Saturday, August 6, 2011

Who Loves Lucy?

Since today is Lucy's 100th birthday, I'm reposting a previous article. It just seemed appropriate. For those of you with XM radio, tune to channel 82 today for some fun old radio stuff featuring our girl.

Where do I begin to tell you about Lucy. Let's go back to October of 1951, when the whole love affair began and everyone started saying I Love Lucy!

The show starred Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivan Vance, and William Frawley. It ran as a black and white program (as most of them were in those days) on the CBS network. It began when the first show aired October 15, 1951 and ended on May 6, 1957. It was the most-watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and it was the first show to end its run at the top of the ratings. The show remains in syndication today.

I could go on and on and explain how Lucy is somewhat na├»ve and ambitious, with an overactive imagination and a knack for getting herself into trouble. But you already know that. I could tell you that she’s obsessed with joining her husband in show business. But you know that, too. So let me fill up the white space by telling you something you may not know.

Unlike television shows today, the scenes were often performed in sequence, as a play would be, which was unusual for comedies at that time. Retakes were rare and dialogue mistakes were often played off for the sake of continuity.

Desilu was the production company that was owned by Desi and Lucy. It rented space at General Service Studios on Hollywood from 1951 until 1954, when it bought the Motion Picture Center and renamed it Desilu Studios. The shot at the right is an aerial view of the complex. The one below is the Mansion on the same property. I'm not certain what this building was used for.

The opening familiar to most viewers features the credits superimposed over a "heart on satin" image, shown at the beginning of this post. However, that was not the original opening but was created specifically for syndication. As originally broadcast, the episodes opened with animated matchstick figures of Arnaz and Ball making reference to whomever the particular episode's sponsor was. These sequences were created by the animation team of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, under contract to MGM at the time.

The original sponsor was cigarette maker Philip Morris. At that time the program opened with a cartoon of Lucy and Ricky climbing down a pack of Philip Morris cigarettes. In the early episodes, Lucy and Ricky, as well as Ethel and Fred, were shown smoking Philip Morris cigarettes.
Since the original sponsor references were no longer appropriate when the shows went into syndication, a new opening was needed, which resulted in the classic heart on satin opening.

The original openings, with the sponsor names edited out, are now used on TV Land showings, with a TV Land logo superimposed to obscure the original sponsor's logo. Ironically, this has led some people to believe that the restored introduction was created specifically for TV Land.

One of the most memorable episode is entitled “Job Switching.” It’s a classic with the well-known scene of Lucy and Ethyl wrapping the candy as it comes down the conveyor belt. The video bar toward the bottom often has that scene on it if you want to look at it again. It’s just as funny today as it was the day they filmed it.

Other episodes that I would have to put in the top ten include: “Lucy Does a Commerical” (the Vitameatavegamin girl), “Lucy and Superman,” “L.A. at Last” (with William Holden getting a pie in the face and Lucy catching her putty nose on fire when she tries to light a cigarette), and “Lucy Does the Tango” (in which Lucy and Ethyl try to convince the boys the hens are laying eggs by smuggling them from the store into the henhouse, under their coats. Everything is fine until Ricky decides to have Lucy dance with him and the eggs begin breaking.)

I'm not certain which episode the photo at the right came from. I don't recall a fish episode. So, if anyone is familiar with it, please comment and let us all know.

The Vitameatavegamin video on the right sidebar is sure to bring a smile to your face. It's a classic, so enjoy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Telephones - Then and Now

I'm amazed at technology. And how it changes over time. I was driving today in my new car and my phone rang. Since my cell phone is linked to my iDrive system in my car, the ringing came over the car speakers and my readout on the information center on the dash showed who the call was from. I pressed a button on my steering wheel and answered the call. I also have a blog about my experiences with the new car HERE in case you're interested in new car technology. But let's get back to the subject at hand.

Now, let's compare a talking car with a high tech phone system to what we used to have. We were actually pretty primitive in comparison. When I was a kid, we had a black phone with a wire that ran into the wall. Cell phones and wireless technology and bluetooth hadn't been thought of yet. In fact, our phones had mechanical, analog dials on them. Rotary dials, we called them. And we had phone numbers with names, like CLifton 7, or DRexel 4, BUtterfield 8, and others.

We also had something interesting called "party lines." It was kind of a Twitter of the fifties. The necessity of these party lines was probably due to the fact that the phone company didn't have enough lines installed to give everyone their own private line. And when the phone rang, you had to listen to the ring and see if it was yours before answering it. Ours was a long and a short ring. If you wanted to make an outgoing call, you picked up the receiver and checked to see if there was a party liner already using the phone. If so, good manners told you to hang up and check later. If not, you could go ahead and make your call.

In 1959 things started improving dramatically when ATT introduced the new Princess Phone. Contemporary advertising shows that this telephone was marketed to women, hence the feminine designation 'Princess'. A broad range of colors were offered, including pink, red, yellow, moss green, black, white, beige, ivory, light blue, turquoise, and gray. And four years later, in 1963, Western Electric introduced touchtone dialing which replaced the rotary dial with 10 lighted push buttons. We were in the modern age now. Everyone eventually got their own private line and the party line became a thing of the past.

