Throwback Thursday: “THE ICE CREAM MAN!!!”

Happy summer.

These are just a few of examples of the fare that we kids would get from the ice cream man in the early 1980’s, either at the beach or during the trucks’ occasional visits to our street.  (My friends and lived in an out-of-the-way neighborhood in rural suburbia.  During most summers, the ice cream man came through only sporadically — which made us even crazier and more frantic when he did unpredictably arrive.  Eddie Murphy’s recollections of the ice cream man in 1983’s “Delirious” covered it pretty well.)

The older kids typically got the Bomb Pops, Snow Cones or various ice cream bars, the younger kids favored gimmicky stuff like Froze Toes and Push Pops, while the adults stuck with familiar cones, if they ordered anything.  Eeeeverybody loved Marino’s Italian Ices.  If you were at the beach when the ice cream man came, you almost always saw kids with those seemingly indelible cherry smears around their lips after the truck left.

But my favorite appears to be one that apparently almost no one else remembers — the Chump bar.  It was an ice cream bar with a chocolate bar hidden inside it, and that chocolate was intensely sugary — far sweeter than any Easter candy or Hershey bar from the store.  That rarefied quality made it exotic to me, and I was thrilled to order the Chump bar whenever a parent of older sibling forked over the necessary funds for it.

It might have been overpriced.  (But wasn’t everything from the ice cream man?)  My older brother asked me how much it cost once after he was surprised he got so little change back.  When I told him, he rolled his eyes narrowly at the truck pulling away: “Yeah.  That guy’s a chump.”

But — again — it looks as though nearly no one else remembers this.  I couldn’t find any information about the elusive, exotic Chump online.  And I take pride in my Internet nerdery.  The most that I could find was a single image — and it’s a licensed image for a t-shirt, so I can’t run it here.

Life is weird.  Maybe I’ll just chalk it up to the Mandela effect.

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: 1990’s Nerd Nolan!

This is from sometime in the late 1990’s.  I can’t remember which one of you guys sent me this photo, or its date.  But I’m running it primarily because of that old red t-shirt, which I loved so much that it nearly fell apart before I threw it out.

It was the “official” t-shirt of the Mary Washington College Department of Psychology, and I thought it was for one of the academic years I attended.  But … it looks like it says 1989-1990, and I feel like I even remember that.  (It’s a little hard to make out.)  I went to MWC just afterward, between 1990 and 1994.  I”m not sure what the story is here; maybe an upperclassman gave it to me?

The t-shirts were sold by psychology majors to raise funds for … something.  Was it a picnic at the end of the year, or a trip or something?  God, I’m getting old.

My only disappointment with that shirt was that I wore it for years without hearing a single relevant “Star Trek” joke.

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: Bottle Rockets!!!

I miss these.  I believe I haven’t fired off a bottle rocket since the 1980’s.

We typically had only the smallest ones that you see in the picture below, there at the very bottom.  (Fireworks are illegal in New York.  But, as I’ve mentioned here at the blog before, we  still got our hands on them more often than not.)

There are few greater thrills in life, when you are 10 or 11 years old, than lighting one of these and scrambling madly away before it started spitting the sparks that would launch it skyward.  (We would stick them down upright soda bottles to point them upward.)  There was one kid in the neighborhood who made a show out of holding a lit bottle rocket in his fingers, down at the the very end of its thin wooden stem, but that trend didn’t catch on with the rest of us.

Anyway, a friend of mine from Mary Washington College is a bona fide amateur pyrotechnician now.  You should see the videos he posts — any of the fireworks you see below would be categorically paltry to him.  (Predictably, he lives in Texas.)  That guy’s livin’ the dream.  If I had met him when I was 10 years old, I would have been awed by his avocation.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Pitfall!” for the Atari 2600!

“Pitfall!” was quite the hit when Activision released it in 1982.  (I’m a little unclear on what I’m reading about the relationship between Activision and Atari … it looks like the former was a group of defected employees who were then sued by latter, but who then inadvertently pioneered the third-party-developer arrangement for video games.)

“Pitfall!” hit the shelves the same year that the priceless “Raiders of the Lost Ark” galloped through theaters, which I’ll bet helped with the popularity of the jungle adventure game.  But the game became a bestseller because of its own merits.  Wikipedia informs me that its took a lot of innovation by its creator, David Crane, to get his newer, more advanced graphics stored and operable on a 4-kilobyte game.

And I could kinda see that, as a kid.  “Pitfall!” was far sleeker and seemingly more complex than other Atari games my family had, like “Combat,” “Missile Command,” “Frogger” and “Donkey Kong.”  And it was a lot of fun.  See for yourself; you can play the original game for free right here at the Virtual Atari website.  (Seriously, the people who set up that site did something really cool for the rest of us.)

When I sat down to write this, I actually got my memories of “Pitfall!” confused with a later, more advanced side-scrolling PC game called “Impossible Mission.”  I played that in high school, and I loved it even more than “Pitfall!”  The two games look pretty similar; I wonder if anyone else gets them confused.

By the way, does that kid in the pith helmet in the ad below look familiar to you?  That’s because he’s none other than Jack Black, age 13.

 

Throwback Thursday: “Bosom Buddies” (1980-1982)!

