Jul 4, 2008

4th Of July

Wow, I just had this really weird dream where I was like Rip Van Winkle and I was asleep under a tree for six months...AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

IN honor of the 4th of July, Here's a few pages from a 32 page pamphlet issued by the US Government Printing Office in 1973. The full color book gives a short history of the US Flag and the proper display of Old Glory. Wherever you are enjoy your day.

Jan 31, 2008

Pedal Cars

  • It didn't require monthly payments, registration, or a license.
  • No one was offering cash back, trade-in allowances or 0% financing.
  • Keyless remotes, MP3 players, power windows, GPS tracking or Onstar weren't options
  • You were lucky if it came in more than one color
  • They were all convertibles

You didn't care about any of this because it was dependable, it didn't need gas,You could drive it as fast as you could get it to go and most importantly, it was yours.

The pedal car is one of those rare old toys that everyone can relate to. Moms, dads, grandparents and great grandparents may have a pedal car story. They've been sitting under the Christmas tree since the early 1900's.

In the 1920's and 30's they were a rich kids fad. Lord Fauntleroy could pedal around the estate and slam into the heels of the butler in a tiny Pierce Arrow or Rolls Royce. The cars were made with incredible craftsmanship which made sense since many of the companies were already experts in their field.

Peter Gendron had started his Iron Wheel Company in 1880 making wire rimmed wheels for baby buggies and other kid vehicles. Eusbius Garton started his vehicle toy business in 1879 and J.W. Murray had been making automotive fenders and other steel stamped car parts since 1910.

During WW II, when all the country's steel was used for the war effort, the pedal car had to take a few years off, but after the war and into the 50's, things were looking up again.

Just like Detroit, the pedal car industry had it's big three. From 1950 to 1975 Garton, Murray and AMF were the main producers of baby boommobiles.

Every department store catalog was a pedal pusher with 2 or 3 pages of vehicles. Kids could cruise the neighborhood in style in Garton's "Kiddilac" or patrol on Murray's 3 wheel "Radar Patrol". You could drive fire trucks, station wagons and dump trucks [with working dumper], or pilot speed boats, airplanes or even an "Atomic Missile".

Of course, it didn't really matter what you drove. Whether it was a rusted hand me down or a spanking new Mustang, the most important thing was a a free afternoon, a pack of candy smokes and nothin' but open sidewalk.

Jan 29, 2008

M-16 Marauder Mattel 60's

A really short history of the real M-16

In 1948, the Army organized an Operations Research Office. An early project of this office was to study 'small arms' effectiveness. Battlefield reports from America's previous wars were studied and the ORO came to a few conclusions.

  • Most small arms combat takes place at close range, less than 300 yards.

  • Quantity usually won out over quality. Careful aim didn't seem to matter much. The number one cause for casualties was the number of bullets used.

The Army decided their best solution was to find a new high velocity .22 caliber automatic weapon.

Over the next 10 or 12 years, many weapons were tested but the winner was the AR-15 designed by Eugene Stoner, a former Marine who had been designing guns since his discharge from the service after World War II. Stoners weapon was a departure from most guns tested. He had realigned the barrel with the stock which kept the gun from rising as much when fired automatically and he also used cutting edge materials like aluminum and plastic where he could. The AR-15 was 2 pounds lighter than it's closest competitor and it had a much lighter recoil.

A few thousand guns were sent to Vietnam for testing in battle conditions in 1962 and the initial reports said the new rifle was plenty lethal. While at close range the bullet left an entrance wound and exit wound of approximately the same size, at longer distance the bullet would 'tumble' when it hit a fleshy target. The entrance wound was the same but the bullet left a huge gaping hole on exit.

