Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cinema Redux: Putting on the Ritz

I have a passion for finding and photographing old and abandoned movie theaters.  It is a subject I've been intending to feature here at Boom Pop! for quite some time. I have only recently started to actively pursue the matter, due in large part to the recent advances in technology as represented by Google Maps and its ever so resourceful street-view function.

I live just outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a city almost completely bereft of its historical theaters.  Even the Stevens Center for the Arts bears little resemblance to the Carolina Theatre, its original incarnation.  But in the course of my research I did stumble upon a still standing vintage theater quite photogenic in its currently decaying state.
The Ritz is located in the northeast section of the city, near the intersection of Patterson Avenue and Greenway Avenue.  It opened in 1968 and was likely a second-run, B-movie house; it debuted with a double feature of Duel at Diablo and Goliath and the Vampires.

Inset photo from Digital Forsyth collection.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Photo Retro! - The Central Hotel

The Central Hotel occupied the upper floors of the John B. Ray Building in downtown Leaksville. Leaksville was one of three small towns that were combined to become the greater metropolitan area of Eden, located in central North Carolina just south of the Virginia border.  Its now age-worn and broken neon sign could have been a set piece in a classic Hollywood film noir.

A vintage postcard shows the whole of the building; the entrance to the Central Hotel can be seen at the rear corner.  The sign featured above remains hanging above that entrance, however the artist chose not to include it in the postcard rendering.  The vertical HOTEL sign at the front also survives, albeit in equally poor condition.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Freeze Frame! - The Fate of the Venture

Here at Boom Pop! we consider Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to be a modern classic.  Masterfully realized and distinctly underrated, it is a loving homage to pulp, movie serials and golden age comic book heroes.  I decided to seek out one of its notable but not altogether obvious Easter Eggs, one that pays subtle tribute to a very famous film classic.

When Sky Captain navigates an underwater landscape on approach to Dr. Totenkopf's island, he passes by a sunken vessel identified on its hull as the Venture.  The S.S. Venture was the tramp steamer used to travel to Skull Island in the original King Kong and its sequel Son of Kong.   Peter Jackson recreated the Venture in his 2005 King Kong remake.  Totenkopf is in fact the German word for "skull," and Totenkopf's island is not so coincidentally populated with prehistoric-type creatures.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Snap! Crackle! and Pop! (Culture)

They have been a part of our popular culture for over seven decades; three energetic gnomes who are likely the most famous of cereal pitchmen.  Snap!, Crackle! and Pop! were created by prolific and well known commercial artist Vernon Grant, who provided illustrations to countless books and magazines throughout much of the 20th century.  He first created Snap! for Kellogg's in 1933.  Crackle! and Pop! were added in 1939 as seen in the above vintage advertisement.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vintage Headlines: Adult Cartoons circa 1960

Lest you think that The Simpsons and Family Guy were groundbreaking in regard to being animated fare targeted at grownups, realize that over fifty years ago, a certain stone-age family was initially targeted to an adult-based demographic.  The Flintstones debuted in prime time in September of 1960, and then television reporter Ray McConnell made these interesting observations in response to the show's premiere:
SUBURBIA IN THE STONE AGE: A thousand years from today "The Flintstones" may be evidence of history, goofed-up, or of science fiction, also goofed-up but an eerie, prophetic caricature of life after The Bomb fell. TV fans will get a chance to make their own guess about this tonight when "The Flintstones" comes on ABC-TV and Channel 7 as a weekly cartoon comedy designed for adult viewing. It is television's first animated assault, outside the commercials, on adult funnybones. The cartoon series has been created by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who tailored "Huckleberry Hound," "Quick Draw McGraw" and "Rough 'n Ready" for the TV tube. These were kid cartoons, primarily. The Flintstones are something else. Their fanciful out-of-kilter world is the Hanna-Barbera answer to what they believe is an adult demand for an adult cartoon. (Who demanded this? I didn't).

