Monday, July 25, 2011

Sparklers on the Fourth: Upon Further Review...

The human memory is a fascinating and flawed thing. It's pretty common knowledge that eyewitness testimony is generally considered to be unreliable. In fact, there have been cases thrown out because it had been determined that prosecutors (or defenders) had planted false memories into the heads of people testifying. I think that the major problem is that the human brain (which is vastly underused according to most research) simply can not reliably recall every detail about everything that a person experiences. Instead it sometimes seems to take little fragments of memories and tries to piece together a "memory" which is probably more fabricated than based in reality. A memory we would swear is real could in fact be made up of fragments of actual (possibly unrelated) memories, stories about the past we've heard, and a bit of pure fiction created by our active imaginations all mixed together. Since it's in our heads we don't see any reason to doubt the memories that we have--sometimes even in the light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Our brains seem to have an ability to use something like persistence of vision (which allows us to watch different frames of a film and fill in the blanks between them to make it seem that we are watching seamless movement) to make random bits of memories easier to use and relate to.

I've seen this happen myself on a message board I frequent that is dedicated to the old Creature Double Feature show on Boston's WLVI Channel 56. People will swear that they remember seeing a certain movie on the show even though that movie isn't on a list of the movies that aired on Creature Double Feature. It's pretty understandable, and has happened to me too. A lot of great movies were aired on all the Boston area TV stations during the time Creature Double Feature was on. Combine a hazy memory of watching one of these movies with the fond recollection of sitting in front of the TV on Saturday afternoons to watch Creature Double Feature and you have a hybrid memory of watching that movie on CDF--even though you never did!

I recently wrote about a very old memory of mine from the time of America's Bicentennial celebration in 1976 (see Sparklers on the Fourth of July!). I had a very limited recollection of being in my hometown watching a huge parade held in honor of the Bicentennial. I had taken my memory "fragment", figured out approximately when it must have been from and decided that it had to have been from 1976. I was pretty happy with solving an old mystery, and the blog even generated a couple of comments from people who also remembered that very same parade. Those comments were really a great affirmation that I had done something right. However...

I decided to look at some microfilm from the local newspaper to find some stories and photos of the Bicentennial parade to see if I could jog any additional memories of the event. I spent several hours over a few visits to the library and managed to come up empty. All the towns around my hometown (Uxbridge, MA) had various parades, carnivals and fireworks displays, which were all listed in the newspaper. After the Fourth of July these events were all subsequently reported on. But nothing at all seemed to be written about the huge parade in Uxbridge. Uxbridge is a small town, but I couldn't believe that nothing at all would be mentioned about the parade. Finally I found a big article about "The First Annual Firemen's Muster" in Uxbridge, which was an early part of Uxbridge's big 250th anniversary celebration, which would take place the following year (1977). According to the article, the muster "marked the beginning of a year long celebration of Uxbridge's 250th birthday. 'Incorporation Day' is June 27, 1977". (Worcester Telegram, Monday, June 28, 1976; page 9E)

Armed with this clue I decided to look at the newspapers from late-June 1977. It turned out that Uxbridge did indeed have a big parade around the Fourth of July (like I thought), but it was in 1977 instead of 1976! Skipping a parade in 1976 is pretty understandable considering that they knew they had something big to celebrate the following year. They probably just let the other towns in the area take care of all the Bicentennial celebrations so the 250th Anniversary Committee could concentrate on their big plans for 1977.

My first indication that I was looking in the right area was when I found this photo from the Friday, June 24 Telegram (page 15E). I couldn't get a great scan of it, but the caption says: "UXBRIDGE-The town is making some last-minute repairs along the Bicentennial parade route. The celebration is planned for the weekend. Francis Roy of the Highway Department used gasoline in a wheel barrow to burn tar from tools." Note that the paper erroneously referred to the it as being a "Bicentennial" parade rather than a 250th anniversary parade. That's understandable, considering that it was only a year removed from the country's big Bicentennial celebration in 1976.

Worcester Telegram: Friday, June 24, 1977; page 15E

Saturday's Telegram provided a complete listing of all the 250th anniversary activities and events. The parade was scheduled for 2:00 on Sunday, and it was listed as being a "six-division parade, expected to include about two dozen floats". Sure sounds like the one I was thinking about...

