Saturday, March 10, 2018

Nauset Beach - Just My Thoughts

            When we’re kids the world seems big and indestructible.  As we grow up it becomes smaller and smaller.  Changes come, some for the better and some not.  The sad part is that some of these changes are basically inevitable and all you can do is watch as it happens.

            Over the last few years I wrote a series of articles for Cape Cod Life dealing with the changes on the Cape and Islands due to erosion and shoreline change.  In my lifetime I have witnessed the breaks in Chatham’s North Beach and then South Beach, several breaches at Norton Point on Martha’s Vineyard, the moving of three lighthouses, the loss of several sets of stairs at Nauset Light Beach, the decimation of the former Marconi Site, the gaping hole in Ballston Beach, the collapse of the parking lot at Herring Cove Beach, the repeated stripping of sand from Town Neck Beach, and last summer’s sinkhole at the Beachcomber just off the top of my head. 

            However nothing could prepare me for what I saw last weekend as I watched one of my favorite places on Cape Cod be forever changed.

            It was a strange kind of sadness as a powerful Nor’easter shredded through the picturesque dunes of Nauset Beach.  I am sure that all of you reading this have places that have been special to you as you grew up.  Whether you lived on Cape Cod like me, or anywhere in the world, the places you enjoy as a child stay with you and can take you back to those simpler times whenever you see them again.

            For those who may not be familiar with it, Nauset Beach lies on the Atlantic Ocean side of Cape Cod in the town of Orleans.  It has been known for its expanse of pristine sand, surfing, and off-road trails for decades.  There are 559.6 miles of Cape Cod coastline and this stretch of beach is mentioned with the best on the Cape including Sandy Neck, Race Point, Craigville, and others.
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The Eldia on Nauset Beach in 1984 (
            My first memory of Nauset Beach goes back to March 29, 1984 when a 471-foot freighter named the Eldia was stranded just offshore during a powerful Nor’easter.  It became a huge tourist attraction for early spring on the Cape.  People came from all over to gaze at the mammoth steel beast wedged neatly in the sand.  I was 6-years-old and was brought there by my mother Laurie, my stepfather Paul, my 4-year-old sister Kate, and my baby brother Matt.  The Greek-owned ship remained marooned for nearly two months before being pulled free and ultimately scrapped.  The sight of the gigantic red and blue ship towering over me was matched only by the enormity of the beach itself which stretched out into infinity, or so I thought then.

            As a child trips to Nauset were rare since it was a 30 minute drive from my home to get there.  Ironically I visited Nauset more often when a large storm would be hitting Cape Cod, to see the big waves that are common on the ocean side.  According to the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management the average erosion rate along Nauset Beach is just under 5-feet per year.  This meant that all of those exciting storms were slowly removing the very beach I loved visiting.

            In 2011 I was lucky enough to get my first book deal.  It would be a book featuring the sites and history of Cape Cod, an opportunity to showcase my home to the world.  Which place on the Cape did I choose to grace the cover of that book? Why that would be Nauset Beach.  A majestic shot of the fence-lined walkway at the southern end of the parking lot leading over the dunes was in my opinion the perfect way to invite readers to pick up my book.  I wanted each and every person who saw that photo to go and experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Nauset Beach.  Sadly after a pair of huge winter storms, one in January and the other last weekend, the landscape from the book cover has become a memory.

            I have never seen anything like what I saw at Nauset Beach March 4th.  With the direct route to the beach partially blocked by cautionary sawhorses I chose to enter via Pochet Neck.  The dirt parking lot is a favorite spot, with a bridge leading over a marsh which empties into Pleasant Bay.  It is usually an easy walk across the bridge, passing over the ORV trail, and up the dunes for a beautiful view of the beach nearly a half-mile south of the main Nauset parking lot. 
            At high tide the creek, usually about thirty-feet wide in most areas, took on the look of a lake, encompassing all of the marsh.  One after another giant waves could be seen crashing on the shore of the beach nearly 1,000-feet away.  The water spilled into the marsh, coming over the dunes from all directions and turning the ORV trail into a two-foot deep rushing river.

            Partially on the instinct of wanting to get a closer look, and partially in a stunned shock I walked along the sand finding higher ground to take photos.  However, when a barrage of waves caused a rush of water to momentarily surround my perch I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and I returned to my car while the bridge was still passable.

