Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Girl Stuff

Yesterday I received a comment about this old post from back in October. So since my data indicates that most of my loyal readers are of the female persuasion, I thought it might be of interest to bring it out again for the new visitors.

I have had several requests to include more gurly-girl stuff. So here goes. I hope this is gurly-girl enough for you. We’re going to look at women’s hosiery.

Prior to 1937, 88% of women’s stocking were made of pure silk. The silkworms were racing each other to see who could produce the most silk, but they always ended up in a tie. (hahaha)

Then along came Dr. Wallace Carothers of Du Pont. He is credited as the inventor of nylon. "Nylons," as they were soon called, eventually replaced silk stockings. Keep in mind that these nylons did not resemble the “pantyhose” women wear today. They differed in several ways.

First of all, they covered only about two-thirds of a woman’s leg, from the feet to mid-thigh, and they were held up by garters and a belt. Women could buy them in either "full-fashioned" form with seams at the back or "seamless." Also, because nylon didn’t stretch, it was necessary to manufacture them in different sizes.

When America entered World War II, both silk and nylon were commandeered by the federal government (specifically the War Production Board) to supply defense needs. Overnight, stockings made of any materials became hard to find. Nylon became important to the war effort because it was used in parachutes and tires. On the home front, the popular press presented nylon as a miracle of technology that Americans could again enjoy when the war ended.

Since stockings were hard to get, there was a thriving Black Market. Stocking were a popular gift from US soldiers for the ladies back home. It was during this time that women began painting seams on the back of their legs so it appeared as if they were wearing stockings.

When the war ended in 1945, nylon was again available to Americans. When the announcement was made, Macy’s sold out their entire stock of 50,000 pairs of nylon stockings in six hours. At the same time, 40,000 women stood in line in a torrential downpour in Pittsburgh to buy theirs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's almost Thanksgiving!

Since Thanksgiving is drawing near, let’s take a look at one of the traditions we’ve been enjoying since the 1950s. I’m referring to the Peanuts characaters created by Charles Schulz. We’re going to go back in time again and see how it all began.

Charles Monroe Schulz was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in Saint Paul. Schulz loved drawing and sometimes drew his family dog, Spike. He attended St. Paul's Richard Gordon Elementary School, where he skipped two half-grades. When he was in first grade, his mother helped him get valentines for everybody in his class, so that nobody would be offended by not getting one; but he felt too shy to put them in the box at the front of the classroom, so he took them all home again to his mother.

He became a shy timid teenager, perhaps as a result of being the youngest in his class at Central High School. One episode in his high school life was the rejection of his drawings by his high-school year book.

After his mother died in February 1943, he was drafted into the United States Army. Two years later shipped to Europe arrving in France on February 18, 1945 to fight in World War II. After leaving the army in 1945, he returned to Minneapolis where he took a job as an art teacher at Art Instruction, Inc. — he had taken correspondence courses before he was drafted. Before having his comics published, he began doing lettering work for a Catholic comic magazine titled Timeless Topix, where he would rush back and forth from dropping off his lettering work and teaching at Art Instruction Schools, Inc.

Schulz first made money for his comics when he sent in a drawing to The Saturday Evening Post. Schulz received $40 for the first drawing, and was asked to send more. Schulz sent in more comics similar to the first one. He received $40 for each of those. After sending a total of 13 cartoons in, Schulz ended his partnership with SEP.

Schulz's first regular cartoons, Li'l Folks, were published from 1947 to 1950 by the St. Paul Pioneer Press; he first used the name Charlie Brown for a character there. The series also had a dog that looked much like Snoopy. In 1950, Schulz approached the United Feature Syndicate with his best strips from Li'l Folks, and Peanuts made its first appearance on October 2, 1950. The strip became one of the most popular comic strips of all time.

Schulz drew much of his inspiration from his own life:

Charlie Brown, the principal character for Peanuts, was named after a co-worker at the Art Instruction Schools

• Like Charlie Brown's parents, Schulz's father was a barber and his mother a housewife.

• Schulz and Charlie Brown were shy and withdrawn.

• Schulz had a dog when he was a boy, although unlike Snoopy the beagle, it was a pointer.

• Schulz's "Little Red-Haired Girl" was Donna Johnson, an Art Instruction Schools accountant with whom he fell in love. Schulz was planning to propose to her, but before he got an opportunity to do so, she agreed to marry another man.

• Linus and Shermy were both named for good friends of his (Linus Maurer and Sherman Plepler, respectively).

• Peppermint Patty was inspired by Patricia Swanson, one of his cousins on his mother's side.

Schulz's family returned to Minneapolis and stayed until 1958. They then moved to Sebastopol, California, where Schulz built his first studio. It was here that Schulz was interviewed for the unaired television documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Some of the footage was eventually used in a later documentary titled Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz. The original documentary is available on DVD from the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Remember MIMI?

If you’re a baby boomer (and a guy) you probably remember one of our all time favorite magazines – Mechanix Illustrated. (Provided your memory hasn't failed you yet.)

If you're interested in MI in general, there’s another post in this blog from a while back that featured an article about our favorite auto guru, Tom McCahill. You can find it HERE if you’re interested in reading about Uncle Tom.

But today, we’re going to talk about the more photogenic stars that graced those pages. Yep, you guessed it, I’m talking about our favorite gal — MIMI! (And you'll understand why "stars" is plural in that sentence if you keep reading. Wait for it.)

Each month we looked forward to seeing that shapely young woman dressed in her skimpy overalls with the vertical stripes and high heels. And in the early sixties, she sported another wardrobe accoutrement: a matching railroad engineer's cap. But that was later discontinued.

She was usually pictured either holding, standing beside, sitting on, laying on, or just in the photo with a new product each month. But who was she? Who was this gorgeous girl-of-our-teenage-dreams model?

