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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sambo's Restaurants

Sambo's was a national restaurant chain that specialized in pancake breakfasts. But also offered burgers and other fare.

It also found itself on the wrong side of history.

The name was created out of the names of the founders of the chain,  Sam Battistone Sr and Newell Bohnett. But they soon tied it into one of the most racist children's stories in recorded history, The Story of Little Black Sambo. 

But somehow, the founders didn't get the memo. They originally decorated their restaurants in stereotypical illustrations of a little African-American boy (the original story had depicted a dark skinned Indian boy, but the illustrations were of these stereotype images.)

But by the '60s, the illustrations had been neutralized to a lighter-skinned Indian boy with a turban (but that opened another can of worms.) They began emphasizing the tigers in the original story. But then there was that name. The African-American community had enough.

By the end of the '70s, the writing was on the wall. Soon Sambo's locations either changed names or owners or were closed by 1982.  

Only the original restaurant in Santa Barbara, CA remains......

Mr. Steak Restaurants

Mr. Steak was a chain of steakhouses, popular in the '70s.

They were pretty good, but couldn't survive the increasing competition from upstart steakhouse chains like Sizzler and Stuart Anderson's Black Angus and folded in the early '80s.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kenner Close & Play Phonograph

I owned one of these as a child.

They were battery operated, portable record players with motors that fluttered the audio like crazy and the needle wasn't diamond or even sapphire. But a STEEL needle that actually DUG into the 45 RPM record you were playing. My mom listened to it and asked "Why does this thing sound so bad?" and she opened it and saw the shavings the needle had done to the grooves.

Needless to say, she quickly upgraded me to a REAL record player.

Sunny Jim Peanut Butter

Sunny Jim was a popular peanut butter west of the Rockies. The Sunny Jim name was also used for other food products such as bread, soda and canned foods. But they were best known for their peanut butter.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Novelty Radios

Song For Sunday: "Trust In Me" Katy Perry (Hudson) (2001)

Before we knew Katy Perry as the pop MEGA star we know her as today, she was another run of the mill Contemporary Christian pop singer (named Katy Hudson.)

She released an album in this genre, ate her vegetables and was a good girl overall. But suddenly, her Christian label, Red Hill records shut down. Her total album sales: 100 copies.

But Katy eventually found out which side her bread was buttered on. And the rest is history...... 


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Highlights For Children

When I was a little kid (before I discovered Mad and later, Rolling Stone, Highlights was my favourite magazine.

It was fun and simple reading. And who could forget Goofus & Gallant? All I know is who had offspring. And it wasn't Gallant (even then, I was expecting a "coming out" issue of some kind.)

The articles were mostly factoids and basic American history. But it was the way they were written that I liked. Although Highlights avoided controversial topics of any kind (which during the years of Watergate hearings breaking into my favourite afternoon cartoon shows and my mom calling Nixon a duplicitous lying son of a bitch at the TV, wasn't such a bad thing.) I was already hearing enough of it.


Canned Ham

Canned ham isn't what it used to be.

Today, it's mostly fat and and other questionable pork product slapped together in small non-perishable cans, often packed with processed cheese and crackers in gift baskets that say to the recipient. "I'm thinking of you. And I hope you have a heart attack. Soon."

But back in the day, canned ham was in large, perishable cans that needed refrigeration. And until the '80s when plastic wrapping became standard, it was the only way to buy a ham outside of a butcher shop.

And it was actual ham. And good quality too. It didn't have that plastic taste of most plastic packaged ham today.

To open a canned ham, you had to open it with a small key that was soldered/molded on the back of the can and find the leader tab (some canned ham today is still made this way) and begin to twist and hope you can wind your way around the ham without the winding metal strip - or the key - breaking. Otherwise, you have to dig in your toolbox for the needlenose pliers to complete the process.

That is if you didn't inspect the can before you put it in the cart. Sometimes, the keys ended up missing or fell off during shipment to or from the store. Either way, an extra pair of needlenose pliers became standard equipment in my mom's kitchen utensil drawer in the '70s. And still is in mine.