In time the Princess was redesigned and became the Trimline phone. You may remember these as the slim units with the push button dial built into the handset.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Growing Crystals

When I was a boy I discovered the magic of growing crystals from various ingredients. That was shortly after I was so disappointed when my Sea Monkeys didn't look at all like monkeys. They didn't even have crowns or scepters. And my X-Ray Specs didn't work like they were supposed to, either. So I started growing crystals in my little bedroom laboratory.

I used salt, sugar, and alum. Each of these composites produce crystals with different structures. The salt crystals were always cubic. The sugar (which you could eat after they formed) were hexagonal with pointed ends. My favorite was the crystals produced with alum. In case you have a youngster, or a grandchild, this might offer you an opportunity for some quality time and a learning experience that could spark an interest in chemistry or science.

Just so you know, alum crystalizes in a tetrahedral form. The crystals form like two pyramids joined at the base.The photo above is of a chrome alum crystal. I'm sure what chrome alum is, but the crystals you can grow from regular alum look just like this except they are clear instead of black.

Below is a step-by-step procedure for turning common, white alum into beautiful, clear crystals that look like sparkling diamonds. What you need to do is to create what is known as a super-saturated solution. More material (salt, sugar, alum) will dissolve in hot water than will dissolve in cold. The higher the temperature, the more will dissolve and the more saturated the solution becomes. So here we go . . .

Step 1: If you don't already have some, go to the grocery store and buy a box of alum. You'll find it in the baking section or with the spices.

Step 2: Place a sauce pan containing one quart of water on the stove and turn it on.

Step 3: As the water starts to heat, begin pouring the alum into it, stirring with a spoon as you add it. Not too much at a time. Make sure it's all dissolved before you add more. Continue adding more alum until no more will dissolve. Try to keep the water temperature just a little below a rolling boil.

Step 4: After the water has cooled a bit, pour it into a a quart jar and leave it alone for a few hours.

If you've created a super-saturated solution, the alum will begin to form crystal within 24 hours. You will see them forming on the bottom of the jar. There will probably be several of them, so we want to remove a lot of them to give the others more room to grow. Otherwise you will end up with a "matt" of crystals on the bottom of the jar. And that's not what you want. We're trying to create three or four really nice crystals.

Step 5: In a day or two your crystals will have grown to 1/8 inch or so across. Get a long pair of tweezers and remove all of the small crystals. If you don't have a long pair of tweezers you can pour the solution carefully from your incubator jar into another container and then remove the crystals with a spoon. Examine them and pick a half dozen or so of the biggest or best ones and set them aside. Then pour the solution back into the jar and add your selected crystals. Try to arrange them so they're not touching each other.

Step 6: You'll need to turn your crystals every day so that the alum is added to each side equally.

: Do not place a lid on the jar. If you do, the water can't evaporate. Evaporation is important so that the solution remains at a constant state of saturation and your crystal continues to grow. If you notice your crystals look smaller than they did the previous day that means the saturation level has decreased and the water is dissolving the alum from your crystals. If this happens, remove your crystals and create a new solution as explained in Step 2. But don't place your crystal back into this new solution until it has cooled to room temperature. Otherwise it will dissolve. Keep making new solutions as your crystal continues to grow until you get it to the size you want. Then you can take it out of the jar and put it on display. The air won't hurt it. Just don't let it get wet because they do melt in water.

Having written this, it makes me want to do it again. I'm going to go buy some alum. Have fun! If you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll try to answer it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Donna Reed

Here's the opening from Season 1. I used to watch this program all the time. Of course, it was long before Dan Akroyd became famous. In this opening video, Carl Betz reminds me of Dan. Does anyone else notice any resemblance?

Rather than rewrite the entire history and plot line, I thought the author who provided this info to Wikipedia did a great job. I couldn't do any better, so I've pasted it below. If you'd like more details, just Google the Donna Reed Show or click on the previous Wikipedia link to go to the reference page.

The Donna Reed Show is an American sitcom starring Donna Reed as the upper middle class housewife Donna Stone. Carl Betz appears as her pediatrician husband Alex, and Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen as their teenage children Mary and Jeff. The show originally aired on ABC at 10 pm from September 24, 1958 to March 19, 1966.

When Fabares left the show in 1964, Petersen's little sister Patty Petersen joined the cast as adopted daughter Trisha. Bob Crane and Ann McCrea appeared in the last seasons as the Kelseys, friends of the Stones, and Darryl Richard became a near regular as Smitty, Jeff's best buddy. The show featured a variety of celebrity guests including Esther Williams as a famous dress designer, baseball superstars Don Drysdale and Willie Mays as themselves, teen heartthrob James Darren as a pop singer with the measles, canine superstar Lassie as herself, and young Jay North as Dennis the Menace.