Actually, "Mimi" was not one person, but many. Each "Mimi" held the job for a year. Their names were never revealed except for the announcement of a new "Mimi" in each January issue. One Mimi did, however, hold the job for a few years in the sixties. An actress from Southern California, she left to live in Hawaii, and a readers' poll was conducted to choose a replacement from a short list. The readers' choice only lasted a short while, and was replaced by one of the runners-up.

So that brings us to the end with a haunting question. Who were these beautiful women? What happened to them? How many are still with us? If you were a MIMI, let us know. We'd love to do another post on here with a MIMI FOUND title. Maybe it was your mother, or your grandmother. If you fall into that category, or can provide any updated info, please leave a comment and we'll put a revised post together.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Suburbia is born

I decided to repost this.

Why? Because it brings back memories. And that's what this blog is all about. Plus, the economy is currently sucking and this was such a better time with less stress and more money.

Well, maybe not, but in any case, it was a different time than we are experiencing now. World War II had ended, and the servicemen had come home from Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and the African desert. Shortly after that event, a mass exodus began.

The economy was about to explode with success, and families were moving from the city to a new area known as Suburbia. There were two primary reasons for this. First, the GI Bill of rights offered servicemen low interest rates and a low down payment on a new home. Another major catalyst for this move was the insight of a building firm in New York known as Levitt & Sons. Between 1947 and 1951, this company built one of the first planned communities outside of the city. It was the first truly mass-produced suburb and is widely regarded as the archetype for postwar suburbs throughout the country. Unlike today, the housing market was about to explode.

All the homes were rented almost immediately, and hundreds of veterans were still applying. Although originally planned as a 2,000-home development, because of the demand the Levitts decided to build an additional 4,000 houses. The new community soon had its own schools, postal delivery, phone service and streetlights.

Levitt and Sons discontinued building rental houses in 1949 and concentrated on building a larger and more modern house. They dubbed it a “Ranch”. It would sell for $7,990. All a prospective buyer needed was a $90 deposit and the ability to make payments of $58 per month. The new Levitt ranch measured 32 feet by 25 feet. It was available in five different models, differing only by exterior color, roof line, and the placement of windows.

The kitchen was outfitted with a General Electric stove and refrigerator, stainless steel sink and cabinets, and the latest Bendix washer. The kitchen was located at the rear of the home so Mother could look out the window (typically above the sink) and keep a watchful eye on the children playing in the back yard. Immediately, the demand for the new Levitt ranches was overwhelming. So much so that even the procedure for purchasing them was modified to incorporate an assembly line method. A buyer could choose a house and sign a contract for it within three minutes.

By 1951, the Levitts had constructed 17,447 homes in Levittown and the immediate surrounding areas. As the GI homeowners settled into well-paying jobs and began their families, the Levitt models and the surrounding community were modified to suit the needs of growing families. 1950 ranches came with a carport and a 12-1/2 inch Admiral TV set built into the living room staircase. The 1951 model included a partially finished attic. Shopping centers, playgrounds, and a $250,000 (in 1951 dollars) community center sprang up to accommodate Levittown's active residents.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How about a TV Dinner?

Why do they call them TV Dinners?
Because they taste like eating a television?
Isn’t it amazing what one invention can do? I’m speaking today of the television. Not only was its creation responsible for all of the television shows we watched — and all the commercials — without the television there would be several things we just wouldn’t have today.

We wouldn’t have a TV Guide. We wouldn’t need a TV tray. And we might never have had the experience of enjoying a TV Dinner. Oh, boy. And that’s what we’re going to talk about here today.

As anyone who grew up in the fifties knows, a TV Dinner is a prepackaged, frozen or chilled meal which usually comes in an individual package. It requires very little preparation and contains all the elements for a single-serving meal. And they certainly made Mom’s life a lot easier back in the fifties. But where did it come from (of course it came from the grocery store, but I mean how did it get there?)

We’re going to have to hop in the Wayback Machine again and let Max set the dial for 1953. That’s the year C.A. Swanson and son’t originally developed the product we all came to love (sort of).

They were first called TV Brand Frozen Dinner. The original TV Dinner came in an aluminium tray and was heated in an oven. The first Swanson-brand TV Dinner was produced in the United States and consisted of a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes packaged in a tray like those used at the time for airline food service.

Each item was placed in its own compartment. The trays proved to be useful: the entire dinner could be removed from the outer packaging as a unit; the aluminum tray could be heated directly in the oven without any extra dishes; and one could eat the meal directly out of the same tray.

The product was cooked for 25 minutes at 425°F and fit nicely on a TV tray. The original TV Dinner sold for 98 cents, and had a production estimate of 5,000 dinners for the first year. Swanson far exceeded its expectations, and ended up selling more than 10 million of these dinners in the first year of production. Their early packaging featured the image of a TV set.

The identity of the TV Dinner's inventor has been disputed. In one account, first publicized in 1996, retired Swanson executive Gerry Thomas said he conceived the idea after the company found itself with a huge surplus of frozen turkeys because of poor Thanksgiving sales. Thomas' version of events has been challenged by the Los Angeles Times, members of the Swanson family and former Swanson employees. They credit the Swanson brothers with the invention.

Either way, Swanson's concept was not original. In 1944, William L. Maxson's frozen dinners were being served on airplanes. Other prepackaged meals were also marketed before Swanson's TV Dinner. In 1948, plain frozen fruits and vegetables were joined by what were then called 'dinner plates' with an entrée, potato, and vegetable.

