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Mike Cline: Recalling Saturday morning TV

By Mike Cline
For the Salisbury Post
I suppose every generation of parents tells its kids how they missed out on neat stuff Mom and Dad did when they were young.
I lamented to mine how I wish they could have enjoyed the real drive-in movie experience. I speak of actually watching movies from your car, not that other drive-in experience. I doubt they missed out on that.
A thought came to me the other day. Something I always took for granted gradually vanished without my really being aware it was disappearing. Maybe because I was growing up, and priorities were shifting.
I’m talking about great Saturday morning television. We “baby boomers” had fantastic Saturday morning TV.
It amazes me today (negatively) how the major local TV stations just seem to concede the air time on Saturday mornings. My generation could watch super shows like “Sky King” and “Fury.” Today’s moppets can watch 30-60 minute commercials for car dealerships, juice-making machines and tummy tuckers. Depressing, isn’t it?
Back when I was growing up, my Saturday mornings began on Charlotte’s channel 3 (WBTV) with Fred Kirby and “The Little Rascals.” This gang of kids was such a big part of several generations’ lives. Our parents had seen them in movie theaters. It saddens me that most kids of today probably aren’t familiar with “The Little Rascals” at all.
How many of you can remember walking the halls of your school and someone would shout out, “Yum yum, eat ’em up?” I know I do.
And Fred Kirby was such a wonderful man. How fortunate we were growing up in this area having such a “TV friend” as long as we did. Today’s kids certainly have none.
Next up on the Saturday morning schedule was an hour of Warner Bros. cartoons. You know, Bugs, Daffy, Porky and the likes. But I had to get off the couch and walk across the room to turn to channel 12 (WSOC). No remote control. But not a problem. While I was up, I could pour myself my second bowl of Kellogg’s Sugar Corn Pops.
The cereal is still around today, but “Sugar” has been dropped from the name and the contents. Heaven forbid, Junior should eat any sugar. He may turn into a “Twilight” vampire.
By now, it’s 9:30 and time for “The Ruff and Reddy Show” on Channel 12. It was a cheaply animated series about a smart cat and a stupid dog. I wasn’t a real fan of the show, but back then, I considered it the best of what was on the other channels during that time slot. Keep in mind we had only three channels to watch.
I often “freshened up” during “Ruff and Reddy.” Got out of my pajamas and brushed my teeth. Had to get that evil sugar out of my teeth or they would decay by noon. Didn’t wear my hair long enough for combing, so that was a time saver.
I had to change the channel back to Channel 3 at 10 a.m. to watch “Heckle and Jeckle,” another animated show, this one about two mischievous talking magpies who loved to stir up trouble. These cartoons had originally been produced for theaters. My generation got to see them on television, sans the Technicolor.
The morning started to pick up at 10:30 when “Mighty Mouse Playhouse” hit the air. The theatrical cartoons (minus Technicolor again) were pretty good and the show had a great theme song. Boomers will remember “Mr. Trouble never hangs around, when they hear that mighty sound, ‘HERE I COME TO SAVE THE DAY,’ that means that Mighty Mouse is on the way.”
I’ll bet Mozart would have been proud had he written that. And to top things off, Mighty Mouse pitched Colgate toothpaste during the commercials so those Sugar Corn Pops I ate during “Ruff and Reddy” wouldn’t dissolve my teeth.
Now we’re getting serious because it’s 11 a.m. Another switch of the dial back to Channel 12, and it’s time for “Fury,” the story of a horse and the boy who loved him. No more cartoon stuff. This show had human actors. The adult figure was played by the late Peter Graves, years before he led the “Mission: Impossible” crew on another network. The kid was played by youngster Bobby Diamond, today a Los Angeles attorney. (Insert your own joke here).
As soon as “Fury” wrapped up his adventure of the week, a rush back to change stations again. This would be the last channel changing of the morning as both “main events” came on Channel 3.
And the first one, at 11:30, was “The Roy Rogers Show,” starring Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys; Trigger, his golden Palomino; with Dale Evans, Queen of the West; Pat Brady, Roy’s hilarious sidekick; and Roy’s wonder dog, Bullet.
Even back then, I always wondered what Dale thought of getting third billing behind Trigger. Roy’s commercials were even better than Mighty Mouse’s. Sometimes Roy and Dale did the ads pitching Nestles Quik, that delicious chocolate drink chocked full of vitamins to help us grow up strong. The other commercials featured ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson, his boy dummy Danny O’Day and dog dummy Farfel.
Each commercial ended with dummy Danny singing, “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles makes the very best…” and Farfel would finish saying “Chaw-klit!” Art in its finest form.
Soon it’s noon. Time to make that bologna sandwich just in time to watch…”Out of the blue of the western sky comes…’Sky King’…brought to you by Nabisco.” Sky was our hero, joined by his niece Penny and nephew Clipper, and don’t forget Sky’s airplane, the Songbird. And cookie commercials out the kazoo. Oreo’s. Lorna Doones. Chiparoons and Fig Newtons.
As soon as Sky, Penny and Clipper brought their weekly bad guy to justice, it was off with the TV. Another Saturday morning of TV was done, and a full week of school would have to be endured before another Saturday would come around.
But before I would rush outside to join neighborhood friends for an afternoon of whatever we decided to do, one more dose of Mighty Mouse toothpaste would be in order, so that Roy Rogers’ chocolate drink and those Sky King cookies wouldn’t have me in the dentist chair after school on Monday.
I’m sorry my kids and you youngsters of today missed such a weekly experience. But Grandma used to say, “You don’t miss what you never had,” so it probably doesn’t make any difference.
I’d love to know what the youth of today do every Saturday morning. I haven’t a clue. Grandma also used to say, “What you don’t know won’t hurt cha.” So, I guess, that makes it even.
And so, just as Roy and Dale rode alongside one another atop Trigger and Buttermilk (Dale’s horse), looking into the camera singing, I’ll say, “Happy Trails to you … until we meet again.”
Mike Cline lives near Salisbury. His website, “Mike Cline’s Then Playing,” documents all the movies that played in Rowan County theaters between 1920 and 1979.

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