It goes something like this: With their pals, Barney and Betty Rubble, Fred and Wilma Flintstone bumble through life in Bedrock (Pop. 2500), the seat of Cobblestone County. They are average couples, with the same problems, foibles, ambitions and frustrations of any couples anywhere, anytime. The difference is that the Flintstones and Rubbles live in hollow boulders and wear bearskin kilts. .It's a version of Suburbia in the stone age; a homily of life among cave dwellers — in the light of some modern improvements. But whether the time is 25,000 years ago, or a couple of hundred years hence, is your guess as much as anyone's.
Another article from the same time quoted both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera on the show's intended adult appeal:
"We had so much success our other cartoon characters —'Quick-Draw McGraw" and 'Huckleberry Hound' — and there was so much adult public reaction and acceptance that we decided to try an adult cartoon series." says Joe Barbera.

"Older people just took a liking to 'Quickdraw' and 'Huck'." Bill Hanna asserted. "Joe and I thought that possibly a cartoon series with an adult approach might be something that would please the oldsters."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Freeze Frame! - Claude Smith Proprietor

He was the proprietor of the General Merchandise store in the 1945 Droopy cartoon Wild and Wolfy.  But just who was Claude Smith in real life?

Claude Smith was already a veteran of the animation industry when Wild and Wolfy was released in 1945.  He began working at the Walt Disney Studios as early as 1933.  He was a casualty of the fallout from the Disney Studio strike in 1941, but quickly landed at MGM where he did character layouts for Tex Avery for a number of years and assisted Avery specifically on Wild and Wolfy.  Smith ultimately became well known as a cartoonist, publishing predominantly in Playboy and New Yorker magazines well into the 1970s. 

A Claude Smith cartoon from New Yorker, published May 15, 1948.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Greetings from the Rockets at Kennywood

Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania is a distinct landmark of my boomer youth, as it is to many Pittsburgh natives of my generation.  The Rockets debuted at the park in 1940 and were likely inspired by the popular Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers movie serials of that era.  The circle swing ride mechanics actually dated back to 1925 when the attraction was located in a different area of the park and featured seaplanes as the ride vehicles.  The Rockets circled above the Kennywood Lagoon for the last time in 1978.

The postcard dates from the early 1950s.  The back-side description reads:
"The Nation's Greatest Picnic Park" One of the largest and finest amusement parks in the United States. A wonderland of pleasure for the entire family with every kind of outdoor amusement device including a mammoth crystal clear swimming pool and beach. Not to visit Kennywood is not to know Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Windows to the Past: The Smiling Irishman

We couldn't resist posting this particular Window to the Past as we fast approach this week's Saint Patrick's Day Holiday.  The photograph dates from 1946 and showcases a Los Angeles entrepreneur know as the Smiling Irishman.  The image is from the UCLA Library Digital collections.

Monday, March 14, 2011

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Please stand by.

Our primary computer is undergoing repairs.  We hope to return to our normal publishing schedule later this week.  Our apologies for the inconvenience and our thanks for your continued readership and support.

Friday, March 11, 2011

$50,000 Guaranteed!

The 1958 film It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a generally well regarded piece of science fiction cinema.  It was the inspiration for Ridley Scott's original 1979 Alien film and has even been the basis for a new series of comic books in recent months.

Its movie poster, pictured above, is a classic example of 1950s B-movie publicity.  To quote:  "$50,000 GUARANTEED BY A WORLD-RENOWNED INSURANCE COMPANY TO THE FIRST PERSON WHO CAN PROVE "IT" IS NOT ON MARS NOW!"

I am imagining a young Carl Sagan attempting to collect the $50,000 while earning his doctorate of philosophy in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Very First Death of Superman

Comic book confessional: Although I consider myself reasonably well read and diversified in regard to classic superhero comics, my bright memories of youth tend to favor DC Comics, and most notably Superman.  In my tween years especially, I was a Superman aficionado, haunting yard sales and flea markets for old comic books that featured the Man of Steel.  Among the most coveted of prizes found on those expeditions were DC's specially branded Imaginary Stories, and Superman tended to be the star of the lion's share of those particular tales.

One of the very best Imaginary Stories, and a classic Superman story in and of itself, is The Death of Superman, originally published in Superman #149 from November 1961.  The story, written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Curt Swan was an emotionally charged and rather serious affair, and not the usual kiddie fare that then Superman editor Mort Weisinger typically had his talent produce.

