by Robert Smith
What follows is a compendium of classic children’s entertainment and products, much of which we know will bring back fond memories of Saturday matinees, Bonomo Turkish Taffy, and dad threatening to use the “other end” of the belt. Enjoy!
Old Yeller, produced by Walt Disney in 1957, was a hugely successful Disney live action film featuring a young boy who befriends a lovable and wacky stray dog who eventually contracts rabies. The boy is forced to shoot the dog at the end of the film.
The 1986 children’s book Love You Forever (by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw) features narrative by a mother who continually recites a poem/song featuring the words “I’ll love you forever,” no matter what her son does throughout his life. When the boy becomes a raucous teenager, the mother creeps into his room at 1:30 in the morning and sings the song to him as he sleeps. When the son grows into an adult, the mother gets into her car with a ladder attached to the roof and drives across town. She climbs into her son’s apartment, basically breaking in, and sings the poem/song as he sleeps. An illustration depicts the sleeping adult son in pajamas, curled up in his elderly mother’s arms.
The 1952 Tom & Jerry cartoon “The Two Mousketeers” features the cat being guillotined as the film ends. The film won the 1951 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. Following the off-screen execution, a little mouse, Nibbles, looks at the camera and says, “C’est la guerre.”
In 1988, the Coca-Cola company began an ad campaign with a jingle with the words “Coke in the morning,” apparently designed to sway people from juices, water, and teas upon waking up and instead to reach for the familiar red bottle or can of carbonated sugar water.
In 1999, Walmart pulled an action figure of WWF wrestler Al Snow that some found offensive; the doll seemed to be carrying a severed head. In actuality, the wrestler always brought a severed mannequin head to the ring, which was much more tasteful. A Walmart in Florida in 1995 also banned a T-shirt featuring Margaret from “Dennis The Menace” saying: “Someday a woman will be president!”
One of the most beloved and wholesome family comedy shows in TV history is “The Andy Griffith Show,” and the “Opie And The Spoiled Kid” episode, originally shown on February 18, 1963 and which still shows up in reruns today, features a
spoiled friend of Opie’s named Arnold Winker, who always gets his way by throwing huge tantrums. Arnold is such a brat that he runs around Mayberry getting into big kid-type trouble. At the dramatic end of the show, both Sheriff Andy Taylor and the boy’s father agree the best way to teach the boy a lesson is to take him to the woodshed – literally.
Herman & Katnip, an action-packed cat and mouse comedy team by the theatrical animated production house Famous Studios than later ran on children’s TV shows throughout the 1960s, featured the cat’s life ending in at least two cartoons in the series. At various times, the wacky cat (“not that Katnip didn’t have it coming to him,” says the Harvey Toons website) was killed in a rockslide; eaten by sharks; electrocuted by an electric socket; and, in one memorable scene, dying and becoming a ghost that is sent to something that looks a lot like hell. Each time Katnip gets napalmed, a bunch of little mice rejoice in sheer joy.
Hanna-Barbera is fondly remembered for Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons. Other programs churned out by H-B have included JabberJaw, The Biskitts, C.B. Bears, Birdman And The Galaxy Trio, 3 Robonic Stooges, Wheelie & The Chopper Bunch, The Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan, The Funky Phantom, Kwicky Koala, Cattanooga Cats, and The Pac Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show. Also included were superhero shows such as The Herculoids.
Still available: Candy cigarettes, available in many “old-time” candy shops as well as online. The packs are of “brands” including Target, Victory, Round Up, Lucky, and other faux manufacturers that kinda sorta look like the more famous cigarette brands.
Robert Smith has experienced every single one of these products and entertainment vehicles, and now spends his days on blood pressure medication, his nights shivering under the covers screaming for his departed Aunt Meg.