God bless America’s secularized public school system for teaching generations of students the proper habits of good citizenship, public safety and personal hygiene. But don’t count out the scores of church schools who had their heavy hands in the game as well. Sure, they had a lock on the materials devoted strictly to religious instruction, but devotional institutions of learning also showed an interest in seeing that their students’ time on earth was as long and trouble-free as possible. And though classroom filmstrips might be more likely to, say, celebrate the studious habits of a young Abe Lincoln, they didn’t shy away from a good old traffic safety fear fest either.
Cathedral Filmstrips’ “Bicycle Safety” is kind of like a “Mechanized Death” for the Saturday morning cartoons crowd. Not gory by any means, but definitely designed for extreme impact — in a Saturday morning cartoons kind of way. The art itself is entirely in the style of the classic matinée short. The harassed citizens pop their eyes and flap their tongues comically. The foolish children show their agony with stars, corkscrews and tweety birds. But the underlying message remains grim: those deviating from cycling best practices face grievous injury, possible death and certain ridicule.
I wish I could you who’s responsible for the wonderful drawings in this filmstrip, but I fear that’s something best left to the experts over at the ASIFI Animation Archive. Though I’ve enjoyed that site for years, I was reminded of it once again after the recent demise of Will Elder. But thought I came for the Elder, I stayed for the Fearless Fosdick.