Worcester Telegram: Saturday, June 25, 1977; page 8

Sunday's Telegram (the day of the parade itself) reported on the full day of activities from Saturday's Heritage Day in Uxbridge:

Worcester Telegram: Sunday, June 26, 1977; front page

Worcester Telegram: Sunday, June 26, 1977; page 20A

And, finally--after all this searching--the Monday, June 27, 1977 Telegram had coverage of the Uxbridge 250th anniversary parade. All signs point to the fact that this was indeed the event that I was remembering which I mistakenly thought had happened in 1976 in the previous blog.

Worcester Telegram: Monday, June 27, 1977; front page

Note that in the above photo caption there is a very important clue. Both of the people who commented on my previous blog (about my memory being of the 1976 Bicentennial parade) recalled rain that day during the parade. This photo, titled "A Change In Weather" mentions the fact that the rain came halfway through the parade. Here's more coverage:

Worcester Telegram: Monday, June 27, 1977; page 3S

Worcester Telegram: Monday, June 27, 1977; page3E

While this all of this amply covers the parade and festivities of Uxbridge's 250th anniversary celebration, there were a couple more interesting things I found. The parade took place on Sunday, the 26th. The actual anniversary occurred on Monday, the 27th. To commemorate the date, and to close out the celebration, a time capsule was buried on the Town Common.

Worcester Telegram: Tuesday, June 28, 1977; front page

Although I never realized this event happened one day after the parade, I was very glad to learn this fact--as I also have a pretty strong memory of standing on the Common on that day as the time capsule was dedicated and buried. I couldn't actually see anything because of the crowds, but do remember thinking that it was a momentous occasion. It seemed incredible to me that the capsule would be buried for fifty years--FIFTY YEARS! Of course, fifty years is actually a pretty short period for a time capsule to be buried. But to my seven-year-old mind fifty years practically seemed like an eternity. It was hard to conceive that I might be around to actually see the capsule dug up and opened. Heck, it was going to be opened in 2027--I had seen movies that took place in the 2000s, but couldn't imagine that era actually arriving in reality. Well, of course were now in 2011. the time capsule has already been buried (and forgotten about by many I'm sure) for 34 years. It only has 16 more years left before its scheduled excavation date. I'll be 58 when it's dug up. That little seven-year-old boy on the common couldn't envision himself being fifty-eight years old, but this forty-one-year-old doesn't find it nearly as unbelievable.

Here is the marker for the 250th Anniversary time capsule as it appeared on the Uxbridge Common in December 2010

Life went on after the 250th celebration of course. On that same Monday the time capsule was buried--the actual date of the anniversary--there was a regularly scheduled town meeting. I certainly wouldn't have been interested in hearing about this as a kid, but it seems worth at least mentioning here as the very last "event" of the town's anniversary commemoration:

Worcester Telegram: Tuesday, June 28, 1977; page 3S

In closing, I'd like to apologize for any confusion my original blog might have caused because of its inaccuracies. Another funny thing about the human brain is that we have a tendency to believe what we read. This can be especially dangerous with the internet, where we read things every day without having any real way of knowing if it's accurate (Wikipedia is a good example of a great resource whose "facts" have to be taken with a grain of salt). There's no real "rules" when it comes to blogs, but I always try to be as accurate as possible when I write something here. There may never be more than a handful of people who will read it, but I just don't want to mislead any of those who do happen by.

See you in 2027!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Resurrecting The Past: Flying Saucer/Satellite Wafer Candy

Even at a very young age I remember sometimes wishing I had been born a generation or two earlier. Most of the movies I loved watching while growing up were the monster/horror/sci-fi ones from the 1950s and 1960s. As much as I enjoyed watching them on TV--beamed out to me from Boston area stations like WLVI 56 (and its Saturday afternoon show Creature Double Feature), WSBK TV38 and WCVB Channel 5--I also always wished I could have been around when those movies first came out and people went out to see them, brand new, at local theaters and drive-ins. I suppose we always look at the past through rose-colored glasses, and I'm sure I did that too. I idealized the 1950s and 1960s, concentrating on all the good and interesting aspects of them and being blind to the problems and strife that all eras have to some extent.

