Monday, June 30, 2008

our rivals

Now maybe there was a little envy in the mix, but Troop 54 had a rival scout troop across town. The Goodyear Troop 58 seemed to have everything. Large air-conditioned buses would transport them to and from Jamborees. It was a very large troop. If Goodyear Troop 58 were going to camp, Goodyear employees where sent ahead of them to prepare their campsite and erect their tents for them. In other words, the old Troop 58 never really had to heed the Boy Scout Motto of "Be Prepared". They had others to do it for them.

They had nice big tents too. It seemed 54 and 58 were usually given adjacent lots when on Jamborees. I don't think that was a very good idea. I never really had a beef with 58, but I did take part in one incursion that I still think quite humorous. Late one night - Mark Condra, James Harp, Dean Smith, Kevin Smith and I slipped across enemy lines. We spread out and waited for the word to go (from Mark or James). The Goodyear tents were very big and nice - held up on both sides by three to four ropes staked into the ground. Each of us had a narrow row between the tents in which to cut the lines running to each stake. It was like clockwork. We each pulled our knives and started cutting through the ropes quickly. We each had to run through two rows of tents, cutting all the ropes within a few minutes.

The tents fell on sleeping scouts. We could hear them as they woke, frantic or angry yells as the unprepared scouts felt for their collapsed exits. You see - tents with floors are harder to excape when support is cut loose from without. We had plenty of time to get back to our own tents and go into deep faux sleep before anyone could react. I remember Milton shooting his flashlight into James and my tent, asking us if we knew anything about the attack on 58. We acted sleepy, innocent and unaware of all evil doing. He let us roll back over and go back to sleep.

One other story about the Goodyear troop. We went on a trip to Shiloh one year. Again, they came up in those buses of theirs. I remember returning from a very long hike that day. I had collapsed in our two man tent (kind of like a small teepee). I remember Mark Condra yelling across to me from the campsite. He kept yelling and I finally looked out his way. By this time he was closer to the tent and yelling, "JUMP DAVID - JUMP!!!" I felt like it took forever for me to grasp the idea that he wanted me to get the hell out of that tent. After grasping that there was urgency in the order, I ejected myself outward. That's when the Goodyear bus backed over it. For years after that, you could tell which tent was the one the bus ran over. Two huge muddy tire tracks made a unique imprint across the canvas fabric that never completely could be washed out.
I still remember sitting on the wet ground, leaning back on my elbows, watching as the Goodyear bus sunk into the entirety of my tent and belongings. That was the day Mark Condra kept me from getting my head mushed. Thanks Mark.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's A Marvel Universe!

We grew up reading the comic books and watching the cartoons. These days we get to go watch cool movies of our old superheros on this big screen.

Here's a short piece that you Marvel fans will absolutely love.

sisters sisters

This is Jennie Wait Finlayson and her big sister Brooky. I think if you were to approach Brook about this early transvestite image he would insist that he was wearing a kilt. True-true Brook, we are of Scottish descent - but what about the bonnie bonnet that's perched upon thy head?

I think it fortunate that Brook straighten up his act and took up manlier hobbies later in life. His earliest interest (after dress up of course) were automobiles, small foreign cars, and later guns, guns, guns (till daddy took the TEC-9 away). I remember at nights, I'd plead with him to please turn off the light. He'd be leaning up at the headboard reading Road & Track or praying over his Shooter's Bible. Brooky then took up photography as a hobby. He was quite good at it too. It was by then the late sixties and he even knew how to roll his on - 35mm that is. What other hobby...oh yes...he picked up playing his guitar along the way. I don't recall him buying all the guitar magazines like he did the car, gun, and photo mags. He'd listen to The Who, Clapton, and B-B King.

I don't think Brook has changed that much over the years. He has a little Miata that he sports around town. He likes to work on carbines and plays a pretty mean guitar. I think he's pretty much the same, a little older and hopefully out-grown the dress.

But if you see him in one...I would think twice about mentioning it. No telling what he might have packing in his purse.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Another great toy for shooting eyes out.

