Thursday, June 04, 2015

Been a long time. Check check 

1, 2, check check ... is this thing on?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Testing a doc 

It was around 11 o'clock on a weeknight when Bobby says lets go see if anybody is around. I was sleeping over his house because it was spring break. Nice warm weather for March we didn't even need jackets. Walking past a house at the top of the street we hear music coming from an open basement window. Bobby noticed a girl he knew in there and bent down and yelled in the window. Karen came over and said something to Bobby and the next thing I know I was climbing through the window behind him.

There were three girls there in pajamas having some kind of a slumber party. There were pizza boxes and soda bottles scattered around and they had been dancing to a song on the radio. I wasn't much of a dancer but Karen's friend Monica convinced me to dance. When that song was over the next one was a slow song. Karen said we should learn to slow dance and her and Bobby started and Monica looked at me. I was so nervous I had never been that close to a girl before. The song was Angie by the Rolling Stones. Round and round in a slow circle while the thoughts in my head were racing.

Monica was a sophomore in high school and I was only in 8Th grade. I wouldn't be 14 until the end of the summer and she was already 15 but I don't think she new how old I was. Bobby was a year older than me so maybe she thought I was older than him since I was a few inches taller. The song was over and we were just standing there when Karen said we better go before she got in trouble. 
Someone went upstairs to check the living room. We waited till we got the all clear then rushed out the back door. I was on cloud nine and don't remember the rest of that vacation.
Monica was now my second crush. The next few weeks were a blur. I was having major reconsideration about the path I was taking in life. I had been to a summer camp run by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and I was enrolled in a seminary school up near Allentown. It had only been the previous summer that I realized when I had my first crush on a girl. But since she never showed up at the swim club I never saw her again. It wasn't until Monica that those same feelings started stirring again.
You know most of the schoolyard talk of a 13 year old boy at the time was about which base did you get to with what girl. I was looking for my first at bat. I was obsessed with getting that kiss from Monica. The only place that was happening was at parties when you played spin the bottle or post office or seven minutes in heaven. A couple weeks after that first dance I found myself sitting on a basement floor in a circle with 6 or 7 other people. The bottle spinning in the middle was slowing down and stopped pointing at me. It had been Sherry that spun the bottle and my initial reaction was to get up and run out of the room.
No no no that was not how I wanted it. I'm sure I got called some nice names and when I came back in to the room I was told to play right or get out and it was my turn. Reluctantly I sat down and spun that bottle. Could fate really be so kind as to grant me my biggest wish? The bottle stopped on Monica. She said dry your lips if I feel anything wet I'm going to scream and then kissed me.
Wow. I vaguely remember playing for a little while longer and having to eventually kiss Sherry and then the party broke up and I do not recall ever seeing or talking to Monica after that. But I was still happy! I had gotten my first kiss and I wanted more. Wait a minute here because priests don't get to kiss girls or get married or even get to play baseball if you know what I mean. I had some serious rearranging to do.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Collecting Recordings

An old 78 RPM record can only hold about 4 minutes a side. In the early 1950's a 45 RPM record could easily hold 5 minutes. So think of these in terms of holding a collection of music or other spoken word shows.

What would a typical collection be like I wonder? Would someone have 20 or 30 or 50 of their favorite records? By the time the 1960's came around I remember most people having as many records as they could fit in the record cabinet. The family console radio.

In the mid 1940's there were at least 32 million out of the 40 million households in the USA with a radio and many of those were consoles with record players. Say you did have 30 records. At 8 minutes a record that would give you 240 minutes or 4 hours. Prime time every night had 82% or Americans listening to at least 2 hours of radio. Some shows an hour long most were a half hour. So your entire collection could easily be surpassed in just two short nights.

In the mid 40's the golden age of old time radio was at its peak and some shows 80% of the population listening to them every night. With very few exceptions, if you missed a show you really didn't miss much. The idea of recording a show was mostly unheard of until the 50's when reel to reel tape players started becoming more popular. In the 40's there were wire recorders but the general population would have seen them as mostly novelty. And there were actual phonograph recorders that were less expensive but the records they made could only be played back a few times.

It was rare when a show would have been recorded because the quality was low and there was no such thing as a rebroadcast until some time in the 40's. FCC regulations said shows had to be live and several were done twice to accommodate east and west coast audiences. So would never really expect to hear shows over again. Some holiday specials were made and some songs and other special recordings like that were made but the idea that someday you could listen to all the shows over and over again would have been science fiction.

It was possible to set up a reel to reel and record from the radio. And I am sure there were some audiophile collectors that did just that but imagine the size of the library you would build up. Sure things got smaller with 8 track tapes and then cassettes but then CD's came along. This is only about audio so I will not mention VCR's and VHS tapes until another story.

CD's were a turning point. They take up just as much room as a cassette tape and it took a few years before CD recorders were affordable. Then technology just took off with the compression ability of the MP3 along with the ever increasing size of the data than can be stored on one little 5 1/4 inch plastic disk. There is no difference in a CD or a DVD or even a blu-ray except for the amount of stuff it holds.

Space to store stuff is getting cheaper and larger by leaps and bounds. But with new services like streaming over the net it makes one think twice about how much stuff we really want to collect. How much of our attention is shifted away from music with all the video available? And how many spoken word pod casts are now video? What will we collect in 5 years?

Imagine travelling back in time to the summer of 1953 and witnessing the transformation of the entertainment industry from radio to TV. I wonder how many Fibber McGee & Molly fans were feeling the end of an era. 18 years of half hour prime time shows being reduced to a weekday daily 15 minute shadow of it's former self.

Imagine showing someone a DVD and saying you had over 500 episodes of the Fibber show on it. Luckily someone in Chicago was a real geek type and did in fact record many of the shows. And they have survived to this day. Would that person or anyone who listened to the originals ever want to go back and listen again? I am three quarters of the way through listening to that very DVD. That story will follow.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Welcome To Conshohocken PA 19428 

Welcome To Conshohocken PA 19428

Monday, December 13, 2010

Losing legends

Started writing this December 8th 2010.

I was reflecting back on remembering my recollections of people dying. In the late 60's I don't remember much of anything like that except when MLK and Robert Kennedy were killed and Judy Garland died. Even then it was only snippets from the news and nothing more.

During a class discussion in 1972 about the song American Pie we learned about the day the music died. In my piles of 45's were a few Big Bopper and Buddy Holly songs. I had heard my dad mention that day in 1959 a few times but it wasn't until the school class that it sunk in.

Early in 1977 I had taken a 6am Saturday bus to the Marriott on City Line avenue to wait in line for tickets. A little known ticket office where you didn't have to wait outside. I remember a sign saying there were still Elvis tickets available. Even my mother had not listened to Elvis in a long time. I know I was not sitting on that hallway floor wondering what rock and roll would be like in 20 years. Or what rock and roll had been like 20 years earlier. I was waiting for a chance to see Led Zeppelin.

Robert Plant's world came crashing down in July when his 5 year old son died and they cancelled the tour. I had seen the Song Remains The Same several times and could not help thinking about that cute little boy peeing in the stream in the movie. The magazine headlines wondered if Zeppelin would ever tour again.

August 3rd 1977 I finally got to see my first real concert. But two weeks later the world lost the King. Back then I would not have listened to Elvis myself but I did recognize how influential he was to other artists. I had read a story about Elvis mentioning Robert Plant's wife being in the audience at one of his concerts. And of course Plant himself adlibbing Elvis' name in a few live Zeppelin songs. The news was all over the news of course but from a personal standpoint it was out of mind quickly.

Within the next two years two musicians from two of my favorite groups died. Keith Moon and Bon Scott. The Who would never be the same but AC/DC would go on to be better. Then the big news came in early 1980 that Led Zeppelin was touring again. It was a fall concert even bigger than the ones before. Not at the spectrum but at JFK Stadium. Huge stadium concert and there was one major unbelievable incredibly cosmic coincidence. A friend of mine's father was head of maintenance at JFK and was going to get us in with him at 8am in the morning. it was a general admission concert so first come were closest to the stage. The anticipation of finally seeing Zeppelin lasted all summer.

Two weeks before the concert John Bonham was found dead. I would never get to see Led Zeppelin. Over the previous years I guess I had moved towards other groups. I had a thing for Peter Gabriel and Genesis and some wild electronic music. I found it odd that the passing of the great Bonzo did not effect me more than it did.

It was an odd time of my life because I was without direction and stuck as a 19 year old with no idea about the future. I wasn't a Phillies fan so having the championship didn't excite me more than a one night party in the street. I remember a disconnected feeling wondering what the next decade was bringing. What were the 80's going to be like?

I do not remember when or where I was when I first heard John Lennon had been shot any more than I remember when John Kennedy had been shot. But I remember going to my bookcase and opening an encyclopedia that had a piece of paper inserted in it. That piece of paper had a character from The Yellow Submarine on it as well as John Lennon's autograph.

In 1975 I heard on the radio that Channel 6 studio was doing a fund raiser and Lennon stopped by with Larry Kane and was helping them raise money. For some odd unknown reason I begged my father to take me there. The more I think about it the more I think it had something to do with Flyers and they were selling autographed pucks and sticks and stuff like that there. We got there late and all the Flyers stuff was gone. Lennon was gone. I was still going home with something so I started looking. I found a pack of Yellow Submarine stationary that had been opened and something was scribbled on the first sheet. The guy behind the counter told me Lennon had opened a bunch of the Beatles stuff and autographed them. I wanted it because it looked like Peter Max art. I don't remember how much but I had to borrow money from my dad to get it.

