Monday, January 31, 2011

Speaking of "CHiPs"...

We posted last week about our "CHiPs" memories, having no idea that Larry Wilcox was going to make the news for securities fraud. I vaguely remember hearing about it when he was charged, but now he's been sentenced to probation, community service, and a $100 fine.
He supposedly got a lighter sentence thanks to his Vietnam War service.

Classic Clip Monday: "The Boys in Company C"

I heard Bruno Mars’ latest song, “Grenade” (“I’d catch a grenade for ya, throw my hand on a blade for ya”) for the first time the other day, and it made me instantly and out-of-nowhere flash to “The Boys in Company C,” and its heart-wrenching, what-just-happened? grenade scene near the end of the movie. I won’t spoil it, but I’ll just say it’ll stay with you. It’s stuck with me for more than 20 years.

It feels a little like a made-for-TV movie (except for all the swearing. NSFW alert on the clip below, by the way), but if you’re a fan of “Full Metal Jacket,” you’ve got to check it out. The movie, about a group of soldiers-turned-soccer-team in Vietnam pre-dated “Jacket” by 10 years, and starred Andrew Stevens, Craig Wasson and Michael Lembeck (from “One Day at a Time” and “Kaptain Kool and the Kongs”). It even featured R. Lee Ermey -- who can currently be seen in a memorable GEICO commercial (“You Jackwagon!”) – in his first role, playing almost the exact same character he played to such great acclaim in Kubrick’s classic film.

Do you remember this war flick? (Warning: Considerable swearing in the clip below.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Challenger Disaster

Where were you on January 28, 1986 -- the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded? JenX67 from are you there God? it's me, Generation X asked that question of Gen-Xers from all around the country, and put together a blog post with their responses.

She included a memory of mine:

I was a senior in high school, and what struck me most viscerally then – and what sticks with me to this day – was the camera trained on Christa McCauliffe’s parents as they watched from the bleachers at Kennedy Space Center. It was supposed to document their soaring elation, but instead captured their slow – agonizingly slow – realization that something was desperately wrong...

I eventually became a television reporter and producer, and often thought of that gut-wrenching footage as a reminder that every news story I reported was so much more than a story – it had a significant, often life-changing impact on the people involved. I’ve always tried to remember that.

What are your memories from that terrible day?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grocery stores of our day

Remember grocery shopping in the 1970s and 1980s? While it wasn't that long ago, in many ways, it was a whole 'nother world from shopping today.

Let's list some differences:

1) Hardly any stores were open 24-7. That was just crazy! Some stores weren't open Sundays at all.

2) Big chains were much less prevalent, it seems. Our area was ruled by local stores--Knowlan's (where I worked in college), Schiller's (my first-ever grocery store), Red Owl, Applebaum's. And of course, stores like Target did NOT have grocery sections.

3) Everything had a price tag on it. Scanners just started to come along when I got hired at Knowlan's in late 1985, and of our nine-store chain, only two stores had scanners (thankfully, mine was one of them).

4) You bought pop in eight-pack glass bottles, which you had to pay a deposit on and then return, stickily, to the store to collect your change.

5) All grocery bags were paper. No plastic, no bringing your own reusable sacks.

Check out these wonderful old photos of grocery-store interiors from The Imaginary World. There's also a wonderful Flickr pool of photos from old stores.

Please share your memories of how grocery stores were different back in your childhood!

Oh, and don't forget our earlier post about The Brady Bunch at the supermarket.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adams ice cream gum

Trust us: This gum was disgusting. And the fact that no one likes clowns didn't help matters.
(Pix via the wonderful, non-disgusting Imaginary World.)


Man, I loved "CHiPs." And you have to write it like that, too -- "CHiPs."

For some reason, I would always try and catch the spelling of Ponch's last name when the opening credits flashed on his nametag, but it was too fast and the shadow was falling on it weird and we didn't have TiVo or VCRs back in those ancient days, so I never could.

Stuff I loved:

--Once I got older and Rob told me that the scenes where Ponch and Jon were next to each other riding down the highway on bikes, they were totally being towed on a flatbed trailer. Hysterical now that I know to look for it.