In the tale, a seemingly reformed Lex Luthor discovers a cure for cancer and a very forgiving and all too trusting Superman lets his guard down with ultimately fatal results.  The villainous Luthor betrays the Man of Steel and slowly poisons him to death with kryptonite radiation, and takes sadistic pleasure in forcing Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White to view the execution firsthand.  Supergirl quickly emerges from hiding (she was Superman's secret weapon for a short time before being presented to the public) and brings Luthor to justice before a Kyrptonian court in the bottled city of Kandor.  Luthor is exiled forever to the Phantom Zone and Supergirl assumes her late cousin's mantle as earth's protector.

Although filled with the usual simplistic dialog and exaggerated melodrama that characterized the Superman comics of that era, The Death of Superman had moments of atypical intensity that could prove disturbing to both children and adults alike.  Superman's death scene is stretched over twelve panels, his agony prolonged through tortured kryptonite exposure while a gleefully sadistic Lex Luthor chews scenery with his boastful taunting and gloating.  A subsequent panel that shows a shocked Lois Lane kneeling over Superman's now cape-enshrouded head and torso is unsettling to say the least.

Unlike most comic book canon where the death of a central character is almost always a laughably transparent plot device that simply leads to resurrection, Imaginary Stories, and the degree of permanence they could impart, allowed for some weightier and more serious storytelling.  The Death of Superman is perhaps the best early example of such a dynamic and it certainly laid the groundwork for such future concepts as Marvel's What If? series and DC's own Elseworlds line.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Just Watched: Nobody Lives Forever

This 1946 noir gem has remained largely in the shadows but is a great showcase for John Garfield, cast as Nick Blake, a career confidence man returning from service in World War II and lured into a scheme by a number of former associates.  He unintentionally falls for his mark, a wealthy widow played by Geraldine Fitzgerald.  An excellent supporting cast includes George Tobias, Walter Brennen and Faye Emerson.  Los Angeles is the backdrop by way of some nice stock shots and atmospheric set pieces, especially the low-end Hotel Eldorado and the run-down, fog enshrouded pier where the story reaches it climax.  Rumor was that Bogart turned down the Blake part and that Garfield wasn't overly enthusiastic about taking on the role.  Any such indifference was certainly not reflected in his performance.

Nobody Lives Forever was produced in 1944 but Warner Bros. kept in on the shelf for two years, possibly as a means of extending their association with Garfield whose departure from the studio was at that time perceived to be fairly imminent. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Greetings from the AMF Monorail

We recently featured a post that showcased Archie's comic book adventures at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.  Prominent in that article was a panel excerpt that showed Archie and the gang riding the AMF Monorail, one of the Fair's best remembered icons.  This postcard features an artist's rendition of the Monorail and included the following caption on the back side:

New York World's Fair 1964-65
''Peace through Understanding."
The AMF Monorail ride at the New York World's Fair provides every member of the family with an enjoyable new experience aboard the transportation of the future. While riding in silent air-conditioned comfort three stories above ground, passengers see and can photograph many scenic Fair sights during the eight minute trip. Many riders return for a night time view of the Fair. Shown is one of seven two-car trains which transport passengers to and from the spectacular eighty-foot high station.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The History and Mythology of Gower Gulch

It is Hollywood pop culture rooted in both history and folklore, born out of poverty row studios, aspiring movie cowboys, and a drugstore famous for its soda fountain and newsstand. Its geographical center was the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street, but the area, and what it represents, has become better known by its somewhat less than glamorous nickname--Gower Gulch.