John Lennon had been on the radio quite a bit the previous weeks with a new album. I actually had one Beatles 8-track, Live at the Hollywood Bowl. I had gotten it off the discount rack in 1978 for a few dollars. The stuff from Double Fantasy seemed ok but nothing I would go buy the album for.

But something was different with Lennon and my personal reaction when he died. Just the fact I remember reacting reminds me it had more impact than when any of the other "rock stars" died. I am not really sure why though. Was it because he was killed instead of overdosing or choking on his own vomit? I remember an incredible sadness and so many friends felt the same way. Even so many other people I didn't know seemed to be affected by it.

In the weeks that followed there was so much Lennon and Beatles music everywhere. Hardly a day went by that I did not hear someone say I can't believe he's dead. Then the Rolling Stone cover with Lennon naked on Yoko brought it all back into the spotlight.

Thirty years later it is still a pretty sad memory since it was one of the first. Even though over the years hundreds and hundreds of the entertainers I grew up with are gone. One of the things I hate is when looking up old references to an old video or something I found only to find the person died a few years previous.

At least they left something behind that will last forever.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Over and over again part 2

The guy down the street closed his store and I never knew what happened...

I collected stamps for many years but back then I started to get into something else when I got my first clock radio for my 13th birthday. That might not seem like a big deal today but it was my first real FM radio. Not that I knew anything they were playing on those FM stations. But down on the bottom of the AM dial was WFIL where I started recognizing songs that I heard every day. Groups like Three Dog Night and The Raspberries and The Archies. These were songs that I heard playing in the jukebox at the swim club or my high school cafateria. There was this Bruce Springsteen song that got played at least three times during lunch. Over and over again sometimes back to back we heard Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.

My freshman year of high school was the busiest I had ever been in my life. In the car with my grandfather by 6:00 AM, pick up my uncle five minutes later, on the expressway sitting in traffic ten minutes after that and getting on a bus at 16th and Locust a half hour later. Just to be at band practice some time around 7:00 AM. Homeroom started right after band and after the end of school at 3:30 I went to swim practice that lasted till almost 5:00PM. Back on the bus and it was easier to transfer to the A bus on the way home than meet up with my grandfather so we both got home around 6:00PM every night. That was just in time for our new dinner hour. Over and over again the same routine, day after day and week after week.

After dinner it was up to my room for homework for at least an hour or two. I would have the radio playing softly in the background. I would hear the same songs over and over again but only once a night. Some times I would be so tired I would fall asleep and would not wake up till a nice loud song came on. I remember wondering what it would be like to hear some of those songs more often or whenever I wanted so I decided to ask for a record player for Christmas. Then I would be able to buy my own albums or 45's to listen to over and over again.

Day after day, week after week, ooops I already said that. By 9:00PM I would head downstairs to see what was on TV and finally wind down. It was mostly cop shows like Baretta, Starsky and Hutch, Hawaii 5-0 or Streets of San Francisco. Or my father would be in the kitchen watching a Monday or Thursday or Friday night movie on the black and white set. And friday night was not much to look forward to because saturday morning was set for swim meets so I still had to get up and on the bus to go downtown.

No wonder five months later I was getting an ulcer and flunking classes and transferring to a vocational school. It was 1976 the bicentennial year with all the american 200 years of history stuff going on. Kept hearing about that over and over again. Speaches, tv shows, radio programs and so much other stuff especially since we lived in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the declaration of independence. I was so much more interested in music than I ever had before so I was also hearing more news on the radio. One of the by products of listening to the radio is I got to hear the correct versions of the good songs. Up until then my music was sort of being corrupted by hearing my mother play Ray Conniff 8 tracks all the time.

One day I managed to record a Three Dog Night song called "One" on my portable cassette recorder. I wanted to memorize that song so I would be able to sing it when it was playing on the jukebox at the campground. I was going to try and impress some girl. I listened to that song over and over again sometimes rewinding the same lines over and over again. After a coulple of hours I could sing the whole song so I was ready. Ready to spend my time making rhymes about yeaterday.

The girl I did run into at the campground refered to the songs in the jukebox as oldies. She wanted to know what station I listened to. She lived to far away to get WFIL. She told me I should listen to better rock and roll stations on FM. The following weekend we took a family trip to Great Adventure. On the way home there was bad reception on the radio so I suggested trying FM. Coming down the dial right past the elevator music my mother stopped on this one song. They're coming to take me away ha ha they're coming to take me away he he. To the funny farm ha ha he he. Then this crazy guy calling himself Dr. Demento comes on and says what the song was and introduces the next wierd song. We listened to that until he said that's all folks see you next week. Then some rock song came on and my mother switched the station.

For the next week or so I tried finding that station on my clock radio. I had heard them call the station WISP several times. But I could not remember the station number. Starting at the top of the dial I tuned in the FM stations and listened. Over and over again I heard some station identify itself and tune in the next one. I really had no idea what to expect the kind of music would be since some seemed to play different things at different times. Then one night I finally hear a station called WYSP announce itself after playing of all things, Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run. The second Bruce song I remembered from the high school jukebox.

Finally I had found what I was looking for and had found a whole new style of music. Unlike the top 40 WFIL this station did not repeat the same hundred songs every day. There may have been three or four of the hottest songs I remember hearing every other day but normally you could listen all day without hearing the same song. I started listening to that station over and over again until I realized something was missing. The big record player in the living room was a "stereo". There was this one really cool stereophonic sound effects record that had all kind of crazy stuff like a ping pong game and a carnival ride. You could hear the sound was different from the left and right side. Even some of my mothers 5th Dimension records were like that. The ones my grandfather said made his head spin.

WYSP said it was broadcast in stereo. My mothers 8-track player had a stereo radio on it. Had I really been oblivious back then to what is so common as to have been inconceivable? I need to read that line over and over again to figure out what I said. Never mind I had an idea of exactly what I wanted that year for my birthday, Toys in the attic. Not real toys I am talking about the Aerosmith album with Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion on it. And the most important thing I would need to play this new record on would be a stereo. There it was in my room, a fancy Zenith that was not the wedge I wanted but a cooler looking one with a "digital" looking analog tuner display.

After a few days I was forced to take the stereo down to the basement. I had listened to my new record over and over again as well as the handful of 45's I had collected and a few of the old records from the living room just for nostalgia. That was the start of the basement hangout and where I spent my free time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old Time Radio 11-10-2010

As long as I can remember there was a big stereo radio record player in the living room of my grandparents house where I grew up. But it was rare that the radio was on. Once in a while my grandfather or one of my parents would play a record but most times it was quiet while the TV was on. There was an old radio down the basement on my grandfather’s workbench that took a minute to warm up. I remember they used to turn it on while they were working and listen to the news or stuff like that. I don't remember listening to the radio myself at all until after I was 10 years old.

There was a radio in the kitchen that I think my grandmother might have had on when she was cooking or cleaning. I can't be sure because I was not allowed in the kitchen unless it was time to eat. And as a rule there was no radio or TV allowed while eating.

Which was different than my cousins house where the TV was on wheels and they spun it around from the living room to the dining room for dinner almost all the time. Speaking of my cousin, my aunt used to call me Fibber Markie or Fibber McGee all the time. I had her mention Fibber and Molly used to be on the radio when she was a kid. I didn't understand at the time what a radio program was because as long as I had been around there was a big TV in the house.

According to my mother, back in the mid 1950's my grandfather was working three jobs to make ends meet but he just had to plunk down a couple hundred dollars for a TV. Technology and entertainment had taken off and I guess the old radio shows dropped off. It would still be several decades until I found all this out. There was mention of this or that actor once being on the radio. Like Red Skelton or Abbott and Costello. Once my father explained that the War Of The Worlds movie was also on a radio show when he was still a baby.

So when I started listening to the radio in the 70's there were no old time like programs on the radio any more. My idea of a weekly program was Doctor Demento who played silly music every Saturday night or other specific music programs.

Set the wayback machine a little more to the future Sherman. In 1988 there was a kid’s show called Kids Corner that my kids listened to. It was an hour show 5 nights a week. It was fun for a few months but they were getting older and sitting listening to the radio, while a novelty at first, faded out.

Flash two decades beyond that when I got my wife a satellite radio. Plenty of radio shows there but nothing I really got into talk wise. One of the benefits of the subscription was some channels were streamable over the internet. One day while sitting at work flipping through the online channels I heard the familiar voice of Red Skelton. He was doing one of his comedy routines. The title of the channel was the Old Time Radio network.

Skelton was one of my favorite old time comedians. The show was really funny and when it was over there was a mystery show that came on. It started out with a strange whistle I guess because it was called The Whistler. It was all so interesting that I started listening to that channel as much as I could. I find it strangely amusing listening to the cigarette ads of the time. Doctor recommended or healthier or less irritating. They made them sound good for you.

I was working converting documents to test scripts and 80% of my job was just cutting and pasting. It was easy to spend 3 or 4 hours a day listening in to those old time radio shows. Most of them were comedy like Jack Benny but there was also some westerns and crime dramas and two or three sci fi shows. When that contract was over so was my listening to satellite radio.

