Saturday, December 31, 2022

In with the New Year, Out with the Old

As we welcome in the new year...
Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors. 
Be so busy loving your life 
that you have no time for hate, regret or fear.


Friday, December 30, 2022

Chester, the Town That Embraces Popeye, The Sailor

Chester, Illinois, is the hometown of Popeye, the Sailor. Few know about this factoid. Now you know. In 1977, a bronze statue of Popeye was erected in honor of the hometown of Elzie C. Segar, the creator of Popeye. The statue is on display at the Segar Memorial Park, which is also home to the Chester Welcome Center. Earlier this year a friend of mine and I traveled across the state of Illinois for a week to check out all the museums and Chester turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Of all the towns we stopped in, this was our favorite. You know they say a tour is only as good as the tour guide? The good folks in Chester have embraced Popeye, the Sailor like I have never seen a town embrace tourism. 

Almost three decades after the bronze Popeye statue was erected, the town began an annual tradition of erecting a granite statue featuring a character from the Popeye comic strip. There are more than 20 of these statues throughout the town. Even with a map, finding these statues is like a scavenger hunt. it took us three hours to find them all and one of them eluded us. Thankfully, there is a historian of Popeye, the Sailor, who not only lived in Chester, but was kind enough to take us to the statue. 

There is also a mini-museum and store filled with thousands of Popeye related collectibles.

Enclosed are a large number of photographs of the Spinach Can Collectibles Museum, and if you are ever looking for something Popeye-related, give them a phone call or e-mail. As you can tell by reviewing the photographs below, Popeye is the logo on the front of City Hall, the volunteer fire department, and even a patch on the official uniforms of the local police station. After spending a day in town, my friend and I agreed that stopping over in Chester was better than any town we ever paid a visit that week -- but it was primarily the citizens of Chester. Segar would be proud.

My friend posing with the Popeye statue.

A quick rundown of the history of Popeye, the Sailor can be found here:

Take note: Popeye will soon celebrate his 100th anniversary.

Friday, December 23, 2022

The History of The Lone Ranger Restaurant

The year was 1969 and The Lone Ranger was saddling up for a ride out on a new adventure. The masked man would make the transition from television reruns to menu formulation, building and trademark design, equipment engineering and promotion for a chain of restaurants using The Lone Ranger name. Serving a 16-item menu consisting of hamburgers, fries, milk shakes and fried chicken, which also included the Sheriff's Steak Sandwich, and Saddlebag meals to go, the franchise gave producer Jack Wrather an opportunity to expand his investments beyond hotels, oil wells, and television stations. But the fast food franchise was a tough nut to crack and regardless of how attractive the "Quick Draw Drink Bar" was to customers, the initial proposal of opening 16 Lone Ranger restaurants in the Los Angeles market would quickly diminish to five and in less than two years close the saloon doors permanently. Few today even remember the chain.

The first was located at Wilshire Blvd. and Stanford Street in Santa Monica, to serve as a prototype. The 3,350-square-foot restaurant provided parking for 30 cars was designed by Jim Buckley of Wrather Corp., with Robert Brown as the architect and the Ray Wilson Company as the contractor. With city officials, PTA leaders, and Clayton Moore dressed as The Lone Ranger himself in attendance (along with Silver), the new red, white and blue Lone Ranger family restaurant had its grand opening on Friday, September 5, 1969. Both eat-in and take-out service was offered. 

Thousands of people of every age group attended the three-day celebration from September 5 to 7 to check out the colorful Western style building with its distinctive interior decor. One food critic compared the service as "admirable" but the food itself was nothing different from what could be found elsewhere, regardless of the fancy names such as Pronto Tonto Corn Dogs, Ranchburgers and Wild West Beans. Throughout the coming months, the staff was focused on refining operation techniques, perfecting the franchising plan, and preparing for additional sites for restaurants. Four additional Southern California locations were secured under lease agreements.

The second location had a grand opening in March of 1970 at Crenshaw Boulevard near Exposition Boulevard. The third opened at 20304 Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance, California. The fourth was on the southwest corner of Beach Blvd. and Slater Ave. in the Ocean View sector of Huntington Beach, with a grand opening of May 2, 1970. There was one at Westwood, too. For Jack Wrather, the idea was more than a dream -- it was a chance to expand The Lone Ranger property nationwide with franchise offerings available by the summer of 1970.

President of the food franchise was Ralph R. Lanphar, a career executive in the fast food field, and formerly president of Shakey's Inc. For eight years he was with the Howard Johnson and Big Boy chains. But amidst all the attempts and money invested, the franchise could not reach out beyond the plains. 

Start-up costs for the food-franchise system were blamed in part for a decline of nearly 28 percent of the 1969 profits for the Wrather Corp., though sales rose over 20 percent. By August of 1971, executives at Wrather Corp. agreed that the restaurant was not a success. Named after the fictional cowboy hero was a novelty, but it would take more than a novelty to maintain a steady flow of sales. Before the end of August 1971, four of the five Lone Ranger fast-food eateries were operating with a loss, estimated at $2.7 million.   Before 1972, four of the five were shut down permanently. Within a year following, the fifth would close for good. After which, The Lone Ranger restaurant became a thing of the past. 

Today, surviving cups, napkins, and promotional materials are sought-after collector premiums. But one often wonders what George W. Trendle would have thought when he heard about the restaurant. Sadly, no paperwork has been found to verify his thoughts on the matter. At least Jack Wrather and his investors gave it the old college try...   

