of this, he was another cartoon character that received little of my attention. “His mannerisms suggested a lifestyle different from what most of us were accustomed to. Think about his cross-dressing and wearing lipstick, back in the day.

The cartoon character I loved most was Tweety Bird. I loved to see him outsmart Sylvester the Cat. I saw Sylvester as one of the bad guys because of his efforts to eat Tweety. Sylvester, with an annoying lisp, spent most episodes trying to get Tweety, but there was always some obstacle in his way. I loved to hear Sylvester say, “You’re desthpicable.” Will I ever forget, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat; I did, I did tee a puddy tat!?”

In practically every discussion I had with friends and co-workers about cartoon characters, the Road Runner would surface. We always knew the outcome, as the template was always the same, still I would spend time watching the Road Runner being pursued by Wile E. Coyote. Wile E.’s efforts to catch Road Runner suggested he was a genius; however, he simply underachieved with failed ideas and strategies.

Different people have different perspectives on cartoon characters. Several Black friends have put forth the notion that Daffy Duck was Black. Well, it is obvious that his color is black but that does not mean that he is “a duck of color.” I pointed this out to my friends only for them to counter with ways people treated Daffy Duck. He was portrayed as nutty, one who was constantly bouncing around on his head; he was also viewed as crazy; he was greedy and at times bitter. Daffy Duck was more villain than hero; beaten up, torn down and constantly put down. In an attempt to seal their argument about his race, my friends pointed out how Daffy Duck spoke Ebonics. So, where do you stand; is Daffy Duck a brother?

In an attempt to bring smiles to the faces of as many of you as possible, I dug up names of others that will take you back to your childhood: Tom and Jerry; Woody Woodpecker; Foghorn Leghorn, Spike the dog; the small, loud, cranky and stubborn cowboy named Yosemite Sam; Speedy Gonzales; Pepé Le Pew, Quick Draw McGraw; Betty Boop and Snuffles the dog.

There is no need to remind you of the many challenges that we face today. The horrible economic conditions; our disappointing politics resulting in nothing being accomplished; 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! Perhaps one way to soothe the soul when you are really depressed is to turn to our cartoon heroes and villains where you are almost certain to receive some relief, if only temporary, by engaging in roll-on-the-floor laugher that 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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