Email Memory Tests

April 25, 2012

I long ago lost count of the “older than dirt” type quizzes that get passed around by people of all ages… I think. I could be wrong on that. Younger folks may be embarrassed by their low scores and simply hit the ‘delete’ button.

In any case, I received another one today and decided to expound on it. (In truth, it has been a while since I’ve added a post to my blog – that brags about something new every day – and this is basically writing itself.)

We begin with Blackjack chewing gum. Do I remember it? Of course. I also remember Bemen’s Pepsin, Clark’s Teaberry, and my father telling me about how he and his friends chewed on tar.

By the way, this “quiz” was a simple one. Do you remember it? Yes or No?

Next on the list was wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water. I don’t know who puts these lists together, but this confection is still available, as is the next item on the list – candy cigarettes.

Now, soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles are from the past, but why stop there? What about the coolers that were filled with icy water and rows of bottles. To purchase a beverage, you reached down and grabbed the bottle by the top and slid it along the metal guides to the point where it could be removed. Inserting the ten cents released the lock so you could pull your choice up and out of the cold water.

Coffee shops or diners with table-side juke boxes? Why is this on any list? They are still in use in various locations. (Of course, with my short-term memory fading fast, I can’t recall where I last saw them, but I know they are still there!)

Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers are easy to remember. My uncle worked for Meadow Gold. They delivered every other day. In between, the Otto milkman made his rounds. If we ever ran short, he was glad to sell us any of his products.

Party lines on the telephone are another thing I remember vividly. To take things a step farther, I wonder how many of my grandchildren have ever seen a telephone with a dial.

I vaguely recall the newsreels before the movie. But I do remember that every movie was preceded by a cartoon and selected short subjects.

My P.F. Flyers were high top. In fact, until I was in middle school I don’t think low cuts had been invented. I could be wrong on that one.

Any one who had a flat top haircut knew Butch wax. Many of us also were very familiar with Wildroot Cream Oil and Bryl-creem.

TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning were there to help us fine tune our set. In addition to the rabbit ears, there were several knobs for vertical and horizontal hold, focus, brightness, and contrast. When we got our first TV, we could watch channel 3 – the Dumont Television Network, or snow.

I don’t know of anyone who ever had a professional model Peashooter. Straws and paper wads served the purpose for us.

Howdy Doody was one of the few TV shows way back then. My favorite show was Captain Video and the Video Ranger. Rocky King was a favorite of my parents.

One should not mention 45 RPM records without talking about one of two associated devices. In order to play those records with the big hole in the middle, you had to either place a plastic disk into each record, or put a large adapter on the spindle of the record player.

S&H green stamps are the tip of that iceberg. We had merchants giving out Plaid Stamps, Blue Stamps, Yellow Stamps, dishes and glasses, dish clothes, and other freebies. Of course, filling up at the gas station meant having a person run out, pump the gas, clean your windshield, check your oil and tire pressure, and offer to walk your dog. (Just kidding about the dog,) All of that service for 18 cents a gallon at the cheap “Fair Price” station. My older brothers always got upset with me for not paying 25 cents a gallon for the ‘good’ stuff. (They fell for the Atlantic Gasoline ads.)

Hi-fi’s were the forerunners to stereos, which were the forerunners of the surround sound, which were… you get the idea. High fidelity sound was a step above opening the louvers on the Victrola.

Metal ice trays with a lever were pretty handy if the freezer in your refrigerator was large enough to handle them. Our freezer could barely hold a half-gallon of ice cream (when it really was a half-gallon).

Mimeograph paper is one item that illustrates the ignorance of teenagers. There never was such a thing. The paper used in a mimeograph machine was plain old typing paper. Calling it a mimeographed copy would be more accurate. And I never knew anyone to get high smelling their test papers.

The blue flashbulb was supposed to reduce the glare caused by the older version of the flash bulb, which was much easier to use than the flash powder of earlier photography. My favorite thing about flashbulbs is that you could peel away the covering after the bulb had been used. It felt like plastic, but I really don’t know what the substance was now why it was used. Perhaps someone who reads this knows and will be kind enough to leave a comment.

How can we think about Packards without mentioning all the other car companies that have gone out of business over the years? Fifty years from now these quizzes will be asking about Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Plymouths, and who knows which car might be next to go away.

Roller skate keys might still be around. I’ll have to take a closer look in the toy stores.

Cork popguns were one of the many ways mothers thought boys could put their eyes out. We also had guns that fired Ping-Pong balls. Of course, BB guns were on the top of many Christmas wish lists.

Drive-in movies bring back many memories. Many teens went there to watch the submarine races.

Studebakers – refer to Packards above.

Wash tub wringers were a step up from finding a good rock along the river.

