Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Archie Comics

What baby boomer didn't read comics growing up? One of the most popuar was Archie comics.

In December 1941, in issue #22 of MLJ Magazine’s Pep Comics, Archie made his debut – and has been relating to fans worldwide ever since.

Whether he’s begging Veronica for a date or sitting in detention, Archie Andrews is the undisputed all-American teenager. For over 60 years, Archie has chased Veronica, been chased after by Betty and been hounded by Jughead for burgers. Betty, the ‘girl next door, appeared together with Archie in the first panel of the first Archie story – and it was love at first sight. Ever since, Betty’s number one goal has been Archie Andrews. But Archie never really notices, instead his sights are constantly set on Veronica Lodge, Riverdale’s teen socialite. With a million dollar smile – and a million dollar daddy – Veronica divides her time between making dates, breaking dates, breaking hearts and shopping – not necessarily in that order.

Then there’s Jughead Jones – too many burgers, too little time. Since 1941, Jughead has been Riverdale's chief girl-hater, chow hound, and abnormal fashion statement. His beanie is unique, unlike any beanie ever seen before by mankind. In fact, in the old series "Jughead's Time Police," the beanie is a time traveling device. Whether he's playing with his sister, Forsynthia "Jellybean" Jones, or consuming Pop Tate's hamburgers by the dozen, Jughead is always the odd one out. He and Archie are best friends – but only next to Hot Dog, his all time favorite companion is his hammock, which has been with him since the beginning. Even as Riverdale's all time moocher, Jughead is always calm, and has always seemed to be the most sensible member of Riverdale's teen community

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Remote Control

Remember when you actually had to go to the television and turn it on and off? Well, some of the baby boomers remember.

Then along came the remote in 1956. Remote control technology was developed for military use (the Germans used remote control motorboats during W.W.I.) and in the late 1940's the first non-military uses for remote controls appeared (i.e. automatic garage door openers.)

Zenith Radio Corporation, the company behind the development of the remote control, created the very first television remote control in 1950, called "Lazy Bone." Lazy Bone could turn a television on and off and change channels, however, it was not a wireless remote control. The Lazy Bone remote control was attached to the television by a bulky cable, which the consumer did not like (the cable caused tripping).

Zenith engineer, Eugene Polley created the "Flash-matic," the first wireless TV remote invented in 1955. The Flash-matic operated by means of four photocells, one in each corner of the TV screen. The viewer used a directional flashlight to activate the four control functions, which turned the picture and sound on and off and turned the channel tuner dial clockwise and counter-clockwise. However, the Flash-matic had problems working well on sunny days, when the sunlight could change channels randomly.
The improved "Zenith Space Command," remote control went into commercial production in 1956. Zenith engineer, Dr. Robert Adler who based his invention on ultrasonics, designed the Space Command. Ultrasonic remote controls remained the dominant design for the next twenty-five years, and as the name suggests they worked using ultrasound waves. The Space Command transmitter used no batteries; inside the transmitter were four lightweight aluminum rods that emitted high-frequency sounds when struck at one end. Each rod was a different length to create a different sound that controlled a receiver unit built into the television.

In 1956 Robert Adler developed "Zenith Space Command", a wireless remote. It was mechanical and used ultrasound to change the channel and volume. When the user pushed a button on the remote control it clicked and struck a bar, hence the term "clicker". Each bar emitted a different frequency and circuits in the television detected this noise. The invention of the transistor made possible cheaper electronic remotes that contained a piezoelectric crystal that was fed by an oscillating electric current at a frequency near or above the upper threshold of human hearing, though still audible to dogs. The receiver contained a microphone attached to a circuit that was tuned to the same frequency. Some problems with this method were that the receiver could be triggered accidentally by naturally occurring noises, and some people, especially young women, could hear the piercing ultrasonic signals. There was even a noted incident in which a toy xylophone changed the channels on these types of TVs since some of the overtones from the xylophone matched the remote's ultrasonic frequency.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

John Glenn Space Flight

Many baby boomers grew up fascinated by the space program and the astronauts. I was one of those kids who loved watching the rocket launches and sending away for pictures from NASA.

In April 1959 Glenn was assigned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as one of the original group of Mercury astronauts for the Mercury Project. During this time, he remained an officer in the Marine Corps. He piloted the first American manned orbital mission aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962.

After completing three orbits, the "Mercury Atlas 6" mission, lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. During the mission there was concern that his heat shield had failed and that his craft would burn up on re-entry but he did return safely. Glenn was celebrated as a national hero, and received a ticker-tape parade reminiscent of Lindbergh.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Baseball Player Trading Cards

In 1950, the creative minds at Topps decided that they could sell even more bubble gum by inserting trading cards. The first trading cards were Hopalong Cassidy, the TV and film cowboy; "Frank Buck "Bring 'em Back Alive" cards (featuring big game hunts in Africa), and All-American football cards. The following year, the first baseball cards were created – game cards, actually, and not very handsome at that. But in 1952, Sy Berger, a war veteran with a creative mind and a keen knowledge of baseball, developed the first "modern baseball card," complete with player image, team logo, vital statistics, and full playing record.

After World War II, Topps Gum evolved into Bazooka Bubble Gum, named after a musical instrument of all things. Nobody found the "Atom Bubble Boy," the symbol of the product, to be especially interesting; and so Bazooka Joe (complete with his eye patch) was created and comics were wrapped around the chunks of gum. Through the collecting of the comics, kids could redeem their fortunes for such things as a "super spy telescope." Great stuff!