            There were a few dozen people taking in the surge at the main parking lot.  Sadly it was here that I got a better grasp of the damage. It was a shocking sight to see as at times when the waves crashed there literally was no beach between the ocean and dunes.  The scene which I had photographed for the cover of my first book had been totally destroyed, no more fence, no more grass, no more benches.  In fact it now resembled a sand castle which had been slowly disintegrated by the sea.

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The changes are apparent (Facebook, Orleans Nauset Beach)
            It was a strange sadness, a feeling of helplessness as I, and countless others, watched a beloved Cape Cod landmark slowly be stripped away.  Estimates have it that the storm in January cost Nauset Beach 25-feet of shoreline, while last weekend’s storm took another 35-feet.  The area experienced roughly twenty years of erosion in six weeks.  Who knows what this means for the beach itself.  The gazebo which once provided a wonderful viewing area of the crashing waves has had to be carefully moved as it was perilously close to toppling over into the sand.  Then there’s Liam’s At Nauset Beach, the venerable snack shack which has been supplying copious amounts of onion rings and other fried summer favorites to visitors and locals alike for twenty-eight years.  After the massive loss of sand it is highly likely that the building, already being undermined by the erosion, will have to be torn down. 

            Just as the famed Blizzard of ’78 irreparably changed the face of Coast Guard Beach in Eastham these pair of Nor’easters have done to same to the beloved Nauset Beach.  It is a shocking and sad turn of events, and as someone who was born and raised here it is almost like experiencing the loss of a loved one.  Change is inevitable especially when it comes to our shoreline on Cape Cod.  In addition to attempting to armor up the remaining coast, replenishing sand where possible, and retreating from the erosion where necessary there is one very important thing we who live and visit here can do.  Enjoy every moment while we have them, because things might change very slowly, or as we have seen two swift punches by Mother Nature can completely obliterate an iconic landmark.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Child of the 1980's - Daytime Television Infomercials

                In this day of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and extremely advance video game consoles children who get sick and have to stay home from school are quite likely to have a lot of outlets for entertainment during their recovery.  Thirty years ago during the decade of the 1980’s it was a much different story.  Sure if you were lucky you might have had access to a Nintendo Entertainment System, but I know that my time on it during sickness was limited.  My mother would make sure that I pretty much stayed in bed if I was sick.  That ruled out the NES as there was only so far the controllers would reach out. 

                What it left me was the television.  Granted by the mid-80’s many households had cable which gave more choices in terms of what to watch.  Still, the television broadcast during typical school hours was severely lacking in anything of substance.  It was during the 1980’s that a new sort of program began to pop up.  This would be the paid advertisement program known as the infomercial.  It was typically a half-hour long showcase of some ‘must-have’ product which would revolutionize the world.  Very rarely would that happen.  In addition there were many new products running in shorter advertisements that fell into the ‘as seen on TV’ variety which is all too common today.  Thirty-plus years ago infomercials and television-exclusive products were new and I guess exciting.  So let’s take a trip down memory lane with some of the greatest hits of 1980’s infomercials and television-exclusive products.

                One product that immediately comes to mind when I think of my sick days in the 1980’s has to be the Life Call.  Who could forget the image of the elderly Mrs. Fletcher lying on her side next to her tipped over walker screaming into her Life Call “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”  By pressing the button on the alert necklace police and rescue would be called and sent out to the person in need.  This product came about in the late 1980’s and a similar product still exists today under the name Life Alert.

                Another classic which is still around today is the Chia Pet.  A ceramic follower pot basically, shaped like anything from a sheep to a human head, in which you could grow chia seeds which sprouted like hair/fur through the chosen pot.  Surely any child of the 1980’s, or any since cannot think of a Chia Pet and not immediately think “Ch-ch-ch-chia!”  Though it was invented in 1977 it hit its stride in the 80’s and as of 2007 it was reported that more than 500,000 Chia Pets were sold annually, during the holidays alone.

In a bit of lightning striking twice the same company which came up with the Chia Pet also came up with another 1980’s classic The Clapper.  “Clap On! Clap Off!”  The product, which debuted in 1985, was a sensor outlet that responded to your clapping, or other very loud stimulus causing whatever was plugged in through the special outlet to switch on or off.  It led to some hilariously 80’s commercials and is still available today.

