When I was a tot, probably six or seven, I looked forward to the weekend, and not just because it meant no school—though that was probably part of it. What I looked forward to most was spending two very special hours with my dad, watching the late movie. Every Saturday night, we would see an old black and white film on the local UHF station or a newer TV movie, like The Night Stalker or Columbo, on one of the Big Three networks. The UHF stations didn’t have much of a budget, so they were stuck showing classic b-horror flicks, such as Universal’s monsters, Abbot and Costello, or Charlie Chan. I loved all those old films, but Charlie Chan may have been my favorite; there was something about the exotic locales (mostly studio sets), the mysterious characters, and the comic relief of Number One Son and Birmingham Brown that worked so well in my young, adventure-loving mind and made me dream of someday becoming a wise, old Chinese detective. (I came close.)
That was our family night. I got to stay up late and watch a grownup movie and curl up on the couch next to my dad and hide my eyes when I was scared and eat popcorn or chips or some other unhealthy snack when I wasn’t. And I loved every minute, even the commercials. For me, that was pure youngster heaven, and so much better than watching cartoons or playing Pong (on Radio Shack’s TV Scoreboard, the poor man’s Atari at the time), even better than imagining a galaxy far, far away with my Star Wars action figures. Those years lasted only until I was 10, the year he was diagnosed with lung cancer (miss you, Dad), but I treasure that time more than any other from my childhood.
So we try to do that now with our daughters. And though two of them are probably too young to fully appreciate the Fortunato Saturday Night Ritual, my wife and I hope we are leaving a few good memories that will someday be nostalgic for them and remind them they were (are) loved.
What is our Saturday night ritual? Well, right now, it involves MeTV. We start at 8 o’clock watching Wonder Woman and then Star Trek, and then we end with Svengoolie, hosted by a wacky ghoul who introduces a late night classic b-horror film every week. Other times, we rent a new movie the kids might be wanting to see. The rest of the ritual is curling up on the couch, hiding our eyes during the scary parts, eating popcorn or chips or some other unhealthy snack, and enjoying each other’s company, all with the lights out. For me, it’s still pure youngster heaven.
What are some of your rituals? Leave a comment and let me know.
P.S. On Saturday nights, you can often find us on Twitter during Svengoolie. We join other fans and tweet funnies about whatever film is showing under the hashtag #svengoolie.
Charlie Chan Meeting at Midnight (1944) Starring Sydney Toler – link to watch full movie free on youtube. Charlie searches for a murderer amidst numerous ghosts conjured up by a strange variety of spiritualists and occultists—IMDB