Jaded Memories Of Youth Staring At The Screen

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

If you remember last week we were discussing the Saturday afternoon serials that kids watched in the 40s. There wasn’t much sex in the serials – well except for The Shadow.

‘Who knows was evil lurks ‘neath the skirts of Margot Lane?’ Well, Lamont Cranston did apparently.

The Saturday afternoon crowd could have cared less. For one thing, the whole audience was 8 or 9 years old. A hero kissing a girl could cause a riot and pulling the heroine’s top down would be completely unacceptable and what was worse, unappreciated. A topless woman wasn’t necessary anyway. If Johnny Weissmuller was in a Tarzan movie he had bigger boobs than any starlet in Tinseltown. Tarzan wasn’t a serial anyway. His movies were full-length and usually pretty awful when we look back and think about them. Horribly racist too, at least they certainly were by today’s standards. The kids in the audience never even thought about it. Nor did we think shooting Arapahos and Apaches was racist; they were the bad guys. Try that today and I will guarantee you will never get by the front door at the Rama Casino.

The Bowery Boys and the East Side Kids were still big box office draws in the ’40s, but they were starting to fade a little since the boys and the kids were all 50 years old. Some old coot in a pork-pie hat wouldn’t look too convincing shaking in a corner in a haunted house.

There was no sex at all in the Bowery Boys movies. There was always a dude named Gabe who was a year or two older and getting married. Plus he wore a suit and a tie for Pete’s sake. The last I time I saw Gabe was in a movie in 1988. He was being pushed around the Bronx in a wheelchair and still hadn’t made it to the altar. But that was it for the sex stuff. If Leo Gorcey ever had any type of relationship with a girl, it would have been an excuse for him to get her alone and whack her over the head with his pork-pie hat.

I could never keep the Bowery Boys and East Side Kids straight since Leo Gorcey was in both of them. He was Muggs McGinnis in one and Slip Mahoney in the other. His mother was always the same sweet white-haired Irish lady. In retrospect, his identity may have depended on which Irish immigrant his saintly old mother was sleeping with that week. 

That was the Saturday Afternoon matinee stuff in the 40s and maybe early 50s; 500 kids all running around screaming and throwing popcorn boxes. Whenever there was a spook show on, the john would be jammed to the doors with little nippers hiding until the scary part was over. When Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein, there were so many kids crowded in the men’s john; the only place left to pee was in some other guy’s pocket.

I doubt they still have Saturday afternoon matinees anymore and if they do, they wouldn’t be the same. For one thing the kids in today’s audiences probably carry guns.

My dad took me to a matinee once after he came back from the war. I was such a jerk. On the way home he dropped off at the armouries and tried to re-enlist.

Eventually you outgrew the matinees. Overnight we stopped being snotty-nosed little kids and became men of the world, bon vivants, if you will. Some loony running around in his long underwear no longer turned our cranks and we began to notice little things — like Sabu; the Elephant boy’s hair was greying at the temples, Jungle Jim was using a cane, and Tarzan was wearing a Maidenform bra, 44D I would imagine.

What I didn’t mention and certainly should have, was the cartoons. There were always three or four every Saturday afternoon, Bugs and Elmer Fudd, Daffy and Daisy, Porky and Petunia (try getting away with Porky’s stutter in 2023) and of course, the Roadrunner.

Incidentally, don’t you think it’s time the Department of Labour and the CSA officials took a long look at the Acme Company? I figure Wile E. Coyote should be suing them big-time. I can’t understand how one company can put that much defective crap on the market and get away with it. Something should be done and fast before coyotes become an endangered species. Selling a steamroller with no brakes? Come on! Obviously Acme is owned by Republicans!

(Image Supplied)

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