And that was the last item on today’s list. That’s good because I didn’t get upset with the mistaken belief that the Ink Spots had a hit recording of “Cab Driver.” For the uninformed, it was the Mills Brothers who made that record.

And now you know that at least one of the answers on those quizzes is most likely wrong. Makes you wonder about others.


Maglie of Mound Fame

November 11, 2010

Where my knowledge of trivia began

I recently received a crossword puzzle magazine in the mail. I love doing puzzles and I quickly jumped into this publication with relish. It wasn’t long until I found myself thinking about the many times lately when I’ve said something humorous in the presence of my grandchildren and been met by blank stares. Come to think of it, it’s not just my grandchildren who have no idea what I’m talking about; and it’s not just my attempts at humor. Most people twenty or so years younger than me have no knowledge of the trivia of my life.

For example, last week I mentioned that I once had a friend who was very much like Joe Btfsplk. Recognizing that I probably mispronounced Joe’s last name, I quickly added, “He was the little guy who always had the storm cloud over his head.”

Blank stares from all but one or two people in my presence. I had to explain further, “He was one of the characters in Li’l Abner… the Al Capp comic strip.” At that point, I realized that, even though we had just gone through an important election, mentioning Senator Phogbound’s name would get me nowhere.

Li’l Abner left the daily newspapers in 1977. I have to remind myself that most people younger than thirty-five have never seen anything to do with Al Capp’s Dogpatch.

Does anyone anywhere still celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day?

So what does Pansy Yokum have to do with a crossword puzzle magazine? Nothing more than the name of Desi’s daughter, Mindy’s TV roommate, Philo of whodunits, Warbucks’ ward, a 1984 dictator, J.R.’s mom, the actress who played Miss Kitty, a Princess Phone feature, the patriarch of the McCoy family, Imogene’s partner, TV panelist Francis, Burr’s TV crime fighter, DDE’s opponent, Robert of “I Spy”, Mountie Do-Right, Slaughter or Cabell, Bucky Beaver’s brand, Sapphire and Lightning’s radio and TV show, Vaudeville super-star Al, Kuklapolitans, and Will Rogers’ prop. And the list goes on.

Every puzzle in that magazine had at least one entry that would be extremely difficult for a young solver. I’ve often run into puzzles that throw in extremely obscure words or foreign phrases, but I’ve never seen so much absolute trivia.

At the same time, I’m loving that magazine because it’s bringing back so many memories.

It’s been years since I’ve given any thought to Captain Video and the Video Ranger, Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob, Clarabell, Princess Summerfallwinterspring, Phynias T. Bluster, Flub-a-dub, Bobby Orr, Otto Graham, Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe, Bruce Jenner, Ara Parseghian, Lech Walesa, Mario Lanza, Emma Peel of the Avengers, Maxwell Smart, Hedda Hopper, Erma Bombeck, DeSotos, Lonesome George, Uncle Miltie, Mamie’s predecessor, Walt Frazier, James Arness, Chester (Dennis Weaver), and Xavier Cugat’s wives.

Anyone who has recognized all the people and events I’ve mentioned so far is either somewhere around my age, or a great fan of meaningless information. Perhaps this will generate some comments and we can all remind each other of many other trivial items. In the meantime, I’m going to fill my jug with some Kickapoo joy juice and work another puzzle.

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By the way, let’s all take the time to thank our fellow citizens who have served, or are currently serving, to protect our rights as Americans. Today may be a bit special – Veterans Day – but we shouldn’t wait to say “Thanks” only once a year. We thank them every day!


Let’s Pretend

February 10, 2010

My Childhood Home

I can remember sitting on our back-porch steps with my next-door neighbor. I was driving a 1952 Plymouth and he was tooling along in his 1951 Chevy. We were both about eight years old and never gave a thought to drag racing. We were just enjoying driving side by side through the colorful countryside.

Other memories include riding a bicycle and pretending it was a horse, or motorcycle… depending on the game we were playing at the time.

Most of the boys I grew up with had very few toys. The one exception was Donny Yarling. I think that was his last name. As I recall, he was big into Captain Video and had space helmets, ray guns, and numerous other space-related items.

Donny didn’t play outside much, and his family moved away when we were all very young. I don’t recall him ever letting us play with his toys, so we weren’t all that heartbroken when he left.

My parents didn’t allow us to have toy guns – except on the Fourth of July. Therefore, we pretended to have guns whenever we played “war” or “cowboys and Indians”. The cap guns we were given for Independence Day were only a small part of our arsenal. We were also given hammer type devices with feathered tops. We’d place a cap or two in the head of the hammer, press in the feathered top, and smack the hammer on a concrete block. That would cause the caps to explode and the feathered top to go sailing through the air.