It wasn't until quite a bit later that I realized that growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s wasn't really that bad. I certainly wasn't as far removed from the ways of the 50s and 60s as a kid growing up today would be. Even though I didn't get to see all those great (and not-so-great) movies in the theaters it was still a wonderful thing to be able to have them on TV all the time. You certainly aren't likely to see the likes of "It Conquered the World", "Them" and "The Amazing Colossal Man" on regular TV these days. In fact, while there are exponentially more viewing choices today than the ten or so channels we could pick up on our old TV set growing up, there still isn't a reliable outlet for those kinds movies.

I suppose a few factors went into the realization that the 1970s weren't as "bad" as I thought while growing up during them. First off, the TV channels I was watching were being programmed by people who had probably grown up during the 50s and 60s when the films I love came out. It was natural for them to put them in the schedules since that was what they were familiar with. Also, the movies that were churned out for double-bills at drive-ins and movie theaters were so plentiful and still of semi-recent vintage that they were probably the easiest things to plug into schedules. It would be like seeing movies from the 1980s on TV today (and that certainly does happen). Movies from the 1950s and 60s simply weren't as old in the 1970s as they are today (which is a pretty obvious fact indeed).

One other aspect of the "old days" that lingered into my formative years and I was lucky enough to still be able to experience was Penny Candy. It's amazing to think there was a time when a penny was actually worth something, yet they were. There was a small convenience store down the hill from my house that I would frequent. This little old-timey store actually still had jars of Penny Candy that you could choose from to spend the small amounts of change a little kid would be likely to have in his/her pocket. Not realizing the connection to the past that I felt so much nostalgia for, I would pick and choose as many pieces of candy that I could afford and take them home with me in a little paper bag. Most of these candies still exist today of course--but you're not likely to find them for sale in individual pieces. They either come in sealed packages or can be bought by weight at certain places. Caramel bullseyes, Swedish Fish, wax syrup bottles, and those little candy dots on paper strips were among my favorites.

But one thing I always remember as being a bit extra special was the Flying Saucer Candy (which I just found out were also called Satellite Wafers). These little things were made up of two saucer-shaped wafers made of an edible paper-like material that were sealed together and contained a number of tiny, colorful candy beads inside which would rattle when the saucer was shaken. These weren't a particularly sweet candy. In fact the wafer part had pretty much no taste at all. It was like eating something that was sort of cross between paper and cardboard. The candy beads themselves were sweet, but so tiny you didn't really get much flavor from them either. I think what made them so special (to me at least) was the overall experience of eating them. It was simply fun to put them in your mouth and bite down on the wafer to get to the candy inside. Or you could let the wafer part melt in your mouth first. Plus, you could shake them like a little maracas. And (probably best of all) they actually looked just like little flying saucers or UFOs! Nice.

While I've seen most of the other Penny Candies from my youth in recent years--even buying some of those paper-mounted colorful candy dots for The Little Monster (and myself of course) while on vacation last year--I hadn't seen the Candy Flying Saucers/Satellite Wafers for many years. Well it turns out they still exist and can be found pretty easily now that we have the magic of the internet (it's funny to find myself using cutting edge technology to track down something like an old-fashioned candy treat from my youth).

I hadn't even thought of these particular candies in quite some time until a couple weeks ago when I visited the Grafton Flea Market (Grafton, MA) for the first time this season. I used to go there all the time, but now that I've moved just far enough away to make it a bit of a distance I only get out there a few times a season. Well, there's someone there that sells candy, nuts and dried fruit on little plastic bags. A lot of the candies are of the old-fashioned, Penny Candy variety. And the bags aren't factory sealed packages, but simply baggies tied up with a little twist-tie. This dealer has been setting up there for many years. The funny thing is that I don't recall ever buying anything from the stand through all my hundreds of trips to the flea market. I decided to check out the variety on this last trip and was pleasantly surprised to see those little Flying Saucers! I simply had to pick up one of the bags for a dollar. The bag contained a dozen of the colorful saucers. That works out to about eight cents apiece. While not "Penny Candy" by any means, that doesn't seem all that bad considering the general level of inflation. The six- or seven-year-old version of myself probably wouldn't have been able to afford such an indulgence, it really wasn't much of a hardship to hand over a dollar bill for that little bag.

