Do you remember those cozy days when TV was new and cartoons were good and we knew so little and that was good too! That’s the kind of thing that Eric Mondschein, who lives in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, writes about in his book, Life at 12 College Road. He has given BoomerCafé this short story called “Saturday Mornings,” and if you had a happy childhood, you’ll see yourself in it, somewhere.
On Saturday mornings, my brother and I would get up very early — unreasonably early, you might say. We would then steal downstairs, ever so stealthily, so as not to wake up Mom or Dad. Mostly it was Dad we did not want to rouse.
Once downstairs, we’d head to the den and turn on the television. At five thirty in the morning, the only thing on was The Modern Farmer. As I think about it today, I guess it was not so modern after all. Times have changed … but I digress.
Like clockwork, we would take our places. Jeff would nestle on the couch and cover himself with the blanket he’d carried downstairs. I would head for the big, overstuffed brown chair (which was really more than a chair, but that’s another story), sliding under the autumn-colored quilt that Mom would always place there.
As we settled in, we turned our attention to the man on the screen. In his white shirt and dark skinny tie, he’d break down, for the nation’s early risers, the latest cutting-edge techniques for planting saplings or eradicating insects. Of course, we had no clue what he was talking about. But we certainly acted like we did.
But all of this was just prelude, because the main show started at six: The Mighty Mouse Playhouse. We loved that mouse and how he would, as the cartoon so accurately claimed, “come to save the day!” We would lose ourselves in his pretend world, where the bad guys were always vanquished and help always came just in the nick of time. A world, I think, that even grown-ups sometimes wish was real.
We would watch our caped rodent hero with the sound turned down so low we could barely hear it, always with an ear out, listening for those footsteps descending from the second floor. I don’t think we ever got to see a Mighty Mouse episode all the way through, for sure enough, we would eventually hear the dreaded stirrings above.
Frozen into place, we waited as the sound of each step brought our adversary closer to the den.
Clop, clop. On the stairs now.
Clop. Clop. Clop. Louder and closer.
And then . . . the footsteps would stop.
Without looking, we knew Dad was now standing in the doorway. He was not a big man, being of average height and weight. But even with the glasses he wore, we saw him as quite formidable. Especially when that forceful voice of his, tinged with impatience, was directed at us. We knew exactly what he was going to say, too: “What are you boys watching? Turn that junk off now!”
We’d always answer with the same plea: “Daaaad, it’s not junk! It’s Mighty Mouse, and he’s come to save the day!”
Dad would look at us as if we were completely nuts. He’d shake his head, mumble that it was going to rot our brains, and tell us to get dressed. Apparently, there were things to do.
Perhaps if he had awakened earlier and caught us watching The Modern Farmer, things would have been different. Dad never did grasp the cosmic import of Mighty Mouse … or cartoons for that matter.