Category Archives: Staycations At Home

Ideas for things to do in and around the house to enjoy with your family and friends, with money-saving tips. The best staycations are at your doorstep.

The Luckiest Generation of Kids – the 1950s and 60s

Sleeping Beauty by Eyvind Earle
Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

A Tweet caught my eye yesterday that left me flabbergasted and intospective.  She tweeted to a top cartoon voice actor, “Hoping to see the man who truly made the childhood of 90s kids better than any other generation”.  She was obviously indulging in a bit of hyperbole in her lighthearted online fan mail, but being an aging Baby Boomer it reminded me of how blessed were the lives of most children of the 50’s and 60’s – especially when it came to entertainment.

Since we’re focused on animation, it must be said that the 1950’s were a remarkable era of Disney animated features.  The decade included “Cinderella”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Peter Pan”, and “Sleeping Beauty”.  Interspersed among those landmark films were re-releases of Disney classics like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Pinocchio”, “Bambi”, and “Dumbo”, which filled the Saturday matinees in movie theaters.  For fans of voice performers, “Alice in Wonderland” was a standout, featuring the voices of the young British actress Kathryn Beaumont as Alice (and later, Wendy in “Peter Pan”), character actor Sterling Holloway (Cheshire Cat), radio stars Jerry Colonna (March Hare), Ed Wynn (Mad Hatter) and Verna Felton (Queen of Hearts), and a character actor who was a favorite of mine, J. Pat O’Malley (various).

As everyone knows, the 1950’s were the dawn of television.  But while most documentaries focus on prime time programs like the classic sitcoms “I Love Lucy” and “The Honeymooners”, the dramas like “Playhouse 90”, or the westerns like “Have Gun Will Travel” and “Gunsmoke”, they rarely do more than brush the surface of programming for children.  And there was oceans of it, and a good deal of it was animation.  Walt Disney’s weekly program and the daily “Mickey Mouse Club” featured lots of the Studio’s cartoons originally shown in theaters.  Similarly, Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes cartoons, as well as Popeye, Betty Boop, and Tom and Jerry were staples of many local children’s shows.  The 1950’s also saw Jay Ward’s first series “Crusader Rabbit” and the series that made him famous, “Rocky the Flying Squirrel”. They were followed in the 1960’s by “The Bullwinkle Show” and “The Dudley Do-Right Show”, both famous for being loved by kids and adults.

Of course, when discussing the history of animation for television you have to give special attention to Hanna-Barbera who pioneered the technique of “limited animation” which made it financially attractive for TV networks to produce, starting with the Saturday morning series “Ruff and Reddy” which debuted on NBC in December, 1957 and featured the talent of the legendary cartoon voice performer Daws Butler.  A year later, they produced “Huckleberry Hound” which was soon followed by “Yogi Bear” and “Quickdraw McGraw” which were syndicated and shown just before prime time in most of the country.  In our house, these shows came on just after dinner, so I would rush away from the supper table and plop down in front of the TV.  1960 saw the premiere of the landmark series “The Flinstones” which ran for 6 years in prime time on ABC.  It was followed in 1962 by the short-lived but much-loved “The Jetsons”, and later came shows like “Top Cat”, “Magilla Gorilla”, and “Jonny Quest”.

“The Flintstones” inspired Warner Bros. to produce their own prime time series “The Bugs Bunny Show” in 1960 that featured their post-war Looney Tunes cartoons spliced together with new material featuring Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig and their other characters.  The series moved to Saturday mornings after two years in prime time on ABC, and has been re-incarnated and repackaged dozens of times over the years.

And I have to mention a personal favorite, “Tom Terrific” which was a feature on “Captain Kangaroo” beginning in 1957 when I was only 4 years old.  I loved Tom’s magic hat which was a large funnel, and Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog.  On my first day of kindergarten, I carried a much-treasured Tom Terrific book with me for Show and Tell.  Somewhere in the house there’s a picture of me standing at the bus stop that day with that book cradled under my arm.