While I was excited to re-discover this tiny "lost" part of my childhood, I was also looking forward to sharing these Flying Saucers with The Little Monster too of course. It didn't take her long to "get" what was fun about them (or at least if she didn't, she did a good job of humoring her old man). She seemed to enjoy eating and playing with the little flying saucers. In fact, a neighborhood friend of hers came over to visit and she told him about the new candy treat. I gave him one and his reaction was "this doesn't taste very good". That's an understandable and very honest thing to say (nice tact kid!), but it just showed that he's more accustomed to all the "boring", but super-sweet candy choices that kids of today are familiar with. He wan't interested in using his imagination and putting in the extra "work" that transforms Flying Saucer Candy from a tasteless treat into a fun experience that includes nearly all the senses (taste, sight, touch and even hearing). Luckily The Little Monster didn't let me down in that department! A small link to the 1950s/60s carried on through the my youth, and now I've been able to pass it along to another generation of Monster Kid in the 2010s! Yet another proud moment in the Monster Dad experience.

Here's a look at the Flying Saucers that were in the bag above

A blue Flying Saucer

And a pink Flying Saucer

A peek at the little candy beads inside a Saucer

The Little Monster prepares to enjoy a Flying Saucer/Satellite Wafer Candy!

Here are a few resources where you can find Flying Saucer/Satellite Wafer Candies (and other nostalgic old-fashioned candy too for that matter) if this post has got you wanting some:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Oak Street Drive-In

While preparing to (hopefully) make a return trip to Pennsylvania for the 2011 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama, I got to thinking about another drive-in related event (or at least semi-related) from a couple years ago. In September of 2009 I turned...FORTY-YEARS-OLD! Yep, I suddenly went from being a young adult to middle-aged seemingly overnight. As the dreaded event was looming I kind of wanted to do something special--something beyond just another standard birthday party. I'd heard about the phenomenon of backyard drive-ins, where people would set up their own system for projecting movies onto a big screen in their own backyard. It sounded very cool to say the least and got me thinking about the prospects of entering the hobby myself. We don't have a very large backyard, and there isn't a lot of "extra" money floating around at the moment to purchase a nice DVD projector. Not only that, but I'm not exactly handy when it comes to designing and building major things around the house. It seemed like the Backyard Drive-In dream would have to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future...

The Wife and I both thought about the possibility of trying to pull off a backyard drive-in event as part of the 40th Birthday celebration. She had access to a video projector through work (though I had no idea how to set up a sound system for it that would be heard by a crowd outside rather than using the little speaker on the projector itself). I was going to attach a white sheet to the side of our garage for the screen. It was pretty exciting to think about actually pulling this thing off. I was sort of thinking of it as being a chance to see if it was worth investing the time, resources and money into a "real" backyard drive-in project. It was going to be a test run of sorts to see how realistic the idea was.

Then a friend of ours made us aware of a company called Jericho Entertainment. This was a local company which arranged and ran backyard drive-in events for people (among other party activities and DJ services). They had a lot of different options and ideas and we decided to try them out. It was a bit more expensive than what we were planning on doing ourselves, but it also turned out to be a WHOLE LOT better than anything we could have done ourselves! It was worth the money to really do it right.

The first step was to have the Jericho Entertainment people stop by to check out the backyard and then to decide on how we wanted everything to be. They had an inflatable screen available, but I chose the one that had a PVC pipe frame (I believe it was 12 feet across). It looked a lot more like a real drive-in screen to me than those inflatable ones. The movie choice was an easy one..."Star Wars" (1977). True, I could call the film "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope", but to me it's just plain old "Star Wars"--just like it was in 1977.

Not only is "Star Wars" (of course) one of my all-time favorites, and a safe choice for both the adults and the children who would be attending the party, but also a movie I have fond memories of seeing at our local drive-in when I was a young lad. There are a lot of movies that I love and would love to see on a backyard drive-in screen, but this really was a no-brainer and an easy decision to make. My only real regret from the night was that I didn't think to ask them to run the original, non-Special Edition version of the movie (the version I had seen as a kid). As the date of the party/backyard drive-in night approached I did a little research to find out just when my childhood local drive-in ran "Star Wars". Since the movie was released in May of 1977 I figured that it must have hit the drive-ins that summer. Well, I couldn't find ANY listings for it playing at my hometown drive-in for that entire summer season. I was starting to doubt my own memory of lying in the back of my father's van watching "Star Wars" and playing with my C-3PO an R2-D2 action figures. Then I decided to check out the listings for the following summer (1978). Wouldn't you know, there it was. I never realized that "Star Wars" was re-released in July of 1978 (most likely as a way to get it into all the drive-ins that missed it the first time around). It just goes to show how huge a thing "Star Wars" was that it was re-released only one year after it first came out (and was then re-released once again in the summer of 1979!).

