Friday, July 29, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Taffy

Taffy always seemed to me like one of those foods you either really liked or you were totally "meh" about. I didn't actively hate the stuff, but it would definitely be the last candy left in my Halloween bag.
There were different brands. Bonomo's Turkish Taffy was one, and now it's back!

Laffy Taffy is a Willy Wonka variety.

Saltwater taffy rarely has a cool brand name or wrapper, comes in a lot of different flavors, and is often sold at beaches, boardwalks or fairs. At the Minnesota State Fair, there is a famous booth right outside the Food Building where you can see it being made, and there is a weird little statue of a chef pulling it. He's kind of falling apart, and one year his head fell off, but he kept on stretching the taffy.
Abba Zabba, which I never heard of before marrying my Los Angeles born-and-raised husband, is kind of like taffy with sand in it.
Charleston Chew is pretty taffy-like.

Tangy Taffy has apparently been completely replaced by Laffy Taffy, but long ago, they had a deal with Archie Comics. A Web reference I found says "Archie was cherry, Betty was banana, Reggie was chocolate, Veronica was strawberry, Hot Dog was vanilla and Jughead was grape." However, these boxes seem to say Veronica was vanilla.

Which taffys do you remember?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Must-haves from Christmas past

This story, from last November, looks back at prized holiday gifts from years past. They are:

--Shirley Temple doll, 1934
--Chatty Cathy doll, 1960
--G.I. Joe, 1964
--Star Wars action figures, 1977
--Cabbage Patch Kids, 1983
--Transformers, 1984
--Teddy Ruxpin, 1985
--Tickle Me Elmo, 1996
--Beanie Babies, 1996
--Furby, 1998
--Nintendo Wii, 2006
--Zhu Zhu Pets, 2009

The only one that hit my era was Star Wars figures, and being a girl, even though I'd seen the movie, they were not a must-have for me.

What about you? Was there ever a pleasepleeeeaseplease PLEASE most-wanted gift on your list? Or did you break your neck trying to get any of these for your own child/niece/nephew/little sibling?

I remember the Cabbage Patch phenomenon, and thinking even then that those were some damn ugly dolls people were trampling each other for.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ask the Retro Geeks: Fried loaf of bread commercial

So here we are, asking you a question...

Remember that ad for some cooking oil (Wesson--Wessonality? Mazola?) where someone (I keep thinking Florence Henderson but maybe not) cut the crusts off a loaf of bread and DAMN THEY DEEP-FRIED THE WHOLE THING!

I'm dying to see that ad again and fill in the blanks of my memory of it.

Can anyone find it online? Or do you just plain remember it better -- what oil was it, who was in the ad, and why the heck were they doing it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jose Peterson

Jose Peterson was only in "Peanuts" randomly between 1967 and 1969 (though he was apparently a groundbreaker -- one of a very few Hispanic characters in comics). I always remember him though because he later popped up when I was reading the Peanuts Parade collections (these are perhaps the awesomest books collecting comic strips ever)

Anyway, I always remember him. He had kind of Linus hair, but darker and more of it, and more flattered, like he sported a perennial case of hat head. He never spoke. He briefly played on Charlie Brown's baseball team thanks to Peppermint Patty, and was an awesome player. He had lived in both New Mexico (a nod to his Mexican heritage, I guess) and North Dakota (a nod to his Swedish side). And just when Charlie Brown was agonizing that Peppermint Patty had taken over his team, she and Jose bailed for the team in their own neighborhood. And headed off for a meal of Swedish meatballs and tortillas. Which sounded so exotic to me at the time, but now just sounds yummy.

The Peanuts wiki points out the (again, silent) appearance of a kid who has Jose's hair two years after his only real plotline. (Third panel.) After that, it was it. Adios, Jose.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Kenner Snoopy Electric Toothbrush

Sure, today we have SonicCare, but really, that's nothing new. Back in the 1970s we had the Kenner Snoopy Electric Toothbrush, which was super-cool because it came with a doghouse that held the brushes and a giant Snoopy who was the handle.

Good grief, it's time to brush your teeth!

Charles Schulz merchandised the heck out of that strip, and we don't resent him one penny. Everyone we knew had one of these doghouse toothbrush thingies at one time or another it seemed, but eventually it broke and you went back to a regular toothbrush that wasn't electric.

Did you have one of these? Any memories?

Friday, July 22, 2011


Spaghettios seems like they've been around forever, but they're Gen Xers, too. They came out in 1965, just in time for me to later be born and pretty much live on them for most of my childhood.

Tasting them today, I can see why I liked them, but I can also objectively admit that they're pretty awful. Sweet, bland, gummy...but I loved 'em. Easy to heat up, easy to clean up, and to my kids' palate, deeelicious.

The kind I never did like though were the kind with added meatballs. The added hotdog pieces, well, those were pretty good -- I'm not a moron. But the meatballs had a funny, off taste to them. And I realize how ridiculous it is to get all foodie-judgy about Spaghettios, but there you go. I actually liked Raviolios better.