This location was central to a number of well known movie studios, including Columbia, Paramount, RKO and Republic Pictures. Located at the southeast corner of Gower and Sunset was the Columbia Drug Co., famous for both its soda fountain and newsstand. Both Columbia and Republic specialized in westerns during this time period, and aspiring actors, many of whom were actual working cowboys, would congregate in and around the drugstore, hoping to be selected by the studio casting agents who would frequent the area. Many of these hopefuls would come to Gower Gulch fully outfitted in their cowboy clothing and gear, and thus the moniker "drugstore cowboy" was born.
Gower Gulch as seen in Thank Your Lucky Stars

The area was idealized in the 1943 Warner Bros. film Thank Your Lucky Stars as a rustic colony of aspiring actors and entertainers, living in discarded movie sets. Eddie Cantor, Joan Leslie and Dennis Morgan portray three of Gower Gulch's resident hopefuls, with Morgan's character noting that he lives in the former jail set used in James Cagney's 1939 film The Roaring Twenties. Despite conjecture otherwise (specifically a citation-less Wikipedia entry), this fanciful interpretation appears to have had no factual basis; I could not find any documentation of an actual Hollywood community consisting of individuals living in thrown away set pieces.

But Gower Gulch was in fact a community of sorts, as Time magazine described in their review of Thank Your Lucky Stars, published in October of 1943. The writer noted, "Gower Gulch is not a fiction. Although nothing like Warner Bros. moonlit version, it is one of Hollywood's minor but more durable institutions."

While the Columbia Drug Co. has received the lion's share of the historical attention relating to Gower Gulch, it was in fact another nearby establishment that was considered to be the heart and soul of this community of drugstore cowboys. The Time article identified a small Sunset Boulevard watering hole called Brewer's as the focal point for Gulch citizenry. It was run by woman named Eleanor Lathrop, who was known as the "little mother of Gower Gulch." In addition, the article provided this background:
For ten years Brewer's has been the official gathering place for Western extras and bit men, whiskery old boys who are still vicariously chasing aborigines with General Custer, discarded circus clowns and weary stuntmen who congregate to drink beer and to execute competitive embroideries on the small glories of a past day. Demigods like Gene Autry, Bob Steele and Rex Bell drop in now and then. Nearly all the Western stars have been reflected in the booze there at one time or another, but the roster of names which have been most conspicuous and most chronic during the past decade includes Handlebar Hank Bell, Bear Valley Charley, Vinegar Roan, Tex Cooper, Foxy Callaghan, Curley Rucker.

Most of these men started as genuine cowboys. All of them fill the wide-open spaces between the horses in horse operas with masculine strength and silence. Many of them get an occasional line. Perhaps the most prosperous is Handlebar Hank, who owes his modest fortune as well as his name to his mustache. More often than not, these men and others like them are picked up by studios making Westerns without working through Central Casting —a dubious practice known as "casting off the street."
"Blackjack" Jerome Moore
Gower Gulch gained headlines and notoriety in 1939 when a disagreement between two of its citizens ended in an alleged murder. "Blackjack" Jerome Moore was accused of chasing fellow cowboy Johnny Tykes out of Brewer's and shooting him to death in a nearby parking lot. Ward was acquitted when witnesses testified that his actions were committed in self defense. According to one report, "Movie cowboys testified that Tyke was 'pizen mean' and that somebody 'had to shoot him.'"

The Gower Gulch locals elected their own mayor for the first time in 1939,  It was a closely watched contest at Brewer's, where a purchase would earn you a vote.  Veteran movie cowboy Jack Evans edged out his nearest competitor, a much loved pet dog named Tramp, by a slim margin of just 26 votes.

Gower Gulch is made reference to in a number of classic-era cartoons.  It is the name of a town in the 1950 Looney Tunes short All Abir-r-r-d.  A year later in Drip Along Daffy, Porky Pig sings a song entitled "The Flower of Gower Gulch."  And in the 1943 Disney cartoon Victory Vehicles, Goofy, dressed in drugstore cowboy finery, stands near the Gower Gulch Pharmacy.  A grade B western entitled The Kid from Gower Gulch was released in 1949, but bore no relation to the Hollywood locale.

Today, a small strip center located at the intersection of Sunset and Gower retains the Gower Gulch name.   It is the only tangible reminder left of the area's history and of the drugstore cowboys who were once the stuff of Hollywood history and legend.