Come to think of it, I’m surprised my mother allowed us to play with such things. We could’ve put an eye out!

The other Fourth of July “play things” were the sparklers. One of our parents or older sibling would provide the flame to ignite the stick. We’d then twirl it around and be dazzled by the light. We were easily amused. I’m not sure what I pretended as I flashed my sparkler around, but I’m sure my vivid imagination had me fighting a foreign enemy with a sword or something. Had “Star Wars” been around back then, that sparkler would have quickly turned into a light saber.

As an adult, I often wonder how much we relied on our imaginations simply because we had so few toys. I watch my grandchildren play with their toys (I should say their abundance of toys) and realize there is still a good bit of pretending involved.

One thing the children up north don’t have to do right now is pretend there is snow on the ground.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are centered around the many hills in Western Pennsylvania and the abundance of snow. We would ride our sleds for hours… on city streets!

I never measured the distance, but we had a course that would’ve done Olympic bob-sledders proud. We’d start at the intersection of Stratmore and Hollywood streets. We’d sled down Hollywood, across Arnold, and circle around to where Hollywood ran into Arnold a second time.

If we had enough speed, we’d make the turn onto Arnold and continue in the direction of Hollywood until our momentum finally died away. Then, we’d pull our sleds up Ford Street and walk along Stratmore to Hollywood and repeat the run.

One time, just to be different, I went down Ford Street with the intention of turning up Arnold. I missed the turn and slid into the curb. With bloody lips, I dragged my sled back up the hill and returned to the Hollywood run. By the time I got back to the top of the hill, the bleeding had stopped, so I just kept on going.

Often times, in the summer, we’d find ourselves really missing the snow and sledding. That’s when we would walk down to Bodnar’s Appliance store and get a cardboard refrigerator box.

There used to be a vacant lot at the corner of Stratmore and Ford. We never thought they’d build a house there because the lot was basically a cliff – great for sliding down the hill in a box or on a snow disc, but not really suitable for a home with a lawn.

Our favorite sport was to load five or six boys in the box, and then roll it sideways down the hill, Our bodies would be bouncing and rolling over one another until we came to a sudden stop at the bottom. Cut lips, bloody noses, and black eyes didn’t discourage us one bit. We’d drag the box back to the top and do it again… and again… and again… until the box was torn to shreds.

I just realized I’m pretending to be back in that box. Or maybe I’m sitting with my friend on the back-porch steps driving my 1952 Plymouth through the countryside.

Who needs reality!


Captain Video and the Video Ranger

August 28, 2008

I’m adding this post a few hours early. I wanted to post it on Friday, August 29th, but that’s the day my bride is having surgery on her knee. Since we need to be at the hospital at some ridiculous hour, I won’t be able to take the time to do this in the morning. So, here it is… a bit early.

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Yesterday I gave a salute to youtube.com because of the wealth of topics covered in their library of videos. The only problem I find is my inability to stop digging in their files. As one old memory reminds me of another, I type in the search term and am pleasantly surprised to find something else.

I don’t know what reminded me of Captain Video, but I had to see if there might be at least one old episode. Lo and behold, I found a three part program. I’m not sure if all three parts had been telecast in one evening. My guess is that each part represented a different night of fun-packed adventure for this little boy and all his friends.

What I found most interesting is that there were no commercials built into the videos. However, there were two Ranger Messages that were actually public service type announcements. One was about George Ross – Betsy’s uncle – who signed the Declaration of Independence; all Video Rangers were encouraged to be alert and do whatever was needed to protect our freedoms. The other message encouraged us all to avoid discrimination – to accept everyone without bias toward race or religion. I found that message especially interesting for a show produced in 1949.

Then came the part I’d totally forgotten. The announcer began talking about the secret agents Captain Video had stationed throughout the universe… and the scene switched from the meeting room on another planet to a group of cowboys getting ready to take the ‘Whistler’ captive. Their plans were to lynch him, but he and his partner managed to foil those plans. Of course, just when we thought the good guys were about to head home with no further trouble, there were indications that other evil villains were sneaking around preparing to do bad things to the ‘Whistler.’

Meanwhile, Captain Video had solved one problem and thought he was moving on to another peaceful mission. Little did he know… But wait! Isn’t that what the Perils of Pauline and other serials were based on? I believe they called them cliffhangers for a reason.

Once again I’ll warn you that these videos are long, but if you have the time, sit back and enjoy.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I hope these videos brought back some pleasant memories of your own youth. In the meantime, I’ll be with my bride as she undergoes surgery on her knee. I had a similar procedure a while back. I referred to it as “Arthur Godfrey surgery on my Nabisco.”