When you finally opened the can, you were treated to the most unappetizing sight. The ham was coated in a gelatinous goo that had to be rinsed off. And it was slippery too.

It's very hard to find a REAL canned ham like this today. Plastic wrapping has made the manufacturing far cheaper, but like I said, it also tastes like plastic. The fact that most of it has very little, if ANY fat doesn't help.


Dentyne's short-lived entry in the breath mint wars of the late '70s. They looked and were packaged like rival Tic-Tacs. But Dynamints were half the price of Tic-Tacs. Plus you got more of them.

They were only around for a few years before disappearing for good.

Friday, July 27, 2012




I never want to own a Clocky. And I may seriously hurt the person who gives one to me.

Apparently, it's an alarm clock. that jumps off your nightstand and makes you chase after it as it beeps away.

Apparently, somebody thinks the Clocky is a CUTE idea. And as a man who HATES to wake up early in the morning (this post was scheduled in advance, there is no way in hell I am getting up at 6:30 in the morning to write ANYTHING), I hope he/she spends their afterlife eternally chasing their inventions.......

I actually thought this thing was a JOKE because I started seeing it all over my Facebook page, but apparently yes, this is a REAL product.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Yugo

What can you say about a car that literally rusted on the dealer's lot?

Basically a pop can on wheels, the Yugo's idea was good. A compact car for a compact price. But that's where it ended.

The Yugo's engine tended to break down. Often (the timing belts needed constant inspection.) You also had to use a specific octane of fuel and did I mention the Yugo was a pop can on wheels? Extremely high winds could literally flip the car over.

Also being a car manufactured in a then Soviet-bloc country didn't help it's image.

Yugo ended US exports shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Yugoslavia itself in 1992. 

Yorx And Soundesign Stereos

They were cheap, made of plastic and.......Well, they were cheap and made of plastic.

They sounded tinny and weak too. But for a generation of kids who grew up in the '80s, this was their first actual stereo. They sold for less than $100 (often far cheaper.)

The cassette players were infamous. Often calibrated off speed (as were the turntables.) The radio reception was often limited to the most local stations, buttons and switches would fall off or break on a whim and the entire layout of the control panel was confusing even to the most tech savvy person. 

But they somehow saw a generation through. Even though they were embarrassing compared to your buddy's full blown KICKASS Pioneer system, the one you really wish YOU had. But the only one you could AFFORD was this crappy thing.

It was REALLY embarrassing when the girl you've always wanted came to see your place. What was your excuse? "Ummm...er, my REAL stereo is in the shop getting fixed, I...um....had to borrow this from my kid sister...Yeah, you know, just something to listen to while......" as she's walking out the door. Probably to see your buddy with the Pioneer stereo and you KNOW he's gonna rub it all in your face the next morning......


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Love's Wood Pit BBQs

Love's Wood Pit BBQs were a chain of barbeque restaurants, known for their delicious BBQ sauce, tender meat and smokey wood pit flavour that were located primarily on the West Coast of the US in the late '60s and early '70s.

A victim of increasing competition, ownership changes and infighting within the company, they began disappearing around the late '70s.

But they are still fondly remembered.

They are still around (in Jakarta Indonesia of all places!) But painfully missed.....


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nelsonic Pac-Man Watch (1982)

I once owned one of these in junior high. Didn't have the excitement of the original arcade game, but it kept me occupied on my breaks and in the doctor's office........

Gnip Gnop

Remember this classic game?


Before the era of digital and even one hour photo development, Fotomat kiosks were once ubiquitous in shopping centers across America. Yours Truly worked at one one summer in the mid-'80s.

It was just me, still in high school and a girl named Julie, a college student who worked there. Julie was a drop dead BABE and sweet and bubbly as soda pop - but already taken (Man! I was jealous of her boyfriend! I mean, he was a really cool guy to me and all. And I had to be really cool to him, but....Still...)

Julie had the morning/early afternoon shift and I had the afternoon/evening shift and closing.

Fotomat offered one DAY photo processing. A JOKE today, but at that time, it was still very much standard (although the first one hour processing places in drug stores were appearing. But not so much to give us any SERIOUS competition. Not just yet.)  Our biggest selling point was still pure and simple All American drive-thru convenience. And for a lot of people, we were good enough for them.