Explore 2719 Hyperion:
Disney's Hollywood: Gower Gulch and the Drugstore Cowboy

Monday, February 28, 2011

Windows to the Past: Teddy the Wrestling Bear

A carnival barker takes a moment to quench his thirst in this photograph from September of 1941.  A mere five cents granted admission to any number of wonders, including a 32 feet long, 618 lb. snake and the ever popular Teddy the Wrestling Bear.  This particular attraction was located on the midway of the Vermont State Fair in Rutland.  Photographer Jack Delano snapped the photo and it is part of the FSA-OWI collection at the Library of Congress.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The World's Safest Front Seat!

Last week we were introduced to mid-20th century industrialist Henry J. Kaiser by way of a World War II-era Warner Bros. cartoon.  Beyond his notoriety as a proficient and speedy ship builder, Kaiser also dabbled in automobile design and manufacturing in the postwar era, as demonstrated by this brochure found amidst other vintage car ephemera in Tony's Attic.  It appears that Tony attended a auto show sometime in 1951 and was potentially intrigued by the up and coming Kaiser models.

The highlight that year was "the first truly safety-engineered automobile--the Kaiser Manhattan--with the World's Safest Front Seat."  Kaiser himself is quoted as saying that, "the '52 Kaiser's new front seat protection represents the greatest safety-engineering advance in 30 years."

Kaiser stopped manufacturing passenger vehicles in 1955, and instead focused on utility vehicles such as the Jeep brand, which it had purchased in 1953.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Scientists of the World of Tomorrow

The Middleton Family has returned to Boom-Pop!  They were the wholly fictitious family created by Westinghouse Electric to promote its pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair.  The family's primary showcase was the fifty-five minute film The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair, but their celluloid adventures were mirrored in a series of magazine advertisements published throughout the Fair's first season in 1939.  This particular ad was featured in the August 7, 1939 issue of Life magazine and chronicled young Bud Middleton as he visited the Junior Science Laboratories, one of the attractions inside the Westinghouse Electric Pavilion.

The text shown on the right side of the ad is as follows:
The Junior Science Laboratories at the Westinghouse Building leave a deep impression with the Middleton family — especially Bud, who has now decided to abandon his ambitions to lead a swing band in favor of an electrical engineering career. You, too, will enjoy seeing and talking with these scientists of the future. They are school children, 12 to 18 years old, whose projects in varied branches of science are carried on with the help of the American Institute of the City of New York. Don't miss this feature of the Westinghouse exhibit in the World of Tomorrow.

Yes, indeed! One visit to the Westinghouse exhibits and Bud quickly abandoned his dream of a career in music in favor of electrical engineering.  The corresponding scene from the film features actors Jimmy Lydon (Bud), Harry Shannon (Mr. Middleton) and Douglas Stark (Jim Treadway).  The Treadway character is not identified by name in the advertisement; in the film he is portrayed as a passionate advocate for free market capitalism and ultimately wins the affection of the beautiful Babs Middleton who was being lead astray by Nicholas Makaroff.  The Makaroff character is presented as an embittered and frustrated socialist who despises the Fair and everything it represents.

Explore the Boom-Pop! Archives:
You'll Remember the Westinghouse Building as Long as You Live

Monday, February 21, 2011

Windows to the Past: The Plaza Theatre

Boom Pop! is dedicated to the memory of my late father-in-law Anthony Mangano, and one of my missions here is to explore the many mementos and ephemera of 20th century popular culture that were found in Tony's attic shortly after his passing in early 2009.  Also relating to Tony is this wonderful Window to the Past that gives us a view of the Pittsburgh neighborhood where he grew up.

This photograph was snapped on August 1, 1937 and showcases the Plaza Theatre that was located on Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh's "Little Italy," better known as Bloomfield.  The Plaza Theatre was located less than two blocks from Tony's home, and I have no doubt that he spent many Saturday afternoons there watching cartoons, serials and double features.  Tony would have been eight years old at the time of this photograph and I would love to think that he could be among the children pictured in the image.