One small beacon of sanity during the hospital stay was old TV shows on the internet. I watched dozens of episodes of Alfred Hitchcock and Outer Limits that I used to love as a kid. I also watched 2 full seasons of Adam-12 and some of my other favorites from the 70's. It was like a trip back in time and I went farther and farther until I went as far as you could go.

It was then I went looking for those old time radio shows again. And that was when I finally got my first listen to Fibber McGee and Molly. I found a website with about 20 old Fibber and Molly shows as MP3's and I downloaded them on to my computer. I listened to a few randomly and was impressed mostly because I would be laughing out loud. I even drug out an MP3 player and started listening to one show while I went out for a walk at lunch. A half hour broadcast was perfect for a two mile trek. After listening to all of those I found a few more and then I found the holy grail of old time radio sites. OTR.net has over 400 episodes of Fibber McGee and Molly along with hundreds of other different shows.

Only problem was they were real audio format and not downloadable. I had one other option. Since the shows are in the public domain there are many places that have been offering them for sale in CD collections. I found some with over 650 shows for $40 or so dollars. But a little more looking around ebay showed one collection for a total of $5 with 768 episodes on one DVD. I would not have to bother with downloading any more.

My original listening pattern was all random. I had listened to many episodes spanning 13 years. I decided to go back to the beginning and start there. The early episodes were pretty sparse. In late 1937 Molly left the show and it was renamed Fibber McGee and Company. The shows were not as good without her but I kept chugging along in order anyway.

While I was looking for the collection to buy I had read up quite a bit about the program. It was one of the top rated radio shows in the mid 1940's with an estimated 30 million listeners. Imagine something today with a weekly audience of 30 million people. Something was that popular that almost nobody knows about today. Old time radio shows started mostly in the 1930's and by the 1940's over 80% of American households had a radio and tuned into broadcasts at night.

I will write up a specific story all about the Fibber and Molly experience separately after I get through a few more years. As of Veterans day 2010 I have listened to about 235 episodes and am up to Armistice day 1945 :)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Over and over again

It all started with books. My favorites were the Dr Seuss ones that my grandmother read to me. Any time I wanted all I had to do was run over to the bookshelf and grab one. And when I memorized the story I did not even need anyone to read it to me. I would read my books over and over again.

As I got a little older I remember when my father would pull out the slide projector a couple times a year after we got our film developed. I would sit there and we would look at all the new pictures. Then go back and look at my favorite slides from previous years. We also had a movie projector and half the movies were from Christmas and other holidays. I could watch those movies over and over again and it always got me in the mood for whatever holiday was coming up.

I had toys like a record player with a view screen that showed 5 slide pictures. It was automatic, the cardboard strip moved to the next picture when the story wanted it to. I had a view master and a view master projector. My view master reel collection was limited because they were so much more expensive than other toys and books even. But the ones I had I would look at over and over again.

The first TV show I remember watching regularly was from when I was about 5 years old, it was Flipper. I liked it so much my parents bought me my first record because of it. A 45 that was the theme song from Flipper. It was around that same time that I got some other kids 45's like Puff the Magic Dragon and Winkin' Blinkin' and Nod. My mother would let me borrow her old portable 45 player and you guessed it. I would listen to those records over and over again.

When I hit first grade in school I remember other kids talking about watching TV and all the great stuff there was to watch on Saturday mornings. It was odd to hear mention of shows in black and white. I was lucky enough that my grandfather had bought a color TV way back in 1963. The other tiny little TV's in the kitchen and parents bedrooms were only black and white though. And someday I would have my own TV in my bedroom. That day wouldn't come until I was about 12.

Except for Saturday mornings and at night after homework I would never be sitting in front of a TV unless it was pouring rain outside. There were no video games or hundreds of cable TV channels. But I would watch the TV Guide to see when my favorite holiday TV shows like the Peanuts and Charlie Brown would be coming on. And then there were some movies like The Wizard Of Oz that came on once a year that I had to watch. In these cases the over and over was once a year. I was fanatical about watching these. Luckily back in the 60's kids never had to do anything after 8 pm at night.

Only once a year was much different than a rerun. Cartoons started a new season along with school in September. But summer Saturdays seemed to have shows I already saw. When I had a chance to watch them that is. Mostly Saturdays I was working with my grandfather or out doing other things. I did not get my first portable radio till I was about 10 so I was still not all that into music. And at about that time I started reading longer and longer books so I was less likely to be inclined to read them over and over again.

After one busy Saturday of working I had 5 dollars in my pocket and the new pinball parlour was my destination. It took me all day to make 10 bucks and my mother was letting me spend half of it. Normally my Saturday was a trip to the corner store with 50 cents to see how much candy I could buy. Here I was thinking I would play pinball over and over and be there half the night. The problem was after I had that pile of quarters in my pocket I did not play anything more than once. I went from machine to machine, dropped my quarter, lost ball after ball, and moved to the next machine.

I was back home in less than an hour. The following week with only 4 quarters in my hands I was back playing pinball but with a different approach. I chose one of the older machines that offered 5 balls per game instead of three. After playing two games I started getting the hang of it. So much so that my game playing time got longer and longer with each quarter that gave me three games. I played that machine over and over again until I got good enough to pop a free game at least once on a quarter. Last time I recall being there I made a quarter last a half hour.

One Saturday afternoon I discovered a little place two houses away from the drug store across from the train station. This guy ran a variety store that had lots and lots of junk. I had just gotten a stamp collecting album for my birthday and it was the strangest thing this guy had several bags of stamps for sale. Must have been a few thousand stamps mounted on cardboard. The album I got came with about 100 stamps from all over the world. It took me a weekend and hours and hours of patience to get those stamps mounted. I had looked at them over an over again and I was able to get a few new stamps from my parents I wanted more. The guy only had US stamps and within 15 minutes of looking I had selected a dozen stamps to spend my dollar on. When I got home I mounted them but only a few had places to put them the rest went in the miscellaneous section. I realized I was going to need a bigger and better stamp album. And there it was in the Harris stamp catalog.

I ordered the 1972 US Stamp album knowing I would be able to buy extra pages for it every year when they came out. Slowly my collection grew as my mother found more and more old letters around the house. I was not allowed to order stamps on approval yet. My father insisted that was a racket. But that store by the train station was my biggest source of stamps. I was obsessed with stamps and seeing as how I was wearing braces and candy was off limits that meant I needed something to spend my allowance money on.

Saturday afternoon down looking through a half dozen shopping bags at hundreds and hundreds of stamps. Saturday after Saturday. I am sure after the first four or five times I was there I saw every one he had. But there was no way I could afford a 2 dollar stamp. So I liked looking at them over and over again. After a couple months the guy started getting annoyed with my obsession especially when I did not buy anything. But every once in a while he would drop the price on something I had my eye on. The following year I was finally allowed to get approvals and really start filling up my collection. The guy down the street closed his store and I never knew what happened.

to be continued...

Monday, August 23, 2010

My first job

The first job I ever had where I paid good old income tax was not until the summer of 1979. Before that from the time I was 8 I had done odd jobs for my grandfather. In July I made plans to visit a friend in Ohio over the labor day weekend. One minor issue was a total lack of cash. I had sunk some money into my car to try and get it repaired but it was a lost cause. Somebody in the family suggested somewhere I would never have expected. The Custard Stand.

Apparently there was an opening because somebody quit and I don't think Craig was working 100 hour weeks anymore so his grandfather said he would let me have a try. How hard could it be?

The work I did for my grandfather was all maintenance work on a huge mansion in Mount Airy where some friends of his lived. Every weekend something needed fixed or cleaned up or painted or moved. There were no time clocks or customers and the only deadlines were based on when it was supposed to rain or what season it was.

Welcome to the world of retail. I started in the middle of the week so I would have time to work my way up to the crazy pace of the weekend. $2.90 an hour which was minimum wage at the time did not compare to the $5 I got from my grandfather and then I found out about "witholding" and taxes which seemed a shock at first. But there was actually only one other major issue.

I had no problem chopping things and mixing milkshakes or making sundae's but for the life of me I could not get the hang of making a soft serve cone. The machine required you to work the nozzle with your right hand while holding the cone in your left. Open it up too much and you got ice cream all over your hand. Don't open it far enough and you just get a lump of ice cream that does not look like the neat swirl you are expecting. And because the cones sold for a buck to a buck and a half there was no way to practice.

I started out only making sundae's and working the machine for anything that came in a cup. I also did quite a bit of the cleaning and prep work. After 4 hours I was finally allowed to take a break and clock out for 15 minutes. That was very odd as I had never been on a time clock other than high school arrival and leaving before. Three more hours later I was done and I was more tired than I had ever been before from working. Odd because all I was doing was standing around and making ice cream and soda stuff.

The following day was more of the same. Once again I was not getting the hang of the soft serve dispenser. I could not figure it out because my hand eye coordination was pretty good. I could juggle and play pinball and space invaders pretty good why would a simple task like the ice cream trip me up. It must have been the left handed cone thing. I had no problems with the nozzle but I could not get the nice neat cones that people were expecting.