In researching Tom Terrific, I discovered I’d neglected to mention “Mighty Mouse”.  I loved Mighty Mouse, too.  I’m sure I missed others as well (like Mr. Magoo), but I think I’ve made my point.  When it comes to a remarkable time to grow up in America, the 1950’s and 60’s were fabulous.  Oh yeah, and our music was better, too!

Twin Cities Snow Emergency Tips

SHAWN GUST/Press Large snowflakes gather on a windshield Thursday as snow flurries pass through Coeur d'Alene.

Yes my fellow drivers, winter is upon us once again.  And like every year, it’s going to take a week or two before we all recover our winter driving skills.  The MN State Patrol reported nearly 150 crashes on the first day of snow a couple of weeks ago, just to demonstrate the point.  The impending freezing precipitation brings back thoughts of Snow Emergencies in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, so it behooves everyone to be aware of when the emergencies are declared and the parking rules in your city.  For Minneapolis, you can find everything you need to know on the City of Minneapolis Snow Emergency page.  There is, of course, also a St. Paul Snow Emergency page.

It also makes good sense to make sure your car is prepared for winter.  The natural first steps are to make sure you have snow tires, your windshield wipers are in good condition and you’ve got a full washer fluid tank, and that your antifreeze is fresh and at a proper level.  But you should also make sure you have some emergency supplies in your car.  The standard advice is to keep jumper cables, a flashlight, and a first aid kit.  Of these, I consider only the flashlight to be vital.  You’ll be grateful for having some light if you break down on a side street where the light is poor, especially if you need to peek under the hood or into the trunk.  And a flashlight help passing motorists to see you in the dark.  So keep a flashlight with fresh batteries in your glovebox where it’s easy to find at a moment’s notice.

As for the other commonly suggested items, I’m less enthusiastic about their utility in an emergency in the car.  At the top of my list of non-essentials is a set of jumper cables.  The chances of your battery going dead when you’re in a remote area where you can’t walk or call for help seems pretty minimal to me unless there was a “pre-existing condition”.  Living in Minnesota means it is smart to own a set of jumper cables, but with the proliferation of cell phones it’s unlikely that you’d find yourself in a situation anywhere in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area where jumper cables are your last, best hope of getting home.  If you’re dead on the street near your house and you don’t have a second car to use, you can probably find a willing neighbor.  But if you’re stuck someplace cold, dark, and remote, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone willing to give you a jump anyway.  Call the guy and be home in a stress-free hour.  And if you often travel out in the wilds of the greater Twin Cities, an AAA membership would be $80.00/year well spent.

And while a first aid kit has the cachet of prudence, most of the kits made for cars include little more than band-aids, a roll of gauze, and some flimsy adhesive tape.  If you have kids, you’ll certainly want to have a first aid kit in the car all year long because, well, they’re kids and you just never know when they’ll get hurt.  But as an asset in a winter driving emergency, your cell phone is much more valuable.

Despite my reservations about the items above, there are two things I think you should have in your car’s emergency kit.  The first is a roll of duct tape.  Everybody knows that duct tape is great for making temporary repairs when you don’t have tools handy.  But duct tape can also be handy in a medical emergency for immobilizing limbs or affixing a makeshift bandage.  And for those who do travel in remote areas where it can take a long time for help to arrive, a large fleece blanket can help you keep warm if your car won’t start and you have to wait for help to arrive.  Fleece blankets fold nice and compact so they don’t take much room in the trunk.  And with all of the highway driving we do these days, a half dozen road flares will let you warn oncoming traffic when you’re broken down.  And there’s nothing better than a 10lb. bag of kitty litter to give your tires some traction when you’re stuck in icy ruts or sloppy snow.

But the most important thing to remember when you’re driving in winter is to slow down!  You know you can’t stop as well in winter, and even if you’re careful there are enough crazies out there who just can’t help themselves.  As Jack Parr used to say (yes, I’m that old!), the life you save  could be mine!

Let's All Be Careful Out There!
Let’s Be Careful Out There!