Friday, June 27, 2008

into the bowels of the earth

Allow me to dwell a moment on my scouting days. My old Troop 54 comrade posted a comment amount our trips to Tennessee. I remember those trips well and especially disappearing into the mountain's belly of Cumberland Caverns. We'd disappear single file into the dark passages and crawl through and often wiggle through tight narrow spaces - hoping beyond hope that the scout in front of us wouldn't fart from the beans served during the lunch before. To me - it was a serious concern.

We would not only tour for hours on in the thick darkness, but we would sleep there as well. The tour guide made sure that we knew that the rats that dwelled in the caves were rats of a very different breed. These vicious creatures were said to have been as large as small dogs. We were firmly instructed to keep our flashlight within feel-able reach and to sleep in and not on our sleeping bags. These cave rats were known to have an appetite for fingers and especially toes. Needless to say, that when all was quiet - we boy scouts strictly adhered to our motto "Be Prepared", and kept all appendages, all of our mortal being well hidden inside our bags. Better safe than sorry - fold the sleeping bag over and try to leave little to no entrance for the large hungry toe-eating cave rodents. What did Mr. Smitherman get us into anyway?

James Harp, Jim McCullars and Mark Condra were always my close scout pals back then. Thanks Jim for stopping by for a memory.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Troop 54 where are you?

I was a Boy Scout once. I never made Eagle or earned The National Order of The Arrow but I did make it to Star Scout. I wasn't really driven to earn merit badges or rise in boyhood rank, but I did enjoy being a Boy Scout. My Scoutmaster was a large sweet fellow who whose name was Milton Smitherman. I was a member of Troop 54 that met up atop Lookout Mountain at Noccalula Falls Park. There used to be an old green cabin where the camp ground is today. If memory serves, I brought my dime dues every Monday night around 6 o'clock.

We went to a lot of Jamborees and the like but my favorite outings were our yearly trip to Shiloh National Military Park. They had about six different hikes to take on. We'd split up into different groups and given a map and a sheet of questions to answer. You'd go on the long hike and answer the questions on the markers we'd have to locate. These hikes would go from dawn to dusk. They were very tiring but equally as exciting. I loved the scouting experience. I don't hear much talk about kids being scouts in this day. Seems though when I was a kid, every kid donned that uniform proudly.

The Scout Oath
On my honour I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my Country
To help other people at all times
To obey the Scout Law

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the plastic space race was on

I didn't own one of these 6" rubber and wire guys but I knew some kids who did. The only time I remember playing with Major Matt Mason was on a trip to Columbia, SC while visiting my aunts and uncles. David Wrisley lived directly across the street from my aunt Jennie Llew (where we usually stayed) on Wateree Avenue. David Wrisley had a huge collection of these guys on the ground in their front yard. We played with his little space dudes amid the shrubbery in the cool dirt - under the shade of the eaves.
Both John, David, and Judy Wrisley were at the service last Thursday in Cheraw. Seeing David reminded me of those space action figures of his.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Get Smart 1965

Mel Brooks and Buck Henry produced a wonderful spy-spoof comedy gem back in the mid-sixties. Ex-Marine drill instructor turned comedic actor Don Adams played Special Agent 86 in television's GET SMART. It was a great least the first few seasons were great. Adams is most remembered for that clumsy spy roll and tried to resurrect the roll in the 80's and 90's but they were all duds.

This past Saturday Gina and I took the girls to see the movie GET SMART with Steve Carell playing Agent 86. Most of you who know me know that I don't risk going to movies advertised as comedies these days. I crossed my fingers as I shelled out my money for a matinee...for the girls David...for the girls.

I was not disappointed. This movie was very funny and highly adventurous. I found myself laughing out loud many times and thought the movie paid a wonderful homage to the original television series. It was a great cast with plenty of cameos. I give the movie Get Smart two thumbs up (I only have two). I'm going to see if it's playing at the drive-in this coming weekend.

The only elements that it could have done without was the bad language and the obese lady shooting the bird scene. Other than that - it was a good experience.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

knocking on heavens door

The movie Pat Garret and Billy The Kid isn't among my favorite of Sam Peckinpah's movies but it did have some incredible moments. The most moving moment is when the Slim Picken's character walks away amid a gunfight to Bob Dylan's song Knock Knocking on Heaven's Door is played. The footage of Slim quietly standing there by the creek - knowing that his death is near.  This is a powerful scene.