Of course, Franco-American hit the jackpot with their "Uh-oh, Spaghettios!" slogan. It's used in this ad, for the meatball variety, which oddly features a giant can of the stuff riding a carousel. The three-martini lunches ad men had back in that era really surface in the work sometimes.

Yes, that's Barry Manilow singing the jingle!

Were you (are you) a Spaghettio fan? Or do you find it hard to hear someone say "uh-oh!" without automatically adding "Spaghettios!", even if just in your head?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces

Chris Cummins of Geekadelphia wrote a great review of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?", and focused on the creepiest toy we featured in the book (and, really, the creepiest toy ever created), Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces.

You know Hugo? If you DID ever lay eyes on him as a kid, it's quite likely that you're plagued by nightmares even today. Here's what Chris had to say about this freaky little puppet guy:

"Hugo was an awesome/ terrifying puppet replica of a bald man in a blue smock that was released by Kenner in the mid-1970s. Inspired by Lon Chaney, Hugo came with various noses, scars, accessories and facial hair configurations that allowed kids to constantly change his appearance.

"The problem was that the thing was super creepy, the exact type of toy that you expect will kill you in the night."

Exactly. Are your memories of Hugo still keeping you up at night? Or is there another toy from the '70s that's even scarier? If that's even possible.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Here's a show I'm shocked that I never heard of. Sure, it only ran in 1970-71, so I was alive, but barely. But it was Rankin/Bass! Illustrating the works of people like Ogden Nash, Edward Lear, and Lewis Carroll!
"Tomfoolery" needs a retro resurgence.

Thanks, BooBerry Alarm Clock!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Embarrassing '80s Songs

Have you read Tina Fey's "Bossypants"? In it, she cautions that you should never use your own iPod for background music during a photo shoot, because inevitably an embarrassing song like "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover" from "Annie" will pop up -- twice.

So true. Well, maybe not the photo-shoot part, but I guarantee we've all got at least one '80s-music skeleton in our closet that we can't stop singing along to when it pops onto the radio. For me, it's "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid, to name two. Also, pretty much anything by Rick Astley.

So many options. Robert of the Radish outlined his take on the top 20 embarrassing songs from the '80s here.

How about you? What's the one '80s song you just can't stop lovin'?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Little Blue Pills (not those kind!)

This is serious! We could make you delirious!

(Inspired by this post on the awesome Josh Reads.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cleveland rocks!

We made this week's "Pop 10" at Hooray!

Ask the Retro Geeks: Foam nugget things?

We're starting an occasional feature: Ask the Retro Geeks.

Got a question about a 1970s or 1980s memory? Need us to fill in the name of a product, figure out what happened to it, or maybe find a modern equivalent? Send your questions to  or post them in the comments on any post here or on our Facebook page, and we'll do our best to provide the answer, or open it up to the readers. Thousands of minds are better than our two!

Here's a great one from Erika. We both remember these but are stumped on finding the name or a photo online. Bueller, Bueller?

"Love your blog. I was browsing around and suddenly remembered a weird toy from my youth, but I can't quite put a name or function on it. They were these little foam-like nuggets that (if I remember correctly) you pinched between your finger and thumb and they would sort of "pop" and shoot. I can't remember if there were any other accessories involved...I am thinking they came in yellow and blue. My brain is lumping these in around the same time frame as Domino Rally (with which I was obsessed.) I'm thinking early to mid 80s. Any idea what this is I am talking about?"

ANSWER! Rebecca and Michelle had the answer within seconds! Finger Pops! Watch the commercial!

YouTube submitter dubbed it "for kids who are VERY easily amused."

We're more with Rebecca, who says "We loved those things.  They kicked around our house for years and when found became the ammo in finger pop wars.  There was even a gun that could be used to propel them from one end of the room to the other."

Our readers are geniuses!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Bubble Yum, Bubblicious and Hubba Bubba

Matt at Scrubbles posted two awesome commercials, one for Bubble Yum, one for Bubblicious, and it reminded me so much of when those gums first came out. They were huge. There had been nothing like them, no bubble gum so fat and soft and sugary. Before that, Bub's Daddy was our gum of choice. (It's in our book!)

My husband Rob always remembers when a friend of his had the first pack of Bubble Yum in their southern California school, and Rob egged him on to throw pieces to their classmates, like medieval rich tossing alms to the poor. I'm sure the kids scrambled like crazy to get them.

Hubba Bubba came along later, and I remember that because of how it didn't stick when a bubble popped on your face. So awesome.

What are your gum memories?

Check out Leo DiCapio in this Bubble Yum ad:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sigmund and the Sea Monsters

When Brian and I and our editor were trying to get quotes for the back cover of our book, one of the people who read it and was very complimentary was Johnny Whitaker, who not only played Jody in "Family Affair" but Johnny, the main pal of Sigmund in "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters."

That was one trippy show. Of course it was the Kroffts--who else? And I remember as a kid it was agonizing to watch because of how mean Sigmund's family was to him. (His brothers were named Blurp and Slurp -- remember them?)

Fun fact: A fire during season two destroyed most of the sets, and so the majority of that season was filmed with minimal sets. Not that you needed much anyway -- seems to me they were always waddling around the beach trying to hide him. I loved the show, but all the running and hiding was pretty stressful for a kid.