Later, in 1952, the first frozen dinners on oven-ready aluminum trays were introduced by Quaker States Foods under the One-Eye Eskimo label. (How politically correct is that image today?) Quaker States Foods was joined by other companies including Frigi-Dinner, which offered such fare as beef stew with corn and peas, veal goulash with peas and potatoes, and chicken chow mein with egg rolls and fried rice. (Oh, yummy.)

However Swanson, a large producer of canned and frozen poultry in Omaha, Nebraska, was able to promote the widespread sales and adaption of frozen dinner by using its nationally-recognized brand name with an extensive national marketing campaign nicknamed "Operation Smash" and the clever advertising name of "TV Dinner," which tapped into the public's excitement around the new device.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fish Fry

It's Sunday evening and I'm remembering once again those Sunday evenings of long ago. I want to take you back to the summer of 1957. I was nine years old at the time. I can remember going to bed on Saturday night, right after my dad told me we were going fishing in the morning. The events that follow could have been from any one of many occasions, because my dad and I fished a great deal when I was a boy.

I sometimes wished he hadn't told me what was in store because after hearing the news, I had a terrible time getting to sleep. The excitement was rushing through my body like electricity. But I finally drifted off.

What seemed like only a moment later I awoke to the unmistakable smell of hickory smoked bacon. If you're not aware of this, let me explain it. The smell of bacon can find its way from the kitchen, all the way down the hall, and into the nose of a nine-year old. Unlike light rays, the aroma of bacon can turn corners.

It was still dark outside as I got dressed and scurried down the hall toward the kitchen. I can still see the vision of my dad as I rounded the corner. He was standing there with his coffee cup in one hand, and wearing khaki pants and a white t-shirt. There was a Camel cigarette sitting in the ashtray next to the stove, and he was tending the bacon in the skillet as it sizzled.

On a "fishing morning" he would let me have a little coffee with sugar and milk in it, and I thought that was great. Just us two men of the house drinking our coffee (from a real percolator!) and talking about how many fish we hunter-gatherers were going to bring home that day. He would always ask me to look outside and see which way the wind was blowing.

My dad was meteorologist during World War II with the Flying Tigers. Being a meteorologist, he had a thing about weather, obviously. And he told me that fishing success was directly related to weather. He said, "If the wind's in the east, the fish bite the least. If the wind's in the west, the fish bite the best. But if the wind's in the north, don't venture forth. And when the wind's in the south, why, it blows your bait right in the fish's mouth." Over the years that we fished together, that theory proved true on more than one occasion.

After we ate breakfast he made us a couple of sandwiches, wrapped them with waxed paper (we didn't have sandwich bags back then. I missed an opportunity to invent those.) We started loading our gear into the tan Ford pickup. My dad carried the heavy stuff from the garage, and I carried a few rods. (I was only nine, okay?) In a few moments we were off and heading to Allin's Bait Shop in downtown Independence.

The visit to Allin's never varied. There was a bell beside the front door. My dad punched it a couple times to wake Jerry Allin up. A few moments later a sleepy-eyed proprietor opened the door to let us in. Remember, it's still dark outside.

Now, if you've never been inside a live bait and tackle store, there's something I should explain. There are smells in there, and they hit you as soon as you enter. The large tanks holding the minnows act like humidifiers and fill the air with a heaviness that smells a bit like fish. Since Jerry's son was a taxidermist, there were always some dead creatures in the other room that were exuding their own aroma. It all got mixed together and produced an ambiance that only guys would enjoy. And that's probably more than you wanted to know about that.

Aside from from tackle box re-stocking items like split-shot, hooks, and bobbers, my dad usually got two dozen minnows and a can of red wigglers (worms). He was a live-bait fisherman. I preferred the plastic worms so I could catch bass.

I could drag this story out a lot longer, and there were many occasions that would provide a story in themselves, but I'll condense it and say that we always came home with fish. My dad was a great fisherman, and I learned a lot from him.

So, on Sunday evening, the Broadway family gathered around the table to eat the catch of the day. There were always bluegill (big ones, which my dad caught) a few crappie (usually an accident), and maybe a small bass or two (which I generally caught).

Next to the fish platter you could find another big platter of fried potatoes. There was a big bowl filled with salad and a bottle of Good Season's (make it yourself in the jar) salad dressing. I wonder if that brand is still around. And sweet iced tea. My parents were from Tennessee, and I don't think you can get unsweetened tea down there unless you special order it.

I didn't have any trouble at all going to sleep Sunday night.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Meet the Nelsons

Click on the Fifties Video at the right because you’re going to want to listen as you read. We’re taking a trip in the Wayback Machine and heading for October 10, 1952.

(Hey! That’s next week — 57 years later.)

That was the very day we first met the Nelson family in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The series starred Ozzie and his wife Harriet. It also included their two young sons, David and Eric, better known as Ricky. The audience for this program was a large one because the Nelson quickly became synonymous with the ideal American family of the 1950s. In fact, it is the longest-running non-animated sitcom in US television history.

What few people realize is, although Ozzie was portrayed as a bit of dim bulb (did he even have a job?) he was no slouch when it came to business. Before the show aired, he persuaded ABC to agree to a 10-year contract that paid whether the series was canceled or not. This was unprecedented in television history, but Ozzie prevailed and got what he asked for, including his insistence for perfection in the show’s production.

The show was extremely popular and remained on the air continually until September 3, 1966. It strove for realism and featured exterior shots of the Nelsons' actual southern California home as the fictional Nelsons' home. Interior shots were filmed on a sound stage which had been created to look like the real interior of the Nelsons' home.

Like its radio predecessor, the series focused mainly on the Nelson family at home, dealing with run-of-the-mill problems. As the series progressed and the boys grew up, storylines involving various characters were introduced. Many of the series storylines were taken from the Nelsons' real life. When the real David and Rick got married, to June Blair and Kristin Harmon respectively, their wives joined the cast of Ozzie and Harriet, and the marriages were written into the series.

