Today happens to be the first day back to school; I can’t help but think it’s a little weird to have it on a Friday, but who am I to judge? Even though I’m not going back, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. Back to school meant one thing when you were a kid in the 1980s: brand new cartoons when you came home.
When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, you could watch cartoons on weekday afternoons and on Saturday mornings. That was it. There were no Cartoon Networks or anything of the like. Most of the time it was either a few syndicated shows that were aired on a local television station or it was reruns of old Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry. But if you were lucky enough to get a station that had the syndicated stuff, going back to school meant you were going to see new episodes of He-Man or Transformers.
The promise of that–of getting another Transformers episode that had Bumblebee–was the one thing that urged me to finish my homework before four o’clock in the afternoon. From Monday through Friday, I had a darned good reason to finish that math worksheet or that social studies essay. If I didn’t, I’d miss Bumblebee. Then there were Saturday mornings.
Saturday mornings were a smorgasbord of new animation: Spider-man, Smurfs, Mighty Or-bots, Real Ghostbusters, Alf, Mr. T, to name just a few. Most Satursdays, I was up at 7:30, parked in front of our old television, wrapped in a blanket and waiting for the TV to warm up enough to spit out a picture. (This was especially egregious in winter.) On weekdays, when I had to go to school, I didn’t want to leave the confines of my bed. On Saturday mornings, it was tough for me to sleep in when I was a kid. I wanted to get up and catch the latest cartoons. The more things change…
No, I don’t like getting up for work and I have trouble dragging myself out of bed. At BotCon, I’m up at six o’clock and perky as hell. This is not a joke.
Back in the Stone Age, this was the only time a kid could binge anything animated. Cable television existed but Cartoon Network was still just a pipe dream. So we parked ourselves in front of the TV and didn’t move for about five glorious hours. NBC, CBS, ABC, every major network had a block of Saturday programming. Most of the time, I watched NBC. But sometimes, I’d switch to ABC–Real Ghostbusters–and later on, CBS–for Storybreak. At one o’clock, I was kicked out of the house, in order to go play, the thoughts of school a distant concern.
That was how I got through my elementary school years: the knowledge that I would get new episodes of my favorite animated shows, be it on the weekdays or the weekend. Mixed with the smell of mimeographed worksheets and Elmer’s paste was the promise of cartoons at the end of the day. Buying spiral bound notebooks was a precursor to another season of He-Man or Transformers. I don’t remember a lot of the lessons I learned when I was younger, but I remember the afternoons and the Saturday mornings very well.
I always dreaded the coming of the new school year, but I did welcome the coming of new animation. To a degree, I miss that, I miss the fact that I had to wait for new shows, that I couldn’t binge an entire season in a week, that there wasn’t an entire network dedicated to animated cartoons. It almost makes me miss school.
The pop quizzes and spelling tests? Yeah, I don’t miss those at all.