Donna is the wife of Dr. Alex Stone, a pediatrician practicing in fictional Hilldale, and the mother of teenagers Mary and Jeff. The plot revolves around the lightweight and humorous sorts of situations and problems a middle class family experienced in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. Donna, for example, would sometimes find herself swamped with the demands of community theatricals and charity drives; Mary had problems juggling boyfriends and finding dresses to wear to one party or another; and Jeff was often caught in situations appropriate to his age and gender such as joining a secret boys' club, avoiding love-smitten classmates, or bidding at auction on an old football uniform. Alex was the family's Rock of Gibralter, but often found himself in situations that tested his patience: in one episode for example, Donna volunteered him as the judge of a baby contest, and, in another episode, Mary insisted her gawky, geeky boyfriend was the spitting image of her father. Very occasionally eccentric relatives would descend on the Stones to complicate the household situation. When Mary left for college in the middle seasons, a runaway orphan named Trisha was adopted by the family. In the last seasons, Jeff would spend much time with best buddy Smitty, and Donna and Alex would find best friends in Dave Kelsey, Alex's professional colleague, and his wife Midge. While mainly concerned with mundane household and family affairs, the show sometimes addressed edgier issues such as women's rights ("Just a Housewife") and freedom of the press ("The Editorial").

It was a great program that entertained America for seven and a half years. Sometimes we forget the really good programs from those early days. Thanks guys.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another Side of Peter Lorre

Okay, before anyone jumps on me and says, "Hey, this movie is not from the fifties or sixties. It was released in 1935." I know that. I actually discovered this video while looking at some scenes from Casablanca and Maltese Falcon. I wasn't actually looking for Peter Lorre, but when I stumbled upon this, I thought it would be something of interest to others. I went to IMDB and found the following plot summary. I've never seen this film, but it looks like one I would like to see.

From IMDB by Gary Jackson . . .

In Paris, Dr. Gogol is infatuated with theater actress Yvonne Orlac as he returns to his same box seat for her every performance. Yvonne is married, however, to concert pianist Stephen Orlac. They plan to move to England. When Stephen's talented hands are crushed in a train wreck, Yvonne asks for Dr. Gogol's help by operating to save them. Although the doctor can't save Stephen's hands, he will do anything to help Yvonne. His solution is to replace the hands with those of an executed knife-throwing murderer. Gogol's obsession with Yvonne grows while Stephen discovers that his proficiency at the piano has been replaced by an uncanny accuracy with throwing things. The doctor's next move is to play on Stephen's mental distress to convince him that he is crazy, and a murderer. It is the only way he can get Yvonne.

A 6th Grade Adventure...

Did you know that the color Sea Green is only available in the 64 Crayola box? That's the one with the built-in sharpener on the back. How do I know this? Well, it's not a long story, and I feel like relating it today.

It was 1961. I was in Mr. Miller's 6th grade class at Randall Elementary School in Independence, Missouri. Our assignment was to create a world map. My partner in this project was my best friend, James Johnson.

Mr. Miller gave us a sheet of paper that was about three feet high and six feet wide. He instructed up to draw all of the continents, then all of the countries within those continents, and to color them in any manner we wished. We began drawing and in a short time had located all the continents. Then the work started involving drawing in all the countries. But by the end of the week, we had everything penciled in and had started coloring the countries in a variety of hues.

It took a little time the following week to get everything colored. Plus there was a bit of planning involved when you had several countries that were adjacent to each other so that you didn't have two bordering countries ending up in the same color. By the end of the week we were finished. And it looked great, too! Then James came up with the idea that has since become known as The Sea Green Fiasco. He suggested we color the ocean. I was against it since it would require additional time and effort. But James was persistent, and he painted a rosy picture of how great it would look. So I finally agreed. Obviously, if you're coloring the ocean, there is no other color choice that seems nearly as appropriate as Sea Green.

Since James and I both had 64 Crayola boxes, the only product containing Sea Green, we began filling the massive white area on our map that comprised the watery part of the world. Those two crayons had short lives. They didn't last long enough to complete the Atlantic. It was at about that time I began to realize that we had made a huge blunder and I should have stuck to my guns about leaving the ocean white. Based on the amount of square inches we had covered with the two crayons, a quick calculation in my head told me we were going to need more Sea Green crayons than were currently available in North America in order to finish this map.

But there was no choice but to continue. We were committed now, and we couldn't erase the Sea Green that we'd already scribbled on the paper. So the quest began for other students whose parents had purchased the 64 Crayola box for them. There weren't many in our class. There weren't many more in the entire school. But we finally managed to scrounge up four more of the precious wax sticks in the right color. We used them sparingly, and the intensity of the color lightened as we expanded beyond where our two personal crayons had taken us.

At last, the project was completed when we exhausted the last of the Sea Green crayons. Unfortunately, there was still a white, circular area the size of a grapefruit in the lower right corner. James told the teacher the white circular area represented the moon. This was news to me, so I just nodded when Mr. Miller gave me his questioning look. He bought it.

I often wonder whatever happened to that map. And to James.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Red and The Pledge

The fourth of July is passed, but patriotism isn't something that's only acceptable on that date. I was searching for some information on Red Skelton, one of my favorites from my younger years, and I ran across this video on YouTube. I remember having seen it before, but it's been some time, and I had forgotten how powerful is is, especially the ending. And how appropriate it is today.