We also sold Kodak and Konica film, batteries and even flashcubes/bulbs for your old trusty '50s/'60s/'70s cameras. Even Polaroid film was available (yes, we even showed them some love!) Disposable cameras were still a few years away.

The customer would drive up to the kiosk and drop off his/her film rolls, which the customer would pay for and we would take down their names/addresses/phone numbers on an envelope (or they would take an envelope and do it themselves, making things a LOT faster), put the film inside and pay for their purchase and we would wait for the pick up/delivery person to come and get them/drop off finished photos. They came twice a day - usually at noon and again around 6pm to take the film to Seattle and return them the next day. So between pick-up/deliveries and taking orders/returning finished orders, it was mostly a pretty laid back job. A lot of tedium. But for minimum wage, it was worth it. And for me, not so much an outgoing "socially active" person in public, it was PERFECT.

And contrary to popular belief, Fotomat kiosks were air conditioned in summer and well heated in the winter. "Lavatory use" was provided by a nearby AM/PM gas station/mini-mart who's franchise owners, a sweet older Indian lady and her husband were one of our friendly regulars (they often brought us sackfuls of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, burritos, BBQ Pork "rib" sandwiches - anything pulled and sodas along with their film.) And we didn't care if they were just pulled from the heat lamps and a little dry (well, maybe Julie did more than I - which is probably why she never ate much of it if it came on her watch and left most of it for me.) But to a hungry young man like I was - and still am (though not quite so young), chow is chow.

And if you've ever seen Tommy Chong's character in That '70s Show, you know just how "laid back" a photo kiosk was. But even though on the surface, it looks like the perfect place to "smoke 'em if you got 'em", the reality was you never knew who could show up at any given time (regional managers would make surprise visits.) Cops also developed their personal/family film there too. So it wasn't always as easy to get away with that as it would appear.

In the '80s, we had no internet or any kind of social media to play with to pass the time (would have been PERFECT.) So a lot of the time between customers and pickup/deliveries of film - gaps of between 10 - 30 minutes weren't unusual, was spent listening to the radio and reading magazines, library books and newspapers. Actual LINES of cars were rare, but the busiest day I had that summer was the day after the 4th of July. That was my biggest line at one time, five cars, all done in less than 6 minutes. Julie said she dealt with an eight car line that morning.

But there were problems. The worst was having film or photos lost or misplaced at the processing center. We made sure everything was organized and accounted for on our part. But accidents still happened on the other end. Dealing with angry people was a real problem sometimes. We had a hotline number we gave them. But sometimes that wasn't good enough and understandably so - people's memories were on that film. Fortunately for me, that only happened once.

And the occasional robbery. We never kept more than $50 at any time in the till. But I never had a robbery in the whole time I worked at Fotomat (Julie wasn't so lucky.)

It was sad seeing the Fotomats disappear soon after I left as one hour photo processing became standard. But it was one of the best jobs I ever had. No pressure to overachieve, low stress. And one I actually MISS in spite of the low pay and occasional boredom.

And one I'll never forget.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Remembering J.P. Patches

Today, a part of my childhood died.

Chris Wedes (pronounced WEE-DUSS), better known as JP Patches passed away this morning at the age of 84.

People in Western Washington and Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island areas of British Columbia, Canada grew up watching The JP Patches Show regularly in the '60s and '70s. He was a staple of Seattle's KIRO-TV 7 until 1981 when the station dropped the program in favour of an expanded morning newscast. A move that was LOUDLY protested, but to no avail.

Every weekday morning, JP Patches was watched by thousands. His characters, including (from Wikipedia)  Sturdley the Bookworm, Esmerelda (portrayed by a Raggedy Ann doll), Ketchikan the Animal Man (a sort of Jack Hanna character), Boris S. Wort (the "second meanest man in the world"), LeRoy Frump (a character obviously based on Art Carney's Ed Norton), Tikey Turkey (a rubber chicken), Grandpa Tick Tock (a grandfather clock with an elderly face where the pendulum would be), The Swami of Pastrami, Ggoorrsstt the Friendly Frpl (a one-eyed shag carpet), Miss Smith (a motorcycle riding delivery woman who told mostly awful jokes), Superclown (a JP like superhero), J.P.'s evil counterpart P. J. Scratches, and J.P.'s girlfriend, Gertrude 

They were all portrayed by show producer and sidekick, Bob Newman) and rounded out the show. The shows viewers were Patches Pals.

