Tuesday, February 26, 2013

be kind ~ rewind to the 80's

I pulled into Blockbuster a few nights ago.  I saw the sale signs for cheap DVDs.  While thumbing through a rack, I asked if he knew if this was the last video rental place in Etowah County..  The guy behind the counter replied, "I think so...people got lazy."  Another customer asked a question that I didn't hear and I heard the same clerk reply, "We got a call from headquarters and were told that we were closing.  We were told that we didn't make a profit last year."

I thought the comment about people getting lazy was kind of humorous.  The reason Blockbuster took the scene was because they were a mega franchise that boasted having movies always in stock.  No longer did people have to drive from Mom and Pop store to Mom and Pop store hoping to get a copy of the newly released Beverly Hills Cop or Highlander.  Remember when there were video rental stores on every corner.  You could almost go anywhere and rent a movie.  Blockbuster came along and drove them all out of business because people "got lazy' and found all the newest movie titles at one location.

I don't remember the last time I had been in our Blockbuster.  I suppose I got lazy.  I can get the newly released videos cheaper through Red Box.  Now there's video rental almost on every corner again thanks to Red Box.  I also have Netflix.  I get movies streaming to my television and through my computer.  Actually, the customer didn't get lazy, someone came up with an idea to get entertainment cheaper and direct.  Once Blockbuster was the big idea, and now they are not.

Blockbuster used to have stores all over the place, but went bankrupt back in 2010.  Dish Network came into the picture and bought them out.  They dropped 500 stores in 2012 and now 300 hundred more, including ours.  It's hard for any business these days to stay in business.  Dish Network still feels as if they do something with the BlockBuster franchise.  They started doing Red Box like kiosks as well as a Netflix like service.  They are retooling, but are they late in the game?

Back in the 1980's, before Blockbuster came to town, were the Mom and Pop places.  They rented VHS and BETA. There was a war between VHS and BETA like there was Coke and Pepsi.  VHS won.  You could not only rent a movie, but you could also rent a player for the night from these stores.  In the late eighties I bought a laser disc player.  Bear Video on Broad Street rented those.  Laser Disc came and went quickly.  VHS won out.

The place I rented from the most was Varney's Video on the mountain, not far from Nocalula Falls.  I'd order a pizza from Uncle Sam's Pizza and run by Varney's for a tape or two.  After VHS had been around for a while, the prices started going down and I started buying titles that I liked.  Those movies are now in boxes in the garage that I don't know what to do with.  I've given a lot away over the years.

When Gina and I got married, we moved to Bowling Green, KY.  We were scraping by and didn't hook up to cable for the first few years there.  By that time, I could find places that rented VHS for a buck each.  There was a gas station about a block away that kept me entertained.  The public library also had VHS tapes that I could rent.  VHS lasted throughout the nineties.  VHS rentals were all over the place.

The last place I rented a video was at Southside Rental.  It's was a Mom and Pop that is no more.  They didn't last long after Blockbusters and Movie Gallery's sprung up all around Etowah County.  The little guy couldn't compete with the bigger guy.  Now the bigger guy is put out of business by the new big guy.  Life goes on.

It's kind of weird seeing the last video store in town go out of business.  I remember when they were everywhere and VHS was king.  It went from tape to digital disc to videos streaming.  Most people these days have a home theater system with a large flat screen with surround sound.  The movie theater is now in the home and new releases are streaming in.  
What next?

VHS Rewinder

Sunday, February 24, 2013

fighting man from head to toe

I was thumbing through an old sketch book and came across this pic.

I always liked the face of the original GI Joe, before the life like hair and the kung-foo grip.  The action figure line has changed a lot down through the years.  This is the little soldier I first met when I was a little soldier...in the early 60's.  I like the face because he doesn't have the face of a warrior.  He's got a face of an average Joe.  He's got the face of a good guy.  On that good face was a battle scar. It said something.