I hope you enjoy it and you get a new look at the heart of a comedian who knew how to be funny but also knew how to be very serious.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ice Cream, Snakes and Fountains

On this Independence Day weekend, I wanted to share with you some of the 4th of July holiday memories from my childhood. Yours may be similar, and there may be something in this narrative that causes you to recall a special moment from long ago. At my current age, those memories have become sweetened with time. Looking back on it all, the summer heat from those days doesn't seem quite so overwhelming, the worries of life aren't recalled as being so imposing, and the world seemed to be spinning at a slightly slower speed. It was a time I would go back to in a heartbeat if it were possible to do so. But alas, the only way to do that is to relate the story to you, my readers, and hope you will join me in remembering it.

I grew up in a blue-collar family. My father was a plumber, my mother a stay-at-home mom. Along with our parents, my two younger sisters and I lived in a modest, 3-bedroom home in a middle class neighborhood. Having grown up during The Great Depression, Mom and Dad were frugal, although my father would occasionally spend a little extra at the grocery store and purchase steaks or ribs or shrimp for a special occasion. And the Fourth of July was special enough.

As the warm afternoon continued toward evening, and the Black Cat firecrackers started popping on the neighborhood streets, my dad would start cooking. He didn't put much faith in an outdoor barbecue grille, and he did most of his cooking on our Roper gas range in the kitchen. He usually opted for barbecued ribs on July 4th, and he also made his own barbecue sauce. Unfortunately, I didn't think ahead and get the recipe before it was too late. Naturally, there would be some southern style (my parents were from Tennessee) fried potatoes and some refreshing sweet iced tea (with fresh lemon) to go along with that evening meal.

After supper we would go out in the back yard. Some years there would be a big, dark green, Black Diamond watermelon to enjoy. And sometimes, instead of the watermelon, my mother would bring out the big silver cylinder containing the ice cream mixture, and Dad would put it into the old-fashioned ice cream maker. You may remember: the bucket with the crank handle on it? The one you had to sit on while someone cranked it? A little ice and a little rock salt went in next, and the cranking began. It was a slow process, ice cream making, and a bit boring. If you could find a fairly clean and clear piece of rock salt, you snatched it from the ice and sucked on it while you cranked. Forever it seemed.

Within a while (which always seemed longer than it should be) Dad would say it was time for the cranking to stop. He would remove the cylinder from the ice and carefully pry the top off. A moment later, the deliciously cold cream was being scooped into special bowls for all to enjoy. An occasional brain freeze was an event that might occur if you ate too fast. But if you didn't eat it fast, you might end up drinking it because it didn't last long in its solid state when the temperature was hovering around the 100 degree mark. As a side note, I actually still have those bowls in my kitchen cabinets today, and they serve as a constant reminder of those days every time I look at them.

Lawn chairs were brought out next, and as the summer day faded and darkness settled in, the show began. We didn't spend a lot on fireworks, and it seems like we always bought the same things: a box of sparklers, a couple of boxes of those black pellets called snakes, a package of Black Cat firecrackers, a couple dozen bottle rockets, and a half dozen "fountains" that were actually nothing more than a paper cone with some stuff inside that just kind of fizzled for a few seconds. And we always got a bunch of those great punks, because they were free. Oh, it was nothing like the high-tech pyrotechnics of today, but for 1957 it was state-of-the-art, and we didn't realize how primitive it was at that time.

The whole neighborhood was lit up with the sparkling displays taking place on every front porch, driveway, and even in the street. Cheers and applause filled the night air when an especially impressive display exploded. It was exciting while it lasted. And when it was over, it was a little disappointing that there was nothing left to blow up. But still, way down deep in your soul there was a warm feeling bubbling up and settling in, and you were suddenly content with nothing more than to be at home with your family.

Do you have specific memories of your summer holidays? If so, leave a comment and tell us about it. It's good to share.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paul Anka - Lonely Boy - 1959

Wow! Check out that studded vest! I love the audience panning.
Here are the words if you'd like to sing along.

I'm just a lonely boy, lonely and blue
I'm all alone with nothin' to do
I've got everything you could think of
But all I want is someone to love.

Someone, yes, someone to love, someone to kiss
Someone to hold at a moment like this
I'd like to hear somebody say
"I'll give you my love each night and day"

Somebody, somebody, somebody, please send her to me
I'll make her happy, just wait and see
I prayed so hard to the heavens above
That I might find someone to love.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Frankie Lymon and Lewis Lymon

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers were a force to be reckoned with during the fifties. They were professional and had a few Top 40 hits in the doo-wop style. I'm going to embed one of their videos in this post.

Of lesser fame was Frankie's little brother, Lewis. His group was called Lewis Lymon and the Teenchords. (Very similar names, and probably intentional.) The video above is Lewis and his group.

Now here's Frankie doing a real kicker. What a voice and what confidence he had! Enjoy!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

1957 times 20.

