Wednesday, September 22, 2010
When I was a little boy in the forties, the cartoon, The Watchbird, appeared in The Ladies Home Journal,a magazine to which my mother subscribed! The cartoon always featured a bad boy being observed by the Watchbird. The cartoonist would draw and describe the naughty,or whiney,or stingy bad boy being surveilled by the Watchbird, drawn in profile, the boy caught in the sinful act, and then the clincher would come! "This is the Watchbird watching a Sneaky". Named and shamed by his sin! A second bird would be drawn, facing the young reader. The heading read, "This is the Watchbird watching YOU"! Pediatric ethics 101 at the foot of The Ladies Home Journal! What was always most interesting was the naughty activity, which provided the young reader a certain vicarious pleasure. The Watchbird was a simple line drawn, fat little cartoon bird,peering at the offender and then at me. The assumption that we all bore close scrutiny at six or eight for our dirty little secrets was never really challenged in those days. My mother told me she occasionally spanked me with the hairbrush for no definable reason other than the gut feeling that I deserved it. She was probably right. She was a stay at home mum and probably knew far more than the Watchbird. I don't think the cartoon had any lasting ethical benefit because even in those days, naughty was more interesting to watch than goody-two shoes.I guess it wasn't the enlightened child raising that we see today, but there was never a feeling that I was short changed in the love game. We are still under scrutiny today by Watchbirds of a different name!