Then there was the milkshake incident. While mixing up someones black and white I bumped the inside of the cup against the mixer blade and you don't have to be a genius to figure out what happened. It cut right through the cup and started dumping milk on the floor. The first two times I had done this I managed to only nick the inside and was able to get a new cup before any mess was made. But this time I was in a hurry there was a big thursday night crowd gathering.

Yeah things were getting rough. I don't remember what I did for the 15 minute break and by the end of the night I was fried. Did I mention I was in college summer school? I had to be in Upper Darby and sign in for classes at 8:30am. The bus left at about 7:20am. My father would stick his head in my room at 6:30 and wake me up because I never heard my alarm. It was only a half day program so I was out of there by noon and home by 1:30.

Friday, the end of the week and the best party night in a teenagers life. No school on Saturday and nothing but cartoons to look forward too. Ooops, forgot about having to work. On a hot summer night would you offer some ice cream to the geek with the red roses? Yeah I would have rather been sitting at home listening to my new meatloaf album but I had to work.

If you have ever been to the custard stand on a hot summer night you know how busy it can get. When I was younger I was not able to appreciate that because we always walked in the back door. Here I was with two days under my belt looking at two long lines of ice cream loving Roxborough people and I probably knew half of them.

I made many wimpy droopy looking cones that night and some of my friends made sure to let me know just how wimpy they were and the night was so busy that it was a complete blur. I knew I was not cut out to be an ice cream salesman. At the end of the night when everything was cleaned up I was given a pink slip. It was a list of my hours for those three days. Well, it had been a nice try. I was told my check was in the mail and a few days later had about $45 in my hand I didn't have before. It was all good though. The next time I worked in there is was helping my father fix something and he paid me $5

My social security statement says I made $59 taxable income in 1979. Wow.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Cold Linoleum on a basement floor.

The onset of adolecense had a new requirement. A place to hang out with your friends especially if they were of the opposite gender. You know, like around age 13 when your mom says something like "You can't have a girl in your room." So what's a guy to do?

Make a party den in the basement of course. My basement was divided in two areas. One had panelled walls and a drop ceiling. I convinced my father it was time to do some more remodelling and over the next year or two the remaining wall under the steps was made into a closet. with the same panelling as the rest of the room. By the summer of 1975 I was no longer at the mercy of needing a place to go to make out with girls.

Or so I thought. The life of my pubescent 13 year old self was consumed with girls. Not knowing what having a girlfriend ment. The subtle differences between going with and going "out" with were beyond male comprehension. But playing spin the bottle or 7 minutes in heaven or even just slow dancing was fully understood. I ended up staying in touch with one of the girls I was with at a party for the first time and we decided we were "going out". I didn't care about the definition I was just glad to have a girlfriend as I was about to enter an all boys high school.

There was some left over linoleum from our kitchen floor that had just been redone that I put down in the middle of my den. About a 10 foot by 10 foot square that I called my dance floor. There was one old chair from the living room and an ottoman footstool and a small kid sized bear rocking chair that my sister insisted I put down there for her. It looked a little sparse. But It was only going to be for private parties.

When I finally got around to bring Kim down to my house we went down to the basement and the first thing she asked was where the music was. Ooops I seem to have forgotten something. So I got my portable cassette player and my portable record player but I really didn't have many things recorded and my 45 collection was pitiful. Mostly things my father had given me like some doors and animals songs. And an Arthur Brown record. Just try impressing a girl with "I am the God of hell fire, and I bring you FIRE!" screaming out of a tinny scratchy record.

She sat in the chair and I sat on the foot stool and we just looked at each other. She looks down and says "So, nice floor". It was then I realized it was too bright down there with two overhead flourescent lights. So I sneak up the steps to turn the lights off when I remember the switch was lit to remind you it was on. If I turned it off my parents would know I was um, you know, down there with the lights off. So I left them on but started getting ideas about how to fix that problem. I really don't remember much about my relationship with Kim Hastings other than these few minor details. We never made out in my basement. I started high school and had no time for things like that until 1976 when I left the Prep and went to Mercy Vocational to finish my freshman year.

End of part one.

Friday, December 19, 2008

When I was a kid my father was always bringing home mechanical parts for me to play with. Then one day my grandfather brought home some telephone equipment after his office upgraded. I was always into taking things apart to see how it worked. The telephone stuff was cool because it had “electronic” parts and I wanted to learn more about those.

September 1973, for my 12th birthday, I got one of the most influential presents of my life. A Tandy 100 in 1 electronic project kit. It had all of those little doodads that were inside the phone. And it had something ultra modern and space-age, an integrated circuit that was 1 inch square and contained 18 miniature components.

I studied the workbook and memorized the resistor color code and built half of the projects before Halloween came around. With Christmas approaching I’m sure my sights were set on other things for a while so I don’t have any clear memories of it until a year later.

My grandfather and father had a subscription to popular mechanics. In December 1975 there was a complimentary issue of popular electronics that came in the mail. On the cover was a Computer. Only today’s internet magic lets me look back in time and see it was the Altair 8800. It was interesting to read about and I went back to my project kit and started reading up on the logic circuits. Now I had something to put a Flip Flop Multivibrator circuit in context with. But it was a short lived thing.

By 1976 I had other interests. Music, parties, arcade games and girls. Somehow they would all end up being connected. I had gotten my first stereo and put it down in the basement where I set up a basic teenager hangout. Besides the stereo was a TV and a Coleco Telstar pong video game with a gun. I had remembered some of the photocell projects from my 100 in 1 kit so I dug it out of my closet and took it to the basement.

I remember wiring up a circuit that flashed a light and bounced the meter to the sound of whatever was playing on the stereo. This was the first thing other people saw at one of the parties I had. The girls were impressed at my geeky nerdiness with the electronics. I decided I had to come up with something more impressive than an alarm that came on when you opened a door or some flashing stuff.

One of the more complicated circuits in the project book was for a lie detector. I wired it up and tried it out. It consisted of two bare tipped wires that you were supposed to hold on to with each hand. Making sure you pinched the bare wire ends between your fingers. The circuit was hooked up to a speaker and made a clicking sound that got faster as the resistance dropped. Supposedly if you lie you sweat more and that would cause less electrical resistance. The clicking would turn into a fast buzz if you touched the wires directly together. And if you just held them normally you could make it faster by squeezing harder on the wires. Then my girlfriend came over and we found an interesting use for this lie detector.

She wanted to know if it would work if she held one and I held the other and we held hands. We tried it and it only registered a slight difference. Then she leaned over and kissed me and it went up a little more. That gave me an idea to try and make it more sensitive. My first indication I was a geek when she wanted to make out and I wanted to change the circuit. I got her to hold off for a few minutes and made some changes to the trigger resistor and capacitor part of the circuit. Then we tried it again and to my amazement it worked in a slightly different way.

It did go up a little when she put her lips on mine but it really jumped when she slid her tongue in my mouth. This caused her to play around and hear the different sounds coming out of the speaker depending on what our tongues were doing. I had invented a French kiss detector.

This became a big hit at parties. It amazes me how teenage this seems looking back. It makes me remember the whole evolution of the kissing ritual. Some girls who were squeamish would insist on dry lips or no tongue and would not kiss you otherwise. Some of the Spin the Bottle games had an extra spin for tongue and no tongue. It took on a whole new meaning when there was a way to prove tongue contact.

I don’t think I changed the circuit on the project kit for years after that.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Lending money to people in poorer countries to help them start or improve a business sound like a good idea?

Seems like it might! I did for a Cambodian couple to help them buy a cow and some pigs. :)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Broke out the SNES and have been making some youtube vids. Some things need to be remembered. Like when the SNES came out in 1991 for $200.00 it had hardware that could be compared with a $1500.00 computer. Some of the games that are considered bad games now were actually great innovative games. Then the programming advanced and the cartridge memory got cheaper and bigger and games started taking advantage of it. Once more supporting my contention that having the games now is not the same as having them then.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Happy new year 3 weeks late :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ten months is way to long to go without a blog entry.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Compare these pics to the one I am so obssed with below. That was then. This is now. Posted by Picasa

Synchronicity would dictate that a percentage of these people in the pictures children would meet up again later in life. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What a major flashback slam today. I was goofing around on tvparty looking at saturday morning cartoon schedules from the late 60's trying to remember what I spent most of my time watching. Looking over the Wacky Racers schedule reminded me of my Rat Fink stuff. Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was more of a fantasy car hot rod designer. I started remembering another hot rod creator that made real cars. Just by chance I came across the show listing for Daktari. Now I must admit I cried watching Born Free when I was a kid. And I liked lions. So while googling Daktari images I saw something that opened another memory floodgate. I saw a picture of the Daktari Jeep on a sticker card. Just like my wacky packages I also collected the first series of Kustom Cars and the designer was George Barris. The same guy that made the batmobile and the monkeemobile. These were real cars they used on TV shows. Oh, and the bugaloos buggy also. Finding the link to all 30 of these Barris Kustom Car stickers was a real treat. I wonder what my 14 year old mind thought of the rolling bed called the "sex machine". I honestly don't remember that one in my collection. And the DeFranco Family Pizza Wagon seems really familiar. So now I not only get hit with flashbacks about these stickers but also the shows they were created for.
Further showing how the internet is a time machine.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Interesting Pic. Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bad Teenage Poetry
Or Missing Pink Floyd Lyrics?