The photograph is from the Historic Pittsburgh Images Collection and had the following annotation:
The Plaza Theater at 4765 Liberty Avenue, showing children waiting to attend a performance. Movie posters flank the ticket booth with their notices of films featuring "Charlie Chan at the Olympics," "Emperor's Candlesticks" with Luise Ranier and William Powell and Hal Roach's "Nobody's Baby". The theater, built circa 1905, features a Mansard roof, terra cotta tile, and tin ceilings inside.
Here is an earlier view if the Plaza Theatre, predating Tony's birth by twelve years. The photo was taken on October 29, 1917.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Henry J. Kaiser - Out to Launch

You can learn a lot from cartoons.

Case in point: the 1944 Warner Bros. cartoon The Weakly Reporter.  This particular Merrie Melody was a send-up of life on the home front during World War II, and featured numerous situations and references that are near indecipherable to many modern viewers.  One must literally reach to the bookshelf or search engine to even be able to understand the meaning and context of many of the short's gags.

The closing sequence of the cartoon pokes fun at the very rapid production of warships at American shipyards at the height of the war.  The closing shot of the film zooms in on a small shack in a shipyard.  A sign on the door says "HENRY J. KAISER - PRIVATE."  A smaller sign, hanging from a nail, proclaims, "BACK IN 2 MINUTES - OUT TO LAUNCH."  So of course it begs the question, who is, or was, Henry J. Kaiser?

Kaiser was a very well know American industrialist throughout much of the mid-20th century.  Prior to World War II, his construction firm worked on such high profile projects as the Hoover Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam.  He began building ships just prior to the war.  He became famous in the field for being a master of mass production.  According to Wikipedia:
He became most famous for the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California during World War II, adopting production techniques that generated cargo ships on the average of one every 45 days. These ships became known as Liberty ships. He became world renowned when his teams built a ship in 4 days. The keel for the 10,500 ton Robert E. Peary was laid on Sunday, November 8, 1942, and the ship was launched in California from the Richmond Shipyard #2 on Thursday, November 12, four days and 15½ hours later. The previous record had been 10 days for the Liberty ship Joseph M. Teal.
His most famous and lasting legacy is likely Kaiser Permanente, considered to be the first health maintenance organization.  Kaiser passed away in 1967.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life with Archie at the New York World's Fair

The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair was indeed a popular destination, so much so that it even captured the imaginations of cartoon and comic book creators of that time period.   In an earlier post here at Boom-Pop! we showcased the adventures of the Flintstones at the Fair, both in four color format and also on their television program.  Another popular contingent of comics characters visited the Fair as well; Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead made their way to Flushing Meadows in Life with Archie #31, published in the fall of 1964, just as the fair was winding down its first six-month season.

In "Rough, Tough--But Fair Enough," Archie and the gang win a trip to the Fair when Archie is chosen as "the symbol of American youth" in a contest sponsored by the First National Bank of Riverdale.  Veteran Archie artist Bob White then quickly transports the group to the Fair by way of a spectacular splash page that highlights the Swiss Sky Ride with numerous fair landmarks in the background.

White faithfully recreated the Fair in clean crisp renderings, minimizing details yet capturing the architectural flair of its many buildings and attractions.  The story prominently features the AMF Monorail across a number of panels.  But the centerpiece of the adventure is a crazy, pratfall-filled chase involving the Fair's unique cabs or "Escorters" as they were more popularly known.  It's up to Archie and Reggie to save the day when the girls are abducted by a speed-crazed Escorter driver.

Released simultaneously with Life with Archie #31 was issue #9 of She's Josie, another Archie Comics publication, which was also set at the Fair.  Josie and her friends (in their pre-Pussycats days) set out to win a trip to Flushing Meadows by collecting cereal box tops.  When their efforts fall through, wealthy Alexander Cabot finances their trip.  Artist Dan DeCarlo prominently featured numerous landmarks across the story, among them the U.S. Royal Tire ferris wheel and Sinclair's Dinoland.  DeCarlo also made use of the Escorters as well.  Both White and DeCarlo acknowledged the crossover nature of the two stories; Josie and Alex can be seen riding the Monorail in the Life with Archie story, while Archie makes a quick one-panel cameo in She's Josie.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Floating Airports - 1952

From the December 1952 issue of Mechanix Illustrated:
The main structure resembles an elongated aircraft carrier with an open flight deck above and an enclosed hangar deck below. In the ends of the latter are repair and storage space for planes. Each two-plane compartment is separated from the next by an elevator shaft. Workshops and-service facilities are spotted in projecting arrowhead islands along the entire length of the hangar deck.