Yesterday, I concluded a deal on a new BMW. It was a long time coming, since I always feel it's necessary to do extensive research on any major purchase, specifically cars. So this wasn't an easy decision. But once I had the research finished and weighed all the options, the BMW won handily over the noble competitors. That activity reminded me of a a previous purchase.

It was 1958 when my family went to the Ford dealership to buy a new car. At that time, our family car was an old blue Nash. Everything was going out of it, including the brakes. So it was time. But it wasn't a quick decision.

My father was a subscriber to Mechanix Illustrated and he was a faithful reader of Tom McCahill, MI's auto guru and reviewer. There were a lot of cars my father could pick from, but his research had led him to the 1958 Ford Fairlane. I remember quite well that the radio (AM only in those days) was an option, and the my dad paid an additional $90 for the heater. At least that's the figure that's stuck in my head. If I remember correctly, the whole transaction amounted to less than $2,500.

Now, let's put that into perspective with what's happened since then. The '58 Fairlane had a new technology at that time—windshield washers. I thought that was the niftiest thing ever invented. You just turned them on and they squirted water on your windshield. Fifty-three years later, the 2011 BMW has rain-sensing wipers. You don't even have to turn them on! They know what to do without your help. But it all comes with a price which is about 20 times what the Ford sold for. Of course, there are those who would argue that we're comparing a car that is inherently higher priced than the Ford. Quite true, but in 1958, the Ford was equally higher priced than the VW, so we may be comparing apples to apples after all.

That multiplicity in the price of cars seems significant, but it is not really so much out of line if we compare it to other items. For example, my parents purchased our family home, brand new, for $11,000 in 1957. My wife and I downsized eight years ago and moved into a smaller home. The cost was $220,000, which is 20 times the price my father paid. So we've got the same multiplier in real estate. Candy bars are the same. Hershey bars were a nickel in 1958, and they're about a buck today. Twenty times the price.

On a closely-related subject, i.e, the price of gasoline, we have a similar situation. In 1957 gasoline was around 20 cents per gallon. Twenty times that amount would put us at $4.00. Not far off from where we are today.

So there you have it. As Bob Dylan said, the times are a-changing. But they're actually remaining the same comparatively. Perhaps Einstein was right with that relativity idea. I'd love to read your comments.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Easters from childhood

Perhaps a little premature, but I wanted to post this so I didn't miss the holiday altogether this year. I'm speaking of Easter, which will be upon us in another week or so.

Easter was a little different when I was a child. Naturally, we had colored egg like the kids have today. Ours were a little different. My mother would boil them, as your mother probably did, and my sisters and I would get to color them. We didn't buy the Paas coloring packages that they have now. Our mother used food coloring and mixed us up some little cups of color that we could roll the eggs around in. It was fun, and they always came out so beautifully colored.

I remember one year we bought a couple of colored chicks. I can't remember what happened to them, but they disappeared at some point, never to be seen again.

Chocolate was a big deal in the Easter Sunday's of the 1950s. Sometimes you scored one of those hollow chocolate bunnies. And every once in a while, if you were truly lucky, you'd get one that was solid chocolate. That was the best. And jelly beans were a big deal back then, too. I especially enjoyed the Cadbury creme-filled eggs, which they still have today.

If I remember correctly, Silly Putty was an Easter item, since it was packaged in an egg-shaped plastic container. And a New Testament of the King James Bible was also something we would get occasionally. Naturally, we would get all gussied up in our best outfits and head off to the church for Sunday School services.

My mother would usually prepare fried chicken for lunch afterwards. No KFC back then. It was home made and started out as a whole chicken, which she chopped up into the right parts and fried in a big cast iron skillet. Of course there was mashed potatoes and gravy. And cold milk. And real butter.

I'm getting hungry now, so I'm going to stop right there and see what's in the fridge.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

National Velvet

If you've never had the pleasure of seeing this movie, you really should. It's not only a starring role for the very young Elizabeth Taylor, it's also a great story. Mickey Rooney plays an excellent supporting role as well.

I'm betting Blockbuster has it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Time. It's something that is always with us. It's a part of our lives. In fact, it's what our lives are made of. Every day we have to ask and answer questions about it: What time is it? What time do you have to leave? How much time will it take to get there? What time can you start on this project? How long will it take?

Like our thoughts, time is our constant companion. But it doesn't go away when we sleep. It keeps ticking, passing by. Rolex, Timex, Seiko, Waltham, and many other companies have made their fortunes creating devices that allow us to keep track of it. Our days are measured in increments of hours, minutes, seconds. And our lives are made up of years, months and days. And there never seems to be enough of it to do everything we need, or want, to do.

And since we actually LOST an hour of time today with the advent of Daylight Saving Time (again) it seems that time is an appropriate subject to talk about today. I'll try to make it worthwhile so we don't WASTE any of it.

I watched an interesting and entertaining movie recently—one which I had never seen. It's called Peggy Sue Got Married. I'm sure most of you have seen it. I know my wife has watched it numerous times. She just keeps sitting through it, kind of like I do when Jaws comes on. But I was fascinated by the concept and the nostalgic era that it centered on.

