Monday, September 29, 2008

The ThingMaker

Mattel's Vac-U-Maker (1964) was a toy for kids that involved a hotplate. That's right - a hotplate. The Vac-U-Maker, later became known as the ThingMaker. The box came with a hotplate, a selection of aluminum molds of creepy looking bugs, and Plastgoop. Plastigoop came in many different colors and the bottle looked much like an Elmer's Glue bottle. The hotplate though was a lot of fun even without the goop and molds. It was fun to do scientific experiments - melting plastic items around the house.
I believe I got my Fighting Men ThingMaker as a birthday gift. The FightingMen molds were double sided molds and I could make my own little green army men. Unlike the regular Creepy Crawly bugs package, you could put wires inside the body and appendages of the soldier molds so that the fighting men could be fully posable. I don't remember playing with the little guys that much because their appendages would fall off too easy. It was easier to play with little plastic green army men rather than the self made FightingMen figures. Their little dismembered body parts however did make for a more realistic battleground when playing. Little green arms, legs, and trunks scattered here and there gave the livingroom floor that Saving Private Ryan look. Nothing says war like scattered appendages.FightingMen, like all other cool toys of war were pulled because of the anit-war sentiment during the Vietnam War. I remember the toy departments weren't as fun to brouse through because of that sentiment - all the plastic weapons of war disappeared.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

happy trails

Roy Rogers was the hero of every American baby boomer boy. He was a sweet heart of fellow - a genuine good guy. There is no doubt in my mind that Roy and Dale are riding in heaven's skies.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

where nothing can go wrong - go wrong - go wrong

A friend of mine back in junior high school days, Greg Ford, once asked me if I'd like to go see a new science fiction movie with him. We met up outside of the Gadsden Cinema that used to be located at the foot of Noccalula Mountain on 12th Street. Greg kept talking about this movie with Yul Brynner called Westworld. I had no idea as to how a Western could also be a science fiction movie.

Westworld was a high tech movie for it's day. It wasn't on the level of 2001 A Space Odyssey, but it was dazzling for 1973. Yul Brynner played an out of control robot hunting down man. It preceded The Terminator franchise well over a decade. The stories were similar in that the hunted had to come up with a way to stop the rise of the machine. This was Michael Crichton's first venture into directing. Michael later brought us Jurassic Park which was bore a similarity to Westworld. Westworld, Roman World, and Medieval World were theme parks in which everything went wrong. You might recall that everything went wrong on Jurassic Island.

It was strange seeing Yul Brynner play the bad guy for a change. Stranger still seeing him play a robot bad guy. Like The Terminator - the cowboy robot seemed next to impossible to slow down or stop. I can't help but think that the writers of the Terminator didn't borrow from Westworld.

The F/X of Westworld don't really hold up today. It's not as intense to watch it today as it was back in 1973. Everything seems on the campy side - dated. I do remember how that movie made me feel as a kid when I saw it the first time - and the second time. It had me on the edge of my seat. I saw the movie a few years ago and thought the movie was still interesting to watch. Hollywood has been revisiting, rehashing, and remaking a lot of old movies as of late. Westworld might be an interesting project to do. A robots wearing black hats in the west.

If I were to cast such a picture. Wouldn't it be interesting if the likes of Clint Eastwood were hired on? Is he too old to play a robot gunslinger? Ever since I saw Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in Xmen - I've thought he resembled Clint Eastwood back in his Spaghetti Western days. Clint though - would make a great killer robot cowboy. Any ideas how you would cast a Westworld 2009 Remake?

I guess if I had the chance to write the screenplay - I'd alter the original story a bit - make it a little more interesting. You've got your two thirty something Westworld guests arrive and decide to play the roll of outlaws. After all in Westworld you can be anybody that you want to be. They take take to living the roll of carefree Butch & Sundance types - playing pranks, shooting up the town, robbing banks, and getting pursued by rather large posse. Their fun ends when a bounty hunter character crosses their path. Somewhere along the way, the malfunction takes place within the Delos Amusement Corp. The young cowboys have no idea of their fantasy gone wrong - with an android with no name in hot pursuit. I think a nice touch would be that the bounty hunter android not realise that he (it) is really the bad guy - that he is programed to believe that he is human. He is merely living out the roll of bounty hunter - not truly aware of his non-self. He is going about doing his job - hunting down outlaws.

I know - I have a very active little mind.

a motherload of rememberance

Years ago my brother in-law, Dan Noojin, told me that the theme song to the old televsion western classic BONANZA actually had lyrics. Not fully believing him at the time, he proved his claim by singing the theme music to me. I was quite impressed. He sang it with great cowboy gusto. Lorne Greene (aka: Ben Cartwright) actually performed the original song (for those of you who have never seen the show or recognize his deep robust voice).