By the mid 1960s, America's social climate was changing, and the Nelsons' all American nuclear family epitomized the 1950s values and ideals that were quickly becoming a thing of the past. Ozzie, who wrote and directed all of the series' episodes, attempted to change with the times, but most viewers related the show to a long gone era.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Psycho - with Alfred Hitchcock

TCM is featuring scary movies this month. Psycho is one of them. This is a great video with Alfred Hitchcock giving us a tour of the Psycho set, including the motel and the house. It's very Hitchcock-ish. I think you'll enjoy it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another William Castle Film - 1959

This is an introduction to the film, The Tingler, with Vincent Price, released in 1959. It was the heydey of films of this type, and this clip shows Mr. William Castle himself with his typical hype for his now classic productions.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let's Kill Uncle - William Castle

I saw this 1966 William Castle film years ago, but I can't find it at the video rental stores. It's another great addition to a long history of William Castle productions. If you ever get a chance to watch it, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Bad Seed

If you've never before seen this 1956 film, it's a must see. Patty McCormick is excellent as Rhoda, the title character. Wonderful acting, great script, and perfect ending. This is the original trailer. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I know each and every one of you is just dying to know about this wonderful product. But we're going to have to hop into the Wayback Machine and take a little trip. So fasten your seatbelts and hang on because we're going a long way.

It all began back in 1937 when Hormel developed the first canned meat product that didn’t require refrigeration. Made from chopped pork shoulder meat and ham, it was developed by Jay C. Hormel. Originally it was marketed as “Hormel Spiced Ham.” That wasn’t a very inspiring name for a product destined to save lives, win wars, and provide balanced diets for people all over the world.

After other meatpackers noticed how popular the new product was, they began marketing their own canned luncheon meats, and Hormel began losing some of its share of the market. In an effort to increase their declining market share, Hormel came up with an ingenious plan. They needed to give their product a distinctive name. So they held a contest and offered a $100 prize to the person who provided the winning name. The winner’s name was Ken. (Sorry, that’s all they told me.) And, naturally, the winning product name was SPAM! And a legend was born. (SPAM, not Ken. He was never heard from again as far as we know.)

SPAM was referred to as the “Miracle Meat” when Hormel launched their massive ad campaign in 1937. And in 1940 SPAM was featured in what may have been the very first singing commercial. Sales boomed. And, since SPAM required no refrigeration, it was the perfect product to send to our boys in uniform who were fighting the war overseas. Hormel began sending SPAM to the soldiers in 1941.

And, at the same time, back in the states, sales continued to go through the roof. Since SPAM wasn’t rationed, as beef was, it quickly became a staple in American meals. And it wasn't only in America that SPAM was gaining popularity and providing nutrition. Nikita Kruschev credits SPAM with the survival of the Russian Army during WWII.

In the early 1950s, the Hormel Girls advertised SPAM as they performed throughout the country. They distributed SPAM door-to-door, and even had a national weekly radio show. Ads proclaimed, ''Cold or hot, SPAM hits the spot!'' And, although not as popular as it once was, you can still find that familiar metal can on the grocery shelves today.

If you want to see a fabulous website, visit http://www.spam.com/. It’s one of my favorites.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great scenes from the Long Long Trailer

Here's another great video clip from The Long Long Trailer with Lucy and Ricky.
Classic comedy at its best.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Deleted Scene - South Pacific

This is a scene from the 1958 release of South Pacific. It features Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary, singing the song in her own voice. Although she sang the song in the Broadway production, her voice was later dubbed over by Muriel Smith.

Notice also the use of filters or effects that changed the color during the scene.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Home Ownership... on wheels...

The video below is the opening of the great Lucy and Desi movie, The Long Long Trailer. If you've never seen it, it's a must if you love great old films.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Delight...

I'm disgusted! Totally. First it was the fact that I can't find peaches with any juice in them any more, and now it's the watermelons.

I bought a watermelon at Price Chopper last weekend. It looked good. It had that hollow sound when I thumped it. But when I cut it open, it was not the deep red it should have been, and it didn't have a sweet flavor like it should have. I stuffed it back into the plastic bag and returned to the store to exchange it for another one.

When I returned home with that one, with high hopes and anticipation of savoring that sweet summer flavor, I was again disappointed. This one must have been the other's sibling because they looked the same and tasted identical.

So I gave up on Price Chopper and, instead, the following day, decided to give HyVee an opportunity. Fortunately, they were the same price. Unfortunately, they were the same product. The final victim was even lighter pink inside than its two predecessors. I returned that one as well and decided to hold off for a few day and give them some additional ripening time at the store.

When I was a kid, I remember the watermelons we used to get were not long and striped. They were round and a solid, deep, dark green on the outside. I think my dad called them Black Diamonds. I don't see that variety very often these days. There was nothing better than a warm summer evening when my dad took that melon out of the fridge and sliced it open to reveal that dark red center. Of course it had seeds, all melons did in those day. But it was ripe and it was sweet and juicy.

I'm going to have to try to find me one of those very soon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wanna Dance?

Here’s a subject we haven’t really concentrated on so far. Dancing. Now, don’t even try to tell me that you didn’t dance. Everyone did. Some of us guys only liked to slow dance because, well, we didn’t want to look foolish, and we wanted to get a little closer to all you cute girls. And slow dancing allowed that a lot easier than that crazy fast dancing that was so popular. So, let’s take a look at what we had to pick from.

During the 50s, there were several dances that were popular at the prom, the high school homecoming dance, or the many sock hops the schools had in those days. Maybe they still do, but I’m way out of the loop at this point. Here’s a list. See how many you remember. And if the mood strikes you, crank up that phonograph and find those old 45s and dance the night away the way we used to. But make certain you've waited at least an hour after you've eaten your SPAM.