I guess we've always been fascinated by time travel. Hollywood has made several movies involving the idea. One of the earliest entries into this subject was a film based on the novel by H.G. Wells entitled The Time Machine. I don't recall the main character traveling back to the fifties, but Hollywood must have sensed an audience for that time period a little later.

If you've seen the movie Back to the Future, you may remember that November 12th, is the date the DeLorean (equipped with the flux capacitor that would deliver 1.4 jigawatts at 80 mph) was set for when Marty McFly took it for a ride. They used the same date in the second installment, Back to the Future II. I'm not sure what significance that date holds, but I'm guessing there may have been a reason for choosing it other than an arbitrary date. If anyone has an idea, leave a comment.

Now, here comes the philosophical part of this post. The whole concept of time travel makes one wonder. Doesn't it? Have we been here before? Are we actually here from a future time? Or have we come forward from an earlier time? It also makes one wonder if we're ever going to come back here again, years from now.

In closing, let me leave you with this question to ponder. Did Bill Gates figure out how to bend the time/space continuum and come back to our era with his ideas on computers and how to build them? Or is he really from another planet? Maybe he's originally from the same race of entities that helped the Egyptians build the pyramids. You never know.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Great Decade for New Things!

Let’s hop into the Wayback Machine again and head back to the 1950s to see what was new. We're going to look at inventions and new ideas that were created or came about during the fifties. Fasten your seat belt before we take off (because they didn’t have them in 1950) and hang on.

1950 – The first credit card (Diners Club) invented by Ralph Schneider.

1951 – Super glue was invented. Power steering invented by Francis W. Davis. And Charles Ginsburg invented the first video tape recorder (VTR).

1952 – Mr. Potato Head was patented. The first patent for barcode was issued to Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver. The first diet soft drink was sold. And Edward Teller and team built the hydrogen bomb.

1953 – Radial tires were invented. The first musical synthesizer invented by RCA. David Warren invented the black box - flight recorder. And the transistor radio was invented by Texas Instruments.

1954 - Oral contraceptives (the pill) were invented. The first nonstick Teflon pan was produced. Chaplin, Fuller and Pearson invented the solar cell. Ray Kroc started McDonalds.

1955 Tetracycline was invented. Optic fiber was invented.

1956 - The first computer hard disk was used. Christopher Cockerell invented the hovercraft. Bette Nesmith Graham invented "Mistake Out," later renamed Liquid Paper, to paint over mistakes made with a typewriter. (They don’t sell much of that any longer.)

1957 - Fortran (computer language) was invented.

1958 - The computer modem was invented. Gordon Gould invents the laser. The Hula Hoop was invented by Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin. The integrated circuit was invented by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce.

1959 The internal pacemaker was invented by Wilson Greatbatch. The Barbie Doll was invented. Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce both invent the microchip.

And that’s just part of it. There’s lots more that came out of that decade. Check back here to read about a lot of other things that were going on during those great years.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happy Birthday Barbie!

Let’s take a ride. Hop in the Wayback Machine, buckle up and hang on. We’re heading back to the fifties again. (How surprising is that?) Our first stop is going to be in Europe, so now we can all say we’ve been there.

It’s 1956 and a young woman named Ruth Handler is visiting Germany with her children Barbara and Kenneth. (Are you guessing where this is headed?)
But let’s back up a bit. Before this trip, Ruth had often watched her daughter, Barbara, as she played with her paper dolls, often giving them adult rolls.

It's important to note that at the time, most children's toy dolls were representations of infants. Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, Handler suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel's directors.

But during that trip to Europe in 1956, Ruth Handler came across a German toy doll called Bild Lilli. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955, and although it was initially sold to adults, it became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were available separately.

The adult-figured Lilli doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel. Upon her return to the United States, Handler reworked the design of the doll (with help from engineer Jack Ryan) and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler's daughter Barbara.

The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. This date is also used as Barbie's official birthday. Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll in 1964 and production of Lilli was stopped. The first Barbie doll wore a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and signature topknot ponytail, and was available as either a blonde or brunette.

The doll was marketed as a "Teen-age Fashion Model," with her clothes created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. The first Barbie dolls were manufactured in Japan, with their clothes hand-stitched by Japanese homeworkers. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production.

Ruth Handler believed that it was important for Barbie to have an adult appearance, and early market research showed that some parents were unhappy about the doll's chest, which had distinct breasts. Barbie's appearance has been changed many times, most notably in 1971 when the doll's eyes were adjusted to look forward rather than having the demure sideways glance of the original model.

Since it’s introduction, it is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries, with Mattel claiming that three Barbie dolls are sold every second.

After 52 years, Barbie has become a cultural icon and has been given honors that are rare in the toy world. In 1974 a section of Times Square in New York City was renamed Barbie Boulevard for a week, while in 1985 the artist Andy Warhol created a painting of Barbie.

In case you missed the 50 Year Anniversary Barbie two years ago, she was obviously dealing with midlife and any crises that might have fostered. The manufacturer decided at that time to include a set of mini-tattoos for her. (Does that help a midlife crisis?) In addition, there was a faux tattoo gun for the children to use on themselves. How darling is that? I'm not sure what kind of message that sends, but I don't want to sound judgmental.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, Max Factor, Hollywood Movies, and Maidenform Bras!