The first season of the show will return to DVD Sept. 6, with commentaries by Whitaker and the other kid (Scott Kolden).

Were you a Sigmund fan? Did it unnerve you how cruel the other sea monsters were?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quisp helmet

Fully functional Quisp helmet! Will it fly you to Planet Q?

Did you know you can order Quisp online? We did, for the book tour, and got the added benefit of snarfing some ourselves. Also, we brought some to NYC when we appeared on the Today Show (did that really happen?) and Kathie Lee Gifford fed some to Hoda.

(Thanks to Al for the link!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Thunder, Thunder, Thundercats!
"Thundercats" has been on DVD before, but it's coming out again today (well, part 1 of the first season is) to pair with Cartoon Network's REVIVAL of the series (all-new episodes!) on July 29!

As Wikipedia says, "The series is a reboot of the 1985 television series of the adventures of a group of cat-like humanoid aliens on their home planet Third Earth, and Lion-O's ascension to the Thunderian throne. The new series will begin with an hour long premiere on Cartoon Network on July 29, 2011."

I just love their names:
Jaga (do NOT remember this one)
WilyKit and WilyKat

Why was their enemy a mummy? Shouldn't it have been a dog?

Did you ever watch this? Will you tune in to the new version? This guy got a preview, and he wasn't thrilled.

Also, creepy story: They found this "ThunderCats" writer's severed arm...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: George Glass

Yeah, Jan, don't feel left out just because you don't have a boyfriend and your sister is the undeniably perfect MARCIA MARCIA MARCIA.
George Glass is one of the most classic moments in a classic show.

I haven't seen "Bridesmaids" yet, but I understand that there is a made-up boyfriend in it also named George Glass. Awesome!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Shake and Bake

I don't think my mom ever bought Shake and Bake. In fact, I don't think she ever made fried (or baked) chicken. When we wanted fried chicken, we bought it at KFC like God intended.

But that dosn't mean I wasn't fascinated with the commercials. The little kids..."Shake and Bake...and Ah helped!" And of course this classic from Ann B. Davis. As the comments point out she drops two "Brady Bunch" references -- mentioning "9 chicken experts" and then using the word "bunch."

Did you have Shake and Bake as a kid? Did you "haalhp"?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mr. Microphone and Donny and Marie wireless microphones

Oh, Mr. Microphone!

We were so easily pleased in the 1970s. The idea of our voice going out as if it were over the radio, what a thrill. Just watch how thrilled everyone was in this commercial.

Not sure which is funnier, the kids singing "Old McDonald" or the dorky guy in the car saying 'Hey good lookin', we'll be back to pick you up later!"

As Retrothing says, "According to the commercial, Mister Microphone can make you into a rapper, professional singer, or a letch in a convertible."

But even more than Mr. Microphone, I remember the Donny and Marie wireless microphones. They transmitted on AM, not FM, and if possible, their commercial is EVEN WORSE.

Did you have either of these microphone toys?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Judy, who wrote in about Sodalicious and Whip N Chill, also asked about Dunkaroos.
Anyone remember these? Kangaroo-shaped cookies that came out in 1988 and came with frosting for dipping. They had other shapes too, apparently.

Wikipedia says "They are still available in certain areas of the Canadian and American marketplace, but only two flavors (cinnamon cookies with vanilla sprinkle frosting and honey graham cookies with chocolate frosting) are still made. They are sold in locations such as Costco, Wal-Mart,Dollar General, and Shaw's."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Johnny Smoke

Who remembers this anti-smoking PSA? A little before my time (late '60s), but my husband remembers it well and was hunting for it for years. Says it gave him nightmares.

Here's a good info page about it. Did you ever see this? Or do other smoking PSAs stick in your mind?

"How many saddles will be emptied tonight?"

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Jaws, the game

I absolutely LOVED this game from Ideal...Jaws. It rode the wave of "Jaws" movie fame and although the movie was too grown-up for me, the game wasn't.
You got a plastic shark with open jaws and a bunch of plastic trash in his mouth, including a bone. You used a little plastic hook to get the trash out and eventually it snapped shut...if you were wielding the hook at that time, you lost. Kinda like "Operation" or something...encouraging a light touch.

I've heard from more than one person who put their Barbies in the shark's mouth though for a little more creative play. The wonderful Plaid Stallions site confirms that, with one reader commenting: "I'll bet that nearly 100% of the sharks turned from game to supervillian in the end."

The human bone was the best bit of trash, by the way.

Did you have it? Anyone enjoy it as much as me?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Choco Lite

Choco Lite was a very '70s candy bar. Like Aero, it was chocolate pocked with little holes and deliciously airy. But the wrapper was so earth-toned and the font was all bubbly.
Jason Liebig has a Choco Lite sign and wrapper, and it really takes me back.

I never found Nestle Aero to be quite the same, though they're not bad.

But then yesterday, Katherine found this and posted it on our Facebook page: Hershey's now has the Air Delight bar, which is also pocked full of holes and looks very similar.  They even have Hershey's Kisses in this flavor now.

Everything old is new again!