A trip down the infomercial memory lane wouldn’t be complete without Ginsu Knives.  Though the word ginsu means nothing it was meant to sound Asian, as if related to the Japanese samurai sword as far as sharpness went.  It debuted in the first half of the 20th century but became well known through a series of ads which began in 1978.  They were a success and Ginsu sold between two and three million units by 1984.  The main selling point was how sharp the knives were and how they would never dull.  The ads would show the knives cutting through various items like nails, tin cans, and a radiator hose.  These are also still available today.

Some honorable mentions for a possible followup post include: Thighmaster, Mr. Microphone,  Saladmaster Cookware, Smokeless Ashtray, Sweatin’ to the Oldies, etc.

Come on back for some more crazy but true stories from the 1980’s!  Click here to check out my last blog when I first discovered Movies Are Not Real.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Child of the 1980's - Movies Are Not Real

                It is the Holiday season, the time for family, friends, food, and Santa.  Young children start off by believing that Santa is real among other things, it is that imagination and wonder that we lose along the way.  Though sometimes it is for the best.

I am sure most of you out there remember when and how you found out that Santa was not real.  However, I wanted to share how I found out that movies weren’t real.  It is a little funnier and more embarrassing than simply finding a closet full of wrapped presents, some from Santa, when I was 6 or 7.

In 1985 the movie Rocky IV came out, it was a sequel in the very popular Rocky franchise.  I can still remember being in second grade and standing the lunch line listening as one of my classmates described in vivid detail the fight between Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago.  I listened in horror as I heard about one final blow in the fight which ultimately killed Apollo.  A few months later I did see the movie and found myself having to hide behind my bedroom door in fear.

This would not be the last time that I found myself watching something terrifying through the crack in my bedroom door.  I can still remember being nine-years old and watching in horror as my favorite wrestler at the time, Hulk Hogan, had his shirt and crucifix torn off by the now-evil Andre the Giant.  It was the build up to Wrestlemania III in 1987 and it all seemed real to me still.  Of course as I grew up I realized that pro wrestling was choreographed, not fake, and I also learned to not like Hulk Hogan and root for more skilled wrestlers.  But I digress; it was nearly a year later that I got a wakeup call in terms of movies not being real.

Just as 1988 began I saw an ad on NBC for Saturday Night Live.  That episode would be hosted by Carl Weathers, also known as Apollo Creed from Rocky.  It was a shock to my system to see a man I saw die in the ring against Ivan Drago standing there promoting SNL.  How was this possible? Weathers even announced himself as Apollo in case people didn’t know who he was.  It was at this time that I realized he was only playing a character and didn’t really die in Rocky IV, or Predator, or Happy Gilmore.  Come to think of it Carl Weathers dies in a lot of his movies.

So there you have it, up until between age 9-10 I believed that movies were real until Carl Weathers hosted Saturday Night Live.  Did you ever believe that things which happened in movies were real?  What was the event which stopped you believing that?  Stay tuned for more crazy revelations from 1980’s memories!  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Child of the 1980's - Christmas Toys

                ‘Tis the season to be jolly.  ‘Tis also the season of giving.  As a child, whether in the 1980’s or 2010’s there is always that A1 top of the line gift that becomes the must-have of the year.  It never fails, with the right combination of originality, appeal, and marketing, each year seems to bring forth one particular item that every child begs their parents for.  The 1980’s gave us plenty of those.  Here are some of the iconic toys that made parents trample each other in Toys R Us, KB Toys, Child World, FAO Schwarz, and others.

Cabbage Patch Kids – 1983 – Technically these insanely popular dolls were invented in 1978 by Xavier Roberts.  Initially called ‘The Little People’ they would not be sold, rather adopted, by their owners, complete with name and birth certificate.  In 1982 the dolls were renamed Cabbage Patch Dolls and began being sold through Coleco.  At their peak in 1983 the dolls sold 2.5 million units in one year and in 1984 sales of Cabbage Patch Dolls reached $1 billion.  As of 2012 more than 115 million of these had been sold.

Nintendo Entertainment System – 1986 – Before the NES the home video game market was dominated by Atari and to a lesser extent Coleco.  The Nintendo was quietly released in America in October 1985, gaining steam in popularity in 1986 thanks to games like Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, and Metroid.  In its peak year, 1988, the NES sold 7 million units and more than 32 million cartridges.  Sales reached $1.7 billion and in a true showing of what a juggernaut the NES was the company claims that if not for a worldwide computer chip shortage in 1988 they would have likely sold as many as 40% more cartridges.  They would create another highly sought after Christmas gift the following year when they released the Game Boy.

