Saturday Morning in the ’70s

If you think about it, childhood is a very personal thing. Your memories of childhood, the things that really warm your heart, might be completely different from a sibling’s or friends. Part of that has to do with the way we experience time as children.

Remember when the summer lasted forever? Or when the clock seemed to move at a glacial pace in the minutes just before school let out? As children we feel time move very slowly, and each year seems like an epoch. Of course we grow out of that and as we get older, years fly by as if they were moments. But that’s a story for another day.

The moment when you were young

Because time moves so slowly when you’re young, you tend to absorb the culture more completely. We all feel that nostalgia when we see a toy popular from our childhoods, or relive a memory from then. For a wide swath of Americans born between about 1950 and 1975, that nostalgia centers around television.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Saturday mornings were for cartoons. Kids, unable to wake fully for school during the week, bounded out of bed so as not to miss their favorite shows on Saturday mornings. Remember that this was a time before the VCR. If you missed something, it was gone forever… or at least until the summer reruns.

Chances are that if you were young then, you formed an attachment to that children’s programming. You might fondly remember Underdog, HR Pufnstuf, or Hong Kong Phooey. Just the names might make you smile.

Relive those moments again

If you have about half an hour to spend, take a look at this video:

It’s a collection of commercials and opening themes from Saturday mornings in the 1970s. If I had to guess, it’s about 1973-1977, although I can’t quite nail it down any more than that. You’ll find Land of the Lost, Scooby-Doo, and even commercials for Lite-Brite and Malibu Barbie. You’ll find something to smile at if you were young back then.

Or live them for the first time

If you were too young for these experiences back then, take a look. Saturday mornings were a time when there was a huge swell of creativity hiding behind incredibly poor production values. Animation was expensive to make back then. It took teams of people working long hours tracing things over and over. So, to save time whole sequences were re-used and frame rates dropped. The result was a genre all its own, “limited animation.” Live-action shows didn’t look much better. They were largely shot on video tape with minimal budgets. They tried to look fantastical but usually ended up being super-cheesy.

If you’ve never spent any time looking at these productions, take a few minutes now. Keep in mind the opening credits of these shows were usually the best produced parts of them. But kids back then didn’t care.

You also might realize that the 1970s was a time where casual cultural insensitivity ruled the airwaves. It’s ok to acknowledge that too, as long as we realize that it was the past and doesn’t have to inform the present or future.

Either way, you’ll probably smile

We call could use a smile long about now, and while the 1970s were a pretty difficult time in so many ways, it seems downright nostalgic now for many people. Looking at the optimism and silliness of Saturday morning TV is a great way to spend a few minutes. Just don’t squeeze the Charmin.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.