Saturday, September 27, 2008

Grade School Carnival 1978

I recently found my grade school yearbooks. I loved grade school and thought that I had lost these great books forever. Every year we had a carnival where the whole school would get together and play games and have fun. They were usually around Halloween and a lot of people would dress up. In 1978, when I was in third grade, Star Wars was the thing and a lot of the teachers actually made costumes and were Star Wars characters for the carnival. It was great. We kids didn't care how cheesy the costumes were, it was cool seeing a representation of our favorite characters. I'm sure the teachers were real proud of these gems.

Actually this R2-D2 turned out pretty good.

I'm thrilled that this great childhood memory survived in pictures.

Video Madness

When I was in junior high school, from 1982-1984, my interests shifted a little from cartoons to the new, exciting phenomenon sweeping the nation, video games. Like most kids my age, I started going to the neighborhood arcades fairly often. I was a real hyper kid with little patience so I never developed a mastery of most games. My favorite game was Ms. Pac-Man, which I eventually got very good at playing at the grocery store down the street from my house. I would walk down the street and play for hours on a dollar's worth of quarters. Probably my favorite arcade was the Spaceport at the Blue Ridge Mall. It was part of a chain of arcades across the country and always had the major games. There was a movie theater next door and I remember watching Tron there and then playing the game next door. It was great being a kid in 1982. Here are some great Spaceport employee training videos I saw on Youtube a while back.

There was another great arcade called The Electric Company which was on the Independence Square next door to the movie theater. My mom worked down the street and I'd spend a lot of time playing games there while she worked. I was so into games during this time that I even got a Pac-Man related birthday card in 1982.

Several years later my buddy and I went to the Arcade Hall Of Fame in St. Louis, MO. I managed to take some pictures of some of my favorites.

Unforunately, arcades as we knew them faded away. The good news is that a few retro style arcades are starting to spring up. This arcade in Springfield, MO is a great place to hang out and play games 1984 style. It reminds me of the Electric Co. arcade from my youth. Every time I'm in Springfield I try to go there. It reminds me of my junior high years, which is always a good thing.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My Best Friend

OK, now it's time for the sappy part of the blog. I was an only child and I loved every minute of it. I had friends keep saying to me how lonely they thought I was. No way! Not when I had my beloved dog Annie to hang out with while I read comics and watched cartoons. I got her for my fourth birthday in 1974 and she was never far from me. She was very well behaved and watched over me at every turn. The above picture was from Christmas of 74 and she has just gotten spayed so that's why she had a diaper on. As for me and my mismatched socks, there was no excuse. I adored her so much I even had my picture professionally taken with her when I was ten.

She passed away right as I started college. She lived to be 16 and was just as integral a part of my childhood as Star Wars and comics. I wish I could have snuck her into the theater to see SW. Now that would have been a childhood memory!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Star Wars Autographs

When I was a kid, I thought I'd never be able to get an autograph, let alone meet, some of the actors that were in my favorite movie. Fortunately, I've been able to meet and get autographs from several actors from that great space fantasy film. The first one I got was from R2-D2 himself, Kenny Baker.

Not long after that, my buddy got me Anthony Daniels' autograph to complete the droid duo.

Perhaps the rarest SW autograph I have is Phil Brown, who played Uncle Owen. We met him at the San Diego Con in 2000. He was in poor health at the time but was very nice and I'm really pleased with the picture.

A few years later my buddy got me Peter Mayhew's signature on this cool picture from Return Of The Jedi.

The most recent SW autograph I got was last year when David Prowse made an appearance at a local con. It was great to finally meet Darth Vader.

My favorite SW autograph and signing experience was meeting the one and only Billy Dee Williams at a convention in New York in 2002. He was every bit as cool and smooth as he is on the screen. He was very cool and I love the picture I got with him. You have the cool guy on the right and the total opposite on the left.

I also got a cool picture from him.

I need to get going and try and complete the rest of the cast although it'll be very hard. Even if I don't get any more, I'm very happy with my small SW autograph collection.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hey Kids, Records!

I decided to dig through my childhood record albums (remember those?) to see if I could find some cool stuff that I had forgotten about. I'm very happy that I kept most of the records I listened to over and over as a kid. The one I probably listened to the most was The Story Of Star Wars.

Because I couldn't go see the movie all the time because I was just seven years old, this record had to make up for it. I listened to it at least once a day for a period of about a year or so. Man this thing is worn out. I still remember most of the dialouge from the movie because of this gem. Here's the back cover.

I also listened to the soundtrack album an awful lot. I loved the photo layouts inside and especially the cool back cover.

Another storybook album I listened to a lot was The Black Hole, Disney's answer to Star Wars. I really love this cover. The movie's very underrated and I had a good time listening to this.