Rubik’s Cube – 1980 – Created by Erno Rubik in 1974, this handheld puzzle became the highest selling toy of all-time.  It was unleashed en mass upon consumers in 1980 through Ideal Toys.  The cube, covered with moveable colored squares, would sell 4.5 million units in 1980 alone and as of 2014 more than 350 million had been sold.  If you have never been able to solve this puzzle have no fear, even Rubik himself couldn’t solve his product upon its creation.  That being said, the Guinness Book of World Records says that the quickest solve of the Rubik’s Cube is a mere ten seconds.

Teddy Ruxpin – 1985 – This animatronic teddy bear burst on the scene in 1985 with his wide eyes and cassettes put into his back to allow him to tell stories.  At its peak the stuffed bear would have its own cartoon show and sold a million units in 1985.  Created by Ken Forsee it was sold initially through Worlds of Wonder and after that Hasbro and there were more than three dozen story cassettes that one could buy.  Teddy Ruxpin was voiced by Phil Baron who also voiced Piglet in the live-action Welcome to Pooh Corner.  This toy has vanished and been brought back four times including a relaunch in 2017.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 1989 – This collection of four anthropomorphic turtles got their start as comic books heroes in 1984.  Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo would crossover into television in 1987 and Turtlemania was underway.  A series of action figures through Playmates Toys would sell big in 1988 when the animated series became a Saturday morning staple.  Sales would grow even larger in 1989 and with a live action movie in 1990 TMNT would sell more than 30 million units by the end of 1990 with the franchise being valued at $1 billion by then.
         There were plenty of other big hit toys that made 1980’s Christmases fun and shopping for them crazy for our parents.  Did you have any of these?  Were there any other favorites that I missed? I am sure there will be a Volume 2 sometime.  Check back in for more bodacious 1980’s memories!

Click here for my previous Child of the 1980's Blog about Sugary Breakfast Cereals!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Child of the 1980's - Sugar Is A Four-Letter Word

                In today’s world nutritional information is hugely important when it comes to any food product.  Transparency is key as far as calories, fat, carbs, and any sort of additives go.  A healthier lifestyle is something one should strive for anyway, but it has come to the forefront of society especially in the 21st century.  It’s not as if people did not care about their health back in the 1980’s, it was just that it was left up to a person to make the right choices on their own for what they put into their bodies.  However, it was during this decade that the changes became apparent when it came to certain food additives, especially sugar.  The 1980’s were the decade when sugar became a four-letter word.
                The area where this change was seen most had to have been breakfast cereals.  Perhaps it is because cereal was always one of my favorite things, and still is today, that I had many dealings with these changes.  So where did the changes become most obvious?  In the names of course.

                When 1980 began there were some very popular cereals which had been around for decades.  There was Sugar Crisp, which had debuted in 1949, Sugar Pops, which hit the market in 1950, Sugar Frosted Flakes, which was introduced in 1952, and Sugar Smacks which was released in 1953.  By the time 1985 dawned the cereals were called Super Golden Crisp, Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes, and Honey Smacks.  Why the change?

                Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s the sugar content in breakfast cereals kept increasing with companies become more brazen when it came to the fact that they were pumping kids full of the sweet stuff.  The counter-culture of the late 1960’s became the turning point as people began to think that maybe it wasn’t great for kids to be eating tons of sugar.  I have always enjoyed my sweet cereals so I am torn on this as I do see their point.  For example, two of the worst culprits of the sugar overload were, and still are, Golden Crisp and Honey Smacks.  Golden Crisp has a sugar content of 51%, meaning that 51% of the cereal’s weight is comprised of sugar, while Honey Smacks has a 55% sugar content.  Now, this is not meant to be some anti-sugar rant, I am just saying that I can see where people were coming from when the backlash against high-sugar cereals came to a head in the early 1980’s.  So a lot of manufacturers toned down the use of sugar, by changing the names, not really by lowering sugar amounts.