It wasn't long before the idea of cards helping to sell more gum went quite the other way – the cards were what people longed for. And Topps was leading the way, developing baseball, football, basketball and hockey products, and serving as the "gateway to the games" for millions of young fans, who first discovered the players through the cards, even before attending their first games. Many baby boomers today, who now buy cards for their children – and grandchildren – picture players of the past based on their Topps images.

The first card in that set, Andy Pafko (Dodgers), is a collector's gem today, because so many people sorted their cards by number and wrapped rubber bands around their stacks. Poor Andy. Not many Pafkos survived the rubber band wars!

Friday, January 26, 2007

What Me Worry?

What kid who grew up in the 50s or 60s did not read Mad Magazine?

Mad magazine founded by publisher William Gaines and editor Harvey Kurtzman was begun in 1952. Offering satire on all aspects of American life and pop culture, the monthly publication deflated stuffed shirts and poked fun at common frailties.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Duck And Cover

The Baby Boomers were the first generation to grow up with the threat of nuclear war. This video was created in 1951 to teach kids on how to take cover if ever under attack by other countries, or how to take cover if there was an atomic bomb to ever go off. An entire generation of American school children were shown this post-WWII Civil Defense film based on limited information from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Movie Serials

Serials were a film genre that told their story in an episodic format. Each week, audience members would go to the theater to watch the latest episode in a film ranging from twelve to fifteen chapters. Each chapter ended with the hero facing certain death, so that you had to back the following week to see what happened. Serials began in 1912, where they helped to establish the fledgling motion picture business, and ended in 1956, when TV became the dominant vehicle for weekly doses of adventure.

These were great fun and my brother and I would regularly go to the movies on Saturday and enjoy these serials.

Top Five Songs of 1947

1. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Various

2. Peg O My Heart, Buddy Clark

3. Managua, Nicaragua, Guy Lombardo

4. One O'Clock Jump, Count Basie

5. Mam'selle, Frank Sinatra

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Skates With A Key

I can remember spending long hours skating as a kid. You just slipped your shoes into the skates and tightened them onto your shoe with a skate key.

Monday, January 22, 2007

RC Cola And A Moon Pie

By the late 1950's, the MoonPie® had grown in popularity, so much that the bakery did not have the resources available to produce anything else. The phrase "RC Cola and a MoonPie®" became well known around the South, as many people enjoyed this delicious, bargain-priced combination. If you grew up in the South as I did, this combination was definitely a treat as a kid.

The Lone Ranger

As a kid growing up, I loved the Lone Ranger. There was something about the mask and his character that was captivating.

The Lone Ranger was the (1949-1957) television series starring Clayton Moore (though with John Hart as the Lone Ranger from 1952-1954) and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. The live-action TV series featured Gerald Mohr as the episode narrator. He was also narrator for seven episodes of the radio series in 1949, 1950 and 1952. Fred Foy served as announcer of both the radio and TV series from 1948 to 1954. The series was popular enough to spawn two feature films, The Lone Ranger (1956), and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958).

The first 78 episodes were produced and broadcast for 78 consecutive weeks without any breaks or reruns. Then the entire 78 episodes were shown again, before any new episodes were produced.

When it came time to produce another batch of 52 episodes, there was a wage dispute with Clayton Moore, and John Hart was hired to play the role of the Lone Ranger. Once again, the 52 new episodes were aired in sequence, followed by 52 weeks rerunning them.

At the end of the fifth year of the television series, Trendle sold the Lone Ranger rights to Jack Wrather (Aug 3, 1954). Wrather immediately rehired Clayton Moore to play the Lone Ranger and another 52 episodes were produced. Once again, they were broadcast as a full year of new episodes followed by a full year of reruns.

The final series of 39 episodes saw a number of changes, the most obvious being the change to color. The last new episode of the color series was broadcast June 6, 1957 and the series ended September 12, 1957.

The Lone Ranger Creed:
I believe.....
That to have a friend, a man must be one.
That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
That God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
That 'this government of the people, by the people, and for the people' shall live always.
That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
That sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
In my Creator, my country, my fellow man."

Captain Kangaroo

Before there was Sesame Street, there was the Captain. Captain Kangaroo played by Bob Keeshan was the longest running network children's show of all time - from 1955 until 1984.It has since been surpassed by Sesame Street. The good Captain could be seen mornings on CBS.

Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum played sidekick Mr. Green Jeans, joining Cosmo Allegretti's hand-puppets Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit in the Captain's Treasure House.

Before Keeshan was a captain he was a clown - probably the most famous clown of the 1950s - Clarabell from the 'Howdy Doody Show' starring Buffalo Bob Smith.

Bob Keeshan was only 28 years old in 1955 when he and producer Jack Miller created 'Captain Kangaroo.' Television was a relatively new addition to most American homes - there had never been a generation of kids exposed to home-video entertainment before, so the series was designed to give kids a gentle alternative to the frenetic nature of most children's shows of the day. Watching an episode of Captain Kangaroo show from the early-sixties, one is struck by the achingly slow pace and overall gentle nature of the show.

Captain Kangaroo definitely was one of the fond memories that I have as a child.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Bass Weejuns were the shoes that all the "in" teenagers wanted to wear to school in the 1960s.

Top Five Songs of 1946


2. TO EACH HIS OWN- Eddy Howard

3. THE GYPSY- Ink Spots

4. FIVE MINUTES MORE -Frank Sinatra

5. RUMORS ARE FLYING -Frankie Carle