Archive for October, 2009

Old Halloween Memories

October 30, 2009

It’s that time o’ year again…Halloween – the runner-up ultimate kid day of the calendar year (right behind Christmas morning).

These kids remind me of everything great about Halloween and the innocent fun of the classic American version of this holiday.

I’ll post a few memorable images in this blog to sweep you back to memory lane with me as I celebrate October 31, 2009.

Rain is in our forecast, and I can’t recall a rainy Halloween ever occurring in my life.  Perhaps it will relent for an hour or so right about time for Trick or Treat.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.  Enjoy these in the meantime…

Yes, it’s the classic old jointed paper skeleton.  This item has adorned many a door and window over the years.   I wonder who came up with this one…he must have become a millionaire long ago.

We had this exact, same jointed paper pumpkin for years.   Don’t know why the pumpkin must wear the jester costume, but apparently it’s authentic…

An old Brach’s candy display.  There was a really cheesy Brach’s witch display they used to put up in the Alpha Beta grocery stores back in the 1970’s.  I think the witch was made out of a black plastic bag and she spun around on her broom.  If I could find a photo of it, my life would be nearly complete.  If I could find the actual display on eBay, my life would be complete.

It just doesn’t get any better than this.

And who didn’t get a few of these in the old pillowcase on Halloween?

 

This light-up ghost sat on my granny’s doorstep every Halloween.

Yep, the jointed paper figure came in pretty much every character.  I remember this one hanging around every year, too.  The black portions of the old paper ornaments like this had that fuzzy stuff on them, which gave you the heebie jeebies if you touched it.  It kind of made your head feel like it was turning inside-out.  Maybe it was just me.

1976…when heroes were heroes.  The Evel Knievel costume.  I was so there.  I had this costume.  There is a picture of me in mine lurking somewhere at the folk’s place.  I’ll dig it out to share someday.  Remember these super cheap-o plastic masks with the even cheaper plastic-ish vinyl-ish coveralls?  Those were the days.

And yes, one year I went as Underdog in this box costume.  Who didn’t?

The old costumes came in boxes that looked like this!!

This is the greatest Halloween sound effects album of all time.  Bought at Disneyland in the old record shop.  If you want to hear it, go here.

Well, that’s all for now.  I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween!  Don’t forget to have lots of candy for the kiddies…

 

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It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

October 28, 2009

My nostalgic sensitivities are pretty-well evenly-split between Halloween and Christmas. I love both holidays, and nothing says “holidays” to me like the two classic Peanuts TV specials: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).

I grew  up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I loved Peanuts comic books as a kid and read the Sunday morning funnies religiously (no pun intended…honest). I still have plenty of old Peanuts comic books lying around.  I read them from time to time just to remind myself of their simple charm – part of which is the smell of the old, yellowed pages with their soft, worn edges and slightly smudged print ink.

It was Schroeder’s love of Beethoven that inspired a 12-year-old kid (me) to purchase a “Best of Beethoven” LP one year.  I became a fan.

It was the entire Peanuts gang that inspired my regular use of “good grief” as an expression. That sure has come in handy over the years.

Above and beyond all this, it somehow renews my spirit to experience It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown each year. The CBS airing of this special officially ushered-in the holiday season during my childhood, as it may have yours.

The beauty of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is in its intelligent humor, its color, its spiritual depth, and of course its music.

Who doesn’t laugh at Charlie Brown’s repeated trick-or-treat lament of “I got a rock!”?

The sloppy animated artwork of these TV specials (the animation art was not done by Charles Schulz) has been blasted by critics, but over time there is a certain charm in the artwork and (particularly for me) the vivid colors in this special.

The spiritual (esp. Christian) undertones in all of Charles Schulz’s work is a beautiful thing as well.   The Great Pumpkin only rewards sincere faith – not hypocritical “believers”.

