If you were born after DESERT STORM, you won’t be able to relate to this story. But if like me, you were a child of the 60s, I’m betting you will. I was seven (7) years old in late summer of 1966, looking forward to starting the 3rd grade and all the excitement that comes with end of year events like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthday #8. Adults all around me were talking about a place called Vietnam, but in my rural paradise of Colquitt County, Georgia, I was not yet old enough to understand what that really meant. I had finally started to get the hang of reading, which was opening up new, exciting worlds for me. But as cool as life was for me in 1966, the coolest day of all was Saturday morning. Saturday morning meant cartoons!
This era was eons before things like cable TV, cartoon network, VCRs, computer games, and the myriad other “bling” that attracts the eye of today’s child. Our “rabbit ear” TV was black & white and delivered CBS and NBC only in varying degrees of clarity (depending on the weather). I was not one of the lucky ones to get ABC, a network I’d not be able to view until I was in high school. Again, if you are a 20-something, you can’t relate, but I’m betting others of you out there are with me!
The new TV season was on the verge of beginning in late August, just before Labor Day. New shows, stars and special events always caused excitement. But the BIG news for me was the coming Saturday morning line-up of cartoons. This year would be the debut of a new line of super-heroes. My little-boy mind was in overload!
In those days, cartoons were part of the 30-minute morning kids shows like Captain Kangaroo. That featured characters like Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, and the Road Runner among other Warner Brothers or Hanna-Barbera classics. The Flintstones aired in prime time once a week, and of course, you had the Disney characters on Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Disney. But Saturday morning was going to be different because of … superheroes!
For more than a month, I’d been counting down the days to that Saturday and now, at last, it was almost here! The morning line-up was going to be amazing! While I would miss ABC’s Spider-Man and Journey to the Center of the Earth, I had plenty to look forward to. There was Shazzan, The Herculoids, Dino Boy, Birdman, The Impossibles, and so many others, amazing all coming from the creative studios of Hanna-Barbera. But far and away, the one I most looked forward to was … Space Ghost.
Or, as voice actor Gary Owens (Laugh-In) would say in the opening segment …
Interplanetary villains beware!
And so it was that on the Wednesday before this magical weekend, the unthinkable happened! Our TV died! The dreaded “picture tube” went out. Kaput. Combat ineffective. This being rural Georgia 1966, options were limited. My Mom called the repairman, who promised to be out to fix it on Friday. With summer winding down and Space Ghost set to debut in 24-hours, I looked over this man’s shoulder as he came inside, pulled the TV out from the wall, and opened it up. Soon, we got the tragic news. He didn’t have a tube to fit this model in his shop. He’d have to order it. It’s be another week before he could fix it. Sorry. SORRY? This was tragic beyond my worst nightmare! How would I survive without flying wingman support for Space Ghost and his sleek Phantom Cruiser starcraft? But, as it always was, Mom had a plan.
After a quick phone call, Mom filled me in on her plan to save my universe. The next morning, she would take me to a place a mere 1.5 miles away by dirt road, where I would spend the morning watching my heroes on the TV set of another angel in my life, Mrs. Reba Taylor.
Mrs. Taylor was one of my Mom’s best friends and one of the nicest ladies to ever grace my life. She and her husband, Anderson Taylor, were so special to the Cain family that I never even thought of them as anything but family. When I met and married Renee years later in Augusta, GA, one of the first things I did was bring her to Colquitt County to meet Mr. & Mrs. Taylor. They helped her pull peanuts, pick muscadine grapes, and shared some of Mrs. Taylor’s trademark coconut/pecan pie.
When my own Mom departed with the angels on May 6, 1987, I was holding her hand in her hospital room. And who was standing over my shoulder, offering her love and comfort in that most awful moment of my life? You guessed it … Mrs. Taylor always seemed to be around when we needed her most.
Today, cartoons like Space Ghost have lost their charm and appeal. Young people today only know him from the campy comedy talk-show spoof, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, which aired for a time on Cartoon Network. Hey, it even attracted my all-time favorite actor, Charlton Heston, in one episode!
Space Ghost: So your name is Heston? Chuck Heston? Cheston! May I call you “Cheston?”
Charlton Heston: NO!
But Space Ghost will always hold a special place in my heart. He is much more than a cartoon or comic book hero from a different era when the world was so much simpler. He is a reminder of the angels who came and went in and out of my life like a cool summer breeze, yet left their mark permanently on the fabric of my soul. People like Mom. And people like Mrs. Reba Taylor. They were two of the heroes of my life. When I think of them, I am returned to late summer, 1966, Saturday morning. Thanks, Space Ghost. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Mrs. Taylor. You gave me the best Saturday morning … EVER!