Ugh…What does “Time for Timer!” even mean?!? If you were a child of the 1970’s this phrase is what jarred you from your zombie-like state during Saturday Morning cartoons. That’s right, cartoons were only on Saturday mornings. If you were lucky you might be able to also watch “Tom and Jerry” and/or “The Super Friends” for an hour after school. But I digress. And not everyone was so lucky, so I don’t want to boast here. Nothing is worse than stewed hard-feelings, especially among an online community of people you’ve never seen or met who enjoy reading your blog. But, again, I, regrettably, digress.
Saturday Morning cartoons were a staple of not only my childhood, but the childhood of Generation X. I remember waking up at the crack of yawn to secure my spot in front of our black and white 13-inch television with tinfoil on the antenna, and tune in for a few hours of cartoon-centered kid heaven. I don’t think I’d move an inch and I’m sure my mouth was agape with shock as if I was watching a warped live-action reality from somewhere else in the galaxy.
The cartoons were one hundred percent textbook pieces of 1970’s animation. Bad hairdos, bad fashion and bad color schemes all hustled their way into this art form. Art is an imitation of life, after all. And the musical soundtracks for these cartoons were time capsules as well. You can almost imagine the musicians: middle-aged, overweight men with polyester pants and white patent leather shoes, probably sipping on some sort of a drink called a “Rusty Side Car” while they played the groovinist notes their wind instruments could bleat. Typical cartoon music of the time: blaring trombones, sneaky xylophones, and numerous sound effects that remain unidentified to this day. Example: Scooby and shaggy startled by another alleged monster start running in place quickly for a few seconds before they finally were able to take off. Also: any music that was a transition between scenes in the Super Friends – eerily creepy, and yet the suspenseful mania it generated was without compare.
But back to “Time for Timer!” The TV executives in 1970’s must have thought this brief exposure to animation, and it’s associated cereal commercial brainwashing, were too toxic in its pure form. To counteract this poison, Public Service Announcements were played to show kids what a good breakfast would be, or why they need to eat Wagon Wheels – a revolutionary snack idea of cheese and crackers. The little cartoon hero, named “Timer” was a nondescript blob in a top hat, cane and bow tie. He also had some limber gams. He would sing and tap dance his way across the screen as he instructed young minds to fill ice cube trays with juice and tooth picks, eat a bowl of ice with cauliflower on top, or even have a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast. This last tidbit was revolutionary and blasphemous in my house, as we were served breakfasts of plain oatmeal and orange juice with brewers yeast in it. Hey, it was the seventies, and my mom was just keepin’ it natural.
Only in my later years did I realize this nondescript blob was really a stomach personified. A dancing stomach! And in this era we are in of childhood obesity, it is almost hard to believe they had to have PSA’s when I was a kid REMINDING kids to eat breakfast, or have an afterschool snack! So, now, as a parent, I’m thinking about the consequences of our 24/7 cartoon marathon cable channels, and 24/7 kid centered programming, and the many other reasons kids have today to sit and stare. I’m wondering if there is a connection. Maybe I should put my family on the Saturday Morning Cartoon Diet where once a week we sit and stare at the TV for two hours, and for the entire rest of the week we are so busy playing outside that we might forget to have our after school Wagon Wheels.