Bonanza was a long running television show - a pretty good one at that. Dan Blocker was every kid's favorite on the show. Dan played the good natured, big and burly middle son Hoss Cartwright. Dan died due to a blood clot during routine gall bladder surgery back in 1972. The show died not long after that.

I put Bonanza right up there with Gunsmoke.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

William Shatner The Transformed Man (1968 Album)

Can you believe that Shatner is still going around doing this kind of stuff? His most memorable is Rocket Man (also available on YouTube). No, William Shatner doesn't actually sing. Shatner emotes the lyrics with feeling - much feeling - too much feeling.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Vulcan Dreamboat

You'll feel your stomach churn slowly as you listen to Spock sing. I guess Nimoy was such a big star back then that nobody had the guts to tell him that he couldn't sing. Maybe by Vulcan standards - but not by Earth's.

Friday, September 19, 2008

vans of the seventies

Long before SUV's were the thing - even before minivans - people of the seventies drove vans - the full size vans. People would go buy rolls of green, red, or orange shag carpet and tack it to the inside of their vans. Not only would they put it on the floor, but they ran it up their walls and on the ceiling. 8-Tracks and cassettes were installed and speakers were often concealed in the shag as well. Many people made pillows and furniture that would be covered in shag as well. Shag carpet was the thing back in the seventies. Oh - I almost forgot - every custom van had to have a CB radio in it. Too many people were learning the trucker CB jargon back then and boy did life get obnoxious for a spell!

People spent a lot of money on tricking out their van's interior.  Moocho money was also dished out  making the exteriors of these love-chariots as unique as possible as well. You could make a lot of money in the seventies if you knew how to use an airbrush. Sure T-shirts were hip - but if you could paint a wildly futuristic funkadelic landscape on the outside of a vehicle- you were one rich airbrush dude. Today -people are in to tattooing their bodies. Three decades ago people were into tattooing their vans. Everybody had to have their very own fantasy airbrushed on the front, back, and side panels of their ride.

Now, I never had a airbrushed van. I wouldn't know what I would have wanted one painted if I had one. I was an odd sort back then. I think I would have have had a picture of Lee Van Cleef painted along side if perchance I had one. I didn't care for shag carpet back then. I used to wash a lot of cars and shag carpet seemed a might tedious to keep clean even then. Maybe a wood paneled interior - something that might have represented the interior of Captain Nemo's submarine. So maybe it's a good thing that I didn't have a van in the seventies. It would not have been much of a chick-magnet. Everybody that did have an airbrushed van sure was proud of it.
I wonder if airbrushing vans will ever have a comeback? Can you imagine people painting SUV's with futuristic landscapes - or half naked fantasy women? I bet someone in California has already birthed the idea and we'll be seeing a Humvee sporting a purple and pink unicorn in our neck of the woods before you know it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Richard Wright

We lost Richard Wright this week to cancer. Pink Floyd had a sound that was uniquely their own. Their sound had such an unusual depth to it - the only way I can describe it is that you can't just listen to Pink Floyd - you fall deep into it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

old burger joints continued

I wrote a post last year with a grand opening photo of Biff Burger - located on 12th Street at the foot of Noccalula Mountain - at the corner of the old Agricola Shopping Center parking lot. I remember the place still being open early in the eighties. It was closed and flatted by the late eighties. The last time I went was with Dan Noojin and his dad Max. Max liked chocolate milkshakes and that's what we specifically made the trip down for. Here is the blog. I think the photo is pretty cool. I don't recall ever seeing such a turn out for a local establishment before - wait a minute - the Masons Department Store grand opening was a pretty ado.

Monday, September 15, 2008

old burger joints

Before the franchises took over - there were numerous mom and pop burger joints scattered around town. There we so many and I can't remember all the names and locations. I believe Burger Chef was the one on Meighan where a chinese restaurant is. I've heard old Gadsden High alumni from the sixties and early seventies mention that it was a favorite hangout. I used to take Gina to one that used to be at the intersection of 77 & Rainbow drive. I am not a big fast food burger fan. I eat them if I have to. Were'nt those old places better? Did the hamburgers taste better back then or have my taste buds changed?

I need to drive over to Magic Burger (Attalla, AL) sometime. It's been well over a decade since I've had one of theirs burgers. Magic Burger is where my sister Jennie and her husband Don used to eat when on their dates back in the early to mid seventies. It's the last place of it's kind in the area.
The only names I do recall are Burger Chef and Pic-A-Burger. What places do you recall from your youth? Any memories of an old favorite burger joint.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tim Conway

Before SNL, we had The Carol Burnett Show. Burnett was all about fun and not much on politics. The gang did a weekly show of back to back sketch comedy - hopelessly trying to keep it together in the process. They couldn't. Even though it was Carol's show - Tim Conway was my favorite. He was the guy that kept breaking the cast up and reducing Harvy Corman to tears almost every night. The Dentist sketch is Tim at his best - the skit that I remember the most.