I remember when Hasbro later started issuing Soldiers of the World and had GI Joe as a  German soldier.  That looked very unsettling to me.  The face didn't fit the uniform.  At the time I thought that THAT Joe needed a different kind of face.

GI Joe was an action figure, he wasn't like Ken who seemed to me to be just another fashion accessory for Barbie.  Joe had movable parts, he could hold guns and grenades.  Ken was a wuss.  Ken was 4-F at birth.  I once tried to recruit a Ken, but the clothes hung off him, he couldn't even fill Joe's boots.  All he could do was play dead, and that's the way I used him.  GI Joe might have had a handsome and friendly face, but he was a fighting man from head to toe.

After the war, Joe came home and married Barbie.  Ken eventually came out of his pink closet and is living with another Ken.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

the greatest

One reason that sets Warner Brothers productions apart from the other film giants was the Warner Brothers Orchestra.  They had their own unique sound that added to all WB productions from drama to comedy.  Humphrey Bogart to Bugs Bunny...those works just wouldn't have been the same without those incredible orchestra soundtracks.  Max Steiner composed most of the film greats: Casablanca, Treasure of Sierra Madre, They Died With Their Boots one, etc.  For over twenty years Carl Stalling composed ingenious pieces of soundtrack for Bugs, Daffy, Elmer and the gang.  Through the years there's been a lot of good movie soundtracks, but nothing will ever compare to the energy, creativity and richness of the old Warner Brothers Orchestra.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

weird query

Back in the mid eighties I worked at the now defunct Eckerd Drug store in Alabama City.  I liked the job because I liked the manager and the staff there.  It was there that I started dating a sizzling hot co-worker.  I ended up marrying her.  True story, but not the one I'm going to tell tonight.

Every now and then when the pharmacy in the back of the store was swamped or short handed, I'd be asked to come off working the floor and field the pharmacy phone calls and ring up Rx pick-ups.  That night Lee McClendon was the pharmacist (nice guy) and was slammed filling prescriptions.  The phone was ringing a good bit and I'd answer calls and Lee would answer any questions that I couldn't answer.  I didn't know much about that department, so I usually asked him a lot of questions.  He didn't seem to mind.  He never looked up, he'd just kept on what he was doing and answer my questions.

I got this one call.  The lady on the other end of the phone asked, "Do you have Ayds?"  I misunderstood her question.  I asked her to repeat her query.  Again she asked "Do you have Ayds?"  I looked over to Lee and said, this is strange.  He said without looking up "What's strange?"   This lady wants to know if I have Aids.  Lee kept working and replied, "Tell her yes."  My mind went blank as I starred at Lee and back at the phone. 
"Tell her yes.", he repeated.  I then put the receiver back to my ear.  "I don't have Aids ma'am."  Lee looked up at me an made eye contact and stated in a lowder and firmer voice, "TELL HER WE HAVE AYDS DAVID!"

"Ma'am, the pharmacist says that he has Aids."  The lady then asked if we had Chocolate Aids!  The call in my mind was going south real quick and I was beginning to think this was a practical joke...but she sounded so serious and so did Lee.  "Chocolate Aids?" I said out loud.  "Yes, tell her yes we have Chocolate Ayds!"   I looked at him and said, "That's disgusting!"  Lee shook his head and grabbed the phone from my hand.  He took charge of the situation and took the rest of the call. Afterwards, Lee walked me over to the display and showed me that YES David, we do have Ayds!  We have Ayds!

"oh" I said.

True story.