                Despite the name changes in some all-time favorites children of the 1980’s like myself were treated to some amazing flash in the pan cereals that could not have been exactly low in sugar.  Do you remember any of these short-lived 80’s breakfast names?  Dunkin’ Donuts Cereal, Ice Cream Cones, Nerds, OJ’s, Powdered Donutz Cereal, Rocky Road, S’Mores Crunch, Waffleo’s , Circus Fun.  They all sound very healthy.

                The 1980’s were definitely a golden age of breakfast cereals.  Even though the pushback against high sugar products was in full swing that didn’t stop manufacturers from creating some memorable meals for kids.  I know I definitely enjoyed my Saturday mornings in the 1980’s about as much as any time of my life, cereal and cartoon were a great mix.  What were your favorite cereals in the 1980’s?  Did you remember when the word sugar was featured in many of those old classics?  Come on back for more sweeter than sweet 1980’s memories!

Check out the previous Child of the 1980's blog all about the Drive-In.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Child of the 1980's - The Drive-In Theater

                Drive-In movies were a huge part of the lives of children and young adults during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Though drive-ins technically existed prior to World War I the first true patented drive-in opened in Camden, New Jersey in 1933.  Even after that they did not become a true part of culture until the 1950’s.  The growing popularity of drive-ins was evident at this time.  In 1948 the United States had less than 1,000 drive-ins compared to 17,000 indoor theaters.  By 1958 the numbers were changing with roughly 4,600 drive-ins opened in the country and approximately 12,000 indoor theaters.

                Drive-ins were a welcome change from what could be crowded indoor theaters.  First off one could sit in their own vehicle and watch a movie.  In fact the largest drive-in theater for a long time was located in Dearborn, Michigan and used to hold 3,000 cars.  It was eventually surpassed by the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop.  When the 1980’s began the drive-in was still going strong with approximately 3,500 screens located across the country.  However this decade would end quite differently.

                Growing up on Cape Cod I remember vividly going to the Yarmouth Drive-In located along Parker’s River.  There were also screens located in Hyannis, Dennis, East Falmouth, and Wellfleet.  During this time in the early 1980’s I got to see movies such as Return of the Jedi, E.T., Flash Gordon, and even Friday the 13th Part III at the Yarmouth Drive-In.  It was such a thrill as a child barely in kindergarten to be able to lay down under a blanket with pillows and snacks and watch a movie on a screen that was between 90-100-feet wide.  Shows started at dusk and were double-features.  The first movie was usually the more family friendly since it was likely that the kids would be wide awake and wired for the show.  The second movie was usually a little looser, probably not R-rated, but likely a solid PG, or PG-13.  It felt like an adventure, a unique experience, being outside yet feeling like you were in your own living room.
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Dennis Drive-In courtesy of Cinema Treasures
      The 1980’s began with five drive-ins on Cape Cod, and 3,500 nationwide.  By 1990 that number was below 1,000, and there was only one survivor on the Cape and that was in Wellfleet.  What caused the downfall?  Causes range from the rise of cable television to the wider availability of VCR’s.  Drive-Ins did not totally vanish, and still haven’t, but today they are more of a niche, something neat to experience once during the summer if possible, not a weekly ritual like in its heyday.

So for Cape Cod children of the 1980’s wondering what happened to the other four, here are the answers.  In East Falmouth the Cod Drive-In was first to go as it closed in 1980.  Today it is the site of J.R. Brody’s and Falmouth Lumber, a concrete slab likely where the tickets or refreshments were sold is still there.  The Dennis Drive-In on Hokum Rock Road closed shortly thereafter.  In its heyday it had room for nearly 1,000 cars and even had small planes landing and rolling up to watch movies.  Today it is an overgrown field near an industrial park.  If you walk around you can see old pavement, concrete slabs, and an occasional speaker or speaker pole.  The Yarmouth Drive-In I frequented as a child closed next in 1985.  Today it is an open field across from Capt. Parker’s Restaurant on Rt. 28.  The last Cape drive-in to close was the Hyannis Drive-In which shuttered in 1987.  Today it is a shopping center anchored by Toys R Us, Home Goods and Shaws.

Wellfleet Drive-In today courtesy of Wellfleet Cinemas
The Wellfleet Drive-In is still hanging on and has now found a second life as children of the 1980’s wish to recreate that old drive-in magic with their children.  Today there are only 336 drive-ins left in the country, that’s about 7% when compared to the prime of the late 1950’s. 

