When I woke up last Saturday, I remembered something that I hadn’t thought about in years—Saturday morning cartoons. Memory is a funny thing; the oddest or most unlikely triggers can tease a remembrance from the brain. In this case, I woke up into a quiet moment at a specific time of day and as I realized it was Saturday, I had a sudden flashback, remembering the eagerness with which I woke up on Saturday mornings as a kid, looking forward to a full morning of cartoons. I loved the Jetsons and the Pink Panther and Spiderman and many others.
To be entirely honest, when I was a kid, Saturday morning cartoons were more of a treat than an expectation. I didn’t get to watch them very often as there were generally more important things I had to do. For instance, when I stayed with my great aunt, Saturday morning was always set aside for house cleaning. No matter how much I begged and pleaded (literally), she would always tell me the same thing, “You can watch cartoons after the work is done.” My argument that cartoons would no longer be playing by the time the work was done didn’t garner any sympathy from my great aunt. This is what my dad called “character building.” And I have to admit I was quite the character.
In any event, I do remember that my favorite forms of entertainment were times spent reading with my grandmother, and those rare occasions when I got to watch Saturday morning cartoons.
This memory made me think about how stories, in all their various forms, have been an integral part of our lives for generations. In my youth there was of course a generous supply of books (mainly from the library), but in addition to that there were movies and television programs that provided an endless source of entertainment— and that was with only 4 TV channels.
My dad’s generation also had many entertainment choices. He loved to read, for one thing, but I remember him describing how as a child, his family would sit around a large box with a speaker (I think they called this piece of antiquity a radio) and would stare transfixed at it as stories would be dramatically narrated— often with sound effects too.
Today’s generation seems to be overloaded with entertainment choices. The four basic television broadcast channels have been replaced by hundreds of 24/7 cable channels, including on demand channels where you can watch practically anything you want anytime you want. I can’t tell you the last time I turned on the TV at 3:00am to find only a test pattern. And my seven-year-old self is a little jealous that today there are channels that broadcast nothing but cartoons all day long. (Speaking of which, do they still have Saturday morning cartoons? Please let me know, I keep forgetting to check.)
We are no longer limited to print copies of our favorite books. With the millions of mobile devices available, we can download just about any book, audio book or favorite television program or movie for reading or viewing on the go. The availability and technology of entertainment has made amazing progress from generation to generation.
But what about the generations before my dad’s and even way back before the technology of the printing press made books accessible to ordinary people? As part of my ongoing research into the lives and times of the Middle Ages for my Sir Kaye novels, in the next few blogs I’ll be interviewing Garrison Martt. Garrison is a medieval storytelling enthusiast who will give us a brief overview about what stories, books, libraries, and literature were like in (roughly) the 13th and 14th centuries.