Archive for the Americana Category

Walking in the footsteps of Billy the Kid and other roadtrips I want to take

Posted in Americana, Billy the Kid, pop culture, roadtrip with tags , , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Brian has given us a good assignment this week. He wants us to plan the ultimate pop culture roadtrip. I have already gone on several geeky roadtrips in my life thanks to having been a traveling IT consultant for about 8 years.  I’ll start chronicling more of those soon. I already talked about two Star Wars Roadtrips that I’ve taken (Star Wars Celebrations I and II).  But I think Brian’s idea is to plan a road trip that you want to take.

There are several I could do, but one is definitely at the top.  And I’ve discussed it before, both on the Nerd Lunch Podcast and here on the site.  I want to walk the Billy the Kid Trail in New Mexico.

Billy the Kid

I’ve been a huge fan of Billy the Kid since high school.  I’ve read a ton of books about him (and other gunslingers).  Plus, my wife is from New Mexico, so it’s totally doable.  There are several places in New Mexico pertaining to the famous outlaw.  The biggest would probably be the Lincoln State Monument in Lincoln, NM.

Lincoln Lincoln County Courthouse
(Via Jeff Arnold’s West)

The little town of Lincoln has been preserved almost exactly as it was back in Billy’s day. You can still visit the courthouse in which he was imprisoned and then famously shot his way out of, killing two deputies in the process.  There’s also the Wortley Hotel which was once owned by Pat Garrett, the man who shot Billy.  The hotel was also the final dining place of Bob Ollinger, who was one of the deputies Billy killed in his getaway.  Not only would this place be awesome for Billy the Kid buffs, but the town is almost exactly how it was in the Old West.  It would be great to see how things were back then as I’m fascinated with the time period.

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In honor of Memorial Day, 16 vintage comic covers featuring wartime superheroes

Posted in Americana, comic books, holiday, nostalgia, pop culture, Superman with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2012 by Paxton

It’s Memorial Day.  Hope everyone has had a great holiday weekend.  In honor of this day that honors our armed forces, here are some awesomely vintage, patriotic comic book covers featuring our favorite heroes during wartime.  See our heroes doing their part to give Hitler a sock in the jaw!

I found many of these covers on Comic Browser.

Capt America 6Capt Marvel Advs 8Master Comics 43Superman 12Capt Marvel Advs 16Young Allies 3Superman 23Capt Marvel Jr 15Master Comics 30Capt America 27National Comics 26America's Best Comics 9Wonder Comics 1Fighting Yank 8Hit Comics 24Action Comics 59

Famous First Editions: A look at the origin of our most famous toys

Posted in Americana, nostalgia, pop culture with tags , , on June 4, 2010 by Paxton

There are so many toys that have become timeless. Toys your parents played with, toys you played with, toys your own kids will play with. As I’m soon to be a dad myself, I got to thinking about these toys that have become ubiquitous, that have spanned the generations to be enjoyed by different children in different eras.

Here are some of our most famous toys that have been around for decades and look to be around long after all of us are gone.

1st Matchbox car 1st matchbox car with box(Pics via darkens.net.nz)
Matchbox die cast cars – Matchbox cars were started in 1953 by British toy company Lesney Products. Co-owner Jack Odell created the idea for the tiny cars because his daughter was only allowed to bring toys to school if they could fit in a matchbox. So he decided to scale down one of their larger toys, the red and green road roller, and that became the #1 1A Diesel Road Roller (pic above), the first Matchbox car ever. A dump truck and a cement mixer would complete the first 3 cars in what would come to be known as the original “75 series” of Matchbox cars. The website darkens.net.nz is a great resource for pics and information on vintage Matchbox products.

1968 Sweet 16 Hot Wheels 68 cougar
Hot Wheels die cast cars – As seen above, Lesney dominated the small die cast car market from the time they introduced Matchbox cars throughout the ’60s. Mattel decided to throw it’s hat in the ring to grab some of that die cast money with it’s Hot Wheels line in 1968. That series of cars in 1968 has come to be known as the “Sweet 16” (see pic on left via Worthpoint.com). They were all released at roughly the same time, but the first numbered car was #6205a – The Custom Cougar (pic on right via Hot Wheels Wiki).