--Jon Baker's clean-cuttedness. (They even occasionally referenced the character's service in Vietnam, which was based on Larry Wilcox's own service there.)

--Whenever they showed the main character's homes, which were so Seventies they squeaked.

--How Ponch and Jon never ever drew their weapons.

--The completely weird guest stars. (Danny Bonaduce as a karate-trained cat burglar!) The punk rock episode with Pain and Snow Pink. The roller disco episode. The episode where the surfers and the Vals fight it out for control of the beach.

--The freeze-frame endings.

How could you not love this show? Plus once it hit top popularity, everyone knew someone who had the action figures. You can now get it on DVD, and thank God for that. It should really run 24-7 somewhere, the way that stupid "Everybody Loves Raymond" does.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda

We discussed Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda on our Facebook page a little bit last week.

Brian said it best: He thinks he still has a five-and-a-half-pack of these things in his fridge. It sounds like a good idea, but when you actually sip it, you realize that chocolate fudge should not be a soda, ever.
Do you remember this?


Fotomat! Come on, I know you can picture a spot in your neighborhood where one of them used to stand. (Highland Park, Minnesota...I remember the one in the Lunds parking lot.)

What's there today? Has it been torn down? Is it being used as something else? Drive-up coffee, perhaps? (I can't find any Fotomats on Not Fooling Anybody--can that be right? Were the huts just too small to survive as other businesses?)

When Tommy Chong was on "That 70s Show," his character worked in a Fotomat. It seemed like such a convenient business back in the time when we had rolls of film bouncing around in the car, and were looking for a place to drop them off and get them developed.

Today, of course, most of us have digital cameras or just use our phones to take pictures, no developing needed. What anguish the Fotomat folks must have suffered as this development took hold. But their tiny little huts will always be fondly remembered.

Also, Wikipedia claims they were pioneers in video rental! What? Did anyone ever rent a movie at a Fotomat? Yet another business that soon would be ground into the dust by technological advances. Netflix, anyone?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Hanburglar

Two things 1970s kids love, combined in one T-shirt.

Classic Clip Monday: Fonz products

Aaaay! Remember when The Fonz was the coolest thing around? ABC hyped it no end. Here's a batch of fun Fonz product commercials. Remember any of these?

Fonz pinball! The kid doesn't look that startled when a) a pinball machine suddenly shows up in his house, and b) starts talking to him.

Fonz motorcycle and action figure with thumbs-up action! Gotta say, that first kid looks like a total dork attempting the double-thumbs-up.

OK, this isn't REALLY a Fonzie ad. It's for Trix, but come on! In that time period, you know who "King Cool" in the black leather jacket and on the bike really is!

The Fonzie garage playset.

Fonz Colorforms

Some kind of weird game called the Flip-A-Knot.

The Fonz record player

A creepy doll

Multiple board games, including Hangin' Out At Arnold's

Which Fonzie products did I miss? There's a fun list here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The problem with a York Peppermint Patty

The problem with a York Peppermint Patty.

Won't you please, won't you please, please won't you be...our Facebook friend?

Won't you please, won't you please, please won't you be...our Facebook friend?

We know not everyone's on Facebook, but if you are, won't you Friend/Like/Whatever our page? We post extra content there during the week and there are often some lively discussions going on.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Funky Food Friday: "Sugar, Sugar"

OK, it's not really a food, but to round out our weeklong look at cartoon characters singing, today we're talking about "Sugar, Sugar," the signature, sickly-sweet tune by The Archies.

According to Wikipedia, the song was originally offered to the Monkees, who not-so-politely passed. Mike Nesmith apparently put his fist through a wall to illustrate just how vehemently he didn't want to record the song.

It was good enough for fictional characters Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, Archie and their dog conductor, though, who rode the diabetes-inducing song to the top of the Billboard charts, where it stayed for four weeks in 1969. (Let's see you do that, Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan

As we continue our look at cartoon characters that sing, we've gotta chat about “The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan," which ran for 16 episodes in 1972. These guys worked twice as hard as the average cartoon family -- the 10 kids played in a band AND solved mysteries. Oh, and they had a van that could turn into any kind of vehicle, and a dog (Chu Chu) that could make sound effects, Michael-Winslow-from-"Police Academy" style.