Here's the fruit of my researching labor.
This ad from the Quaker Drive-In (Uxbridge, MA) from July 14, 1978 announces that the next feature would be "Star Wars"

And this ad is from the start of the "Star Wars" run on July 21, 1978.
While I can't pinpoint exactly when I saw it, at least I know it was on or after this date.

Back to the story... On the night of the party the Jericho Entertainment people arrived early to set up the screen and the video/audio equipment. Then they ran the whole show once it got dark enough (yet another thing that we didn't have to worry about ourselves--making it even more worth the money spent). We had also elected to go with the deluxe package, which included a popcorn machine and root beer on tap (both of which were manned by Jericho staff). It was another nice touch that added a lot to the night. The Wife had also bought a whole bunch of movie-type candy which was set up on a table for people to help themselves to. We were very happy to have a nice turnout of family and friends attend our little show/party. We had invited most of the people in the neighborhood as well. While not many of them showed up, we were glad that we at least invited them--as the sound system was very impressive and you could hear the sounds of "Star Wars" blaring all around the block (and even further). It would have been interesting to have the police show up to investigate a noise disturbance complaint and have that "noise" be "Star Wars" rather than loud rock music. Luckily that didn't happen.

Finally the sky was darkening and it was time to start the show. After a few drive-in intermission ads from a DVD I own and a little welcome announcement from The Wife it was time for the Feature Presentation. How wonderful it was to be sitting in my own backyard, surrounded by family and friends, as the opening notes of John Williams' soundtrack of "Star Wars" filled the cool evening air. About halfway through the movie we had a little "intermission" to do the whole cake-and-presents birthday thing, then settled back in to watch the rest of the movie. It was a very special night for me, and a great way to leave the Thirties and enter the Forties.

Here are some photos from The Oak Street Drive-In's September 2009 presentation of "Star Wars":

Our humble little backyard before the party
Set-up of equipment and construction of the screen underway
Screen is ready to go and sound is being set up as the crowd gathers

As an added touch I put out my old Quaker Drive-In speaker.
Yes, it's from the VERY SAME Quaker Drive-In where I saw "Star Wars" all those years ago!
Some of the tempting candy treats available to our patrons

Jericho Entertainment personnel manning the popcorn machine and root beer tap

One party guest went WAY overboard with generosity and got me this huge Millennium Falcon.
It's practically as big as The Little Monster!
The Little Monster, all ready for "Star Wars"!

You can't have a drive-in experience without PIC!

The crowd anxiously awaits the feature presentation...

Here's some early action from "Star Wars"--as seen in our very own backyard!

Darth Vader makes his first appearance on our big backyard screen

The Little Monster and I settle in for some "Star Wars" fun!
It was a great night, and a grand time was had by all!
...At least I hope so anyway.

Here's just a little bit of video I got from the night to give you an idea of what it was like:

We were considering having another backyard drive-in night this summer or early fall (2011), but it doesn't look like it's going to happen at this point. If we ever do manage to get our act together and have another one, I'll probably end up writing about that one too.

Thank you for reading, and please remember to return your speaker to the pole before you drive off!

Update: If you'd be interested in learning more about my old drive-in speaker please click here -- Resurrecting the Past: Drive-In Theater Speaker.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Day My Dad Saved a Bully's Life

Listening to Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" recently got me to remembering a long ago event that I thought I'd share. Every time I hear this song I think of this memory--which has nothing to do with the song besides the fact that it was from the time that "Radio Ga Ga" was a hit song. This fact also helps me to date the memory to approximately spring of 1984 (the song was released in January of 1984 and would have been in heavy rotation by spring). It's interesting how something like a song or a particular scent can bring back a memory from long ago...