Prior to the 1950s, with a few exceptions, most Hollywood pictures were filmed in black and white. And being a film lover, I have no desire to see Bogart in anything but the original black and white version of Casablanca.

But when Technicolor began replacing black and white film, a huge impact was made on cosmetics. Even on the giant silver screens, the actors were illuminated with unblemished perfection in perfect color.

Because every average American woman had a desire to mirror that quality in their own appearance, makeup artist Max Factor developed an everyday version of the foundation makeup he used on the stars.

This new product, called “pancake,” was used to cover skin imperfections. At the same time he brought out a line of lipsticks and eye shadows.

Titanium was added to the recipe later in the 50s to tone down the brightness, resulting in lips with a pale, shimmering gleam. This concept was later extended to create frosted nail polishes in pink, silver, and a variety of other colors.

The 50s marked the introduction of “spectacles.” These were the name given to women’s eyeglasses that were frequently inlaid with diamante or covered with glitter. They had exaggerated wings on the outer corners that flared into the style of butterfly wings, or cat's eyes. The ones at the right look like Silly Putty.

The ponytail was a popular hairstyle in the 50s for younger girls. This eventually matured into the French Pleat. Among the older and more sophisticated crowd, the permanent wave was a popular style, made famous by Elizabeth Taylor.

The pointed pre-formed conically stitched bra was a popular fashion accessory of the 50s. Kind of like the bullet bumper of a '57 Buick.

But without one, the sweater girl just didn’t look right. And if you watch some of the videos from the 50s, you'll notice the dancing girls appear to be wearing similar accouterments. Yeah, it was all great fun, until someone lost an eye.

By the mid 1950s pointed toe shoes with heels up to 5 inches were a common sight. There is no doubt that the trademark of the fifties was the stiletto heeled shoe, first seen in 1952 at a Dior fashion show.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Roswell Revisited

Let’s jump off the deep end here and talk about something different today. That’s the whole idea, isn’t it? Keeping it fresh? Well, see if you like this subject.

The 1950s were a special time. The war was over. Everything was modern and new. It was the beginning of the Space Age. We had created and exploded the atomic bomb. And a group of aliens had crashed their small craft near a farm in Roswell, New Mexico just three years earlier. Just your typical decade, right? The event in Roswell may have been the catalyst, because from that day on, America’s attention was drawn to the skies and to outer space and whatever might live there.

Although Roswell is perhaps the most publicized and best-known of the alien encounters, there were others during the fifties that may be of some interest to some of you. I’ve listed four of them below for your enjoyment.


While sitting outside one evening, a group of Texas Tech professors saw several groups of racing. When the sighting was reported, the Air Force denied that any planes were flying that night. Cart Hart, Jr. (18 years old at the time) took five photographs of the objects, which have become known as the Lubbock Lights.


In 1952, the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Pentagon were buzzed by UFOs. On July 19 of that year, a number of UFO blips were picked up on the radar screens at Washington National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base. This was the beginning of a wave of sightings that still remain unexplained. Numerous photographs were taken of the unknown objects.


One of the most bizarre accounts of alien contact on record occurred at the Sutton family farmhouse. It was under siege from small alien beings for several hours one night. Family members shot at the beings, but without effect. Family members later drew pictures of the strange beings, showing claw-like hands and large ears. Their account of the incident has never been debunked.


It was a night of terror in a small Texas town. There were no less than 8 official sightings, including policemen. Reports included sightings of UFOs flying, hovering, and even landing on the roads around Levelland. Police officers gave testimony to the US Air Force. This remains one of the best documented cases in the history of UFO encounters.

That's it for today. My wife has been telling me that my posts are too long and boring. She's a UFO officianado, so maybe she'll like this one and not complain about it. If you know anyone who likes to read about UFOs, feel free to pass this along to them. Or send them the web address. The more, the merrier.

Finally, if you've had a UFO encounter, hit that pesky COMMENT link below and tell us about it. I'm sure there are a lot of readers out there that would eat it up. And if the whole subject of UFOs interests you, here's a great site with tons of interesting stuff. Right HERE.

Until next time, have a great day! And keep looking up. They may be looking back.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Duck and Cover

On this day in 1955, the United States nuclear-powered submarine began it’s first test voyage. It was seen as a positive use of nuclear energy and much different from the bombs and missiles that had become such a threat during the Cold War.

It all began in 1949. The United States’ monopoly on nuclear weapons ended when the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device. With nuclear weapons in the hands of our enemy, the US became much more vulnerable to attack than it had ever been previously. And America needed answers on how to protect themselves in the event of a nuclear bomb.

From Wikipedia: Duck-and-cover exercises quickly became a part of Civil Defense drills. Every American citizen, from children to the elderly, practiced these in order to be ready in the event of nuclear war. In 1950, the movie Duck and Cover was produced.

