For Father’s Day this year, my son gave me a collection of old Saturday morning cartoons on DVDs. I realize the concept of “Saturday morning cartoons” is alien to most of you but there used to be a time when cartoons were ONLY on Saturday mornings. I have strong memories of most of these shows: THE HERCULOIDS, SHAZZAN, FRANKENSTEIN JR., SPACE GHOST, JONNY QUEST, et al. Most of them went off the air before I even entered elementary school. Yet they remain very fresh in my mind.
One in particular is YOUNG SAMSON & GOLIATH (1967). Of all the shows listed above, that was the one show I used to play by myself. Samson was a teenage boy (way before Ben 10) voiced by Tim Matheson of JONNY QUEST, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE and THE WEST WING – talk about a wide-ranging career -- who rode around on a cool motor scooter with his dog, Goliath. His only bling was a pair of gold rings around his wrists.
Wherever they went, Samson & Goliath inevitably ran into bad guys: evil witch doctors, scientists bent on conquering the world, monsters etc. When things got tight, Samson would clang those gold rings together over his head and turn himself into Young Samson (Tim Matheson again sounding like he was now standing in an echo chamber). A clang of the rings in front transformed Goliath from a yappy mongrel dog to a roaring lion. You could tell they were the same animal because both had a matching gray front paw.
Their superpowers (great strength, lasers shooting out of the eyes) varied from episode to episode depending on what was needed to defeat the villain of the day. And defeat them they did! Before moving on, just a boy and his dog.
Before I wanted to be a writer. Before I wanted to be a racecar driver. Before I wanted to be an astronaut, I wanted to be Young Samson.
Naturally, gold wrist rings were rather hard to come by in the 1960s (for boys) so I did what I always did when I could not find a toy: I made it! I drew them out on notebook paper, colored them with my Crayola gold crayon, cut them out with my Lefty scissors, wrapped them around my wrist, and Scotch taped them on! I was ready to go. My favorite stuffed animal, Puppy, filled in for Goliath. Once I clanged my gold paper wrist rings together, he transformed into a large brown teddy bear. Villains beware!
The motor scooter had to be left to my imagination (I wasn’t riding a bike yet).
I wore those rings ALL summer one year. I distinctly remember running around the yard of my cousin’s grandparents’ house in Scott, Indiana: banging my wrist rings together and battling all the imaginary monsters who came in from their field.
“What is HE doing?” I remember Grandpa blurting out.
“Oh, well,” my Aunt Donna stammered, “He’s playing, ah, well, he’s got these rings, you know. And he bangs them over his head [Aunt Donna banging her wrists over her head]. I don’t know. He’s playing.”
And Grandpa shook his head like it was the dumbest thing he ever saw. I remember feeling really embarrassed.
I took the rings off not long after that and never put them on again. Unless I was by myself in my room.
Almost half a century has gone by since I last watched that show but if I were going to be any kind of superhero, it would still be Young Samson.
I’ve got the rings. I’ve got the dog. I’m still working on the motor scooter.
And that transformation changy thing.........(smile).......