My childhood didn’t disappear. It merely went to sleep, hibernating, waiting for me to grow up and need it again. The toys and cartoons of my youth are waking up now, reminding me of what it was like to be young, inviting me to play.
In this age of information, everything is at our fingertips. If we can search Google for it, we can probably find it.
So, it’s difficult to remember a time when the stories from my childhood were impermanent. I’m not talking about books. I’m talking about the stories that aired on Saturday mornings.
Saturday Morning Previews
Saturday morning television was such prime real estate that networks aired prime-time specials (with names like “All-Star Saturday” or “Preview Revue”) to promote the new fall line-up. Hosted by the latest pop sensations and kid-friendly characters, these specials gave sneak previews of new cartoons or live-action shows.
In the days of my television-glutted youth, we didn’t have on-screen viewer guides. I would pour over the TV section in the Sunday paper, planning out my viewing. Saturday mornings were particularly tricky, because each network (of which there were three, four if you counted the local independent station) programmed Saturday morning to hook kids and keep them glued to the tube.
No VCRs (or DVRs)
Back in those days, we couldn’t watch one thing while recording another channel (or two, or three). Deciding what to watch became an exercise in time management and logistics. And if you missed an episode of Land of the Lost, you had to wait until summer when the networks would re-run episodes. That’s assuming the show you liked didn’t get cancelled and disappear forever.
No Streaming Services
Sure, we could watch some television shows in re-run. But we were at the mercy of local stations and the networks that syndicated those shows. And if I wanted to watch a particular episode, I couldn’t queue it up. Now I can binge-watch a season of Speed Racer in a single weekend.
Eventually, every cartoon got cancelled. And when a show went away, it vanished into the ether. There was no videotape (or DVD, Blu-ray, or YouTube). Once a show was gone, it was gone.
And that lack of permanence created something called nostalgia.
I missed those stories of my childhood, and held on to the artifacts that remained — whether it was a Super Friends lunchbox or a collection of The Smurfs figurines.
The crazy thing is that my kids are of a generation that assumes their past is a permanent record somewhere. I wonder if nostalgia exists for them? Can they get teary-eyed remembering episodes of their favorite cartoons? How can they miss something that never really went away. They could own the DVD before the show went off there air. If they didn’t have DVD, it would surely pop up somewhere on cable television.
So, too, the nostalgia of my generation has turned into a huge industry. So much of my childhood is being recovered — preserved like a fly in amber. Episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that I can stream through Amazon Prime. The Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning shows that can be sampled on YouTube. Or the School House Rock videos I own on DVD.
I’ve come to the realization that the Internet isn’t just for social networking or e-commerce. It’s a time machine that has preserved my childhood. It’s a place for me to remember what it was like to be young.
All it takes is a cartoon, or a Muppet, or a favorite teacher, to remind me who I was and who I should be.