Friday, September 12, 2008

we loved Red

Red Skelton was a beautiful fellow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Godspeed Cousin Cliff

One of my earliest post here at Boomerville, USA was about Cousin Cliff. Well, I just heard that Cousin Cliff Holman passed away earlier this week. I never met the man. I was too young to remember his trips to the Princess Theatre to see his magic shows. I heard that all a kid had to do for admission was bring a pocket full of bottle caps to gain entry. Maybe one of you older boomers from the area might post a memory of one of his visits. I do remember watching him after school - watching him do his tricks on television and showing Popeye cartoons. He seemed to be a sweet fellow from afar.

God bless you Mr. Holeman - God bless your family during this time.

Birmingham, Al - BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - “Cousin Cliff” Holman, a long time Birmingham, TV personality who entertained generations of children across central Alabama, has died at age 79. Holman died Monday at Shepherd’s Cove respite-care facility in Albertville. He was considered by many as Alabama’s version of Captain Kangaroo or Bozo the Clown. Holman rose to fame in the mid 1950s and 1960s with his show called “Cousin Cliff’s Clubhouse.” Funeral arrangements were incomplete. AP / MSNBC

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dick & Jane


Seriously, I liked Dick & Jane when I was a kid. Dick & Jane was the standard for beginner readers from the 1930's to the 1960's. It was Dr. Suess's quirky work that came along and broke the mold. As an illustrator, I Iove the simple bright colors and the wholesome innocence portrayed in the illustrations of Dick & Jane. Back in 2003, a hardbound collection was reprinted that I picked up at Walmart. I don't know if the book holds up for today's young readers. It reflects children from an era long gone. I remember that time - and I remember those kids.

Monday, September 8, 2008

the first family

Vaughn Meader was a young singer/pianist that said he discovered a voice he could do - that of President John F. Kennedy. He started incorporating it into his act and before you know it - he had an album out. The First Family was the fastest selling LP of it's time. JFK himself loved the parody album and even gave them as Christmas gifts. In fact, while greeting a democat national committee group - Kennedy announced that "Vaughn Meader was busy tonight so I came myself." Unfortunately, after Kennedy's fatal trip to Dallas - record stores across the United States pulled The First Family off the shelf and Vaughn Meader faded into obscurity.

I loved the album as a kid and Kennedy was among my first impersonations. Each of the skits were very strong and funny. If you ever get a chance to go back and listen to it - you'll find the jabs quite tame compared to today's political satire. Vaughn was a talented fellow and it was sad that his comedic career suffered from the tragedy of Kennedy's death. He was so closely associated with Kennedy that all of his work suffered. He vowed never to impersonate Kennedy again and kept that vow. He died in 2004 - keeping his vow. Rich Little recorded the album The First Family Rides Again back in the eighties - in which Vaughn was invited to participate in the parody of Ronald Reagan's administration.
There's a lot of political parody/satire out there today. Let's not forget Vaughn Meader. He's the grandfather of most of what you see and hear today on radio & television. I just browsed hoping to find a cut or two from the album, but nothing was there to sample.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

way out

original uncut opening of The Prisoner

Saturday, September 6, 2008

number 6

Once upon a time there was a British television series in the early to mid sixties called Secret Agent (AKA Danger Man) starring Patrick McGoohan. The show made McGoohan an instant start - yet he wanted out at the height of the show's success. Patrick had grown tired of the spy drama and promoted an idea of his own. At the beginning of The Prisoner, our spy hero is pounding a desk and angrily resigns from his steady spy job. He was probably not getting enough money for all that dangerous save the world work that was specified in his job requirement. He leaves abruptly and speeds back to his residence in his Caterham Seven (a very cool little sport's car) only to be knocked out by some sort of spy gas that was pumped into his apartment. Patrick wakes up on an fantastic little island in which he can not escape. He is a captive on a wicked little paradise island which is designed to be a prison for spies. Patrick (No.6) has to play his cards to his chest through out his forced residence there. He must try to figure out if he is a prisoner of his enemies or of his previous employer. The Prisoner was a very unusual series filled with unending twists. So did he ever get off that island? Did he ever outrun that gigantic bubble?

Friday, September 5, 2008

What does this bring back?