As kids of a legendary detective tend to be, the Chan Clan were better at fighting crime than they were laying down sweet grooves -- one kid played a trombone. This band actually did have some cred, though -- lead vocals were by the same guy who led The Archies, and music was supervised by Don Kirshner, the uber-producer who died earlier this week.

Do you remember this show?

Watch The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan in Animation  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


As we continue with our theme of singin' cartoons this week, how could we forget about Jabberjaw, the air-breathing, drum-playing giant shark that had his own Saturday-morning show from 1976 - '78? You remember -- he talked just like Curly from the Three Stooges, and played in a band (The Neptunes) with Scooby Gang-ish humans Biff, Shelly, Bubbles and Clamhead.

And the thing about Jabberjaw is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'... 'til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'.

Oh, wait -- that was Quint from "Jaws." Jabberjaw wasn't quite that menacing, and as far as we know, killed very few swimmers.

Anyway, when he and his pals weren't solving crimes, they were rockin' "under da sea." And they were doing it before Ariel the mermaid was a guppy. Here's a taste:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah

Yesterday's post about Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm singing got us thinking about other animated musical numbers. Another one near the top of our list is "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah" from the "A Date With Jet Screamer" episode of "The Jetsons." This musical episode actually pre-dates the Flintsones' one by three years -- and it's nearly as catchy.

The plot is vintage "Jetsons": Daughter Judy enters a song-writing contest to win a date with her idol, rocker Jet Screamer. And even though George tries to sabotage things -- or maybe because of it -- she wins. Hey, we would have given her first prize, too. The tune holds up -- The Violent Femmes even covered it on a 1995 album, packed full of awesome Saturday-morning-cartoon tunage.

Check out both clips below. Oh, and Jane -- stop this crazy thing!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Sing!

We've featured a lot of earworms on this site ("Come On Eileen," we're talking to you), but get ready for one of the most earwormy: the episode of the Flintsones where Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm sing "Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sun Shine In)."

The "No Biz Like Show Biz" episode is actually from 1965, so most of us probably caught it in re-runs. And Great Gazoo, did this episode seem to pop up a lot. (Maybe almost as often as one where an animal working as a garbage disposal or hair dryer shrugged and said "It's a living.")

The episode's a fun one, with the kids getting so famous, they hit the top of the Billboard charts, play Carnegie Hall and start hanging out in the Viper Room (OK, not that last one). Spoiler alert: It all turns out to be a dream.

The song didn't originate on the 'Stones, of course: "Open Up Your Heart" was originally recorded by singing cowboy Stuart Hamblen and his family in 1954 as The Cowboy Church Sunday School. But man, did Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm's rendition jam it into our generation's ears.

Here's a clip from the show, and also the original song from Cowboy Church Sunday School. If you're particularly sensitive to earworms and thinking about playing either one of these, here's a piece of advice: Yabba Dabba Don't.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Are Original Taco Doritos back?

Back story: On my pop-culture blog, Pop Culture Junk Mail, I often post about lost products from my childhood -- which pretty directly led to this blog, and our upcoming book, "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?" (Due out June 7!)

One of the lost items that earned the MOST comments even months after I would post about it is Original Taco Doritos.

Original Taco was the second Doritos flavor, coming out in 1967, after plain corn and even before Nacho Cheese. It was sadly yanked from the market, and while Frito-Lay has come up with numerous other Taco varieties, devotees claim the formula is never the same.

I'm willing to bet that the formula is still not the same, but a few weeks ago, a reader alerted us to the fact that he spotted a very old-fashioned looking Original Taco Doritos bag in the store. And now I found it in mine!

I didn't buy it (am regretting that now, as it doesn't seem to be in every store), but I took the photo you see here. That design just strikes a retro note with me. I even remember the silly little sombrero, and they sure don't use that color scheme any more. It's worlds away from this shiny, slashy-and-flashy design.)

This press release
claims it's the original seasoning blend and that it will be available through the Super Bowl.

