As a child, I lived in a small town and we were pretty poor. So Saturday nights were pretty simple. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m actually thinking back on those nights with a great deal of fondness. The evening largely revolved around watching TV. Let’s take a look at the Saturday evening lineup that dominated most of my first 12 years:
- Wild Kingdom: Marlin Perkins was a pioneer of wildlife shows filmed in the field. He set the stage for the many shows that would follow–arguably even the development of the Animal Planet network. I have always loved animals, so I enjoyed his weekly adventure in the wild. Having said that, he certainly was not as brave as people like Steve Irwin. Do you remember that he would be hovering in the safety of his helicopter while his staff would do much of the dirty, dangerous work? Just an observation. I also remember the annoying Mutual of Omaha (the show’s title sponsor) commercials . I can still hear the song to this day: “Mutual of Omaha is people…you can count on when the going’s rough.”
- Hee Haw: This was a corny, but enjoyable, country variety show. It had a mix of country music, comedy skits, and corny jokes and puns. For most of the years, I enjoyed the corny entertainment. However, as my teen years approached, I also developed an appreciation for the buxom Southern belles that adorned the show.
- Lawrence Welk: This was another variety show, but more sophisticated than Hee Haw (okay, that’s not saying much). It was also corny, but on a different level. I see it today and say to myself: “What were you thinking?” Yet every year, when PBS has it’s annual fundraiser, I find myself watching the Lawrence Welk special and enjoying the quick trip back 30 years.
- Portland Wrestling: Prior to the 80s, “professional” wrestling was largely a local affair. Each large city had its own wrestling association. The matches were held in relatively shabby buildings. The wrestlers were gritty, working-class guys that just wanted to beat the crap out of each other. Of course, it was just as fake back then as today. However, it seemed more realistic than today’s highly commercialized, glamorous, wrestling productions. We lived in western Oregon at the time, so we tuned in to Portland Wrestling every Saturday night without fail. Throughout the 80s, these local venues slowly faded away. Very few of the wrestlers were able to make the transition to the new, highly polished package of the new professional wrestling. One notable exception was one that you might recognize. Former wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura got his start in Portland back in the 70s. I even have his autograph from attending a live event!
Another memorable part of Saturday night: popcorn. I’m not talking about microwave popcorn or a popcorn machine–I’m talking about cooking it in a pan! First, pour in enough oil to cover the pan bottom. Next, add the corn–but not too much or it will push the lid off during popping and popcorn will go every where. Once the corn starts to pop, slide the pan frenetically back and forth across the burner to keep it from burning. When the popping stops, dump the popcorn into a bowl. Top it off with melted butter and a few shakes of salt. It may just be fond memories, but I don’t think any of our “modern” methods of cooking popcorn has yet topped the popcorn I last had over 20 years ago now.
If you grew up during the 80s or after, this may have been a fairly boring post for you. But for those of you that lived through the 70s, I’m hoping that I was able to spark a fond memory that you haven’t thought about for awhile. Feel free to reply with your own Saturday night memories or post your own and give me a shout back.