I would have been a freshman in high school in the spring of 1984. My father and I didn't do a lot of things together as father and son. He and my mother were big fans of flea markets and yard sales. They used to set up regularly at flea markets as a hobby and a way to make some extra cash on the weekend. When they weren't at flea markets selling their stuff, they would visit the various flea markets in the area. This one particular Sunday my mom must have been feeling under the weather. Dad took me to a flea market that day while she stayed home. I enjoyed it, though I don't recall finding or purchasing anything too memorable. It's just fun going and seeing what kind of stuff people will put out for sale--searching for that little gem mixed in with all the stones. After more than 25 years it seems understandable that I don't recall much specific about the wares for sale that day. One thing I do recall was that this trip took place during the time that Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album was still a huge hit (and that was a long stretch of time indeed). There were various cheap Michael Jackson knockoff products for sale along with the usual assortment of used items from people's houses and stuff like that.

So what does all this have to do with "Radio Ga Ga" and my Dad saving a bully's life? Well, nothing--but that part is coming up. After our visit to the flea market Dad and I got back in the car and headed back home. We were coming up to the top of the hill that our street was on and nearly home. There on the side of the road was a prone body lying on the ground with a female standing over it. The seemingly-lifeless body belonged to a member of my class who had taken a life-track that led to him becoming a bully and general trouble-maker. I actually remember being friends with this individual when we were very little, before our lives started to diverge into very different directions. Dad stopped to ask if everything was okay. The girl responded that everything was fine, but obviously it wasn't. Dad drove me the rest of the way up to the end of the street and dropped me off at home, then went back down the street. I went inside with a feeling of unease, not knowing if this person I knew was even alive or not. I went inside, turned on the TV and tried to pretend that everything was normal. I'm pretty sure that I either saw the video for "Radio Ga Ga" or heard it on the radio at this time (and thus the reason the song and this event are eternally connected in my mind).

Dad came home much later to report that he brought the bully (against his girlfriend's wishes) to the hospital. I'm not sure if it was drugs or alcohol, but he had overdosed on something, and he had to have his stomach pumped. Apparently he was going to pull through and be "okay". He did indeed return to school--at least long enough to drop out and go onto whatever he's doing today. I've always wondered if he had any idea that my Dad may very well have saved his life that day. Probably not. It's a shame he couldn't have taken advantage of that second chance to straighten himself out or something (or who knows, maybe he eventually did). It all just goes to show how much different the lives of two people can be. We had grown up in the same town, but because of various personal circumstances and choices we had become very different people. While I was being taken to a flea market by my father he was out drinking or shooting up on a Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Bully, if by some incredible coincidence you ever happen to read this blog and recognize yourself, I'd like to make you aware of something. Do you remember waking up in a hospital after being unconscious and having your stomach pumped? Do you know how it is that you ended up at the hospital? I just wanted to let you know that my Dad took it upon himself to bring you there that day. I don't know for sure that he saved your life. Perhaps you could have just slept it off on the side of the road. Perhaps someone else would have come along and brought you to the hospital or called an ambulance (though this did happen on a dead end street which didn't get much traffic). Perhaps your female companion would have finally decided that the situation was serious and taken the initiative to do something herself. I really can't say--but I can say that my Dad did take action that day which may very well have saved your life. Dad died three months ago and I can't help but think that your life and everything you've done since that day in 1984 is in some small way a part of my father's legacy. While a lot of time has passed and I have no idea where you are today or what you are doing, I just thought you should know what happened that day so long ago while "Radio Ga Ga" was playing...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Introducing The TV Guide Time Machine!


Last year I wrote a blog entry here called TV Guide Time Machine, which detailed just how fascinating I find old TV Guides from the 1970s and 80s. Pretty strange, huh? Well, not nearly as strange as THIS... I have now started a whole new blog called, yes, TV Guide Time Machine, where I intend to post many, many strange stories which may or may not be found interesting by the general populace. Hopefully, through the magic of the interwebs, someone somewhere will manage to find something of use in these ramblings about thirty-year-old TV Guide magazines. Only time will tell I suppose.

In addition to the blog mentioned above, Happy New Year 1976! is a good example of the kind of writings that one can expect from TV Guide Time Machine: The Blog. I've realized that I have a LOT of stuff I want to say about these outdated relics from my past, and that posting them all here at Monster Dad would just be too much, and further water down any sort of sense of a consistent theme I might have here (if there even is anything resembling a consistent theme here to begin with...).