The islands also contain sub-surface engine rooms in which powerful diesels are mounted to drive water propellers. These operate automatically to keep the airstrip headed into the wind and are governed by a master wind-vane -on the forward deck. The incoming plane touches down just inside the after end of the flight deck and is halted by arrestor gear at the first island. A deck handling tractor then couples to the nose-wheel gear and tows the plane to the "down" elevator. Painted tracks on this portion of the deck help keep it in alignment.

Descending to the hangar deck, the plane is towed off the elevator and forward into the "depot", area. Here, completely under cover, the passengers deplane or emplane and the ship is serviced. It is then towed forward to the "up" elevator and ascends to the flight deck again. The tractor then tows it clear of the elevator and the plane's undercarriage is engaged to the catapult traveler. A variation of the new British steam catapult accelerates slowly and smoothly and whips the plane into the air for the next leg of its flight.

Adjoining the depot area in a large central island are the passenger accommodations. If the traveler wishes to go directly ashore, he is directed to a door on his right. This leads through a thwartship passage to the taxi waiting room, customs shed, etc. Fast water taxis are tied up to - an open boat landing. In another section, helicopter taxis load in a pair of elevator shafts and are then whisked to the flight deck above to take off for various points in the city. Should the traveler find it necessary to wait for another plane, he turns to his left. Here he finds a spacious and comfortable lounge, flanked by an information booth, airline offices, newsstands, etc.

A city like New York could anchor a whole string of these airports in nearby Long Island Sound, the Lower Bay or even in the Hudson River where landing approaches and take-offs could be made over uninhabited stretches of water. Accessibility would be at least as good as that of the present airports and with helicopter taxi service, it. -would be better. Most of the other great centers of our country are similarly situated. Why don't we build floating airports to make air travel safer and save our cities?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Greetings From Griffith Observatory

One of southern California's most famous landmarks, Griffith Observatory has served the exploration of science since opening in 1935.  Frequently a backdrop or set piece for filmmakers, it has appeared in numerous movies and television programs over the past seven decades.  Among its more notable appearances: Rebel Without a Cause, The Rocketeer, The Terminator, Rocky Jones Space Ranger and the 1950s era Adventures of Superman.

The postcard caption:
The splendid view of the Griffith Observatory with its shining copper dome arouses much interest to the residents and tourists in Southern California.  The museum and lectures give the layman an insight into the celestial mysteries and some of the "whys" of nature.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Animated Architecture: The Fun Pad

It was a retro-future spin (pun intended) on a traditional amusement pier and was inspired in just about everything but name.  The Fun Pad just seemed too generic for a Jetsons-era entertainment complex.  It was one of the destinations of Judy Jetson and Jet Screamer in The Jetsons episode, "A Date with Jet Screamer."

An amusement park is a near perfect subject for a space age-Googie makeover.  Rollercoasters, ferris wheels, and spinning rides are easily adapted to "space age designs that depict motion," one of the fundamental components of Googie design as cited in Wikipedia.  Hanna Barbera background artists Art Lozzi, Bob Abrams and Lee Branscome effectively brought those concepts to a successful realization.  I especially like the the very practical lower level parking decks.

The Fun Pad had a real life counterpart of sorts.  Astro Land, located on New York's famed Coney Island, was advertised as the nation's first "space age" amusement park when it opened in 1962.  The Jetsons, coincidentally, debuted on television that very same year.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing Space Station

My Mom still pleads ignorance on this particular subject.

At some undetermined point in my youth, likely prior to my tenth birthday, my Major Matt Mason Space Station vanished.  I'm sure I didn't notice it immediately.  I was the type of kid that cycled through my toys.  I would focus on Johnny West for a couple of weeks at a time, dust off the Strange Change Machine about once a month, go on a board game kick for a few days, not to mention heading down the street and working my way through my best friend's inventory as needed.  So the date and time of this crime will forever remain a mystery.