If you haven't seen the movie, you might appreciate it. James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan also star in it. The blood letting cowboy movie of Peckinpah's to remember is of course The Wild Bunch. I bought the DVD about a year ago hoping to watching on a guy's night...but that hasn't happened yet. Who's up for a blood letting?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

meet the Flintstones

The Flintstones was originally created for an adult audience - originally aired on Friday evenings from 1960 to 1966 on ABC.

If you've ever seen Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners - you'd know where Hanna-Barbera got the idea for their stone-age family. It is said that Gleason considered suing Hanna-Barbera for the rip-off but decided to let it pass.

The first season was sponsored by Winston Cigarettes and the original opening and closing titles included the Winston brand. Winston pulled out in 63, as The Flintstones became more of a family show.

The original shows were well written and pretty smart.

Monday, June 9, 2008

the invaders

Quinn Martin Productions cranked out this little sci-fi gem back in 1967 and 1968 (a season and a half). I really liked this show as a kid. I don't know what I'd think of it when I get a chance to see it again. It was a lot like the popular show The Fugitive (also a Quinn Martin Production) but in this show, the man on the run is running from aliens who are EVERY WHERE MAN!!! The hero though, isn't always being the hunted, but also did his share of hunting. He does his best to try to get his fellow humans to believe him. Sound familiar? The idea for the show was also inspired by the 1956 movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".

"The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun."

The immensely popular The Fugitive series ended in 1967 and Quinn Martian Productions decided to keep things moving on ABC. I was sad to see The Invaders end so quickly. I liked the show and don't talk to many folks that ever remember seeing it. I just found out that that season one was released on DVD in May '08. Who knows, if the price is right.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

an early influence

neil young

i picture in my mind
mychael sitting in an empty theater
basking in each song
as the band plays
her last waltz

Friday, June 6, 2008

only one tarzan!

We were the TV generation. We remember when there were more fuzzy channels than clear channels. There wasn't a lot of original television programming. The Finlayson kids watched Loony Toons on Saturday mornings and a show comprised of old black and white silent shorts called Funny Men. After we had our fill of Bugs Bunny and Keystone Kops, we'd get to watch a Tarzan movie. I remember Brook, Jennie, Irene and myself piling on a quilt in front of the Zenith every Saturday morning - our weekend ritual - and Tarzan was the feature presentation!

Now there's been a lot of actors play Tarzan, and a lot of Tarzan movies made, but you and I know that there is only one Tarzan. All those half naked guys that came along to fill the loin cloth of Johnny Weissmuller - couldn't. Now Johnny wasn't the first to play the swinging jungle man (he was the sixth) but he was with out question the best Tarzan to ever hit the silver screen. Olympic Gold (5 Gold & 1 Bronze) medalist swimmer and a yell that no other actor could bellow. This man made Tarzan real. Even Edgar Rice Burroughs himself, was pleased with the Weissmuller choice.

If Weissmuller was the perfect Tarzan, Maureen O'Sullivan was the perfect Jane. Still to this day, I believe Maureen O'Sullivan to be one of the most beautiful actresses I've ever seen. Johnny Sheffield was a young actor that played Boy, Tarzan's adopted son. I think one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire Weissmuller run, was when Cheeta the chimpanzee was killed by a charging Rhino. In TARZAN AND HIS MATE, Cheeta saves Tarzan by taking on a charging Rhino. That death was my first celluloid death scene and I remember being upset by it. I couldn't believe that Cheeta was dead!

By the way, did you know that Cheeta the chimpanzee is still living (as of 2008)? He was just two years old when the Weissmuller Tarzans were being filmed. Cheeta is now 76 years old and is officially the oldest chimpanzee alive. He's made a monkey out of his co-stars, living to such a ripe old age. Why hell - I even bet that Rhino is a pile of brittle bones by now.