When you look toward the setting sun do you think of me?
Will you find yourself on an empty shelf? What can you really see?
When you sing out to the ocean, will you be turning me down?
Will you look in my eyes and see the skies, or will you sit and frown.
Can you climb an endless mountain when the moon is making its stand?
Will you be there with your long flowing hair, walking and holding my hand?
Will you follow me into my own little world, with a smile and maybe a sigh?
I will be you and we will be two and we’ll think about getting high.
I want a little part of you that makes me feel very good.
I want to stay with you and see you through whatever you think we could.
I thought that I could stay away though I found out I was wrong.
But someday soon I’ll write a tune and put you in a song.
I don’t know how to tell you just exactly how I feel.
But to our surprise the sun will rise and show us that it’s real.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

This is the view of the Roxborough radio towers from where my Grandparents on my Dads side are burried. Posted by Picasa

A few minor color shifts makes this an interesting picture. I found it on my memory card when I checked my pics. Must have snapped itself when I through the camera in the car.

I'll write about the cemetery trip in a lil bit. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Imagine if you will that all the photons travelling at the speed of light were to contain more than just visual information. What if sub atomic particles were broken apart and captured in the sub atomic matrix of 35 mm slide film.

Someday might it be possible to reconstruct anything that has had it's picture taken? Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 01, 2006

1969 The Summer Of Love. Here I am with my girlfriend. At least I hope this was betsy and not danny :)

Taken at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Finally got around to adding an old magazine ad for Tink Tonk to my Tink Tonk web page. Not that I have to mention Tink Tonk much more because it is already the number 1 google page :) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Caption this. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I see dead people? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Two of the most important things to save after a hurricane. Your girlfriend and your beer :)
 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

With the passage of time more and more things are forgotten and lost forever.

In the late 1970's I remember watching some old guy push a cart up Ridge Ave. past the Wissahiccon train station. It was a warm day and he was wearing a heavy coat and I was wondering what he was doing. Until he stopped at Ridge and Manayunk and started yelling "Pretzels". Like many street corners downtown he had Philly soft pretzels for a quarter. He had a very thick accent and the only two words you could understand were Pretzels and Mustard. He was then a Roxborough regular with his red pretzel cart. Amazingly he got his pretzels from a bakery just down on the far side of East Falls. Then walked his little cart all the way up to Roxborough. He became known as Pretzel Pete. I remember "Pete" being pretty normal for two years or so before things changed. One day on the corner he was singing instead of yelling "Pretzels, Mustard". My father said the guy was Polish but even though he understood a little of the language he couldn't understand anything "Pete" was yelling. Oh well, so what if he was homeless and most likely mental, he still had Philly pretzels for 25 cents. But then "Pete's" pretzels stopped being fresh. He was only making it down to get pretzels every few days and he never came up through Wissahiccon anymore. Coming in on Henry Ave. instead. It was around the holidays and "Pete" was on Ridge Ave. and hanging out near the little Santa Clause house that was set up every holiday. His pretzel cart was empty except for a few burlap bags and clothes. He was scaring the kids and the cops from the 5th district were having a hard time communicating with him. Finally with the help of one of the local Priests who spoke Polish he calmed down and left. I remember hearing from our own Parish Priests about "Pete's" real story but like so many other things I can not recall any details. After that "Pete" was seen wandering and yelling at street corners. At first with his empty broken down cart. Then for over a year just as your average homeless person. And then, never again.




Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Greetings Program.

About a year ago I picked up Tron 2.0 Killer App for the Xbox and ranted and raved about it for a month. Things got a bit hard and I got stuck for a few days at one spot. Put it down for a couple of weeks and then started up again and when I did I immedietly got past where I was stuck. Then a week later I got stuck again. And after another couple of days trying I gave up.

Last night for some reason I started playing again. And within 30 minutes I had defeated the nasty seeker that was keeping me from completing that level. Why in the world was this so hard last year? The only thing different I realized was that if I quickly went over to a hiding spot where I still had an occasional shot at the seeker, and didn't move, the data wraiths did not come out. Then all I had to do was wait for the seeker to get in range and fire disks at it until it finally died. Trying to use a stronger weapon seemed to bring out the wraiths. Same as if I moved. Just standing there and slowly throwing the disk at it and timing it right to stop it from attacking took about 10 minutes to kill it but that was the end of the level.

Then I had a chance to wander a little and marvel again at this game. It is definitly underrated if you are a Tron fan. More to come...

Hi above the marshes on the North Brigantine shore stands a haunted castle. Well, it did till it burned down in the 80's. I only have one picture of the Brigantine Castle. And it was taken from the wildlife preserve about half a mile away. I thought it was a cool looking shot. The castle was the best haunted house I had ever visited. And the amusement pier was also an awful lot of fun. Just another one of those places that we can only remember in pictures... Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Philadelphia Auto Show 1978. Eric Estrada, Scott Baio and the Hulk were the featured guests. Eric Estrada was a hit with CHiPs. He was also the place to watch the girls that were waiting to get his autograph. I have a hundred pictures of the show and for some reason I snapped this pic. It appears to show the wide range of contrast in the 70's girls. There are no other girls in the background of any of the pictures I have. I guess they were all there to see Eric. Why would they headline him? Would guys actually bring their girlfriends or wives to the auto show with them just so they could see Eric Estrada? I'm not sure I could follow the logic on that but I guess it worked. I also wonder sometimes when I see other people in the pictures I have is just who were these people and where are they today. Who where these two very different girls and how did things turn out for them. Was seeing Ponch good Karma and did they go home dreaming about him. Imagine the twist of fate if one of them goes searching for Eric Estrada at the 1978 Philadelphia Auto Show and googles their way to this page. Imagine their surprise if they were just looking for a little glimpse of a memory of something from 1978 and they end up seeing a picture of themself with the Estrada manly man himself. Wouldn't that be cool. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

After just writing a comment on another blog about the King Of Prussia Mall it reminded me of something. My first FM radio. In the early 70's portable FM radios were still a little expensive. Even pocket AM radios didn't break the $20 mark till the Radio Shack flavoradios came out. My Grandfather wanted to get me something for my 12th birthday in 1973. He took me to JC Penneys in the King Of Prussia Mall. And somehow I set my eye on a clock radio. Something about waking up to music seemed super cool. And it had FM which was supposed to sound better than AM. I couldn't tell the difference on the stereo in the living room. I wasn't really expecting much and when I got it home I couldn't find anything on the FM dial I liked. So I ended up sticking to good old WFIL on AM. And the sleep timer that let me listen to an hour of music before I went to sleep was also a cool new thing. It would still be 3 years before I switched to FM. But that is another story...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Long ago I would go out for a walk and always end up at the river. It was a mood changer to pick up pebbles and throw them into the water. You could barely even see a ripple. Imagine your problems being the pebble and the river being the cosmos. It puts things into proportion. One day something was really bothering me that I could not shake. I headed out to think. Not far from my house I spotted an interesting looking polished pebble and stopped to pick it up. It looked like the millions of other pebbles already on the banks down at the river. I wonder how it got there. Did someone pick this up down at the river and drop it here? Maybe I should return it to the river I thought. That diversion didn't last long as I quickly forgot about the pebble that was turning over and over in my hand, and my mind went back to the sadness I was trying to let go. Walking and thinking. Turning over and over in my mind like the pebble between my fingers. As I walked it seemed like the heaviness in my heart was getting smaller and smaller as the pebble in my hand got a little bigger. And as I crossed over the canal heading for the bridge the pebble had become a great stone. Making sure there were no trains, I started across the bridge. In the middle I stopped. Looking down through the open trestle I could see the endless movement of water. Just how long did it take the water to get to the sea? How long to flow down the rest of the Schuylkill to the Delaware and down to the Atlantic. As I was pondering this I realized the weight was lifted from my chest and I now held it in my hand. So I let go of the pebble and it hit the water with an unheard splash. I knew it was home. And in return it had taken my problem away.

So if there is something worrying you and you just can not let it go. Find something of this earth that is out of it's place. Put it back where it belongs. It may take something with it from you that is also out of place. Balance is the key.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

It was 10 years ago last month that I made my first major investment in a computer. It was not my first computer it was my first $2,000.00 computer. With the help of an employee purchase plan I was able to get a Packard Bell 75mhz Pentium with an 850mb drive, 8mb ram, quad speed cd, 14.4 modem and the biggest extra investment was a 15 inch monitor instead of a 14 inch. That added $120 to the $220 a 14 inch cost. I was in PC heaven. It came with Windows 3.11 and a free upgrade to Windows 95 when that was to be released at any moment back then. For a short period of time I could walk in to any computer game store and any game there would have worked on my machine. Six months later I wanted to play Terminal Velocity in hi-res mode but I needed 16mb ram. So I bought another 8mb for $80. Another six months and games started showing up that needed a 100mhz or faster. I was slowly falling behind.

The Internet was much more simple then. Webmasters had to take into account that people were using 14.4 modems and kept pages simple. High speed was at work only. People still called local BBS's.

Now as we know everyone and their grandmother is on the net. Eventually everybody will be online and looking back and saying something like "I remember when we had that slow DSL and Cable and it took an hour to download that DVD"!

What will our grandchildren's computers and internet be like?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


The I Ching gave me #32 which is Duration or Persevering or Consistancy. And it was changing to #28 which is Great Exceeding.

