When I was around ten years old in the mid 1950’s and the times were much simpler, we went to the movies on Saturday afternoons. There was a bunch of us who traveled together and each Saturday afternoon after we had a lunch of peanut butter and jelly or baloney sandwiches; we got to go, as we called it “to the show”. It cost about thirty-five cents for the admission charge and we had two local movie houses to choose from. The Ritz was in the northern part of Central Avenue, the main street in the heights of Jersey City, New Jersey and the Central Theater was down about ten blocks further south on the opposite side of the same busy street. For that thirty-five cents, we would see a few cartoons and many times a double feature of two “B” movies. The cartoons were usually Loony Tunes; the Warner Brothers animated cartoons with Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety as well as Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner who were the biggest stars. My favorite cartoon character of the Warner Brothers collection was Gossamer, who was the red hairy monster with sneakers who haunted Bugs Bunny. I will never forget Bugs as a manicurist doing his nails and calling him a “very interesting monster” or the time Bugs played hairdresser and set his hair with sticks of dynamite instead of curlers. The travails of Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner are legendary, and long before the internet gave us almost immediate access to products, was the Acme Corporation. That company provided every conceivable weapon to catch that pesky critter usually delivered in some kind of packaging with specific instructions that were ignored; too bad for the coyote that those products always backfired causing him immeasurable harm. Fortunately in cartoons; the healing was instantaneous and he was off to his next not so well thought out catastrophe.
Another of the good guy versus bad guy scenarios were Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. Elmer Fudd had a distinct speech impediment replacing his “r’s” as a “w” and always called Bugs a “wascally wabbit” and after all his tricks were used to either catch or shoot him, Bugs would pop up and ask Elmer; “Eh What’s Up Doc?” making Elmer’s blood pressure shoot up to stroke level.
We sometimes got to see Mickey Mouse cartoons, but the Warner Brothers were the prime ones. There was also Koko the Clown who jumped out of an inkwell and had adventures as he was being drawn but the artist. We had Betty Boop with her big head and her boyfriends who all wanted to be her beau but both of these were in black and white and held less appeal to the clamoring youngsters in a movie theater where they held the majority. Woody Woodpecker was a troublemaker who liked to annoy whoever was nearby and after he accomplished his task, would let out with his famous “ha ha ha haa ha” cry.
Along with the pre-movie cartoons, on very special occasions, there was an entire afternoon matinee devoted to just cartoons. This was always a big hit and no matter how many times we saw the same ones over and over again, they were always a welcome sight. We did not have television to watch 24/7 with numerous channels devoted to youngsters. We had about five or seven channels in total produced for grown-ups only. We did have our Saturday mornings and after school time, but from dinner on, the television was devoted to the adult crowd. As an only child during my early youth, I watched whatever my parents watched so my eclectic taste was honed at an early age. To this day, I still enjoy comedy more than anything and looking back at the early animation, there was a lot of good humor hidden within the wording of those early cartoons. Both of those movie theaters are now parking lots, but whenever I pass there I can still remember the good times we had there and hours of Saturday fun long ago.