Do you remember the Original Taco flavor? Have you tried the Taco variants over the years? Have you seen this one in your stores? Is it the same or similar to what you remember? Do share!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Elvis

Elvis would have turned 76 on January 8, and I've got to say I usually don't go in for all the hoopla surrounding his birthday every year. (This year's celebration included one of the Chilean miners.)

This year, though, to quote The King, I'm all shook up. I stopped and paused for a second, but not because my affection for Lisa Marie's daddy has grown any stronger. Nope -- it's because I just remembered that Elvis died when he was 42, the same number of candles that were on my cake this year.

Not sure why, but the fact that I'm now older than Elvis was when he died is a mortality milestone for me, a reminder that as time goes by, I'm -- and we're all, of course -- getting that much closer to leaving the building. Same thing happened when I hit 29, which a Superman writer once claimed was the Man of Steel's constant age, and when I turned 33, the same age a carpenter from Nazareth was when he met his maker. Or every time I talk with a doctor who looks like he's 12.

There's a silver lining to sprouting grey hair, though: Every year that goes by makes the memories from my childhood all the sweeter. (It's been an especially positive ride over the past year, as Gael and I wrote the book and really immersed ourselves back in the '70s and '80s. Mmmm...pudding pops.)

So, even though this year your birthday is a little more jarring than most, thanks for that reminder, King. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Names of our generation

The oh-so-awesome JenX67 linked to this article about how passe Generation X first names are, saying that "Jennifer" is now as passe as "Myrtle."

These were the most popular top 10 girl and boy names in 1967.

When I think back on my own classmates and which names were the ones that always had to have last initials after them because there were more than one of them. Dans, Daves, Mikes, Jerrys, Roberts, Kims, Amys, Sarah/Saras -- those are the main ones I remember. And there were names that you just NEVER see any more, like Barb and Brenda and Cheryl. When I went on to a heavily Irish-Catholic girls' school in St. Paul (Derham Hall, represent!), I met a lot of Bridgets and Shannons, too.

The only negative comment I ever heard when we told people we were naming our daughter Kelly was from one person who said "Why would you do that when everyone in the 1970s was named Nicole or Kelly?" I guess I did know some Kelly/Kellis too, but not that many, and I still love the name, so there.

Now, of course, it's all Sophia and Alex and Brayden/Cayden/Jayden/Brayden/Aiden/Peyton. I like most of those names, but they'll mark a generation as sure as our own did, and as sure as Betty and Linda and Mary did for generations before us. (I always joke that half my mom's friends were named Lorraine.)

What names do you remember being the most popular back in the 1970s and 1980s in school? Do you see any babies getting that name today?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Altair Designs

I forgot all about these Altair Design books until this Ask Metafilter post.

Remember them? They were like coloring books for adults, with geometric shapes that you colored in and then they made a larger shape. Hypnotizing and addictive.

I was never a good artist, but man, there was a time when these were all the rage, and I loved them. Guess what? They're still around, so you or your kid can enjoy them today! They're also on Twitter.

I think this one's the one I most remember having.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: The Bugaloos

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Joy of The Bugaloos. I watched the show, had the comic book, and longed for her pink ballet outfit, wings, and slippers.

It was...not the world's best show. The characters had simplistic names that told their personality (Courage! IQ! Harmony!) and not only was the villain Martha Raye, but Billy Barty played their firefly pal. It only ran one season, but man, when I see it again, I just crack up. (Watch them sing happy birthday to Joy here!)

Did you ever watch The Bugaloos? They were part of the Krofft empire, of course. Also, the uber-catchy theme song was written by the songwriters who wrote "Killing Me Softly With His Song." Now THAT'S some 1970s musical trivia for ya right there.
Although it only lasted one sad season, you can now buy The Bugaloos on DVD. Were you a fan?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Candy Buttons

Oh man, this is perhaps the saddest candy that I must ever admit to LOVING.

When I was a kid, my parents had a hobby farm in rural Wisconsin, and we used to go up there on weekends. My mom would take my niece and I in to the Ben Franklin in the tiny town of Frederic (or Luck?) and buy us goofy toys and goodies as treats. We always wanted candy buttons. Why I do not know. We surely ate as much of the paper as we did the colored sugar, but maybe that was half the fun.