The base hexagram in both of these is Ground. So you can not say that there is no meaningful coincidence here. Another case of synchronicity...

A Slug and a Dragonfly

What could they possibly have in common and what do they signify. These two things were presented to me this morning while walking from my car to the office. Almost stepped on them. The dragonfly was not moving and rather than disturb it I walked over it. About 30 feet away I came across a slug racing towards the grass. Some times it is not a bad thing to be walking with your head down. In this case it may have been messy if I hadn't.

I must consult an oracle on this. I wonder what the I Ching has to say...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Reading over yesterdays post reveals a strange gap in my memories. There are none of the slide at the nursery school. It looked familiar. Looking at the pics again and it looks very much different from other slides. So why no memories?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Have you ever thought about the earliest thing you can remember?

There is one incident at an amusement park where after a long day it was time to leave and I was given a choice for a final ride. Did I want to slide down the big slide on the burlap sack or ride the spinning thing where you sit and spin yourself around while the whole ride was spinning. Being the rambunctious kid I was I chose to spin myself silly. After that was over we had to walk past the slide and I had a little tantrum as we were leaving. According to my mother that was in Atlantic City in August of 1963 a month before my 2nd birthday. Somewhere in the thousands of slides my parents have of me, as a kid is a picture of me on one of those spinning rides. We used to set up the slide projector and watch slides of our trips and I know when I was old enough I used to like to look at the slides myself. The question is do I actually remember the incident as it happened or do I remember it as a story told while watching the slides in the years after.

September 1964 I turned 3 years old and started nursery school at the Epiphany Lutheran Church on Livezey Lane. My mother had gotten a job there as a preschool teacher. I only remember one teacher and she was a little unpleasant. But what I remember the most is playing outside the nursery school. Since I was still a rambunctious kid I was constantly being told to slow down and take my time on those big concrete steps and to stay away from the other steps and especially to watch out for the steps in the middle of the yard. I remember a swing and a slide. So if the amusement park memory from when I was two wasn’t my oldest memory then here is something I am sure is. Skip ahead one more year. 1965 and back at nursery school. I was 4 years old and my brother was 8. Wait a minute, I don’t have a brother. Not a real one anyway. But I had an imaginary brother. His name was Mark also and I called him Big Mark. And he was old enough so that people didn’t tell him what to do all the time. After all he was twice as old as me so he was all grown up. I was just Little Mark. And he could fly and ride the swing higher than the top and did I mention he could fly? One day I was trying to fly just like him so I went running for the swing and tried to jump on it with my belly so I would go really high up and ended up planting my face in the dirt. Now again there could be a different explanation about this memory being as old as it is because there are a dozen pictures of me with a bruised fat lip from the weeks after that. I think I remember the way I was trying to jump on the swing. And the Big Mark, Little Mark thing I clearly remember the twice the age thing and that 8 was the magic number for some reason. Another thing I remember was learning how to flip over a pole. At another neighborhood playground there were big swings and they had poles in the ground in front of them. Which was a good thing because I remember being told never to run in front of the poles. Always stay behind them. And I remember hanging on them every chance I got. But they were a little too high to jump up on. I remember at the nursery school there was a bar that was much lower to the ground and I learned how to flip over it. And do it again and again and always being told to watch it or I would hurt myself. And I remember the ground sloped and part of it was really fun to run down as long as you didn’t go near the little steps. As I am writing this I remember sitting in class reading. I can almost imagine what the room looked like. And red, white and blue something on the book cover. See, writing about something helps you remember more. Anyway, I recall two more times I was at the Epiphany Lutheran Church after that. On was some kind of church service which is strange since we went to a Catholic Church. The last time I was there was when I was like 13 years old and I was riding my bike with my cousin up to my Great Grandmothers house. As we were riding down Livezey lane I turned into the driveway and rode back to where the playground section was. I think I remember jumping my bike over those little steps and trying to ride up along side them popping wheelies. I remember feeling weird about being there and seeing some place from my childhood after 10 years so we didn’t hang there long.

Last week my Daughter turned 8 years old. I’ll have to ask her what is so magical about being 8. I was stuck working and couldn’t go on a camping trip so I had the weekend all to myself. On Saturday I was out looking for yard sales and took my camera and headed down toward Roxborough. This was like a trip through a time machine. According to google maps it is only 9 miles from where I live now to where I grew up. It is more like 7 miles point to point. I had been down to a job interview in 2002 that was on City Line Ave and I came back up Ridge Ave. all the way. But never really stopping in to any of my old haunts. This time it was a little different. Besides any yard sales I could find I had two specific destinations in mind. The first one was the Epiphany Lutheran Church. At some point in the late 70’s they changed the sign out in front to a new lighted one. But they kept the original Nursery School sign on top of it. I swung a u-turn and parked on the street. It is a large piece of property and the Shop Rite was not there in the 60’s and I don’t think it was there in the early 70’s either. I was parked about 50 feet away from the driveway and it was a partially cloudy day but still bright and I could not see through the weeds and brush. I walked up to the Church sign and took a couple pics. Then I started walking back towards where the play area was. I am not sure what I was expecting. Certainly not a mad rush of memories to come screeching to the surface. I could see a swing set frame. I could see a slide. And I was walking back in time. The grass was not recently mowed but not more than a few inches either. The big trees had gotten bigger and as I was walking toward the swings I veered to the right. There, half hidden in weeds and the brush was the bar I remember so well. It is a base for several see saws or teeter totters. It is low enough for a toddler to easily flip over but too thick to wrap your hand around. This bar is heavy duty steel and bigger that I expected or remembered and not rusting. There are some flat areas where the pivots were mounted where you would hurt yourself if you tried flipping at that spot. But there was just enough room between the three spots where the see saws were that you could flip on. I do not remember there being any see saws on there. It is about 15 feet from the swing. And about 10 feet away from the fence on the property line. There would not be any pictures I could attribute this memory too. And only a 3 or 4 year old would be small enough to flip over this bar. So this may be the oldest thing I remember.

Over to the swing. A Swing set frame only, no swings on it. And it is awfully close to a large tree. I wonder how much that tree has grown in 40 years. And over by the slide only 5 feet or so away from the bottom is a tree stump that is about 2 feet in diameter. There didn’t look like there was any room for this tree where it was. These things look as if they haven’t been played on for 20 years. The tree canopy was pretty thick and even though the clouds had broken it was dark and moody. And then I saw something I hadn’t remembered for 40 years.

The Monkey bars. The monkey bars are made up of 2 foot square cubes in the shape of a plus sign that are 2 high and an extra one in the center on top. It’s amazing how some things come back to you so easily when visually stimulated. Especially when the whole idea of being there was to find some memories. I remember it being scary to climb the outside but if you went through to the inside it was a piece of cake. And lots of little kids could be climbing at the same time. And standing in the middle on the second highest rung you were almost 6 feet off the ground. The bars are pretty thin. Only a half inch. Easy for little fingers to wrap around. I could imagine 4 kids on each side racing up to get to the top. I can also imagine the teachers yelling “Be Careful” every 2 minutes. And the days that it took me to write this I remembered one more thing. Crawling underneath the bottom rungs. They are about a foot off the ground, kind of like a lazy limbo flat on your back. Most of the bottom of these monkey bars are now covered in ivy. And scattered all over nearby were tree limbs and branches. Gloom and doom until turning around and looking towards the side of the church to an easily remembered sight.

There are two sets of steps leading up to where the classrooms were. Big concrete steps. Only one went to where our classrooms were. The other steps were a mystery that we were not allowed to go near. I remember marching out one of those doors single file with other kids, slowly and hold on to the rail. And then breaking loose when hitting grass and running for the swings. And there right in the middle of the grass, were these 3 steps that looked like they were part of an old path. The ground slope doesn’t look like it needed steps but I definitely remember it being more of a little hill. The kind of hill a 4 year old in special shoes could have some fun on. High top saddle shoes with special inserts for my flat feet. This memory is coming off a tangent while remembering that little hill. And can you really call a 3 foot slope a hill? And how did I climb the monkey bars in those hard little shoes. And every day when it was time to go back inside getting back up that big old hill must have been a chore. Why do I only have memories from outside I wonder. I’m sure we were not outside during the winter.

It was time to go. I had one more stop I wanted to make but that will be another story…

Friday, May 06, 2005

Arcade Memory!
Arcade machine actually, not an actual arcade event.

It was the sometime in 1976. My buddy’s girlfriend told us the 7-11 where she worked was getting a new video game. They already had 2 pinball machines and were replacing one with a brand new game. We had already gotten tired of the pong machine that was in the pizza shop around the corner. So we were really looking forward to something different.

That Saturday afternoon we walked in to the 7-11 and there it was, a Breakout Machine. At first glance it didn’t look like anything much different than pong. But then as we played it turned out to be a lot more fun that we thought it would be. We were engrossed in a competition and the action was fast and furious as we battled the paddle and blah blah blah. Actually the point is we were really into it, oblivious to all else when two police officers interrupted us and asked if we saw anything. We looked at them and shrugged and my buddies girlfriend came over and said something like “My God, did you see that?” and she was all shook up and he said “what?, we were playing the game.” She then punched him in the arm and walked away with one of the cops.

