Category Archives: memory lane

Memory Lane: Castro Convertibles

When I was a little boy, there was this little tiny girl on TV who busily converted a sofa into a bed: the famous Castro Convertible commercials.

The woman in this video was that little girl, Bernadette Castro, whose father invented that famous piece of furniture. I wish the video had the old Castro jingle: “Who was the first to conquer space? Castro Convertibles!” The best I could do was this much newer ad which shows the antique commercial in the inset.

We had a convertible sofa in our house, but never converted it into a bed. I was always tempted to try–I mean, if a little girl could do it, I could do it, too. But I never dared to do it, for fear I wouldn’t be able to put it back together again.

Let me see if I can find that jingle for you.

Ah, here it is–complete with Dan Ingram’s radio sales pitch.


Memory Lane: The Lennon Sisters Sing ‘Paper of Pins’

This video, vintage 1956, has the Lennon Sisters, on The Lawrence Welk Show, singing a dear old folk song, A Paper of Pins–one of the first songs I ever heard on a record: one of those little red records they used to have for kids.

Grandma never missed Lawrence Welk, and the Lennon Sisters were her favorite. This video brings back fond memories of staying overnight with Grandma and Grandpa and my aunts, and wondering why they chose to watch this stuff.

Now that I’m as old as my grandparents were then (if not older–but to a little boy, everybody over 40 is downright ancient), and part of my job is to keep track of things like claiming that drinking milk makes you a Nazi, jawohl, I don’t wonder about it anymore. Jump on my bike and pedal down Memory Lane for all I’m worth. Stop in and see the Lennon Sisters. And maybe even sack out on a Castro Convertible–remember those?


15 Minutes of Cinematic Twaddle

Image result for images of malice aforethought with ben miller

Did you ever decide to watch a movie because it stars an actor whose work you’ve really liked, so far? We fell into that trap the other night–Malice Aforethought, supposedly an English murder mystery. The bait was Ben Miller, a very funny comedian who’s also a pretty good actor.

You would be justified in walking a mile out of your way, in snow or rain, to avoid seeing this movie.

In fairness, we could only endure about 15 minutes of it, stubbing it out when a certain seduction scene turned out to be so ham-fisted, so inane, so jejune, as to start me whistling Lillibulero. It was that or throw something.

Once again, it set me to thinking… Here is a movie made by professionals, costing heap big sums of money. They hired real actors, real writers, a real director, and a real crew. Every day they had the opportunity to view the rushes and see how it was shaping up so far. And yet the result managed to be both fatuous and offensive.

How does a movie this bad even get made? Obviously it was going to be one ludicrous sex scene after another, with somewhere a murder mystery thrown in, if they ever got around to it. Why didn’t Miller’s agent read the script and threaten to shoot him if he agreed to appear in this clunker? Somebody should’ve been shot for this.

If people who actually make movies for a living can produce a mess like this, what does it suggest about any idea to grow the government and give spectacular new powers to equally inept and foolish individuals?

You can always turn off a rotten movie. It isn’t so easy to get rid of rotten public policy.


Bonus Video: Clint Eastwood Sings

Before he was a movie star, Clint Eastwood co-starred in Rawhide, a classic TV Western, vintage 1960 and thereabouts. The song he sings here, Beyond the Sun Over the Mountain, was auxiliary theme music for the show–and I always thought it was a mighty fine song. I only just found out it was composed by Russell Garcia, whose music soundtrack for The Time Machine (1960) is some of the most haunting movie music ever written.

You might want to try this one as a lullaby. I’ll bet it’ll work.

P.S.–The two guys assisting Eastwood in the scene were among the best character actors ever–Buddy Ebsen (Beverly Hillbillies) and Paul Brinegar. Now that was television!


Farewell, Imagination Theater

When a good thing comes to an end, there seldom seems anything on hand to take its place.

This weekend was the final broadcast of Jim French’s Imagination Theater, home of America’s finest original radio drama. It couldn’t be helped. Jim French, who wrote hundreds of the scripts, acted and directed in them, and ran the business aspect of the enterprise as well, had been in radio since World War II, in Seattle radio since 1959, and put in the last 21 years on Jim French Productions–and he just can’t carry it any farther. He married his wife, Pat, in 1950, and she was his partner in every sense of the word–writing, acting, and directing. Pat died last month. It tears my heart to think of it.

Patty and I have been listening to Imagination Theater every Saturday night since sometime in the 1990s, and we will very keenly feel its loss. These shows were wholesome as well as entertaining. We bought a lot of their discs. We chatted with them on their blog. We’ve got T-shirts.

I have included a recent sample of their work, if you’d like to listen to it.

Jim, old man, I’m sure we aren’t alone in missing you and your work. It meant a lot to us. Go with God, my friend. Go with God.


A Good Idea Gone Bad

Image result for images of almond delight free cash in every box

As long as we’re on the subject of cereal box prizes, let’s go just a little ways down Memory Lane, back into the 1980s.