Anyway, Retroland had a great post on them, and I can close my eyes and taste them. And the paper.

Ha, they even have a Wikipedia entry. From which I learned they have three flavors (cherry, lime and lemon), two paper lengths, that they're also called Candy Dots or Pox (!), that they've been owned by Necco since 1980, and that some guy gets credit for inventing the candy button machine. A fine piece of fame.
Are these still made? Do they even resonate with kids today, who have cell phones and video games practically from birth?

What semi-lame candies did you love? Share in the comments!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

V.C. Andrews' "Flowers in the Attic"

Next to Judy Blume's "Forever," there is probably no "dirty" book more fondly remembered by 1980s teens than V.C. Andrews' "Flowers in the Attic" (and its many, many sequels, and sister series -- "My Sweet Audrina," anyone? "Heaven"?)

Most of us had never even HEARD the term "incest," let alone had it spelled out for us, before we picked up this lil paperback. And then, whoa. It was hard to resist Andrews' description of hunky Chris, who played faux-father to twins Cory and Carrie, and obviously beautiful blonde Cathy was the perfect Barbie babe, but then... Ho. Lee. Cow. Not exactly what we expected.

The tortures inflicted on the little family were almost as shocking as the sex. Hot tar poured in Cathy's hair? Starvation? Whippings? Eating mice? Arsenic-powdered donuts? These books were about as far removed from my safe suburban life as you could get, and still I couldn't resist.

Andrews died early on in her fame, and a ghostwriter took over. The resulting series did a pretty good job of imitating her work, but they just never hit the (creepy) heights of the Dollanganger series. Apparently the 1987 movie couldn't capture the same yucky charm either.

Oh, and get this. The Wikipedia entry claims the Dollanganger's attic torment was BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Did you read these books? Any of the titles stand out amongst the rest, or couldn't you get past the first one?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chatter Phone

Just watched "Toy Story 3," which was awesome, and which showcases many of our favorite childhood toys.

One of the ones I remembered the most after the movie ended was the brave little Chatter Phone, also known as the Talk Back Telephone.

It's simple but awesome. Colorful, fun to play with (the eyes roll back! it makes sounds!) It was supposed to teach kids how to dial a phone -- a no-longer-needed art in this day of push buttons and touch screens.

I was at Target not that long ago and the phone was one of several Fisher-Price toys now repackaged in vintagey boxes to appeal to us Gen Xers who are now parents or uncles and aunts to modern kids. If Kelly was a little younger, I might have been tempted to pick one up.

We had one in our Spanish class in high school and our teacher (RIP, Sister Judith) had my friend Kate and I use it to do a Spanish dialogue in front of the class. Faced with that goofy phone we just could NOT keep a straight face. I'm sure that didn't help our grade.

Do you have fond Chatter Phone memories? Do modern kids even know how to dial a phone?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Donny and Marie

So I had tickets to go see Donny and Marie for New Year's Eve. I was hoping for an evening of retro repartee between the siblings -- and to get some good GenXtinct-y nuggets to share with you guys -- but instead experienced the first bummer of 2011: Donny ended up calling in sick for the show.

Although Marie did a nice job sallying forth by herself -- yoinks, can that 51-year-old "Dancing with the Stars" finalist still cut a rug -- it was still disappointing not to have the whole package -- kind of like just getting Garfunkel. Or Oates.

In between numbers they showed a bunch of vintage clips that really took me back, though, from Marie on a USO tour with Bob Hope and her first appearance with Andy Williams (when she was three years old!) to both Donny and Marie with Sonny and Cher.

Yep, they were cheesy and white-bread ("Donny, you turkey!"), but they just don't make 'em like those two good-natured -- and truly talented -- entertainers anymore. Just try to watch this skunk tomfoolery and not chuckle.

Did you used to watch their variety show?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Martini & Rossi on the rocks

To this day, I'm not convinced I know what Martini & Rossi is, but it taught a whole generation that "on the rocks" meant "over ice."

Warning: You WILL get the "say ye-e-e-e-ssss" part of the jingle stuck in your head.