The 7-11 had just been robbed. At the register ten feet from where we were playing breakout, some guy pulled a gun demanding money. He got some and then ran out the door. The other cop that was asking us questions shook his head and mumbled something about the video game and then left.
We were going to get back to playing when my buddy decided it would be in his best interest to go see how his girlfriend was instead.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

TRON 2.0 Killer App xbox

Greetings programs.
For a little over a month now I have been living in the digital world and my name is Jet. Referred to by Ma3a as Allen v.2
I have been assimilated

end of line................

Thursday, November 18, 2004


The World's Fair thought has run full steam through my head for a week now. Imagine a thread 40 years in the making. I bought Tron 2.0 Killer App for my xbox. I also picked up an afterglo illuminated controller at the same time. So the other night I am sitting in front of my 42 inch high definition stereo TV in the dark with a super brite green lit up controller in my hand playing Tron.

My first rememberings of this science fiction type thing was the futurama and bell exibits at the world's fair. Computers would run everything and make all our cars and houses and enable us to live on the moon and under the ocean. So in 1964 my high tech interests were set in motion. Split between the visions of the outrageous buildings that would never come to be and the equally fantastic but real computer and communications equipment. Someday we would be able to see people we talk to on the phone.

I remember a computer entity called ELIZA that could actually carry on a conversation with people. I talked to ELIZA the first time I saw an Apple II computer. I wanted one badly. But in 1978 the $2500 was well beyond my reach. Someday I would have a computer.

Sherman, set the wayback machine to 1981. In the space of 11 months I aquired a family of 5 and had to think about the future. I had the best high school level of electronics training a Vocational High School could offer. But computers were the way of the future. Big computers were taking over. One of the big three computer makers had a school and I scrambled to come up with $5k for 9 months of intense mainframe hardware training.

So in 1982 I was learning about bits and bytes and I/O methods and sectors and tracks and storage and peripherals and video games were making a comeback in the arcades. Commercials were running an the radio for Xevious and Pole Position. After settling in to a routine I start spending my lunch half hour at an arcade half a block from the school. I had heard about Tron but I can't remember where. And there next to the three asteroids machines was the Tron arcade game. And there was where I stood for at least 15 minutes a day for months. I do not recall when I first saw the movie but I know I read the book first. And all the Tron merchandise. I understood the language. I understood the religious references. And after reading Robert Heinleins "The moon is a harsh mistress" I was ready to come face to face with a computer.

I bought my first computer the month before Tron came out. And I built that computer so I was intimatly involved with soldering every component on to the circuit board. It was a Sinclair ZX81 kit. While going to school during the day taught me how mainframe computers worked, programming my little ZX81 taught me what computers could do. Learning Z80 machine language was like being Tron. Comparing it to 8080 and 6502 languages was like imagining different beings.

However games at that time were more suited for consoles like the coleco and atari. They had better colors and more action but lacked the complexity of say a real flight simulator or a chess program. The home computers that followed narrowed that gap but then the real IBM pc came in and turned the gap into a chasm. Real business computers would never play games would they? ( That is a subject for another time ).

So here I am thinking about 40 years ago. Wondering just how much of what I saw when I was 3 years old has affected my life. I know how much of an effect Tron had. I also know how much time it just took for me to look up the usage of affect and effect so I was grammatically correct. And that is a point against how far things have come. Near instant information retrieval. The action in Tron took place in nanoseconds in the computer world against seconds in the real world. Mainframe batch computing was not instant. Just like most research back in 1982 would have been done in a library. Go to a big library have access to thousands of things on any given subject and take a day or two finding them.

Today you type Tron in google and 2.7 million results come back. Where is all the information getting us?

Is it possible that knowing it is there makes you less likely to get it unless you absolutely need it? Is less being learned?

Twenty years from now and 40 years from now. I wonder where these words will be archived. These bits and bytes making up the text you are reading is only as good as the circuit they are stored on. Being brought to life as an I/O request is made.

end of line

Friday, November 12, 2004

And the thread continues.

Somehow all the brain activity yesterday about remembering Jungle Habitat triggered even earlier memories of the 1964-1965 worlds fair.

I don't recall how the thread from Gino's led me to the Worlds Fair but it may have had something to do with souvenir's I was searching on.

So what exactly could a 3 year old remember about that event. Well my parents do have pictures. So I can kind of judge my memories against the pictures. I remember the Sinclair dinosaur. But then again that was one of the pictures. Same with the ferris wheel inside the tire. And I could swear I remember sitting on those seats. Watching the future unfold before me. The web search I did showed there were two pavilions that had rides like that. The Bell and GM Futurama ones.

Looking back at those is amazing. How many people's lives were shaped 40 years ago by seeing those displays. So how did the future turn out between what the vision was from the 1939 fair and then the 1964 fair and then today. Most of the Jetsons like future has not happened. But all of the electronic stuff has. Like touch tone phones. How many people today have never dialed a rotary phone? And remember the idea of a picture phone? Like the microwave oven these were science fiction in the 60's. What is it going to be like in another 40 years. Imagine trying to figure out what is speculation today vs. what will be real. Like why did the idea of automatic roadways and super high rise self contained cities and colonies on the moon or even in the north or south pole never come about. Looking back at the GM exibit shows almost none of the changes have come about. But look ant the Bell Communication one. So many of those things are now common place. Picture phones seemed almost as much science fiction as moon colonies. The oscilliscope like images of visible speech. The Telstar satellite which made a live trans-atlantic link was also sci-fi. Satellite communications? No Way!

Now I kind of know why I have been into electronics since I was a kid. So many of my dreams were shaped by real things I was exposed to. I really have to think about what my kids are exposed to today. 40 years from now are they going to look back and think fondly of nothing more than Spongebob Squarepants and Pokemon?

The information and entertainment availability difference between 1964 and 2004 has some negative aspects. There is no incentive to learn something today if it can wait till tomorrow. No reason to make the time to watch something on TV when you can record it and wish you had time to watch it later.

Enough rambling for today.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Have you ever had a train of thought run a course until it gets stopped dead at a mildly traumatic situation? It proves time and time again that there are 6 degrees between almost everything. Let me ramble off a specific instance.

Somethere a few entries earlier I went off on recalls from 1973. Yesterday I sent that to a friend who was not born until 1975 as a tease. That reminded me there was another friend, ok I admit it was my first crush, from 1973 that recently found my email address. This relative thread starts this morning as I sent off a quick email to the old friend about a fast food souvenir I had that reminded me of her. I have a Gino's Hamburgers mechanical pencil from 1974 in the shape of a hockey stick with the Philadelphia Flyers and Bobby Clarke on it. These were great to play table hockey with. Gino's was at the Domino lane shopping center. Behind the shopping center was a Swim Club called the Scuttlebutt. This was where I met my first crush as well as played my first video game. Those are stories you can find on my web page so I won't detail here. Back to the Gino's pencil which sits in a Pac Man glass with my pens and I had to grab one to sign something this morning also. So I look online for Gino's stuff and find a web page with pictures and that started bring back memories of all the times I took the A bus up Ridge ave. Gino's was one of the first fast food places I remember meeting up with friends and going to. Usually before or after a movie. Anyway, while on this guys site I see a link for http://www.midnightsociety.com/web/abandoned/ it looked interesting scrolling down the names I see a link to Jungle Habitat. When I was a kid in the late 60's and early 70's my parents took me and my sister on hundreds of day trips. I vaguely remember a jungle place with bugs bunny and some other saturday morning cartoon characters. So I click on the Jungle Habitat link and bam, The logo with the zebra striped jeep with the lion on top is right there on the page. I remember that logo. I wonder why things I haven't thought about in 30 years can come back with such clarity. I remember seeing ads for the place and even some of the ones up on eBay right now. But I don't recall being there or having a souvenir from there. I do remember being somewhere with animals in cages that wasn't a zoo where I watched a monkey reach out of a cage and pick up a baby duck (or chick) that was walking by and bite it's head off and spit it out. That gave me nightmares and my mother complained to the park and tried to get our money back and thats all I remember of that. I now wonder if that was from Jungle Habitat. Not long after there was Great Adventure and the Wild Safari. That I remember because it took hours to get through and we only went through it once. More time left for the park and rides :)

Wait, forget great adventure. This rambling was about Gino's and Jungle Habitat. I gotta go check eBay for new old souvenirs...

Monday, November 01, 2004

Strange thing about blogs. They make you feel like making comments on things you otherwise wouldn't give a second thought about.

Take Ashlee Simpson and the SNL Lip Sync issue. First of all who cares? Does anybody think that people become "Pop" stars because of what they sound like in a live performance? Pop stars are made by promoters and vocal engineers and subject to the same market supply and demands as anything trendy.

Just as Greg Brady learned when the only reason he was hired as Johnny Bravo was because he fit the suit.

In the name of entertainment.

Wait I lost my original random thought. Hey, why are people bringing up Milli Vanilli in the same rants as Simpson and SNL? Milli Vanilli was lip syncing to vocals from other people. Quite a bit different from entertainers that lip sync to their own album tracks. And still quite different than artists who record backing tracks because they have huge eloborate stage shows.

And why ask show producers questions like how often is it done? Who cares! If it gets done at a live concert it can get done on live TV.