Finally, the music of the incredible Vince Guaraldi Trio is just a treat in itself.  My favorite selection from the Halloween special is this one…

Peanuts was such a huge staple in the 1970’s and 1980’s, hardly a day went by that kids weren’t reminded of the characters.  I remember one of my favorite lunch treats when mom would buy them…rasberry Zingers.   Remember the box that looked like this?

In support of this mass-marketing effort, during the Charlie Brown specials, they often aired commercials like this one…

Well, as you can see, Peanuts meant a lot to me as I was growing up.  Maybe it did to you, too.  This time of year always causes me to pause and reflect on these fond memories from childhood.  Thanks for indulging me.

Now, I’m off to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  I wonder if he’ll show up this year…

Lost Transmission #5 – Halloween Special

October 15, 2009

Lost Transmission is here to join in the season with some bone-chilling rock ‘n’ roll and other spooky sounds to make your curly locks stand on-end. This episode is extra-long, ’cause, shoot! – there’s just too much good stuff to pack into a 30-minute show. We got Buck Owens (dead), Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (dead), the Five Blobs (???), the Munsters (many dead), the Coasters (mostly dead) and gobs of other dead artists! Pretty scary, huh?

Happy 39th Birthday, my “Old Friend”

October 12, 2009

I want to take a moment to recognize a dear friend of mine who turned the big “3-9” this past week…the Jack Benny version of 39.  For sake of his anonymity, I’ll just call him “Mike”.

I met Mike when he and I were about 12 years old and his family began attending the church I attended with mine.

I recall my family went to his house for a visit and we hit it off.  He was into music.  So was I.  I remember listening for a long time to Led Zeppelin’s IV album and talking about music and our other interests.  He had the same stupid sense of humor I did, which says something.  We became close friends quickly and spent a good bit of time together.

It was only a few months later that Mike asked if I had heard a new song on the radio.  It was called “Rock this Town” by a new band called the Stray Cats.  He thought it was great and told me I should listen for it.  Of course back in them days, you couldn’t just pull it up on the internet.  There was no such-a-thing.  Al Gore hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

Anyway, one night it happened.  I turned on my radio to AM 690 – “The Mighty 690” out of Tijuana, Mexico – and caught the last 30 seconds of “Rock this Town”.  I was completely blown away.  I called Mike and told him I had heard it.  I was already playing a little guitar, but I HAD to learn to play guitar like that!

That got the ball rolling.  Like many other kids in the U.S. (and especially there in Orange County, CA), we soon immersed ourselves into this new world of rockabilly music and mid-century culture.  We even started our first band together…first it was the “Lone Wolves” and later “The Blazers”. Forming a quartet with some buddies, we opened every rehearsal with the Rockin’ R’s classic “Crazy Baby” and played a other few covers as well as several of Mike’s original songs.  Sadly, I don’t have a single recording of the early Blazers – just the echoing memories of loud guitars and drum-shaken sheet-rock in our dad’s garages.

Mike and I began exploring the vast world of music from the 1940’s onward as well as the cultural changes that went with it.  We watched old movies, read old books and magazines.  Our friendship and the common interests we shared made a dramatic change in my life – especially in expressing myself artistically.

On Sunday nights in the summer Mike and I would often spend the night at each others houses, where we would listen to the Dr. Demento show on 94.7 KMET.  The show was sort of the capstone of our weird common comedic tastes, and I have many fond memories of the laughs we shared over Dr. Demento.

Mike and I bought Disneyland annual passports the first year they were offered.  We about wore them out, soaking up the magic and nostalgia of  Disneyland in the “good old days”.  Somehow it didn’t seem quite as commercial back then.

After several years of little contact after I moved from SoCal, I’m so glad Mike and I have reconnected through the magic of the internet…even got to enjoy a personal visit with him a few weeks ago.

To my “old” friend, Mike:  Happy birthday.  Your friendship played a key role in my young life and still shapes who I am today in many ways.  Thanks for that.  I’m just five months behind you.  Here’s to many more years of friendship!