The show was interspersed with Warner Brothers cartoons between acts. JP Patches was also a favourite for adults. JP Patches' humour was filled with sly double entendre, but it was NEVER filthy.

Every morning, he would read off his viewers birthdays on a segment he called ICU2 TV. 

(This was custom recorded last year for somebody else. But it comes very close to what the original ICU2 TV segment looked like.)

I remember having my name read on my 7th birthday (my mom had sent in a postcard with my name and birthday a month earlier and I'll never forget how he stumbled all over my last name!) He eerily "knew" where a birthday present of mine was hidden (The oven. Great place mom!)

14 years later. I met Chris Wedes personally (out of the JP Patches costume and makeup) and I mentioned it to him. To my surprise, he actually remembered it! "Oh, you're the one with that crazy last name!" he joked. He mentioned that before the ICU2 TV segment that he was figuring out how to pronounce it. "And that's why yours was the very last name I read that morning." And it was!

He then added "Plus it was at the bottom of the list anyway"

I told him to break it down into syllables Wald-Bill-Ig

"And now you finally tell me this!" he replied with a big laugh. "What other secrets have you been hiding from me?"

I could barely keep it together, I was laughing so hard.

In costume and out, Chris Wedes himself was just as funny as his beloved character. He was JP Patches. 

My favourite JP Patches episode was the one on the SUPER chilly morning in 1975 (it was 12 degrees!) when Ggoorrsstt the Friendly Frpl (rhymes with "purple") had a dilemma. He needed fresh frpl fodder from Fife (an area closer to Seattle) for food. But he got the frozen frpl fodder flown in from Ferndale (90 miles to the north). Far from fresh!

They still have it on video.....It was one of his best.

But sadly, KIRO-TV only saved a few episodes on tape (professional video tape at that time was incredibly expensive.) And we never had a home VCR (there were very few home models at that time and they were also incredibly expensive in the '70s.) Barring any lucky finds on YouTube that somebody else may have recorded, the rest of JP Patches shows are sadly forever lost to time. 

But they will forever be in our memories.......

Thank You JP Patches. It's hard to hold back the tears because laughter is your legacy. And sometimes in this crazy world today, I think we need you now more than ever.

Forever a Patches Pal,

Larry Waldbillig 


TV Dinners

They just don't make 'em like they used to:

Anyone still remember Libbyland? I do.

Here's a Swanson's ad fron 1975. This was seen during the W.I.N! (Whip Inflation Now) campaign of President Ford. And just LOOK at all the meat you're getting! A thigh, a drumstick and a wing. Even my mom saw through that one and bought the more expensive stuff. She knew you didn't feed a kid like me on a meal that barely qualified as a snack for the North Korean army:

And finally, who could forget THIS one. Banquet specialised in frozen "family" entrees in this long-played '60s commerical - well into the '70s....

Steve Bateman "Someday"

It was three days before Steve Bateman realized he had been stood up.......

Song For Sunday: "I Am A Promise" Bill Gaither Trio

When I was around 9 years old, my sister dragged me to a bizarre Sunday school called Church Alive! in Lynnwood, WA.

Not really a Christian person then (still not) and with all optimistic cheer of Wednesday Addams. I went to this bizarre, cult-like group of about 100 religiously spaced youth.

It was led by a man who had all the charisma of a drunken moose. He railed against rock n' roll (claiming Kiss was an acronym for Knights In Satan's Service), Halloween was also "satanic". So was anything made by Proctor & Gamble. The list went on.

The group was divided into teams of 25, represented by the colour of bus each group rode, The Blue Bombers, The Green Machine (I can't remember the other two.) 

They had a special affinity for a religious singer named Bill Gaither. And this song was played at every service. I don't know how my mom came into possession of this record (they must've drugged her and slipped it in amongst her Captain & Tenille and Linda Ronstadt records) She actually thought I liked this record.