And as for anybody shocked and feeling all boo hoo because their beloved idol was "caught" well just don't you worry because the next bubble gum pop star will be along any minute.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

More Lara

In 2000 when I bought my Sega Dreamcast new it came with a demo disk that had Tomb Raider Last Revelation. I had just gotten Tomb Raider III for Christmas the previous year and was getting frustrated with how hard it was. The Dreamcast demo looked so good compared to the PS1 version but I held back. And I got stuck in TRIII. In the summer of 2001 I picked up Tomb Raider Chronicles on sale for $4.99. The detail and depth was amazing and the gameplay reminded me more of TRII than Last Revelation. But I was finding the controls very frustrating. After a few weeks of fumbling I found out it was easier if you switched the main movement control from the analog to the directional button. That worked a little better. But so many of the levels required dozens of do-overs. Till I hit one at the end of the coleseum. The place where you pul the chain 3 times and have to do 2 running jumps and a grab then a running turn and jump with a grab to pull yourself up in time to grab the second piece of the jewel before the pedestal it is on goes back in the ground. You only have enough time to get there if you make no errors. Ha. I tried this over and over again and could not do it. I would try again every few months. Then I gave up. Hadn't touched it for a yeat until last night. I guess getting TRI brought back memories. And would you believe within 20 minutes I had the second jewel. How in the world... I must have spent hours on this before. But somehow .. Anyway then I almost got stuck with something that caused my grief in TRIII. Not Seeing A Dropped KEY. Advice, pay attention to what you kill. If you are stuck without a key to something go back to the last thing you killed and start looking closely.

Untill my next frustration.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Speaking of collecting.

Pokemon. I admit to playing a little with Pokemon Snap and Hey You Picachu on the N64 just to see what they were and they only cost $3 and $5. Well my Son wanted a gameboy SP for his birthday and he asked for one of the new Pokemon games. So I bought it because with the wireless adapter it seems like a bargain. (Sounds like trouble right there :) So I had to play it a little to check it out and help him get through some parts where you need to read. So I finally got a little taste of that collecting and simple battle stuff. So I see the games marked down for sale by 20% so I pick up the other one so we can both battle now :)

Those little buggers are addictive. I would have been in so much trouble if Pokemon was out when I was a kid.

Remembering Lara

Back in 1996 the most advanced game system I had was a super nintendo and the most complicated game I was playing was The Secret Of Mana or Zelda. The Pentium 1 computer I had was providing me with the good stuff with Doom II and duke nukem.

Then came the Sony Playstation

Then came Tomb Raider. I rented it 4 or 5 times. Finally gave in and bought it for $45. Hours and hours of obsessive exploring. Some of my most memorable video game experiences came from seeing the view when walking in to a new level for the first time. And beating it is in my top 10 experiences. Traded it for $20 plus another game. Anxiously awated the sequel. Took twice as long to beat that.

The other night at a game store I saw a PS1 two game bundle original price $19.99 marked down to $2.99 and one of the games was Tomb Raider. So I bought it for nostalgia. Sure since then I have gotten every game system and even Tomb Raider Chronicles on the Dreamcast. But something about the original still takes me back.

P.S. I have TRIII but have never finished it...

Monday, September 27, 2004

Important lessons in economics.

Back in 1971 a quarter was quite a bit of change. The stores still had penny candy and even some 2 for a penny candy. A quarter was a full sized candy bar. A quarter was half of my allowance so on Saturday morning after cartoons my mother gave me fifty cents. When I was 10 I was allowed around the corner and down the street to the "other" store. Unlike the store down the street, the "other" store had a pinball machine. These cost a quarter. I was not very good at pinball then and so that pair of quarters could disappear in a ching ching of only a few minutes. I decided to stick with baseball cards because they were like 6 or 8 plus a stick of gum for a quarter. And the collection kept growing. But the lure of flashing lights always drew me back in. And eventually I got a little better so I could at least get five minutes worth of playing. I started working for my Grandfather doing maintenance for a large family property. Raking leaves and cleaning up wasn't too hard. And I got paid $2 an hour. One Saturday morning a month giving up cartoons. Five hours working. 10 bucks in my pocket. My Mom made me put half of it in the bank and here I was with 5 dollars and I spent it all on candy. I remember none of it. Sure it lasted a few days. But only a trip to the dentist reminded me of what it was. Then I gave up candy for Lent that year. Talk about withdrawal. But to my surprise another store opened up at the other end of the street. But it wasn't a store it was something called a Pinball Parlor. Five pinball machines in one place. I thought that was something you had to go to the shore or to an amusement park to find. So a few weeks later here I was with 5 bucks again heading down to play pinball. 5 dollars worth of quarters feels so much better than five one dollar bills. 20 quarters stuffed in a pocket. I was rich. So naturally I played the flashiest and fanciest machines that were there. And one by one the quarters dropped into the machines. All pinball games end with a match so you had a 1 in 10 chance of getting a free game. Hearing that Pop and popping a game was a gift from above. At last the final quarter slipped into the coin slot and after the last ball of the last game was lost I remember getting one final Pop also. Then it was time to leave. When I got home my Mom said. "Back so soon?" and sure enough I had only been gone an hour.

Something was out of balance.

Two dollars an hour broke down to 50 cents in 15 minutes. I was thinking about my money making ability. I wanted to figure out a way even out my income versus spending. ( Must make a note the terms used here were not the actual terms thought back then. But I am remembering the concepts. ) So I asked my Grandfather for a raise. He kind of laughed and said maybe when I was 12. So I tried another way. I only took 1 dollar with me and would not go back again until the next day. I started watching other people play. Found out which games were easier and which gave more games or more balls. One of the older machines still had 5 balls per game. And 3 games for a quarter. So if I could make one ball last one minute then my dollar that would buy me 60 balls should last 60 minutes or one hour! Not only was that a long time for the money but it was half the time it took me to make that money.

Bingo! I thought I had life figured out :) I turned 12 and my Grandfather gave me a 50 cent an hour raise. I did have it all figured out.

That was until Wacky Packages came along. I picked up one of these when it was sitting next to the baseball cards. It was a pack of stickers and a stick of gum. Well not a pack because it was only 2 stickers. But they were really cool. Something made me buy 5 packs and I had 10 stickers. 8 different ones I think. And checklists that showed there were 30 different ones. Slowly all the kids got hooked on them. Little collecting obsessions and hoarding obsessions growing steadily. And the wonderful world of trading. I had never really traded baseball cards. Just played them and either won or lost but never traded. Eventually I had half of the set. I decided one Saturday I was going to finish the collection. I was taking 2 dollars to buy 40 packs. I thought that would be enough to get the rare stickers. 80 new cards. I only needed 15. What a lesson in duplication. I slightly remember ending up with 8 of the same sticker. That darn Maddie Boy. Everyone who had ever bought more than 5 packs had at least 2 Maddie Boy's. And at least 10 other duplicates of 3 or more and even a few doubles of the semi rares. But I did get enough others I didn't have that were also semi rares and traded some and was down to the final 4 to go. No wait it was only 3 since I did get a "Lavirus" in my 80 pack excursion. Only 3 stickers left. At about this time I asked my Mom if I could stick a set up on my wall. Of course she said NO so I asked about sticking them on my closet door and again she said NO but then told me I could stick them on the Inside of the door if I wanted to. So I made up a nice symmetrical pattern and started sticking leaving three spots in the center for the final 3.

I asked the lady that owned the store when she would get a new box of Wacky Packages. She told me some day next week, So every day the following week as soon as I got off the school bus I ran down to the store and asked if the new box was in. One day she said yes, just got it and nobody had bought any yet. I was elated. I was going to be the first one in a box. Had to be good luck right?

And I realized I had no money on me. Shock, Horror, Other kids were walking in. So I ran home and found a quarter, ran back out the door and down to the store. The kids that had walked in right before I left were walking out with bread. Hah, no candy! I still had my chance. The woman behind the counter pulled out the box. It hadn't even been opened yet. I watched her fold the box lid. She put it on the counter and said I could pick the ones I wanted. Normally the box was behind the glass. She was the master of the fate of what packs you got. Here I was about to be the master of my own fate. A virgin untouched unspoiled box. I put my quarter on the counter and slid my fingers in. Touching several packs trying to get some kind of sign. I think I pried up a few and took my five packs from the bottom. Ran home and up to my room and opened the first pack. Blah. Maddie Boy strikes again. And a 6 up. The smallest sticker. Blah. Second pack open I pop the stick of gum in my mouth. Yuck. Stale gum. Maybe I would get lucky because it was an old box! Nothing and nothing again. Last pack, Maddie Boy strikes again. But what was behind it? A Bandache! WooHoo!. My favorite one I wanted since I had started collecting them. Right up on the door it went. I could care less that it was crooked..

I did manage to get the Mutt's and Paul Maul after that but I don't remember any details. I had a complete set of something! The second series had come out by then and I had over half of those but had totally lost interest in the collecting. No wait. I was collecting stamps then. Next to the original store with the pinball machine was another little shop. The guy that ran the place sold everything. It was like a little five and dime. ( Woah I am not that old am I? ) He had about a dozen boxes of cardboard sheets with stamps on them. I guess I grew up a little because I wanted to start collecting them. Or was it that I just wanted to collect something where there were hundreds and hundreds of different things?

Yeah that's it!

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