What movies do you remember seeing in the 1980’s at the drive-in?  Do you get the chance to go today?  For a trip down memory lane check out Drive-In, and stay tuned for more buttery and sugary treats 1980’s style!

Click here for my last Child of the 1980's blog about Mascot Mania!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Child of the 80's - Mascot Mania Vol. 1

                The brand mascot has been a part of business for as long as advertising has existed.  From as far back as the first half of the 20th century companies have tied their success to a familiar face that represents their product.   Before World War II there were icons such as Speedy Alka Seltzer, the Quaker Oats man, the Sun Maid Raisins Girl, and Mr. Peanut. 
                For children of the 1980’s, or any decade for that matter, it is easy to think back and remember which mascots or pitchmen made you want to buy a product.  For this blog I am going to share five of my favorites.  I am going to try going a little deeper and hopefully sparking some memories with these picks.  They are in no particular order, so let the flashbacks commence!

1.  Chester Cheetah – Cheetos

                Who could forget this smooth talking animated cheetah that started representing the snack company beginning in 1986?  His catchphrases were: “It ain’t easy bein’ cheesy.” and “Cheetos, the cheese that goes crunch!”  In the beginning Chester was animated in the traditional way before moving to CGI in the 21st century.   He would always attempt to take others’ Cheetos and ultimately fail in an over the top cartoonish way.  Though this character still exists today there’s no doubting children of the 80’s have fond memories of his heyday.

2.  Fast Talker - Micro Machines

            These miniature vehicles were cool if you were a boy in the 1980’s. They were made even cooler through the commercials featuring extremely fast talker John Moschitta Jr.  At one point he was the world record holder being able to articulate 586 words per minute, his record has subsequently been broken twice.  The toys were hugely popular in the late 1980’s with Moschitta appearing in roughly 100 commercials as the Micro Machines Man.  The catchphrase he used, albeit very quickly, was: “Remember if it doesn't say Micro Machines, it's not the real thing!"

3.  Energizer Bunny

            Bursting onto the scene in 1989 was this now-classic advertising mascot.  The bunny equipped with an Energizer battery to power it began its run as a way of comparing how long he company’s batteries would last in comparison to the competition.  In its initial commercial a group of mechanical bunnies beat snare drums when the pink bunny came in beating a bass drum.  It then wandered into several fictitious commercials with the tag line ‘Still going…nothing outlasts Energizer, they keep going and going…”  Since then the fluffy mascot has appeared in well over a hundred commercials with no signs of slowing down.

4.  Snausages Dog

            Though the product line is still going strong today the mascot of these dog treats has been reduced to an image on the packaging.  The product created by Ken-L Ration debuted in 1984 with a commercial featuring the dog repeating the products name as it poked its head out from behind bushes and trees.  The Snausages name became well known throughout the 1980’s, later adding another classic commercial for their Snausages In A Blanket.  More than thirty years later Snausages is still going strong with the happy dog mascot still adorning the products and website.

5.  Cookiepuss et al – Carvel Ice Cream

                Founded in 1929 by Tom Carvel this ice cream company was huge back in the 1980’s.  The ice cream cakes became the stuff of legend with the unique designs being given different names such as Cookiepuss, Fudgie the Whale, Dumpy the Pumpkin, and a Santa Claus among others.   Carvel reached its zenith in 1985 with 865 stores grossing more than $300 million.  I can remember the Carvel store in the K-Mart plaza in Hyannis back then.  It was fun to go and see the made up cakes, even if I didn’t get one.  Though there are only about 400 stores open today Carvel still has a strong presence in supermarkets with its ice cream cakes.

                Those are only a few of the famed advertising mascots from the 1980’s.  There will definitely be a Volume 2 coming up, but for now enjoy the memories, and classic commercials here.  Stay tuned for more gnarly 80’s flashbacks! 

Click here to check out my last Child of the 1980's blog Mixtape Madness!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Child of the 80's - Mixtape Madness

                In a day when MP3’s are the common way people listen to music it is easy to forget the days of the classic mixtape.  Despite the advances in technology of the 21st century it is still possible to find audio cassettes out there.  They may be increasingly rare now but in the 1980’s they were the go to mode of listening to music.  Do you remember?