In 1964 both the Army & Air Force adopted the new weapon now called the M-16 and thousands were sent to Vietnam. Soldiers aren't too thrilled with the new gun with it's plastic stock & aluminum parts. Jokes about the rifle being made by Mattel abound. In fact, the Mattel connection to the real M-16 is an urban myth to this day. Many people swear they saw or have seen M-16's from the Vietnam era with the Mattel logo emblazoned on the plastic stock. [We'll get to the toy in a minute]

In an effort to create enough ammunition for the new M-16, the Army used a different gunpowder than the one designed specifically for the rifle. The new powder is not field tested and the results are disastrous. The new powder increases the guns firing rate, creating greater wear and it leaves deposits in the barrel which allow the gun to jam. To make matter worse, the gun had been marketed to the Army as "nearly maintenance free" and was sent out with no instructions on cleaning. The fiasco was investigated by a Congressional committee which praised the weapon and blamed the problems on Army mismanagement.

Intensive M-16 training was then introduced,the ammunition was changed, and the gun was redesigned to carry a cleaning kit in the stock. Since then, the M-16 has been the armed forces weapon of choice for over 50 years with an estimated 8 million used worldwide.

Mattel's M-16 Marauder was a full sized replica of the real thing. When you cocked the rifle and pulled the trigger the Marauder let loose the sound of machine gun fire. The more you cocked the gun, the longer the burst.

With the rifle under Congressional investigation and the assassinations of Both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in 1968, the Marauder probably had a short shelf life. I would guess at most three or four years. I've heard there is a red white & blue version of the box.

Trivia: In John Wayne's pro Vietnam film "The Green Berets", there's a scene where Wayne smashes his M-16 against a tree. It's said he used Mattel's Marauder instead of the real thing.

Jan 23, 2008

Girly Toys 60's & 70's

Don't forget clicking on the pics makes them larger and a little easier to read

Jan 18, 2008

A. A. Milne January 18, 1882 – January 31, 1956

Let's start with the Winnie:

In August of 1914, less than a month after the beginning of World War I, Lieutenant Henry Colebourn was a Veterinary Officer traveling on a troop train from his home town of Winnipeg to Quebec. From Quebec, Colebourn and the rest of the troops would set sail for Britain awaiting further orders.

On a stopover in White River Ontario Henry gets off the train to take a break. There on the station platform sits a trapper with a female black bear cub tied to the bench beside him. Henry offers the hunter $20 bucks for the cub and the young vet takes his new cub on board the train.

Of course the bear is a big hit on a troop train loaded with adolescents headed for uncertainty. Henry names the new cub Winnie after Winnipeg Canada and the bear is adopted by Henry's 2nd Canadian Brigade and smuggled aboard the ship headed for England.

In Dec, of 1914, The 2nd is called to France and Henry knows the dangers awaiting the Brigade. He visits the London Zoo and asks them to care for his cub. Henry is hoping the arrangement will only be for a few weeks but wars always have their own schedule and Colebourn is not back to London until 1918. By that time, Winnie is a Zoo favorite. The bear who has grown up constantly handled by people is extremely tame and Colebourn officially donates Winnie to the zoo in 1919.

Winnie lives out the rest of her life at the zoo occasionally visited by Colebourn and constantly visited by the kids in London until her passing in 1934.

Now, let's add the Pooh [please keep the infantile tittering at the scatological reference to a minimum, this is an institution of learning after all.]

He started his life as Edward Bear. Well, technically, he just started his life as a stuffed bear with no name at all but as soon as Christopher Robin Milne was old enough to grasp the concept of names, he named his bear Edward. The bear had been a present to Chris on his first birthday.

Sometime around 1924, Christopher began to frequent the London Zoo and like many kids he found Ol' Winnie to be a one of his favorite animals. He also became fascinated with a swan whom he named Pooh. In a logic that only applies to childhood, the young Milne not only renamed his bear after his two favorite animals, he made Pooh a noun.

Now, lets end with the man.

Up to the release of Winnie the Pooh in 1924, Alexander Alan Milne had been known as a poet and a playwright but his young son changed all that. The boy who was obviously on the young authors mind seemed to give his writing a new direction and the first book of Winnie the Pooh stories struck a chord with kids and parents everywhere. Winnie was followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1926.