The Bop. Not a slow dance. You usually dance separately from your partner. It's a little like jive or swing with a lot of toe tapping involved. And you don't hold hands. You just tap the heel and toe of either foot alternately as you dance. The Bop is still popular in many dance clubs and events. It’s still very popular in many areas of England.

The Stroll. Again, this is not a slow dance. This dance was often done only by the girls, but that isn't a necessarily a hard and fast rule. Just ask John Travolta. This dance involves two lines of dancers with a large space between the lines. Lead dancers are on one side, and their partners are on the other. Dancers do a step pattern to advance the line, and leaders do a solo routine though the line, joining it at the end. The Stroll was one of the most popular dances of the 50s, and many nostalgic 50s movies feature a scene featuring the Stroll.

Swing. This is not a slow dance either. But you did get a little closer to your partner and you were allowed to hold hands. Swing was a holdover from the 40s jitterbug and swing, though still popular during the 50s. It’s one of the few dances of the fifties that is still practiced today, especially among the younger crowds who like the older dances.

The Hand Jive. If you danced during the 50s, chances are you still remember the Hand Jive. This is one dance you can even do sitting down. Just ask John Travolta again. It’s basically nothing more than a series of hand and arm movements done in a pattern. The song "Willy and the Hand Jive" came out in 1958 and stayed at the top of the charts for 16 weeks, so if you were anybody in 1958, then baby, you can hand jive.

The Madison. The Madison first started in the late 1950s and gained popularity in the 1960s. This dance was a little more complicated, and it was done in a group, rather than by a couple. There were several dance sequences with specific steps, and some of the sequences referred to some very popular television shows of the time, like Jackie Gleason. I have no memory of this dance whatsoever, although I do remember Jackie Gleason.

The Make It Up as You Go. (I’m talking to the guys now, if any of you are still reading.) This was what a lot of us did, if we ever got up the nerve to ask that adorable little gal on the other side of the gymnasium to dance. We always had that fear that we would walk all the way over there and ask her, only to be greeted with a smile, a shake of the head, and a no thank you. Rats! But if ever were lucky enough to get a yes, we really had no idea what we were doing when we got out on the floor. So we just looked around and watched everyone else and tried to mimic their moves. Eventually we developed our own style that we felt comfortable with. Even if it looked stupid, we didn't realize it at the time.
By the way, I've picked a great Jackie Wilson video for you today. Lonely Teardrops. A big hit in the fifties and one that I'm sure will bring back some memories of those dancing days. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I Have a Rocket

Being Independence Day, it reminded me of a little poem that my childhood friend, Tommy Rader, used to recite every fourth of July. It went like this...

I have a rocket
In my pocket.
I cannot stop to play
Away she goes.
It burns my toes.
It's Indepedence Day!

My father was a plumber, working for Local 8 in Kansas City, Missouri. We didn't have a lot of money, so we didn't' spend much on the fourth of July holiday. We usually had hamburgers that my dad cooked on the grill, and hot dogs. And there was either an ice cold watermelon, or he got out the hand-crank ice cream freezer and we made homemade ice cream. What a summer delight that was, and is.

We didn't usually (actually we never did) spend a lot of money on fireworks. But we did make our annual trip to one of the local stands and purchase a few favorite items. These included a package of 100 Black Cat firecrackers, a box of sparklers, a dozen bottle rockets, five or six of the little cone-shaped fountains that kind of spewed sparks out in a somewhat wimpy manner, and, my favorite, the Snakes.

If you've never seen Snakes, they're an amazing little piece of work. They're a cylindrical, black shape, about a half inch in diameter and a half inch tall. You sit them on the concrete and hold your punk to them until they light. When they do, the snake starts crawling out of the concrete, or so it appears. I could get mesmerized just watching them as that long, gray ash climbed up from the cylinder.

I should go buy some of those, just for old time's sake.

Have a safe holiday.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Okay. Back to the fun stuff.

Faster than a speeding bullet. (Close up of revolver and the sound of firing) More powerful than a locomotive. (Medium range shot of a steam locomotive with accompanying sound) Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. (Long shot of skyscrapers fades to crowd looking up) “Look, up in the sky.” (Woman in crowd) “It’s a bird.” (Man in crowd) “It’s a plane.” (Man in crowd) It’s Superman. (Shot of Superman flying) Yes, Superman. Strange visitor who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman . . . who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way. (Intro closes with Superman in his traditional, hands-on-hips stance with his cape and an American flag waving in the breeze)

I hope I got the narrative correct up there. If I didn’t, someone click on the COMMENT button and straighten me out. But I watched that program and listened to Bill Kennedy’s narrative was burned so many times that it's burned into my brain.

The series ran from 1952 until 1958. There were a lot of great episodes, but I want to tell you today about one of my all-time favorites. It was episode #40 entitled “Jungle Devil,” which aired December 19, 1953. During this episode Jimmy, Lois, and Clark travel to a jungle in search of a lost scientist, and encounter a dangerous jungle creature. I don’t remember much about the jungle creature except I think he was the guy who stole the diamond eye out of the idol the natives worshipped.

The climax of the show was when Clark pointed out that the diamond may have fallen into the conveniently placed quicksand pool. Cleverly, he concealed a chunk of coal in his hand before punching his fist into the quicksand. With his hand concealed, we watched him squeeze the coal as the narrator explains how diamonds are formed from carbon that’s been subjected to a gazillion tons of pressure for a bazillion years.