The first post on TV Guide Time Machine (appropriately enough titled "Welcome to the TV Guide Time Machine") is now up and ready for perusal. Hopefully I'll find the time to put up more of these "interesting and useful" (yeah, right) tidbits up soon. Please stay tuned. ...Or don't. It's your choice of course.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Resurrecting The Past...One Piece At A Time

As anyone who might have read Monster Dad over the past year or so probably already knows, I tend to think about the past. ...A lot. We're not talking about the distant past of dinosaurs and The Old West, but rather my own personal past of playing with dinosaur toys and playing Cowboys and Indians. For anyone reading this blog for the first time, trust me--it's true.

I have already written a lot about my past on here, and am currently contemplating a whole bunch of similarly themed entries. While there was some consideration about starting a whole new blog just for these archeological digs into my younger days as a Monster Kid, I've decided to continue posting them right here at Monster Dad. To set these posts off a bit I will call all of them "Resurrecting the Past:" from now on, with the subject of each particular excavation listed after the colon. Hopefully this will make it easy to find such entries without muddling everything else up too much. I always wanted to keep the theme of Monster Dad open so that I could write about all different kinds of random things that might pop into my head (things like Little People, exterminators, the weather, NBA basketball, hot dogs, tofu, MRE's...). This type of stuff will continue to be featured (sorry if it's not your cup of tea), but the probing looks into my past will be easy to categorize from now on.

While I haven't laid down any hard and fast rules, it seems likely that these "Resurrecting the Past" posts will generally tend to be of three types:
  1. Rediscovering an old piece of my past that I had thought was long-lost (a toy, piece of forgotten ephemera from my childhood, some random memento from my past). These posts will talk about when I originally had the item in question, how and where it was found, and what The Little Monster thinks of it (if it's something appropriate to share with her).
  2. Pondering something from my past that is indeed long-gone, or something I had always wanted as a kid but never had...until now (whether I recently purchased one for myself of for The Little Monster). As you can see the whole parenting aspect of Monster Dad will still be in effect.
  3. Using detective work to try to put together random bits of memory from my past into a coherent narrative. Solving mysteries from my past and putting a specific date or place with a formerly vague memory.
There have already been example of these types of stories written about before. I just didn't know that there would be enough of them that it might be a good idea to give them a title they could all fall under. For examples of this kind of post see: Anorexic Toy Soldiers (where I rediscover a set of Army Men purchased through a comic book ad that I thought were thrown out decades ago), Happy New Year 1976 (where a few random memories of a New Year's Party are finally confirmed through research into TV listings from the mid-1970s), Creation Convention--25 Years Later and Creation Convention Part II: Geeks on Parade (where the discovery of an old flyer for a sci-fi/comic book convention kindles fond memories of a geeky past).

I mentioned that I considered starting a whole new blog for "Resurrecting the Past". Part of the reason that I didn't do that was because I ALREADY started another blog recently--and I don't want to spread myself too thin. There haven't been any posts to that other blog yet. Stay tuned for an announcement about it when I finally do get around to writing there (hopefully soon)...

Here's what's been dug up and/or resurrected so far:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kidtoons (National Amusements Theatres)

The National Amusements chain of movie theaters offers a number of "special programs" that give you a chance to do something different than simply going to all the latest Hollywood releases. I've written before (in Movies, Memories and My Dad) about the Silver Screen program--a great series of old (mostly Public Domain) movies that's geared mainly to the senior crowd. They also offer plenty of live broadcasts of various events (concerts, operas, sporting events...). One series that I have been missing for a while is the "Attack of the B-Movies" series, but that's a topic for another time... Anyway, as one might expect, National Amusements also has a number of special programs for kids. There's "The Popcorn Club", "Book Worm Wednesdays" (where kids get free admission to a movie with a book report), and "Kidtoons" among the offerings. This blog will focus on Kidtoons, but information on all the other special programs (as well as participating theaters where they're seen) can be found at the National Amusements website.