Monday, February 18, 2013

simply bovine

Elsie the Cow.  She's still around since the 1930's.  She's still working for Borden after all these years.  Throughout her career Elsie has been awarded  honorary degrees which include Doctor of Bovinity and Doctor of Ecownomics to name a few.  Not only has she represented perfect milk products, but also played a roll during WWII by selling War Bonds.
Her husband Elmer the Bull started our promoting Borden milk, but later made a name for himself when he transferred over to the Borden Chemical Division.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

i had one of these

There used to be a nursery close to General Forrest Junior High School that had one of these old machines.   I'd often slip over there and load a dime into it and enjoy a 6 ounce ice cold Coke.  Years later I was offered to purchase one of these vending machines for $200.00.  I held onto it for about about a decade, hoping to get it fixed one day.  Most of the time I had the machine, it adorned the stage of the of the old Skylight Coffeehouse.  A friend of mine, Jim Thompson, and I fixed the stage to look like the front of an old general store.  It was always my hope to keep hold of the old vendor and get it working one day.

Not long after Gina and I moved back to Gadsden, AL (from Bowling Green, KY) did our dish washer broke.  We were strapped for cash at the time and so I decided to sell my Coke machine.  Parting was such sweet sorrow. Only a few years had passed until I met a guy that lived on my very block who knew how to fix old Coke machines.  What a burn!  To add insult to injury, the dish washer didn't last but a couple of years until it had to be replaced.  Somewhere that old machine of mine is still out there, just as pretty as ever.

I still regret selling it.

Me and my old Coke machine at Christian Brothers, late 80's or early '90's

Monday, February 11, 2013

moms and pops

If I could go back, I'd like to drop by at least one of the old mom and pop stores of my youth.  There was Pearly and Ben's Store and Cartee's on Fairview Road.  Every time I drive down Fairview I think of  those stores and the kind folk who ran them.  These stores were not too far from home and mom would often run to pick up some meat, bread, sugar or butter.  These stores were not mega-marts like we have today, but had all the necessary staples.

The kids enjoyed tagging along because Mom and Pops had plenty of penny candy to purchase in which to fill pockets.  Cartee's had models, balsa wood airplanes, bags of little green army men, and comic books...the kind of neat stuff we kids liked.  While mom shopped for household necessities we kids were checking out the goods we wanted.  I remember countless occasions making the journey to Pearly's or Cartee's on my bike with siblings or with friends.  We were always greeted with a genuine smile and a sincere HELLO!  They knew us all by our name.

Later, when in my twenties,  I'd frequent Cartee's to fill up my tank.  The last time I was in there, after paying for my fuel, I looked around briefly.  Nothing had changed since my childhood.  The candy, the same toys.  Several of the old car models were still on the shelf collecting dust.

Those stores, those sweet folks vanished a long time ago.  I still miss them.  They seemed to disappear about the time convenient stores began popping up on every corner.  They offered the same kind of stuff, but more variety.  Large grocery franchises came along and captured everyone's attention.  Mom and Pops faded away.
We didn't seem to notice at the time.

Places I miss on the mountain I grew up are Pearly's and Bens, Cartees, Clayton's, and Moons Grocery Store.  Gone but not forgotten.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

hot and bland

My Uncle and Aunt G.W. & Ina Chunn had Chunn's Lake in Hokes Bluff, Alabama.  I spent a lot of time there as a kid in the late '60's and early '70's.  My cousin Eric Chunn and I were pretty close in age.  We enjoyed each other's company.  I stayed many Summer days and nights with the Chunns.  Their lake was awesome.   It was a pretty big lake with a nice platform in the center of it.  They had lots of old tire inner-tubes to loll around on in the water.  They also had a nice dance hall with a juke in the corner.  There was always something to do around the lake.  Eric and I had lots of time and space to get into mischief.

If we ever needed anything to eat, which was inevitable, Eric would round up some grub at the snack bar.  It's the first time I ever had a Stewart Sandwich.  It was an amazing experience, a pre-fab sandwich that was toasted in a special Stewart oven.  They also introduced a PIZZA.  Imagine that!

The thing is, the sandwiches or the pizza weren't very good. I didn't think they tasted all that great, just something to eat.  It was special in it's own way.  It's funny remembering how exciting mediocrity could be as a kid.

It's all in presentation.

Stewart Sandwich Infra-Red Oven