Enjoy every banana sandwich Cheeta!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

when cars could fly

When I was a kid, all the cars on the road looked like they could fly into orbit. I love cars with fins. Maybe it's because I lived in a day before automobiles became more fuel efficient and aerodynamic. I think it should be mandatory that all automobiles be designed with rocket fins. The 1966 Batmobile (originally a 1955 Ford Futura Concept Car) took the look even further...a rocket engine shooting fire right out the back! Wow!

Cars these days are designed to pretty much look alike. Once the redesign of the Ford Thunderbird came out in the mid-eighties, all cars have pretty much taken on a generic smoothed over sameness. Not many cars on the road today have a unique look about them. There are exceptions- but not many. There are definitely not enough road rockets out with fins that is. Here we are, living in the future, living in the modern day with cell phones, computers, flying machines and yet our cars don't look futuristic in the least. We need fins people!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

good grief

I recall drawing Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy & Linus Van Pelt when I was a second grader at R.A. Mitchell. Even back then I was fascinated by every line of Charles M. Shutlz drew. I would look at Charlies big round face and try to draw it and struggled. I had the worse time with Linus for some reason. He had a strange shaped head. The Finlayson family had a hard bound collection that became very worn down through the years called The Peanuts Treasury. It was a masterwork and I never got tired of pulling it off the shelf and reading and re-reading the panels. Looking back, I believe I learned to read by reading the Sunday funnies and comic books. I remember on a trip to Columbia, Mom and Dad bought me a paperback collection of Peanuts and it kept me occupied for the entire trip. Smart move on my parents part.

Charles M. Shultz was a big inspiration to me. He taught me that it was okay to draw simple lines. Just look at the body of his work and you'll discover what can be accomplished with pen and ink. I once read where Charles said he didn't have what it took to be a great painter or a great author of novels. He said that he found his medium in between - telling stories with cartoons. Shultz created a beautiful world of children. Things never were easy for Charlie Brown, and as a kid struggling with school, I related to good old Charlie Brown.
Though Charles M. Shultz wasn't a part of my generation, he influence my generation. I believe on some level, we baby-boomers related to that round headed kid. Shultz illustrated experiences of our childhood. I relate to Charlie Brown, I had a neighborhood that I could explore, had friends and foes, and even a dog that took part in my neighborhood adventures. I had a hill in my backyard that I could lay down and make out the shapes of the clouds. Pull out the ball, bats, and gloves and kids seemed to appear from nowhere to play a game. Charlie and I shared much the same childhood. I look at the reprinted cartoons and don't see them as children of today, but children of my day.

Thanks for the memories Sparky!

Ballad of the Green Beret

I read Robin Moore's book The Green Berets when I was a kid. It was one of the few books I had purchased from the Weekly Reader Book Club when I was in elementary school. This song, The Ballad of The Green Berets of Sgt. Barry Sadler was a very popular song that came out not long after the book.

John Wayne, in 1968, followed with a movie called The Green Berets. The movie wasn't that good and the Vietnam War was at the height of U.S. involvement. Vietnam was also becoming unpopular "conflict". That didn't matter to The Duke. Wayne had turned down the Major Reisman role (Lee Marvin got) in THE DIRTY DOZEN in order to star in and co-produce THE GREEN BERETS.

I believe Brook and I went to see this together at The Pitman, in downtown Gadsden.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ernie Kovacs

Who remembers Ernie Kovacs? He came long before Monty Python, Saturday Night Live and MTV. Kovacs did a lot of fresh inovative work with the new medium of television. Pretty much all of his comedy was visual and this youtube clip is prime example of his work. Unfortunately, most of his shows were done live and only a few clips have survived. What little I have seen of his work, there is no dispute that Kovac was a genius.

By the way, many people donned the monkey suits for this sketch. Jack Lemmon was a friend of Kovac and is said to have been the monkey playing the piano in this skit. Toney Curtis, like Lemmon, also played in his skit from time to time.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Johnny Quest beginning and end credits

Johnny Quest is a great cartoon...the original 1960's version that is. Whenever I catch one on - I'll sit down and watch it. There are only a handfull of Hanna Barbera productions that I like. The theme song is memorable.