|“Hi! Time for Timer!”
He stopped your stomach’s rumbling, he hankered for a hunka cheese, he taught you how to make sunshine on a stick… His name was Timer, and he may have been the most popular yellow blob on television.
DePatie-Freleng created several public service spots for ABC’s Health and Nutrition Series (remember “Exercise Your Choppers,” “Don’t Drown Your Food” and “Yuck Mouth”?), but none captured the hearts and stomachs of young viewers more than Time for Timer. Wearing a bow tie, top hat and occasionally a wristwatch, the rounded yellow fellow with the long carrot nose offered healthy snack tips to the kids at home by means of instantly catchy songs.
“I hanker for a hunka,
A slab or slice or chunka
A snack that is a winner,
And yet won’t spoil my dinner,
I hanker for a hunka cheese… Yahoo!”
Perhaps the most memorable of Timer’s bits was the Old West themed “Hanker For a Hunk of Cheese.” To get kids to sample the delights of the milk group, Timer taught them how to make a “wagon wheel” from cheese bits.
“A hard-boiled egg, a chicken leg,
Or cheese or luncheon meat,
Or a peanut butter sandwich
Any time of day's a treat!”
Timer also had a few good tips for the kid on the go. The cartoon character knew that not every child had a cupboard stocked with cold cereal or instant oatmeal, and that not everyone had a mom, dad or grandma to make a four-course breakfast every morning. But to Timer, that was still no excuse for missing the most important meal of the day. One of the character’s spots gave several suggestions for a “quickie breakfast”—everything from fruit juice to leftovers, all designed to give kids the energy they needed for a hard day’s play.
“All these motors in your body
Need a lot of fuel to go on,
Like carbohydrates, fats and proteins,
Vitamins and so on…”
Another of Timer’s spots was less directly practical (no “how-to” here), but it still delivered valuable information. Every kid knows the benefits of an all-sugar diet (better taste, plenty of quick energy), but Timer made sure they knew the hazards as well. By teaching the simple, age-old lesson, “You really are what you eat,” the T-man helped his wee fans understand the importance of a balanced meal.
“Now, some weekend when it's raining,
And your mother is complaining,
Cause you’re hanging ‘round just twiddling your thumbs…”
Going back to the kitchen for another snack tip, Timer introduced the Saturday morning world to a tasty frozen treat called “Sunshine on a Stick.” The recipe was simple: take some fruit juice (orange, lemon, pomegranate…), pour it into an empty ice cube tray, cover it with plastic wrap, poke toothpicks into each cube (“caaaaarefully…”), freeze a few hours and presto! It was a treat anyone could make, it was good for you, and best of all, you could sing along as you made it (because every kid in America knew the words).
Timer had actually been around a few years before his 1977 Saturday morning debut, guiding kids through the mysteries of the human body in a pair of live-action/animated ABC Afterschool Specials. But it was this series of Health and Nutrition ads that made him one of the most beloved icons of late 70’s kids TV.
The Time for Timer spots played for several years, lifting the yellow-bellied star (not an insult in his case) into the pantheon of educational cartoon greats. Not everyone remembers his name, but no kid who grew up in the 70’s can forget his face, or his good-for-you message.