We lived on the southern terminus of Lookout Mountain mountain, not too far from Noccalula Falls.  Falls Drug had a soda fountain where you could get hand dipped ice cream, a milk shake or an ice cold fountain drink. A real favorite of mine was getting a cherry coke. Mr. Jim Ludlum would fill the glass with soda and then pour cherry juice straight from the cherry bin. I remember stopping by in the mid-eighties and talked with Mr. Ludlum just before he sold his stainless steel soda fountain fixtures. They were all unplugged and pulled from the wall ready to be picked up by the fortunate buyer.

Mother said there was a time back in the fifties when there were drug stores on practically every corner of downtown Gadsden. Snellgrove Drug was the last to go. Mother told me that Snellgrove had another location just a few blocks up Broad Street that catered to the Court House crowd. She said that she remembered her and dad going there on dates. Dad and mom met at the Gadsden Times where they both worked. Dad was hired by Frank Helderman, Sr as a legal gun for the times - mother was a receptionist.  Mother also remembered East Broad Drug Store run by the Brannons.

McNair's Drug Store in the cotton mill village was one of my favorite places to go as a kid. Mom said that she remembered going there for ice cream when she was ten years old. She said she would eat ice cream and play in the reflection of the mirrored glass. That brought back memories for me as well. It was a dark heavy window pane and you could get on the corner of the glass and watch your appendages float in mid air. It's neat that we share the same childhood memories of the same place - being of a different generation.

Those that attended Gadsden High School might remember Graham's Drug Store on the corner of Twelfth and Walnut. The building is still there. My old friend Michael Bynum will remember Graham's Drug because The Other Door was at the same location, the entrance facing 12th. It was "Doc" Cary Graham that brought bought WETO radio (930 frequency) into town back in 1950. He ran his station from the back of his drug store until Charlie Bowman bought it out and the rest is WJBY history.

Grandfather Fred Davidson (mom's dad) was a Millwright at Dwight Cotton Mill. The Davidson family later moved to Campbell Court in East Gadsden. Mom has memories of all the different drug stores/soda fountains from west to east Gadsden areas. East Gadsden Drug on Hoke Street being one. 

I remember mom letting me go to John's Pharmacy (next door to East Gadsden Clinic) after a doctor's visit. If the doctor or dentist visit was too traumatizing - she'd let me pick out a comic book or buy me a tall milk shake. That's where I got my El Dorado comic book - never having seen a John Wayne comic book before - I was thrilled in spite of the throbbing pain.

Drug stores were everywhere back then and they weren't just for picking up prescriptions. They were places for townsfolk to go and catch up on the local gossip. Mothers could usually pick up a loaf of bread along with needed prescriptions. I remember a lot of talks with dad while parked out front of Falls Drug while enjoying a double scoop of ice cream. I don't recall dad ever going inside because he was on crutches.   I do remember many nights parked outside Falls Drug on warm evenings with the radio tuned to FM (Fine Music).  We were family of eight packed shoulder to shoulder quickly consuming melting ice cream in our Chevrolet Kingswood Estate station-wagon.

Mother told me a story about Mr. Ludlum. Jennie was meeting with girl-scouts one night and mother had forgotten that it was her night to bring refreshments.  Mother was home taking care of one of her babies that night and called to ask Jim if he'd help her. Good ol' Mr. Jim Ludlum went out of his way and fixed drinks and treats and delivered them personally to the young gathering.

There are few of these kind of places now a days. It's nice that Gadsden City Pharmacy came along to offer a little bit of that past. The old drug stores are fond memories that both our parent's generation and our generation share. Once while on the road with my parents - I guess I was about 17 years old - we stopped at a little town called Midway, Kentucky. There was a wonderful little mom and pop drug store where we enjoyed a club sandwich and a fountain drink. I have always been nostalgic for old things. The couple had kept much of the advertisements and fixtures from when they opened their little pharmacy back in the 1930's. I remember this little old lady coming to me with an original Coca-Cola tray and presenting it to me. I accepted her thoughtful gift after her insistence. She said that she didn't know how long they were going to keep their store open and wanted the tray to go to someone that would appreciate it. I've let a lot of memorabilia go through the years but I will never let go of that tray and that tidbit of memory. It was the last time I was ever in a drug store of that kind - a real drug store with a real soda fountain. Those places are of a day gone by.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

the apearance of evil

No this isn't an alcoholic beverage - like root beer isn't an alcoholic beverage - neither is this. Apple Beer is like apple cider on steroids. The color and head when poured into a mug does in fact look just like beer. That's why Brook and I poured us a tall one and drank it while sitting on the porch at Camp Bethelem. Bethlehem mind you is a Methodist camp meeting down in Bonifay, FL. We drank Apple Beer because it was tasty good - we drank in in glass to turn heads. I don't recall an adult staffer ever coming over to put a stop to the kegger going on over in front of the youth hut.