Today, cartoons have their own TV network, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in color, on a 55-inch screen where Yogi Bear looks as big as Godzilla.
You can record cartoons. Play them in slow motion. Even hit pause for bathroom breaks.
Back in the day, cartoons were a Saturday morning fixture, on a black-and-white TV with a 19-inch screen in a console the size of a Rambler. If you had to use the bathroom, you might miss Wile E. Coyote getting crushed, stomped or eviscerated.
You either snuggled into the shag carpet and watched that week’s cartoons. Or you waited for the next Saturday’s thrills and spills.
We all had favorites.
Mine included Banana Splits, featuring hippie-dippie rock music played by Bingo, Droopy, Fleegle and Snorky. At the top of my lungs I’d sing the theme song, “One Banana, Two Banana.”
My dad, the kindest, gentlest drill sergeant ever, said I was scaring the Herefords and could keep singing if I finished chores: filling the woodbox and feeding the cows, pigs, chickens, Shetland pony and a goat that preferred to eat T-shirts.
I loved Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd as much as avoiding chores. Also known as Egghead, Fudd asked, “Where is that wacky wabbit?”
Bugs Bunny was Fudd’s arch enemy. Fudd would point his shotgun down a rabbit hole while Bugs Bunny stood behind him grinning and eating a carrot. As Fudd grew exasperated, Bugs would say, “What’s up, Doc?” and zip off to start a new chase.
Another nemesis of Bugs was Yosemite Sam, with his ZZ Top beard and six shooters.
Other characters Tweety, Sylvester, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzales and the Tasmanian Devil provided more thrills than a roller-coaster ride.
Mickey Mouse was another star. By the time I was knee high to a refrigerator, Mickey had been around for nearly four decades of rodent mayhem.
I especially liked his friends, Donald Duck, Goofy and blundering, happy-go-lucky dog, Pluto.
The Flintstones and the Jetsons were fixtures of the Stone Age town of Bedrock. Fred Flintstone’s sweat-stained job working at a rock quarry never dimmed my enthusiasm for retiring from youthful largesse — the first and sadder retirement — and becoming an adult. (Little did I know 40 years of work would take a seeming eon.)
Fred would come home to wife Wilma and daughter Pebbles, give them a yabba-dabba-do greeting and then go golf or bowl with his neighbor, the irascible Barney Rubble.
A Saturday morning favorite was The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. Wile, using contraptions purchased from mail-order company Acme, was forever trying to catch and eat The Roadrunner, with spectacular failure.
Wile would run into walls The Roadrunner whizzed through and fall off cliffs, hit bottom and become a dust cloud of unrecognizable body parts.
The Roadrunner would scoot away with his signature “beep, beep.”
Rocky and Bullwinkle, the adventures of a moose and flying squirrel in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, was another favorite. We would root for Rocky and Bullwinkle to overcome the evil Boris Badenov and his sidekick, Natasha, suspected Communists.
Chip and Dale, Huckleberry Hound and Scooby Doo were also doing their best to make life livable for 6-year-olds.
We were savvy consumers.
We knew to time our bathroom breaks during ads for sugary sweet cereals — everything short of Kellogg’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Flakes — so as not to miss a single Wile E. Coyote epic failure.