Here’s some more early Tom Hanks weirdness …  he starred in ABC’s cross-dressing comedy “Bosom Buddies” between 1980 and 1982.  The show ran for just two scant seasons.  I’m surprised at that, because I seem to remember it being a much bigger deal in the 1980’s — maybe just because it was a big hit at my house, when I was in second and third grade.  I wanted to be like the guys in the show, albeit without the cross-dressing.  I wanted to be grow up to live in New York City with my best friend and a beautiful blond girlfriend name “Sunny,” and get into zany hijinks.

I remember thinking that Hanks’ co-star, Peter Scolari, was the cool and funny one.  I thought Hanks was annoying, even if he did look like Billy Joel, whose music my older sister had taught me to really like.  (Joel’s “Glass Houses” album was stacked vertically with the others beside the living room record player, not far from where I watched this show on the family’s color television.)  And that is indeed Billy Joel’s “My Life” playing as the show’s theme song — but it had a different vocalist, for some reason.  (No matter how many times I hear it, that song will always take me back to the 80’s.)

Scolari’s career following the short-lived “Bosom Buddies” certainly hasn’t paralleled Hanks, but he’s still done a hell of a lot of television.  (Among many other things, he surprisingly starred as Commissoner Loeb in “Gotham” in 2015.  I didn’t see that one coming.)

As you can see from the opening credits below, the central plot device for “Bosom Buddies” was that the two guys had to pretend to be women in order to live at an all-women’s apartment building.  It only occurs to me now as I’m writing this that the show’s title was a double entendre.  I actually asked my Dad what the word “bosom” meant when I was a kid, and he gave me an answer that was accurate, if incomplete.  (He explained the colloquial meaning of the expression — a “bosom buddy” was a best friend, who you figuratively held close to you.  I subsequently told my best friend next door that he was my “bosom buddy” at one point.)

Yeah, I know it’s strange that I can remember a conversation from 39 years ago about an obscure TV show.  It’s weird what people remember.

 

Throwback Thursday: 1980’s urban legends on Long Island!

I mentioned last week when I wrote about “Mazes and Monsters” (1982) that the pre-Internet age still had its share of urban legends.  They were definitely a part of 1980’s kid culture in my little stretch of New York suburbia.  (Would they be suburban legends, then?  Borderline-rural legends?)  They were bandied about most often during the summertime — maybe because there were long, idle days when grade-school boys had little to do beyond swap the scary stories they’d heard.

A lot of it was predictable horror-movie fare — we’d all compared tales about prowlers who killed babysitters, or babysitters who killed their charges, or about a friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s classmate who’d discovered a razor blade in the their Halloween candy.

Some of the legends stemmed from our geographic area.  There were the giant turtles, for example, that emerged from the Long Island’s waterways to stalk our neighborhoods — that one I actually believed (and still do).  A fellow Cub Scout and his Scoutmaster father had both seen one, and if there’s one person you trust when you’re a Cub Scout, it’s another Scout and his Scoutmaster dad who backs up his story.  And every kid had heard about the Amityville Horror house.

Another local myth was the “gangs” who tore through our imaginations as nefariously as we thought they tore through the region’s woods and marshes.  (In addition to farmlands, Long Island has plenty of protected woodlands and wetlands.)  There were definitely adults who went into the woods to break the law — I think it was primarily drug users and underage drinkers, and people who dumped cars illegally and then stripped them for parts.  There were a few deep-woods graveyards, for example, of rusting white Volkswagen “Bugs.”

But in our fecund imaginations, the petty criminals who’d left them there were gangs of bikers and hippies and devil-worshippers and ruthless car thieves, who just might kill a few young kids if they found them playing army or going on a hike.  (All of us occasionally ventured miles into the woods for such avocations, while we told our mothers that we were only going to the next block.  If you were a boy in my neighborhood who didn’t lie to his mother to leave the area, you were considered a wimp.)

When you’re in the second or third grade, bikers and hippies and devil worshipers and car thieves all blended together in your mind into one single nebulous group.  (As an adult today, if I ever met someone who was a biker, a hippy, a devil worshipper, and a car thief, I would be thrilled to interview them for this blog.)  We’d found evidence.  There were frequently peace signs spray-painted on or around the junked cars we liked to play on; it was just a motif of the prior decade that was still a popular graffito.   One of our number gravely explained to the rest of us that it was actually a coded symbol for Satan — if you turned it upside down, the lines in the circle represented the head of a goat.

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It’s here! It’s here!

My Johnson Smith Company catalog has arrived!!  This is the first time I’ve gotten one in the mail in … 30 years?  35?  (I ordered it on a lark when I wrote that Throwback Thursday post a few weeks ago.)

What a trip!  The mail order company has definitely changed somewhat.  The catalog is far fewer pages now; as you can gather from the picture below, it’s closer in size to those free circulars that you can pick up outside the supermarket.

I was disappointed to see that there are fewer pranks and novelties aimed at kids.  (Whoopee cushions and X-Ray Specs, for example, are nowhere to be found.)  There are far more wares aimed at adults — they include a surprising number of sex toys for both men and women.  (The company adamantly asserts in bold red letters that these items are Non-returnable.)  There is an abundance of pro-Trump merchandise too — check out that “Donald Trump Life and Times Coin & Trading Cards Collection” in the second photo.

Ah, well.  You can still find some cool stuff.  Those “Alien” and “Predator” … “Body Knockers(?)” look pretty neat.  And that Mego “Nosferatu” doll is goddam spectacular.  (I had no idea that the Mego Corporation  was still making toys.)  I don’t know whether its eyes glow in the dark, but I really, really want to believe that they do.

 

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