Finally I found this cool Superman story record from Peter Pan Records which contained four stories of the Man Of Steel. I think the art is by Neal Adams' Continuity Studios. It's definitely his style.

I'll post some more cool albums covers later on. Enjoy these late 70's kiddie greats!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TJ Hooker

I thought I'd talk a little about my all time favorite TV show, the William Shatner classic where he played a gung ho heroic leader of men. No, not Star Trek. I'm talking about the greatest cop show of all time, TJ Hooker. Hooker had everything, 80's hair, Heather Locklear, Shatner being over the top cheesy, and the classic Adrian Zmed. I've loved this show since it came on the air in 1982, around the time of Star Trek II. There were a few toys and accessories available. Here are a couple I've collected through the years.

The coolest thing I have from the show is this unused prop LCPD patch my buddy got me several years ago.

And finally, I was lucky enough to get autographs of the two main stars thanks to two different friends that got to meet Shatner and Zmed. They're two of my favorite autographs in my collection.

If you've never seen this great show, the first two seasons are on DVD in a great set. If you like cop shows and Shatner, this is a no brainer.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Blue Ridge Cinema

The late 1970's and early 1980's were a great time to be a kid and a moviegoer. There were a lot of fantastic movies out and it was cheap to go to the theater to see these cinematic greats. The theaters themselves had personality. A lot of them might have been older and in rough shape but they were much more interesting than these faceless multiplexes we have today. The theater I went to the most growing up was the Blue Ridge Cinema on 40 Hwy. and Blue Ridge Bouvelard in Kansas City, MO. It was about 10 minutes from my house and had five screens, which were a lot at the time. It had one large screen that was capable of showing 70 mm films. The other four screens were smaller but each auditorium had great sound and projection. The theater opened December 24, 1971 with four screens. It was Kansas City's first four screen theater built expressly as a movie theater.

On the opening day, only two screens were ready to show movies. The very next day, Christmas Day, the other two screens opened.

It proved to be very popular as there were no other indoor theaters in that area at the time. Most of the theaters were still in the downtown area and there was a big demand for a nice theater that wasn't a 20 minute drive away. It proved to be so popular that a fifth screen was added at some point in either 1977 or '78. In 1980 a new three screen theater was added at the Blue Ridge Mall across the street.

This theater wasn't nearly as nice as the main theater but it was OK for a mall style concrete bunker. The best part about this theater was the great arcade next door. I spent more time at the Spaceport than at the theater, which was christened Blue Ridge West a few years later when they added more screens. The main theater was the Blue Ridge East. I saw so many classic films at the East I can't even recall all of them. Some that stand out were The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek The Motion Picture, The Black Hole, Ghostbusters, and many, many more. Here's a picture of the marquee from 1981.

And here's a color shot from 1984.

I was lucky enough to find a ticket stub from around this time. This was during the era where the actual movie wasn't printed on the stub but the theater name itself was on it which I liked a lot. It was really exciting finding this.

By the early '90's the theater was starting to become a little rundown and attendance started to drop a little bit. They painted the theater itself an ugly brownish color instead of the classic black and white color scheme it had for 20 years. The Marquee was also painted a greenish color that didn't make a whole lot of sense. It finally closed a year or two later and has sat dormant ever since. It's really sad driving by it and seeing it all boarded up and falling apart.

Rumor has it that it's going to be torn down soon which will be a very sad day. It will mark the end of a very important part of my childhood and teen years.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Yeah! Football's Here!!

My favorite time of the year is finally here. The NFL season starts this week and my favorite team, the San Diego Chargers, is hopefully ready to get past last year, where they lost in the AFC Championship game, to the Super Bowl this year. They have a decent chance but I'm kind of pessimistic. Hopefully I'll be proven wrong. College football started last week and my favorite college team, the USC Trojans, crushed Virginia. I'm real excited about their game with Ohio State in two weeks. The Coliseum will be rocking like it was several years ago when my wife and I were there to see SC and Cal.

It was a fantastic experience that I'll never forget. The Coliseum is a fantastic old stadium with tons of history, including two Olympics, two Super Bowls, tons of college and pro games, and last but not least Evel Knievel in 1973. So enjoy the season football fans! Go Chargers and Trojans!!

Holiday Inn Postcards

I've just started collecting postcards in the last six months or so. They're cheap and fun to collect. I managed to pick up a bunch of postcards from Holiday Inns across the country from the 1960's and '70's. The hotel chain was much cooler then due to the fantastic signs that let the wearying traveler know of their existence along the highways of America. Why they got rid of this branded image is beyond me. It exemplies the classic roadside signs of the era. I picked up a few different cards from this time period and they're some of my favorite postcards.

My favorite one is this one from San Digeo. My wife and I stayed here on our honeymoon in 1993. The original sign was gone by this time unfortunately.