How do you get people to try a new cereal? Well, the advertisers of Almond Delight came up with a swell idea: offer “Free Cash in Every Box.” Consumers had a chance to find either real legal tender–$1, $5, $50, or $500–inside the box, or else a bit of foreign  currency. Now if that wasn’t going to make the product fly off the shelves, what would?

They didn’t calculate for Original Sin.

Imagine our disappointment when we brought home a box of Almond Delight and found that someone had already slit it open with a box-cutter and removed whatever money was inside. We were even more disappointed when we went back to the store and found every Almond Delight box on the shelf similarly treated. Every last one of ’em had already been slit open. I need hardly add that we didn’t buy it again.

Maybe  “Free Cash in Every Box” wasn’t such a good idea, after all.

The thing to remember, though, is that this was the brainchild of highly-paid professionals who supposedly knew what they were doing.

Or, as Isaiah once put it, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Isaiah 2:22)


Sequel: Nabisco’s Prehistoric Beasts

Image result for nabisco prehistoric mammals

After the Age of Dinosaurs, so we’ve all been told, came the Age of Mammals. And after Nabisco finished packing tiny little plastic dinosaurs as free prizes inside boxes of Wheat and Rice Honeys, they moved on to prehistoric mammals.

I loved these just as much as I loved the dinosaurs, and I’ve been able to save a few of them. I’m a fiend for prehistoric mammals, and have recruited a lot of them for appearances in my Bell Mountain novels. King Ryons rides–or rather, clings precariously to the top of–a Baluchitherium at the Siege of Obann, and a Saber Tooth Tiger features in the climax of The Last Banquet. I’ve shed all that Darwinian baggage, but I hope I’ll never cease to admire and enjoy these spectacular examples of God’s handiwork. With the whole universe and all of time and space at His disposal, I’m sure God has hung onto His Baluchitherium, somewhere… as I’ve hung onto mine.

(P.S.–Ignore that “Giant Sloth” label on one of the toys. That’s a Barylambda, or I’m Spartacus. And Nabisco deserved great credit for popularizing this very little-known creature as a toy.)


Memory Lane: Nabisco Dinosaurs

Ah, there they are! The whole gang. Free Inside! For a little golden while in the 1950s, these gloriously crude little dinosaurs came free inside boxes of Nabisco cereal–Wheat Honeys and Rice Honeys, to wit. You can only imagine with what eagerness I opened each fresh box of cereal and rooted around until I found my prize.

Actually these figures were a little smaller than pictured above, which made it terribly easy to lose them in the sandbox. I still have a few of them, and I wouldn’t part with them for all the tea in China.

Looking back, I’m amazed at what little it took to make kids happy, back then. Well, these toys made me happy, at any rate. So did a 5-cent pack of baseball cards, which costs $5 now and probably makes no one happy.

All right, maybe you’re not into dinosaurs. But there were all kinds of nifty prizes in cereal, those days. Little plastic figures of characters in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (remember that?); bronze or silver-colored plastic doodads representing famous breeds of dogs; little spacemen, The Spoonmen, that you could attach to your cereal spoon… little cars, little speedboats. All of them simple, tiny, cheap–and lovable.

I don’t even what to know what they’re offering 9-year-olds today. I’m sure it would depress me.


A Song from My Childhood

Sorry! I didn’t mean to imply that this song was contemporaneous with my childhood (and I’d like to see Joe Collidge try to spell that!)–The Glendy Burk by Stephen Foster, vintage 1851. I wasn’t around for The Ballad of Ramses II, either.

No–this was just an old steamboat song that we were taught in first grade, back when it was still unobjectionable to call boys and girls boys and girls. We didn’t go in for steamboats much, here in New Jersey, but we still knew they were part of our heritage. Kind of a romantic part, at that.

Will anybody look back on this present age as a romantic part of any heritage?

Heaven forbid.


Sanity Break: Your Pet Mouse Loves You

It’s a grey, dreary, drizzly day today; and as I enjoyed my cigar outside, I thought of a pet I had many years ago. A mouse.

Her name was Sleepy, and she was about the lovingest little creature you ever saw. Her babies took advantage of her, mobbing her for nursing well after they were too big to need it anymore. She used to climb up onto the water bottle and chatter at them.

I used to take her downstairs, lie down on the floor, and let her run around the living room. She would run a little ways and then run back to me, a little farther each time, until she finally made it to the wall–but always back to Daddy. I took it as a lesson in prayer: make a lot of little prayers during the course of the day, just to maintain my connection to my Father in Heaven.

Mice make wonderful pets, they’re incredibly intelligent; but I don’t keep them anymore because we have two cats. Besides which, a mouse will only live for two years or so, and it breaks your heart to lose one.

True, wild mice invading your granary, that’s not good. But God has also created them with loving hearts–and that’s another thing we never would have thought of, in His place.


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