I responded by destroying it.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

My 1973 DRAB GREEN Pickering Headphones!

They don't make 'em like THIS anymore! Powerful sound, at the expense of looking like the offspring of Princess Leia and Yoda. Best yet, if the wires come loose inside the headset, I can fix them easily. None of today's headsets can compare! 

The Ovarian Sisters

The Ovarian Sisters soon realized this wasn't exactly making the PERFECT statement for women's lib they thought it would. So they began burning their bras.......

AM Stereo

AM Stereo was an invention designed to give AM radio stations the fidelity and depth of sound as FM.

In the '80s, FM radio became the preferred band for music listening. It was high fidelity and in sparkling clean stereo while AM was monaural and lacked any real fidelity. As a result, most AM music stations began changing to news and talk programming or oldies from AM radio's '50s and '60s heyday before FM came of age. 

AM Stereo was a technology that was to level the playing field. And it would have worked. Had there been less confusion in the marketplace.

Most of the AM Stereo systems sounded not just on par with FM, but in many cases, even BETTER. There was a depth and body to the sound of AM Stereo that very few FM stations could match. Even the standard monaural AM signals sounded better on an AM Stereo receiver.

When AM Stereo was introduced, instead of settling on one system of transmission and reception, the FCC took the unheard of step of a "free market" approach. Meaning the listeners would decide which method worked the best. And there were 4 incompatible systems to choose from. Sony made radios that were capable of receiving all modes of AM Stereo transmission.

In most cases, the listener didn't know which station was using what system. To add to this confusion, the AM stations themselves often never directly promoted the transmission system they were using.

And AM Stereo didn't combat the worst problems of AM radio. The static problem and RF interference from CRT tube TV sets, home computers, lightning storms and car ignitions were still there. And stations on Class IV Local (Or "graveyard") frequencies (any station that broadcasts on 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450 and 1490 kHz on the AM radio dial.) Which cannot broadcast at more than 1,000 watts were still prone to the roaring background noise mush of thousands of other stations on the same frequencies if you weren't close enough to the station towers after sundown. Just tune any one of those frequencies at night and tell me what you hear.) A problem that still exists today.

Over time, manufacturers and stations had been leaning in favour of the Motorola C-QUAM system. It wasn't until 1993 when the FCC officially settled on the Motorola C-QUAM system of AM Stereo. But by this time, public interest had largely faded outside of hardcore radio buffs.

AM Stereo has been made standard in many stock car radios in the '90s to the 2000s. But most listeners tended to ignore it as most AM stations had dropped transmitting in stereo and carried talk programming.

However, there are a few AM music stations that still broadcast in stereo.

KEVA 1240 AM  Evanston, Wyoming is a Classic Hits formatted station in southwest Wyoming. Still broadcasting in AM Stereo!

This is an aircheck from JOLF 1242 AM in Tokyo. Note it's strange frequency; in Europe, Asia and Australia (in 1978) used 9kHz spacing between frequencies. In the Western Hemisphere, 10 kHz spacing is used (with all frequencies ending in 0.)

Will it ever come back? Some people think (or at least hope) so. There's been a lot of talk recently about reviving the AM radio band (Step One: Stop running right wing talk, religion and sports.)

There's also a system called HD Radio that many FM stations use, but has been a failure on AM because of interference problems for distant/nighttime listeners (it doesn't sound very good either.) And some HD Radios have built in AM Stereo circuitry. which defaults to AM Stereo if no HD signal is received. But it depends on the station. No Stereo signal means no stereo output. Even though it should be used as a back-up, very few HD equipped AM stations do.

Weren't These The BEST Bikes EVER?

 The '70s Schwinn Stringray Bicycle

I Am NOT Going To Say This Beers Name......

You're on your own here, pal.........

Thursday, July 19, 2012

FM Radio Cassettes

During the Walkman craze of the '80s, headset stereo manufacturers came up with this. It's a device that turns your cassette player into an FM radio.

The tuning was difficult, the reception usually limited to local stations and the selectivity almost non-existent.