When Clark removes his hand from the quicksand, he opens it to reveal a 5,000 karat diamond that’s perfectly with with the typical 58 facets and gleaming like a jewel. This episode guest starred James Seay as Bill Hurd, Al Kikume as the Native Chief, Henry Escalante as a Native Man, Leon Lontoc as the Witch Doctor, Doris Singleton as Gloria Harper, Damian O'Flynn as Dr. Ralph Harper, Nacho Galindo as Alberto, Bernie Gozier as another Native Man. The director was Thomas Carr. Screenplay by Peter Dixon.

This episode was filmed when they were still using black and white film. It wasn’t until the following year (1954) that the color episodes began. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a color television so it didn’t really make much difference. I still prefer to watch them in black and white today.

Now, the final part of this post will give you an idea of how brilliant I am. Shortly after watching that episode (which I think I must have watched as a re-run because I would only have been about 4 years old when it originally aired) anyway, shortly after watching it I decided to try it myself and create my own huge diamond. I went downstairs to my dad’s workshop and found a bag of Kingsford charcoal briquettes. I took one of them and placed it on the workbench and balanced a couple of bricks on top of it. I knew it probably wasn’t enough weight, but I could be patient. I checked my charcoal briquette every day for a week, but I couldn’t see much change taking place.

My diamond manufacturing plant was dismantled when my dad asked me what the bricks were doing there. I told him I was making a diamond. He gave me a rather strange look before replying, “Well, let me know when it’s done because I need to use the workbench.”

If you were a fan of Superman, let us know. Click the COMMENT button at the bottom and tell us your favorite episode. Here’s a couple of good websites with a lot of great info about Superman.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

That's My Little Margie

We all knew her as Margie on the popular television show of the fifties. But there was a lot more to Josephine Owaissa Cottle (April 5, 1922 - June 27, 2009), better known as Gale Storm, than that role portrayed.

Born in Bloomington in Victoria County in southeastern Texas, Josephine was the youngest of five children. Even as child, her talent was evident. She learned to be an accomplished dancer and became an excellent ice skater at Houston's Polar Palace. At Albert Sydney Johnston Junior High School and San Jacinto High School, she performed in the drama club. When she was a 17-year-old senior, two of her teachers urged her to enter the contest on Gateway to Hollywood, broadcast from the CBS Radio studios in Hollywood, California. The first prize was a one-year contract with a movie studio.

She won, and she was immediately given the stage name Gale Storm, while her performing partner (and future husband), Lee Bonnell from South Bend, Indiana, became Terry Belmont. After winning the contest in 1940, Storm made several films for RKO Radio Pictures, the first of which was Tom Brown's School Days. She worked steadily in a number of low-budget films released during this period. In 1941 she sang in several Soundies, three-minute musicals produced for "movie jukeboxes." She acted and sang in Monogram Pictures' popular Frankie Darro series, and played ingénue roles in other Monogram features with the East Side Kids, Edgar Kennedy, and The Three Stooges.

American audiences warmed to Storm and her fan mail increased. Altogether, she performed in more than three dozen motion pictures for Monogram. The early exposure from these film appearances paved the way for her success in other media. Storm became an American icon of the 1950s, starring in two highly successful television series, and it was in this decade that her singing career took off.

Her television career skyrocketed from 1952 to 1955, with her starring role in My Little Margie. The show, which co-starred former silent film actor Charles Farrell as her father, was originally a summer replacement for I Love Lucy on CBS. After becoming a hit, the show ran for 126 episodes on NBC and CBS. In an unusual move, the series was broadcast on CBS Radio from December 1952 to August 1955 with the same lead actors. Only 23 episodes of the radio show are known to survive. If you look at the right sidebar you'll see a video of a 1952 episode of My Little Margie.

Storm's popularity was capitalized upon in The Gale Storm Show (aka Oh! Susanna), featuring another silent movie star, ZaSu Pitts. This show ran for 143 episodes between 1956 and 1960. Storm appeared regularly on other television programs in the 1950s and 1960s as well. She was a panelist and as a "mystery guest" on What's My Line?

In Gallatin, Tennessee in 1954, a 10-year-old girl, Linda Wood, was watching Storm on a Sunday night television comedy show hosted by Gordon MacRae, singing one of the popular songs of the day. Linda's father asked her who was singing and was told it was Gale Storm from My Little Margie. Linda's father, Randy Wood, was president of Dot Records, and he liked Storm so much that he called to sign her before the end of the television show. Her first record, "I Hear You Knockin'", a cover version of a rhythm and blues hit by Smiley Lewis, in turn based on the old Buddy Bolden standard "The Bucket's Got a Hole In It", sold over a million copies. It was followed in 1957 by the haunting ballad, "Dark Moon" that went to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Storm had several top ten songs and headlined in Las Vegas and appeared in numerous stage plays.

In 1981, Storm published her autobiography, I Ain't Down Yet, which described her battle with alcoholism. She was also interviewed by author David C. Tucker for The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms, published in 2007 by McFarland and Company.
Storm lived alone in Monarch Beach, California, near two of her sons and their families, until failing health forced her into a convalescent home in Danville where she died June 27, 2009 at the age of 87.

Gale Storm has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to recording, radio, and television.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Crazy Max

Max partied too much last night. I heard him clattering around in the kitchen when he got home trying to find some fruit. He doesn't do it very often, but when he does he gets forgetful.

He remembered where his bedroom was, but he forgot to put the charger on the Wayback Machine. So we're not going to go anywhere today. We could. But we could only get back to someplace in the sixties. We could see Beatlemania take over the world, and everything else that was related to it including the hairstyles and the clothing fashions. And the shoes.
We could see Neal Armstrong walk on the moon toward the very end of that decade. Unless we were at Woodstock, in which case, we probably would be more interested in listening to a very young Bob Dylan sing in that crazy voice he has. And watch hundreds of young people sliding naked in the mud. I'm kind of glad I didn't go. But if we went any of those places, we wouldn't be able to get home because the Wayback Machine wouldn't have enough power to bring us back. It's king of like the DeLorean. If you don't have 1.4 jigawatts, you're not going anywhere. And I really don't want to get stuck in the sixties. Do you?