                The audio cassette was invented in 1962 by Philips and progressively gained traction in the music genre during the 1970’s, battling it out with 8-track tapes.  However cassettes really took off in the 1980’s with the growing availability of the Sony Walkman, the portable cassette player.  It was introduced in the United States in 1980 and as of 2009 had sold more than 200 million units.  As important as the Walkman was for making ones music portable, there was another invention that changed the game just as much: the dual deck cassette recorder.
Image result for maxell cassette tapes
     This invention meant that no longer would people have to ‘only’ listen to whichever tape they had, or listen to the radio.  This invention meant that now we had the ability to take our favorite songs off of different tapes and make our own personal mixes.  The most widely used brands in the day were Maxell and Memorex.  This was a fabulous way to give gifts to friends or crushes back in the 1980’s.  A personal mixtape could say things that the old school love notes could not.  If you gave someone a tape with Foreigner’s ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ it meant more than ‘roses are red, violets are blue.’  Plus you could always write a little love note on the inside of the tape sleeve, or on the tape’s label.

                One aspect of the tape recorder in general, not just the dual deck, was the ability to record off of the radio.  This meant if you timed it just right you could possibly snag that track you’ve been dying to have without having to buy the entire cassette.  It was the 80’s version of digital piracy.  Still this was often thwarted when radio DJs would talk and talk over the musical intro to the song, or play some sort of station ID just before the song ended.  Getting a clean crisp recording or a favorite track was nearly impossible.  I can remember countless times I wanted to grab my favorite song off of Cape 104 or PIXY 103 using my SONY dual deck and having to make do with it being talked over at the beginning or end.   
                Every now and then when going through boxes in my mother’s basement I will come across old mixtapes that are now 20-25 years old.  I was still creating mixes until the turn of the 21st century, this time ripping music from my compact discs.  
     According to it is thought that in pristine condition audio cassettes can have a lifespan of thirty years.  However ones that have received lots of playback tend to last half as long.  This is just a heads up for anyone with classic mixes that one day they may want to play on some retro tape deck.  They might work, or the tape might get caught in the gears of the player, and we all know that winding the tape back in using a pencil can be a pain in the ass!

                Thanks for reading and be sure to come on back for more bitchin’ 80’s memories! 

Click here for my last Child of the 80's Blog about living the Happy Meal life!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Child of the 1980's - The Happy Meal Age

           “You deserve a break today!” 

The Golden Arches, the king of fast food, and surely a big part of the childhoods of most 1980’s kids, that is McDonald’s.  For me trips to McDonald’s in the 1980’s are associated with birthdays, good report cards, and successful sporting events.  The first half of the 1980’s also included another thing during McDonald’s trips, that being the Happy Meal.  I spent my early childhood years excitedly ordering them during my special trips to the fast food giant, eagerly anticipating the toy inside.

                When I first experienced a McDonald’s Happy Meal they were still a new choice.  The very first were tested locally in Kansas City markets in October 1977 before being launched nationally in June 1979 at a cost of $1.10.  The idea of a colorfully illustrated lunch pail type package aimed toward children is credited to a McDonald’s advertising executive named Dick Brams.  The very first nationally released Happy Meals had a circus wagon design and had handles on top to make it easy for kids to carry.

                Inside of the package children were greeted by a hamburger or cheeseburger, cookies,  and small French fries, in addition to a small drink of their choosing.  This would remain the same until McDonald’s introduced their Chicken McNuggets nationwide in 1983.  In recent years the company has attempted to become more health conscious by giving the options of apple slices and milk in addition to the old standbys.

                The first toys inside the Happy Meals were subpar compared to later years.  Kids would find a ‘McDoodler’ stencil, a ‘McWrist’ wallet, or an eraser shaped like a McDonaldland character inside.  Those characters included Ronald McDonald, Grimace, Hamburglar, Birdie the Early Bird, Mayor McCheese, the Fry Kids, and more.  Children were likely pleased with their toys since there was nothing else to compare them to, today though it would be seen as a disappointment.
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McDonaldland Characters

      Later in 1979 McDonald’s stepped up their game and had toys in the Happy Meals promoting Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  In the 1980’s the fast food giant would gain a reputation by having some legendary toys in the children’s meals.  Some of the greats include: Changeables which were essentially McDonald’s food products that transformed into robots, McNugget Buddies which were dressed in different occupational costumes, a set of colorful Halloween pails, and the iconic Mac Tonight Moon Man figures.  They also hit on many of the popular kids shows of the 80’s with their toys like Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Garfield, DuckTales, and more. 