Sadly, the the romanticised stories of his only son's youth backfired and a teenage Christopher Milne was mocked with constant recitals from bits of the books. This teasing along with the constant attention of being the character in his father's stories created a gap between father & son that was never fully bridged.

Milne died Jan 31 1957.

A, A Milne bios are here here & here

This poem
known as Vespers was one that was used to torture a young Christopher quite often. He learned to hate this poem his father wrote. [isn't childhood a hoot?] It was first published in the New Yorker before the Pooh Stories
A video interview with the son of Henry Colebourn is here, and finally, since I'm sure you can find Disney's Pooh stuff ad naseum, here's a 10 minute Winnie the Pooh Cartoon from Russia with great animation and funny voice choices.

Jan 17, 2008

Bupkis, Jigglers & Other Wiggly Things - Russ Barrie 1964

Russ Berrie was a toy buyer who decided to go into business for himself and from the beginning, his idea was to expand the "Impulse gift" trade. His first breakout hit came in 1964 with the Bupkis Family; ten ugly, rubbery oily critters that could sit on your desk or hang from the rearview mirror.

Bupkis was so popular, Berrie introduced at least two more oily lines called the Untouchables and Loveabulls. If there was a common theme to any of these lines, I don't know what it is. It seems to be a football player mixed with a buzzard a spider in aberet and maybe a monkey. [just between you and me, if you're looking for a bff, send me the monkey.

The characters were well designed and stood somewhere between cute and creepy. Kids loved the way they felt. Other companies also offered up jiggly figures and while the other guys weren't as oily as Russ Berrie figs, the rubbery, blubbery fad was on.

Now the generic term for the figures is 'Jigglers' and if you decide to collect them, be sure to bring the checkbook. If Ebay and the outdoor antique shows I frequent are an indicator, they do seem to be difficult to find. I've seen near mint Bupkis figures with their tags still intact start at 100 smackeroos and up. I saw the spider in a beret go for $400. Yikes!

Jan 16, 2008

Carl Karcher Jan 16, 1917

Millions of people loved his hamburgers, some hated his politics. He was a devout Christian attending mass every morning before work. He was a staunch Republican showing his support for ultra Conservatives. His restaurant career started with a hot dog cart and almost ended when he was bounced as chairman of the company he founded. [He was back in less than a year.]

Carl Karcher was born in Sandusky Ohio January 16, 1917. During the depression he was invited by his uncle to move to Anaheim California and work at his feed store for $18 dollars a week. Carl eventually moved on to a job delivering bread for a Los Angeles bakery.

On his bread route Carl saw that hot dog carts were springing up all over Los Angeles. Sensing a great business opportunity, he borrowed 300 bucks and created "The Blimp" a hot dog cart across from a Goodyear plant in L.A.. Soon the cart turned into three and in 1945 the carts spawned Carls Drive-In Barbecue in Anaheim. [Since Carl opened the restaurant on his birthday, today would have been the Barbeque's 63rd anniversary as well]

The thriving drive-in business in southern Ca. was a sort of loose fraternity and when the McDonald Brothers quit the biz to start a new kind of restaurant, news got around fast. After visiting McDonald's new restaurant, Carl started a smaller version of his own joint in 1956 & called it Carl's Jr., now a worldwide chain with over 3,000 stores.

Sadly, five days ago Carl Karcher passed away from pneumonia, just a few days shy of his 91st birthday. It is the end of an era.

Karcher was the last of the great fast food entrepreneurs. A group of guys who recognized the mobile culture growing in post war America. These pioneers remodeled the restaurant business with new kitchen techniques and franchised the ideas creating thousands of business opportunities and entry level jobs. You may disagree with the fast food menu but you can't argue with the fast food concept. The original ideas of good food and prompt service at fair prices will always be with us because of a few guys like Karcher who were hungry to succeed.

Carl's Jr. official site

Carl's Jr. Articcle at Wikipedia

Carl Karcher article at Wikipedia

Carl's related video just for giggles