In The Happy Hollisters book series, Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue don’t often watch television, since they’re too busy solving mysteries in Shoreham and having adventures around the world! Plus, in the 1950s and 1960s, when author Andrew E. Svenson wrote the series, watching TV was a vastly different experience than it is today. Now we have hundreds of channels to choose from, but back then there were only three main network channels (ABC, CBS, and NBC), believe it or not! Many shows were also shown in black-and-white, though full-color programming became mainstream by the mid-1960s.
While television technology has dramatically changed since then, one thing still remains the same: kids love to lounge in front of the TV and watch their favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Back when Svenson was writing The Happy Hollister series, these were some of the most popular Saturday Morning cartoons.
Tom and Jerry
Originally created in 1940 by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, this zany show about the rivalry between a cat named Tom and mouse named Jerry hit the small screen in 1965. Previously, Tom and Jerry starred in a series of short films, which were shown in theatres in the 1940s and 1950s and won seven Academy Awards. The television show focused on the antics of Tom and Jerry, who often tried to injure or outdo each other, leaving mayhem in their wake. The show was known—and sometimes criticized—for its violence, as Tom and Jerry both used hammers, guns, and even methods of electrocution and decapitation in their various confrontations. However, it never showed actual blood and gore in any of its scenes, and Tom and Jerry were sometimes shown to actually care about each other, despite their rivalry.
We bet Joey Brill, Shoreham’s local troublemaker, loved watching Tom and Jerry—though we hope they didn’t give him any dangerous ideas on how to get revenge on the Hollisters!
Watch a clip of Tom and Jerry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3sp1egBb0s
The Bugs Bunny Show
“What’s up, Doc?” Even kids today might know this catchphrase, but it originated all the way back in the 1930s, when the iconic character of Bugs Bunny was created by Leon Schlesinger Productions. Bugs Bunny, a wisecracking rabbit with a Brooklyn accent, starred in over 150 cartoons in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, and “hosted” his own television show, The Bugs Bunny Show, from 1948 to 1969. The show mainly featured other Looney Tunes cartoons, starring memorable characters like Daffy Duck, Tweety, and Elmer Fudd.
In the 1960s, The Bugs Bunny Show was merged with The Road Runner Show about a Tom and Jerry-like and sometimes violent rivalry between a speedy bird and a wily coyote, to create The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. By this time, Leon Schlesinger Productions had become Warner Brothers Cartoon Studios, which went on to produce many other timeless characters.
Watch a clip of The Bugs Bunny Show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFTTB6gOAJA
The Woody Woodpecker Show
Bugs Bunny wasn’t the only cartoon with his own show in the 1950s and 1960s. Woody Woodpecker, originally created in the 1940s by animator Walter Lanz, was the main character in The Woody Woodpecker Show. Like Tom and Jerry, Woody the Woodpecker made his debut in cartoon shorts and first appeared as another character’s sidekick. With his colorful carmine crest and cacophonous cackle, Woody quickly stole the spotlight and landed his own show in 1957. The Woody Woodpecker Show revolved around Woody and his friends, like Andy Panda and a penguin named Chilly Willy. Many of the characters in the show had amusing, alliterative names, like Buzz Buzzard and Wally Walrus, two of Woody’s main foes. As part of each episode, The Woody Woodpecker Show also featured a live-action snippet where Lanz discussed the animation process behind the show and shared fun facts about the characters and their designs.
The original television run of The Woody Woodpecker Show only lasted one season, from 1957 to 1958. However, it was picked up again in 1970, and Woody’s laugh continued to entertain cartoon lovers until 1999.
Watch a clip of The Woody Woodpecker Show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a9ITgcTBlY
Felix the Cat
This black-and-white cat might not be as recognizable as Bugs Bunny, but he’s been around much longer than the other Saturday Morning cartoons on this list. Felix the Cat was created in 1919 during the silent film era and starred in short, wordless films like Feline Follies. His adventures and jovial nature captivated movie-goers, and Felix also went on to star in his own TV show, which aired from 1958 to 1961. The TV show revolved around Felix and his magical “bag of tricks,” which allowed him to get out of dangerous situations. Like The Happy Hollisters books, Felix the Cat often used cliffhangers, with a commercial break splitting episodes just as things were getting particularly exciting or suspenseful.
Watch a clip of Felix the Cat here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amGbBFsiuzc
Like The Happy Hollisters series, animated TV shows in the 1950s and 1960s used exciting adventures, colorful characters, memorable catchphrases, and even cliffhangers to keep audiences coming back for more! What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon series?
By Libby Svenson Kennedy
Research notes, Andrew Svenson Archives of The Hollister Family Properties Trust