I've mentioned before that I don't subject The Little Monster to a constant diet of monster and horror movies. I DO want her to grow up to be a "normal" person and won't want to warp her sense of reality or anything. One of our favorite father-daughter activities of the past few months has been the Kidtoon shows. We started going in February and, other than missing a couple months recently, have been going ever since. The series itself has been running for about four years, so I guess we're late-comers to the party.

Our tickets for today's show

So what is the Kidtoons series? Well, the second weekend of every month select National Amusements theaters offer the program. It runs on both Saturday and Sunday at noon. For only $3.50 per ticket you get to take your kids to a G-rated program. Most of the features we've seen so far have been direct-to-DVD type fare rather than theatrically released movies, but they've all been good fun for The Little Monster. In addition to the low admission price you're also given one coupon per child for a $3.50 Kids Combo, or "Go Box" (a Happy-Meal type box that includes a small popcorn, small drink and a choice of M&M's, fruit snack or snack mix). I believe that these boxes can be purchased at any time, but the regular price is something like $7.00. This means that The Little Monster and I can go to a show and get some snacks for only $10.50 in total ($3.50 for each ticket, plus $3.50 for the Kids Combo). That's less than normal price for a regular movie ticket!

The Go Box (Kids Combo) discount coupon

And the Go Box itself

Contents of the Go Box

We just went to Kidtoons today (July 10th) and watched a Babar video that was featured (which may have come from a recent Barbar TV show that I'm not familiar with). It was a series of short episodes called "Barbar and the Adventrues of Badou: Swing into Summer". Like most of the Kidtoons shows we've been to, this one was a computer animated show (rather than the traditional-style animation of the old Barbar show I remember watching on TV as a kid). Other shows we've seen have included "Barbie: A Fairy Secret", "The Little Engine that Could" and "The Strawberry Shortcake Movie: Sky's the Limit". No, none of them have been "Star Wars" or "Godzilla" movies, but still we've had a great time at all of the ones we've been to so far and hope to get to many more. They tend to have some shows that appeal more to girls (Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake...) and some that might appeal more to boys (The Little Engine that Could, Thomas the Tank Engine...), but luckily The Little Monster is open to pretty much any and all cartoon-based entertainment. She's good like that.

The poster for today's Kidtoons show

And a clearer look at the image on the poster

Heading into the theater

The Little Monster's got her Go Box and is ready to start the show!


And, I should also mention that you don't just get the featured movie or show for that $3.50 ticket price either. As you leave the theater they ask you if you will be joining them for Story Time. If the answer is yes they give you another ticket/coupon to bring to the area where Story Time will be taking place. A staff member chats with the kids a bit and reads a couple books to them. Then the kids sit down to do some coloring. Crayons and sheets for coloring (usually with pictures from--or related to--the show they just watched) are provided. Each kid also gets a slice of pizza too! You simply get in line and give them the ticket/coupon they gave you when you left the movie and they give you pizza for your kid(s). Not only that, but if you put your child's name on the back of the ticket/coupon, they raffle off the books that they had read to the kids during Story Time. This means that for just $10.50 The Little Monster and I get to see a movie (or show), eat some movie snacks, hear some books read, do some coloring, eat some pizza (at least The Monster gets pizza anyway) AND get a chance at winning a free book! The Little Monster actually won the raffle for the "The Little Engine that Could" book that was read at Story Time the day of that show a few months ago! And, of course, it's also just a nice way for us to have some special time together as father and daughter. We will get back to the monster movies soon enough I'm sure...

The Little Monster with her pizza ticket before Story Time

Coloring after the book reading at Story Time

And enjoying a slice of pizza!

Well, that's about all there is to say about our Kidtoons adventure. Please check the website for National Amusements for up-to-date information about what movie will be showing next (and which theaters are participating in the series). I would like to finish up with a few more photos from our trip out to the movies today...

Here's our local movie theater: The Blackstone Valley 14 Cinema De Lux in Millbury (MA)

The cinema has two parking lots--I like to use the one around back because it has a long hallway plastered with posters for upcoming movies. Not only that, but it also leads to...

...A giant window overlooking the lower parking lot and with a nice view into the distance

The Little Monster likes to look at the cars from this window before we head down the escalator to the lobby on the first floor (and afterwards too). These were taken on our way out after the show.

All the excitement was too much for The Little Monster and she conked out on the way home