Josie & the Pussycats, HR Puffnstuff, the Jetsons & Scooby Doo were Saturday morning favorites of mine

Last night’s TV theme reminded me of Saturday mornings. When you’re a kid there is nothing better than Saturday morning. The weekend has just begun, and best of all, for this one day of the week, the television is packed with cartoons. This kept me from sleeping too late on Saturdays as well because you didn’t want to miss this cartoon cavalcade.

The shows would start at around 8 a.m. and end at noon, which was good timing because by then dad was yelling at us to shut off the damn television and get outside and play. I rarely slept late on Saturdays. With the exception of an hour or so on weekday afternoons, cartoons were only televised on Saturday mornings; it was a kid’s prime time. All 3 networks, ABC, CBS & NBC had different cartoons scheduled, so at times it was a tough deciding what to watch, especially when I wanted to watch one thing and  my sisters, Judy or Wendy, wanted to watch another.

Wanda the Witch was a little scary, but one of my favorite Sesame Street "shorts," brought to you by the letter W.

It was early on in years I learned a lesson of time and television. I must have been 6 or so, and I was in love with Sesame Street, which back then was a new show. I put on PBS at 7 am, and watched a marathon of Sesame Street episodes. My little pea of a brain figured that I could sit and watch Sesame Street, and then switch the channel to Scooby Doo and the Buggaloos. So after hours of Big Bird, Wanda the Witch and Grover I turned the dial to CBS only to see a news program on. I was befuddled to be sure, and tried NBC. Then ABC. All the stations were cartoonless! What could have transpired while I was watching Sesame Street? Where was Bugs Bunny? What happened to the Banana Splits?

I’m not sure who broke the news to me, but it was explained that while I was watching Sesame Street on channel 13, my other cartoons were playing on the other channels. I had missed them all by choosing to watch Bert & Ernie. I was crushed as the realization of what had occurred sunk in. A whole Saturday morning wasted watching 4 episodes of Sesame Street. It still amazes me that I could have been that stupid.

After cartoons came “American Bandstand” with Dick Clark. It was a snooze to me as a kid, but once I hit 9 or 10 it could be good depending on who the guest star would be. If Dick had on the Captain and Tennille or Andy Gibb I was there. With no MTV at the time, “American Bandstand” was a chance to hear hit songs that week, and watch lame-asses dance to them. It was fun sometimes to watch just to goof on some of the audience members’ dance moves.

I'll take Shirley over the Bowery Boys any Saturday morning!

Sometimes at noon there would be good movies on too, extending the tv time even further. For a while, WPIX, or channel 11 in the New York City area, would play Shirley Temple movies. We used to love to watch these, and my favorites were “Heidi,” “Captain January,” and “Bright Eyes.” If those weren’t on, there would be Abbott and Costello movies, or Bowery Boy movies. I didn’t like these as much because in both cases there was a tough guy who would push around a little guy and that bothered me. Poor Lou Costello was always getting slapped across the face by Bud Abbott, and Slip was always mean to the dim-witted Sach on the Bowery Boys.

Last ditch entertainment on an early Sunday morning

Sunday mornings were more of a viewing crap shoot. The stations were littered with news shows and programs of a religious nature, but every now and then you could find a good movie on. If I happened to wake up very early, I used to watch this really lame show called “The Patchwork Family.” Almost nobody remembers this show but me, and I can still sing the theme song. It was a pretty boring show, but had a puppet named “Rags” which made it bearable to watch, even though Rags was pretty ugly.

Sunday got good when “Wonderama” started. “Wonderama,” hosted by Bob McAllister, was this great live kids show with games and dancing and musical guests that ran for like 3 hours on Sundays. The show would open showing the kid-filled audience on bleachers waving their hands back and forth as if they were signaling a person way off in the distance. This was the Wonderama Wave – I’m not sure why they did it. Maybe it was a “hey mom! I’m on tv!” type of wave, but every kid in the audience did it. Hell, I did it sitting on the couch.

I remember my friend Leslie Nuchow got to be on Wonderama and boy, was I jealous. Her dad was loaded and had connections and was able to get her and her sister Joanie on the show. I think she played the snake in a can game, which is this game where you choose one can out of 10 and open it. If snakes & confetti spring out of it, you won a prize, which was usually decent – a board game or a doll. But if you opened the can with the bouquet flowers stuck to the lid, you won the motherlode which included a bike and any of the other prizes that had not yet been claimed by earlier contestants. I don’t remember what she won, but it wasn’t the motherlode.

My kids have 24/7 access to cartoons and kid’s shows. There’s no waiting for Saturday, and with OnDemand and TV-esque devices you can watch almost anything at any time. But I’d kill to have them sitting on the cold, gray linoleum floor in our TV room with me watching HR Puff’n’stuff while eating Cap’n Crunch.

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