So, we're going to stay home tonight. And, yes, Max has plugged the Wayback Machine into the charger so we'll be ready to go tomorrow. Dumb monkey.
But Max has a solution to occupy your time. Some of his cousins have been doing videos and I'm going to provide links below. I know you'll love everyone of them, and so does Max. So click away and be whisked to the new location where you can see several member of Max's family performing. Here you go...

This is Max's famous cousin. he's a private detective. http://snupes.blogspot.com/2009/06/lancelot-link-and-reluctant-robot.html.

Here's another distant relative that's currently trying to make his way in Hollywood. He's very good but can't seem to find the right part. http://marshmallowpeeps.blogspot.com/2009/06/its-jungle-out-there-jobs-are-hard-to.html.

And here are a couple more cousins who have actually found gainful employment in another country. http://marshmallowpeeps.blogspot.com/2009/06/blog-post.html.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

JFK assasination - new info

There has long been theories of conspiracy regarding the assasination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas back in November of 1963. This scientist has worked out a new theory that may have some validity. You decide.

Please feel free to leave your comments and opinions on this, or other theories.

To the Moon, Alice!

During the fifties, America was introduced to The Honeymooners when it made its television debut. The first episode of the new half-hour series aired Saturday, October 1, 1955, at 8:30 pm, opposite Ozark Jubilee on ABC and The Perry Como Show on NBC.

The show was sponsored by Buick, and the opening credits ended with an advertisement ("Brought to you by your Buick dealer. And away we go!"). The show concluded with a brief Gleason sales pitch for the company. All references to the car maker were removed when the show entered syndication.

It was immediately popular and quickly garnered the #2 position in the ratings. However, competition was stiff, and production ended after only 39 episodes The final episode aired on September 22, 1956. Despite its relatively brief run, The Honeymooners is considered a premier example of American television comedy, and it has inspired successful television comedies such as The Flintstones and The King of Queens.

The episodes focused on its four principal characters. Let’s meet them.

First we have Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason. Ralph is a bus driver for the Gotham Bus Company, although we never actually see him driving a bus. He’s frustrated because success continues to elude him, and he continually thinks up get-rich-quick schemes, which is a continuing theme. He has a quick temper and is prone to tossing insults and threats. His anger usually results in a hollow threat of “You wanna go to the moon? Bang! Zoom!”

However, beneath that rough exterior is a man with a golden heart who loves his wife and is devoted to his best pal. After an angry encounter with Alice, he typically hugs her and says, “Baby, you’re the greatest,” as the closing music comes up on the audio track.

And speaking of his wife, here’s Alice Kramden, played by Audrey Meadows. She’s a patient woman. But after putting up with Ralph for 15 years, she has developed a bit of a sharp tongue. She’s easily capable of returning Ralph’s insults. Although sometimes sarcastic in her delivery, her level-headed nature comes through when she tries to convince Ralph of the stupidity of his various schemes.

Ralph’s best friend, who lives upstairs, is Edward “Ed” Norton, played by Art Carney. Ed is a New York City sewer worker. He’s a bit more good-natured than Ralph. However, he does trade insults with him on occasion. Ralph typically refers to him as Norton, and he usually gets mixed up in Ralph’s schemes. His dimwitted nature results in Ralph showering him with insults and throwing him out of the apartment. Ed and Ralph are both members of the Raccoon Lodge.

Thelma “Trixie” Norton is Ed’s wife and is played by Joyce Randolph. Although she doesn’t appear in every episode, she’s usually depicted as being a bit bossy to Ed. In one episode she is depicted as a pool hustler.

The Kramdens' financial struggles mirrored those of Gleason's early life in Brooklyn, and he took great pains to duplicate on set the interior of the apartment where he grew up (right down to his boyhood address of 328 Chauncey Street). The Kramdens and the Nortons are childless, an issue never explored, but a condition on which Gleason insisted.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cheesecake Dance from the Fifties...

This video is from She Demons released in 1958. It's rather interesting if you watch it all the way through. I'm seeing some reminders of the scene from Pulp Fiction in which John Travolta and Uma Thurman dance the twist to the song C'est La Vie. Also, there's something in the soundtrack of this video that is strangely reminiscent of Michael Jackson's Thriller.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sweet Memories

Let’s talk about candy. Didn’t we love it back in the fifties? Don’t we still love it? Of course we do. One of my favorites from my childhood was the Valomilk Cups.

If you’ve never eaten one, you need to, because there are nothing like them. If you bite into one and the liquid marshmallo filling drips off your chin, you know you've got the real thing.

Here’s a little history on this legendary candy. Originating in 1931, a Valomilk is a liquid marshmallow filled milk chocolate cup manufactured by the Russell Sifers Candy Company in Merriam, Kansas. The fifth generation of the Sifers family still uses the original family recipe along with much of the original equipment.

In the late 1950's, Valomilk launched a promotion to celebrate the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii into the union. Cardboard disks with the names of the capitals of all 50 states of America were placed on top of the candy cups and shipped to stores. Anyone who collected 30 of the disks could send them to the Valomilk company and receive a tube of 10 free Valomilks. Today, collections of all 50 state capitol disks are a rare find on eBay. Valomilks are currently the only candy still made by the Sifers company.