Again, the item in question, as pictured here--the Major Matt Mason Space Station.  Yes indeed, the holy grail of the Major Matt Mason toys.  This was the top of the line.  Your Mom or Dad didn't let you casually toss this one into the shopping cart in say, May or September.  A toy of this caliber, this level of cost, this degree of complexity, required a prerequisite special occasion.  Either your birthday or Christmas.  I landed mine on the latter.  And bear in mind, this wasn't just any Christmas present, this was the main event.  The Major Matt Mason Space Station was, allegorically speaking, my official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.  Collector Keith Meyer christened his Major Matt Mason website The Space Station and noted on its history page, "The Space Station was perhaps the most impressive toy of the entire collection. It stood just over two feet tall, with towering girders and impressive 'Solar Shields". Many a youngster fell asleep in a darkened room, lit only by the purple glow of the Station beacon."

Major Matt Mason was introduced to the world in 1966, and proved popular until Mattel retired the line in the mid-1970s.  His tenure in the toy chest coincided with much of NASA's peak years, epitomized by the first lunar landing in 1969.  It was quite likely that there was a MMM toy nearby in my bedroom when my Dad woke me up to watch Neil Armstrong take those famous first steps.

The standard MMM figures were notorious for their lack of durability.  Made of rubber, their internal wire skeletons were prone to breaking at the joints, leaving Matt and his crew with sadly dangling arms and legs.  Your average young MMM enthusiast typically had a box full of "crippled" astronauts and a disgruntled parent tired of driving to K-Mart to purchase replacements.  I have often wondered if this in fact was the potential motive behind the aforementioned Space Station crime.

I owned numerous other Major Matt Mason toys and accessories.  The Space Crawler was the one that received the most playtime.  Of the other crew members, I did possess multiple Sgt. Storms, but regrettably, astronauts Doug Davis and Jeff Long never made it into my collection.  The oversize Captain Lazer arrived on another Christmas morning accompanied by the Firebolt Space Cannon Super Action Set.

The mystery of the missing Space Station remains unresolved to this day.  It was last seen near the laundry area in the basement of my childhood home.  My mother, the prime suspect in the case, has never wavered through four decades of questioning.  Her typical response:  "I have no idea what you're talking about.  You expect me to remember a stupid toy from forty years ago?  You're crazy, you know that?"

Sure Mom, sure.  It's a wonder you can sleep at night.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Windows to the Past: Leslie Brooks at the Hollywood Canteen

Columbia Studios starlet and pin-up girl Leslie Brooks gets help from a serviceman outside the soon-to-open Hollywood Canteen in this photograph from fall of 1942.  The gentleman is Yeoman Seymour Rice of the Coast Guard.

The Hollywood Canteen was located on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood.  It operated during the war years from 1942 to 1945 and featured free food and entertainment for servicemen and servicewomen.  The Canteen was the brainchild of stars Bette Davis and John Garfield, and they enlisted the entire entertainment industry to donate labor, materials and services to construct and operate the venue.  By the time it closed on Thanksgiving Day 1945, it had served nearly three million military personnel.  In 1944, Warner Brothers released the film Hollywood Canteen which drew inspiration from the actual nightclub.

Brooks was twenty years old when she signed with Columbia Pictures in 1942.  Her career in Hollywood lasted less than a decade.  She played secondary roles for Columbia before being leaving the studio in 1948.  Her personal life at the time was marred by a troubled marriage to ex-marine and struggling actor Donald Anthony Shay that ended in a divorce and a bitter custody fight over their daughter Leslie Victoria.  She would go on to marry land developer Russ Vincent in 1950 and effectively retire from show business.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fresh Up!

Two words that were associated with 7-Up adverting campaigns for nearly a decade.  It was certainly an odd slogan, though I suppose derivative of the word refreshing that was of course used frequently in soft drink ad copy.  The slogan ultimately gave birth to a cartoon mascot named Fresh Up Freddie, a hyperactive bird created by Walt Disney's little known commercials production unit.  For more information on Freddie, check out this recent post on our companion site, 2719 Hyperion.