1st issue Barbie(via Dolls4Play)
Barbie – A Mattel executive’s wife noticed that all girls’ dolls looked like infants. There were no adult female dolls for kids to play with. When she brought this up to her husband he and the rest of Mattel were unenthusiastic about the idea. I mean, she was just a woman, what the hell did she know about dolls? Am I right? Anyway, on a trip to Europe the wife came across the German Bild Lili doll, which was an adult female doll based on a popular comic strip character. She bought three, brought them home to America and worked with Mattel engineer Jack Ryan to create the first Barbie doll which was named after her daughter, Barbara (see pic above). Barbie was introduced at the 1959 Toy Fair in New York.  Retailers were reluctant at first but within a year the dolls were selling out of stores across America.  Ken was introduced in 1961 (named after Barbara’s brother) and then Skipper in 1964 (no idea where that name came from).

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9 Reasons why playgrounds back in the day were more AWESOME than today’s playgrounds

Posted in Americana, nostalgia, pop culture with tags , , , on March 19, 2010 by Paxton

Playland USA

Public playgrounds today are a bastion of nauseating safeness. Everything’s bolted to the ground and made of plastic. Slides are never higher than about 5-6 feet. Swings are engineered in a way that they can’t be swung scarily 10 feet into the air (how do they do that?). It’s all just so safe and boring.

When I was growing up, and even before that in the ’60s and ’70s, the playground was not only unsafe, it might possibly kill you. Everything was made of steel held together by sharp metal rivets and slides towered over 20 feet high oftentimes curly cue-ing around 3 or 4 times. It was awesome and it was insane at the same time.  It was awe-sane!!

I was looking at pictures on Flickr and I came across a group that had pictures of vintage playground equipment.  People had even posted scans of old catalogs featuring enormous metal constructs that were sold to be put on public playgrounds.  So, taking pictures from that vintage playground Flickr site, let’s take a look at how playgrounds from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are much more unbelievably bad ass than playgrounds are today.

Tire Mountain Tire Wall
Tire Swing buried tire
1. Stuff made from tires – Back in the ’70s, half of the playground consisted of stuff made with discarded tires. All you needed was some wood, metal chains, giant friggin’ nails and a few tires.  Chain a tire to a wood frame, you got a tire swing. Nail like 10 tires together and fasten them to another wood frame, you have a climbing wall. Hell, just take a giant tractor tire and bury half of it in the Earth.  What could be easier?  And safer?

Scary swing set 1 Scary swing 2
Scary swing 3 demon swing
2. Horrifying skinny clown swing sets – Check out these giant, skinny clown swings sets. These towering clown totems were TERRIFYING. They actually look less like swing sets and more like something a demonic clown cult would sacrifice small animals around.  Or maybe something Barnum & Bailey would tie you to if you snuck around their tents unsupervised.  And what’s that last swing set on the bottom right?  A lion?  Some circus demon?  Horrible.

merry go round 1 merry go round 2
3. Multi-colored metal carousels – Large metal merry go rounds that spun freely in either direction. More like “puke and go round”. Invariably, multiple kids would jump on it and then start spinning it faster than is totally necessary.  Next thing you know, kids are thrown 10 feet into the air,  getting dragged along the side in the dirt while holding on and others vomiting up their bologna sandwiches. It’s a wonder more kids didn’t die at the playground. Which made it all the more awesome.

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Dork-topia: Cities that are constantly overrun by nerdy fans

Posted in Americana, books, movies, pop culture, Star Trek, Star Wars, Superman, Wizard of Oz with tags , , , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by Paxton

Nerds

Nerds.  You gotta love ’em.  When they love something, they don’t half ass it.  They are ALL IN.  They live and learn the minutia of whatever aspect of pop culture they relate to.  Be it comics, costumes, card games, TV shows, movies…whatever.  And whenever they get the chance, they will make the pilgrimage to whatever place on Earth is the focal point for their obsessions.  A Geek Roatrip, if you will (and I will, thank you).  “So, Pax, where are the nerdiest places on Earth?”  Other than the San Diego Comic Con or DragonCon in Atlanta, here is a list of the nerdiest vacation destinations in the world.  And this is only a few of them.  There are more, trust me.