Since it’s getting close to Halloween, I’m going to add this additional information. I no longer dress up in a costume and go door to door to collect candy from the neighbors. But up until six years ago we lived in Kansas. Every Halloween I would walk around the corner and knock on the door of my neighbor, Russell Sifers. He was then, and remains, the owner of the Sifers Candy Company. He always handed me a couple of Valomilks. I had to fight my wife for them when I got home. Then we moved to our present location, and I don’t get my Halloween Valomilks any more. (Sigh)

You can still buy the original Valomilk Cups today. And they taste exactly like they used to. Google it, and you’ll find their website with all the information you need. If you want to order some on the internet, here's a great site. They have everything you remember from the fifties, including the Skybar, Candy Lipstick, Saf-T-Pops and Fizzies. It's called Oldtime Candy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Duck and Cover

If you’re a Baby Boomer, you’re probably familiar with the term “Duck and Cover.” You may have seen the video (actually it was probably a 16mm film back in those days) when you were grade school. The video above is from the original 1950 airing.

We have a lot of unexplained mysteries today. The Mayan calendar predicts the world to end in 2012. Apparently, the government is building facilities to house and protect the "chosen ones" should this occur. The rest of will have to fend for ourselves.

And if you've never visited the Denver Airport, that's a whole different mystery in itself. Jesse Venture has investigated it and he seems to think there's something strange afoot.

So, with the threat of nuclear war still at our threshold, just as it was then, I thought it might be a good time to revisit those instructions, just so everyone knows what to do.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's a Major Award - But where did it come from?

Ralphie Parker's dad won this "Major Award" in the movie "A Christmas Story." I know it's June, and Christmas is a long way off, but it will be here before long. And the next time time you watch the movie, you'll kow a little more about the situation. So, read on.

I've watched that film over 50 times, and I thought I knew it well. But in doing some research, I ran across something related to that story that I was totally unaware of. I’d like to share it with you loyal readers so we’ll all know it and be wiser because of it. It involves the “Major Award” won by the Old Man. By the way, you can get your own Major Award if you'd like. They are available on the Internet. Just Google "leg lamp."

It all started when the Chero-Cola company added Nehi Cola to its line of sodas in 1924 in order to offer more variety of soda flavors.

An instant success, Nehi quickly began outselling Chero-Cola entirely. Because of that popularity, the company changed its name to Nehi Corporation in 1928.

In the early 20th century, the advertising logo of Nehi was a picture of a seated woman's legs, in which the skirt was high enough to show the stockings up to the knee, suggesting the phrase "knee-high." I'm not sure where the chick on the right driving the boat came from but I bet she isn't wearing stockings. (Click that link for a history of womens hosiery.)

Now, here comes the connection. Most people don't realize it, but Nehi was the sponsor of the contest that the Old Man (Ralphie Parker’s father) wins, by knowing the name of The Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse.

The answer, Victor, is actually supplied by the wife. While this is not made clear in the film, it is explained in Jean Shepherd’s book, “In God We Trust — All Others Pay Cash,” on which the film is based. And there you have it. And I dare you to keep it a secret. I triple dog dare ya!

I also was not aware that Nehi was available in 16 flavors (plus something called Dr. Nehi). Does anyone know what Radar O’Reilly’s favorite flavor was? Leave a comment if you know.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Remember Geritol?

One of our loyal readers sent me a question regarding a post about the game show scandal involving Charles Van Doren. He mentioned the Geritol logo that was prominently displayed on the set in the video. I told him I would look into it and see if it was still around. Turns out that it is, although I haven’t seen a bottle of it in years. I’ll have to check my Walmart pharmacy.

For any of you dear readers too young to remember Geritol, it was a US trademarked name for various supplements, past and present. Geritol was introduced as an alcohol-based, iron and B vitamin tonic by Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in August, 1950 and primarily marketed as such into the 1970s. Geritol was folded into Pharmaceutical's 1957 acquisition of J. B. Williams Co., founded in 1885. J. B. Williams Co. was later bought out by Nabisco in 1971. Since 1982, the Geritol product name has been owned by the multinational pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline.

Geritol is currently a brand name for several vitamin complex plus iron or multimineral products in both liquid form and tablets, containing from 9.5 to 18 mg of iron per daily dose. The name is derived from the root "geri-", meaning old (as in "geriatrics") with the "i" for iron. The product has been promoted from almost the beginning of the mass media era as a cure for "iron-poor tired blood". In the early 20th century, many medical doctors and other health professionals felt that much of the tiredness often associated with old age was due to iron deficiency anemia.

The earlier Geritol liquid formulation was advertised as "twice the iron in a pound of calf's liver," and daily doses contained 50-100 mg of iron as ferric ammonium citrate. The Geritol tonic also contained ca 12% alcohol and some B vitamins. The subject of years of investigation starting in 1959 by the Federal trade Commission, the FTC in 1965 ordered the makers of Geritol to disclose that Geritol would relieve symptoms of tiredness only in persons who suffer from iron deficiency anemia, and that the vast majority of people who experience such symptoms do not have such a deficiency.

Subsequent trials and appeals from 1965 to 1973 concluded some of the FTC demands exceeded its authority. Even so, Geritol's claims were discredited in court findings as "conduct amounted to gross negligence and bordered on recklessness.” The manufacturer was penalized with fines totaling, $812,000, the largest FTC fine up to that date (1973). However, Geritol was already well known and continued to be the largest American selling iron and B vitamin supplement through 1979.

In the early days of television the marketing of Geritol was involved in the quiz show scandal, as the sponsor of Twenty-One. After that, for many years Geritol was largely marketed on television programs that appealed primarily to older viewers, such as The Lawrence Welk Show, Hee Haw, and Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour.

I'm thinking maybe the alcohol was the key ingredient. Even if you didn't need the iron input, that amount of alcohol might give you an excuse to feel tired. It's kind of like the old Vitameatavegamin product. And if you haven't seen that video, you really should take a look at it while you're here. I've added it to the sidebar for your enjoyment. It's as funny today as it was back in the fifties.