It is easy to see why sales of the meals are still so high.  For example, according to Time Magazine in 2012 1.2 billion Happy Meals were sold worldwide.  Granted not all of the news is great, the childhood obesity rate has grown from 4.2% in 1979 when Happy Meals were introduced to 18.5% in 2017.  That is not all due to one restaurant though.  On a lighter note if you saved any of your toys from that era some are worth good money.  Some of the most valuable include the Roary the Lion Beanie Baby which can go for as much as $750, the 1990’s fad Furby’s are also quite valuable. 

Did you ever have a Happy Meal during your childhood?  Do you still have any of the toys?   Stay tuned for more killer 80’s memories!

Click here for my last Child of the 80's blog all about the Atari 2600!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Child of the 1980's - Atari 2600

                In 2017 it is hard to imagine a time when video games were primitive.  Xbox, Nintendo Wii, and Playstation have all lay claim to some incredible games and consoles.  The graphics and stories are mind-blowing with new advances in technology coming at such a rapid pace.  Handheld consoles, virtual reality, motion-capture, and more have become the norm.  However there was a time not very long ago where a dot bouncing across a screen between two sliding bars was the biggest thing on earth.  Before the more recent games where the graphics mimic reality there was a time when 8-bit graphics were the greatest thing going.  It was during this time, as a child of the 1980’s, where I was introduced to the world of video games.  It was not through Nintendo, or Sega, or Xbox, or Playstation.  It was through the granddaddy of video game consoles, the Atari 2600.

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Atari 2600
                In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s if a kid wanted to play video games it was usually off to the video arcade.  It was less common for a kid to have a home console although a few did exist, specifically ColecoVision and Atari VCS.  Atari had a firm grip on the market though as they had established themselves by creating the game Pong in 1972, one of the earliest video arcade games. The Atari Video Console System was an 8-bit system released in September 1977.  It would sell for between $199-229 ($803-925 in 2017) and popularize cartridge-based consoles with games being loaded into the top of the machine.  The games would be controlled with a simple joystick coupled with one red button.  Initially Atari released nine games with its VCS: Air-Sea Battle, Basic Math, Blackjack, Combat, Indy 500, Star Ship, Street Racer, two versions of Surround, Video Olympics.

                Atari would change its console from the VCS to 2600 in 1982 when they released its successor the 5200.  It was around this time that I was introduced to home video games.  I can clearly remember playing games like Pitfall, Missile Command, and Pac-Man at home on weekends or after school.  Pac-Man would go on to become the top-selling game ever on Atari along with a pop culture icon.  Some of the other legendary games that came along through the Atari include Asteroids, Space Invaders, Frogger, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Mario Bros., and Donkey Kong.
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Pac-Man Screenshot
                I did not get a chance to play all of those games on my home console, as the early 1980’s were still a time where video games were new and rare and still seen as a niche, or a luxury, while playing outside was the go to activity for kids.  However I loved playing my Atari, and so did a lot of other people.  When all was said and done the Atari 2600 sold over 30 million consoles and hundreds of millions of games during its time in existence.
     Atari’s grasp on the throne would come to an end quickly.  Oversaturation of the market led to a huge drop in sales beginning in late 1983.  They continued to slip in 1984 and 1985 with many thinking home video game consoles were fading away.  Then in late 1985 Japan brought its Nintendo Entertainment System to the United States.  It would revitalize the video game industry eventually rendering Atari obsolete and selling more than 60 million units worldwide.
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     Ironically more than thirty years after Atari was the biggest thing in video games one can play some of the classics online.  There are original consoles still able to be found on eBay along with the popular Atari Flashback new consoles.  The company also made headlines again in 2014 when 1,300 unsold cartridges, many of them of the huge failure E.T., were uncovered in the desert in New Mexico.  Atari officials said that the burial was of over 700,000 cartridges in 1983 but was frequently dismissed as only an urban legend.

                Despite it being mainly a footnote in the history of video gaming there is no denying the importance of Atari.  I have lots of fond memories swinging on vines as Pitfall, shooting aliens in Space Invaders, and chomping ghosts in Pac-Man.  What were the first video games you remember playing?  Stay tuned for more awesome 80’s memories!

Click here to check out my last Child of the 80's blog about my Introduction to Music.