Forks, WashingtonTwilight nerds
Forks, WashingtonHome of Twilight — This one is the most recent addition to the list.  Forks, Washington is the real life city where the fictional Twilight novels are based.  Constantly inundated by Twilight nerds (called Twerds…no, I’m not kidding) this town has finally thrown it’s collective hands in the air and said, “FINE!  You dorks win.  We’ll sell you Team Edward shirts, let you eat at Bella Italia (OMFG…at the EXACT table Bella and Edward had their first date!!!  You must order the Mushroom Ravioli!!) and even tailor entire tours of the city around a fictional book about vampires that sparkle in the sun.  Hell, visit Forks High School and buy a t-shirt as if you actually attended there with Bella and Edward.  It’s all nerdy fun.  I’m sure my friend Marlene will be there.  Tell her “Hi”, and that I think she’s a dork.

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Rockin’ Around the Clock with Happy Days trivia

Posted in Americana, cartoons, Happy Days, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , on March 3, 2009 by Paxton

Happy Days logoSunday, Monday, Happy Days!  Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days!  Man, I used to love watching the show Happy Days when I was growing up.  I loved Fonzi and his catchphrase, “Heeeeeeeeeeeeey!”  I loved the show’s catchphrase, “Sit on it!”  I loved the theme song, I loved the setting and the sets, I loved the other characters.  It was just a lot of fun to watch.   I still enjoy it.  I DVR it every once in a while to see some of my favorite episodes.

Just a few weeks ago I got an email from Ticketmaster letting me know that tickets for Happy Days the Musical, showing in Jacksonville, were only 20 bucks during the week.  I didn’t realize there was a musical based on the TV show, but it’s not surprising considering the Broadway shows based on Saturday Night Fever, Xanadu, Road House and other movies from the ’70s and ’80s.  I thought it would be fun to see how they managed to translate the show to the stage so I bought Steph and I tickets and we went this past Saturday.Happy Days The Musical

The show was very good. The guy who played Fonzie was spot on. He had the mannerisms and voice inflection down cold. The guy who played Ritchie was familiar to me because he was in the cast of Avenue Q which I happened to see on Broadway in 2004 right before it won the Tony for Best Musical. Overall, the musical was like watching an episode of the TV show, cheesy and cute. The songs were fun, too. Steph and I really enjoyed watching it. If it comes to your town, and you loved the TV show, then give the musical a chance. I think you’ll like it.

Anywho, after watching the musical, I started Googling Happy Days. I was surprised how much info and trivia was out there. I was reading for like 3 hours about behind the scenes information and background info on the show and characters. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I would pass along some of my favorite tidbits.

So, without further adieu, here’s everything cool about the show Happy Days that you never knew.

* Originally there were three Cunningham children. Ritchie, Joanie and the eldest, Chuck.  Chuck Cunningham was phased out of the show  in Season 2 (off to college for basketball).

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What our favorite fast food joints looked like back in the day Part II

Posted in advertising, Americana, Burger King, fast food, food, Pizza Hut, pop culture with tags , , , , , on February 4, 2009 by Paxton

Last week I introduced you to the early incarnations of some of our favorite fast food restaurants. You got to see McDonald’s, Arby’s and KFC the way they looked when they were opened in the ’50s and ’60s. If you missed this trip down vintage fast food lane just click here to be transported back to a simpler time. Back to a time when people knew that a bacon double cheeseburger and a side of chili-cheese waffle fries was a gift handed down by God himself unto the people of Earth. That a triple thick strawberry milkshake was made from happiness and love, mixed together by a benevolent soda jerk who only wanted to stop the pain of the real world…if only for a little while.  But I digress…

If you’ve already read Part I of this article, and you are ready to see a few more vintage fast food eateries, then continue on, intrepid reader, for looks at yesteryear Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and Burger King.

Burger King
Vintage BKVintage BK 2
The founders of BK visited one of the original McDonalds Brothers burger stands in California and thought they had a good system going. So they returned to Miami, devised their own production line burger system and opened up the first restaurant in 1954. The restaurant was named InstaBurger King (yes, that is a horrible name). When deciding to franchise, they changed the name to Burger King and the rest is history. Above you can see a magazine ad for one of the original Burger Kings in the ’50s – ’60s. On the right is a picture of that same building architecture as it stands in Naperville, IL. Amazing that this building is still intact.  Until this picture I had no idea that a Burger King ever looked like this.  Very similar to the original McDonald’s architecture, don’t you think?

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