However, duck and cover was not a one-size-fits-all solution to prevent injury in the event of a nuclear explosion. In fact—depending on the explosion's height and yield—ducking and covering would offer negligible protection against the intense heat, shock waves, and radiation that would accompany and follow such a nuclear detonation.

According to Wikipedia: The advice to "duck and cover" holds well in many situations where structural destabilization or debris may be expected, such as during an earthquake or tornado. At a sufficient distance from a nuclear explosion, the shock wave would produce similar results and ducking and covering would perhaps prove adequate. It would also offer some protection from flying glass and other small, but dangerous, debris.

Ducking and covering would also reduce exposure to the gamma rays. Since they are mostly emitted in a straight line, people on the ground will have more chance to have obstacles such as building foundations, cars, etc. between them and the source of radiation. The technique offers a small protection against fallout - people standing up could receive a large, possibly lethal, dose of radiation, while people protected will receive less of it. The technique assumes that after the initial blast, a person who ducks and covers will move to a more sheltered area. It is a first response only.

Duck and Cover was a suggested method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear weapon, which the United States government taught to generations of United States school children from the early 1950s into the 1980s. This was supposed to protect them in the event of an unexpected nuclear attack that, they were told, could come at any time without warning. Immediately after they saw a flash they had to stop what they were doing and get on the ground under some cover—such as a table, or at least next to a wall—and assume the fetal position, lying face-down and covering their heads with their hands.

Proponents argued that thousands could be saved through this precaution, without which people would instead run to windows to find the source of the big flash. During this time a shock wave would cause a glass implosion, shredding onlookers.

So, there’s some concern that the duck and cover procedure would be effective in reducing physical damage. Fortunately, we haven’t needed to test it so far. Let’s hope it stays that way. Meanwhile, if you want to practice the procedure again, just to see if your old bones can still bend like they did in 1955, check out that video again.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Technology - Past and Present

This evening we decided to go to Chili's for dinner. I had won a major award (the hell you say!) at work consisting of a $25 gift card to any Chili's in the country. My wife selected one in the nearby village of Lee's Summit. I would have preferred the one on Rosecranz in San Diego, but, as she pointed out, that one is about 1,500 miles from here and I have to go to work in the morning.

My wife looked up the address on her laptop, wrote it down, and handed me the paper as we got in the car. I typed the location into my new GPS system. My GPS girl (I call her Gypsy) started telling me which way to go. Good grief! I think I know how to get out of my own neighborhood for Heaven's sake. Anyway, Gypsy gave us flawless directions, and we arrived at precisely the ETA the GPS showed when we left the house.

As we drove to the restaurant, and I listened to the directions, I realized that it's absolutely amazing how far we've come. I remembered the day my parents traded in our old beat up Nash for a brand new car—the first one we'd ever purchased.

My father was a plumber and a dyed-in-the-wool Ford man, so our new ride was, naturally, a Ford. It was a Fairlane 500. 1958 version. Blue. To a nine-year-old boy, that old Nash was a pretty cool car. But the Ford! Ah. Now that was something special. And, being brand, spanking new, it did have a few innovations that were state-of-the-art in the space age of automobile design and technology of the 50s.

One was the dual headlights. 1958 was the first year that the American automakers went from single to double headlights on each side of the grill. It was the new look. And pretty classy, too. The rear sported dual tail lights, which was a major change from the big, round, single version of the '57 Ford. The video on the right sidebar goes into more detail if you'd like to learn more.

The car had something else, too. It was an innovation that was one of the most amazing things that had ever been invented up to that time: windshield washers. I thought those were really swell, and a lot more impressive than the Sea Monkeys I had recently purchased. My dad also decided to opt for the AM radio and the heater, which were both optional features in 1958. Yes, indeed, life was good in 1950s suburbia.

But a week or so later, something strange happened. From out of nowhere and quite unexpectedly, our next door drove something new into his driveway. Something that looked similar to our car. Similar in that it was a Ford and it was a 1958 model. Unfortunately for our self esteem, that's where the similarity ended.

Compared to the Nash, our new Ford was a big step up. But compared to our new car, our neighbor's vehicle was absolutely spectacular.

First off, it was a coupe instead of a sedan. For those of you who are not car guys or gals, a coupe has two doors and a much sleeker look. And it's just cooler in every way. A sedan is the more sedate, stodgy, four door version.

In addition, the neighbor's car also had a two-tone paint job. While our car sported a paint job in the medium blue selection, the car next door was a red-over-white version—with the sweeping, gold metallic body moulding separating the two colors. Plus, theirs had this really cool continental kit on the back. And to top it all off, so to speak, it was a convertible! In the world of 1958 Fords, it doesn't get much cooler than that combination.

Bottom line: Their car pretty much kicked ours to the curb.

But sometimes victory is only a temporary thing. It can be fleeting and no more than a brief shining moment of glory. One moment you're in the catbird seat and the next you're just an average Joe. You can win a battle from time to time, but you can always lose the war in the end. Especially where cars are involved.

I think my dad realized he had been trumped. That may have been the reason he decided to trade our ugly duckling in the following year for a brand new, sleek and sexy, black 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Galaxy!

I guess that showed 'em!