Thursday, December 15, 2022

It's a Christmas Tradition

This is that annual reminder of a playlist available for listening to, with over 300 vintage Christmas songs not commonly heard over the radio.

Any flat disc record, made between (circa) 1898 and 1959 and playing at a speed around 78 revolutions per minute is referred to today by collectors as a "78." The materials of which these discs were made and with which they were coated were also various; shellac eventually became the most common of materials. Generally 78s are made of a brittle material which uses a shellac resin (which is why collectors also refer to them as shellac records). During and after World War II when shellac supplies were extremely limited (used for the war cause), many 78 rpm records were pressed in vinyl instead of shellac.

In 1948, Columbia Records unveiled the 33 1/3 RPM long playing record. It played for about 20 minutes per side. Then came the battle of the speeds. RCA in 1949 began offering records (and record players) that played at 45 revolutions per minute.

If asked how much these discs are worth, there really is no set guide to determine the value. Anyone with the correct record player can play these recordings and they are a dime a dozen at antique fairs and eBay.

After two months of cataloging more than 3,000 of the old 33s, 45s and 78s to CD format, and separating those with a holiday theme, I loaded more than 300 Christmas songs onto a streaming playlist for you to enjoy. In the spirit of of mixtape from years gone by, I found a modern way to bring these songs to the masses for the holiday season, without having to burn hundreds of CDs. 

If you are like me, every holiday you tune to a local radio station that traditionally plays the same Christmas songs over and over and over... and yeah, it gets tedious hearing the same recordings every year. Christmas is a time to establish a fond look back through nostalgic vocals and my frustration grows knowing that Gene Autry's rendition of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Bing Crosby's White Christmas is going to play on rotation... again and again.

What you will hear on this streaming radio station (accessible with a simple click of a button on your computer, iPad, tablet, iPhone, etc.) are vintage Christmas offerings all dated pre-1960 and chances are you haven't heard these renditions. Examples include:

I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas (1954, Betty Johnson)
Frosty the Snowman (1950, Guy Lombaro and his Orchestra)
Santa and the Doodle-Li-Boop (1954, Art Carney)
I Want You for Christmas (1937, Mae Questel as Betty Boop)
All Around the Christmas Tree (1940, Raymond Scott and his New Orchestra)
Barnyard Christmas (1952, Spike Jones and The Bell Sisters)
The Birthday of a King (1949, Judy Garland)
Jingle Bells (1935, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra)
It Happened in Sun Valley (1941, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra)
Christmas in Killarney (1950, Dennis Day with The Mellowmen)
The First Noel (1942, Nelson Eddy and Robert Armbruster's Orchestra)
Let's Start the New Year Right (1942, Bing Crosby)
Hello, Mr. Kringle (1939, Kay Kyser)
Jingle Bells (1934, Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra, and Harriet Hilliard)
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth (1949, Danny Kaye and Patty Andrews)
Yah, Das Ist Ein Christmas Tree (1953, Mel Blanc)
Silent Night (1921, Florence Easton)
Silver Bells (1938, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys)
Christmas on the Plains (1949, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans)
The Night Before Christmas (1952, Gene Autry and Rosemary Clooney)
O Come, All Ye Faithful (1938, Frances Langford)
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus (1950, Patti Page)
Happy Little Christmas Friend (1953, Rosemary Clooney)
Ol' Saint Nicholas (1949, Doris Day)
A Ride in Santa's Sleigh (1953, Judy Valentine)
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1934, Harry Reser)
Santa Claus is on His Way (1941, Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra)
Silent Night (1940, Kate Smith)
Suzy Snowflake (1951, Rosemary Clooney)
Auld Lang Syne (1939, Erwin Bendel with Tiny Till and his Orchestra)
Baby, It's Cold Outside (1949, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan)
Christmas Day (1952, Eddie Fisher)
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe (1941, Dick Roberston)
Merry Christmas Polka (1949, Guy Lombardo and The Andrews Sisters)
I'll Be Home for Christmas (1947, Eddy Howard)
Five Pound Box of Money (1959, Pearl Bailey)
The Man with the Whiskers (1938, Hoosier Hot Shots)
March of the Toys (1939, Tommy Dorsey)
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (1938, Kenny Baker)
I Want You for Christmas (1937, Russ Morgan)
The Kissing Bridge (1953, The Fontane Sisters and Perry Como)
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1952, Molly Bee)
Here Comes Santa Claus (1949, Doris Day)
I Believe in Santa Claus (1955, The Mills Brothers)
Little Sandy Sleighfoot (1957, Jimmy Dean)
The Man with the Bag (1950, Kay Starr)
Merry Christmas Waltz (1949, Gordon MacRae)
Christmas Alphabet (1954, The McGuire Sisters)
Let It Snow, Let It Snow (1946, Bob Crosby)
I Saw Mommy do the Mombo (1954, Jimmy Boyd)
The Mistletoe Kiss (1948, Primo Scala and The Keynotes)
My Christmas Song for You (1945, Hoagy Carmichael and Martha Mears)
Christmas Night in Harlem (1934, Todd Rollins and his Orchestra)

Among the highlights you will hear "I Want a Television Christmas" by Mindy Carson (which happens to be a 1949 RCA sales promo), the 1953 Christmas Dragnet spoof with Daws Butler and Stan Freberg, a 1953 commercial recording of Amos and Andy's popular "The Lord's Prayer," Basil Rathbone narrating a musical rendition of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (1942), Bing Crosby's 1942 version of "White Christmas" (not the 1947 re-recording you commonly hear on radio today), Jerry Colonna's 1953 take on "Too Fat for the Chimney," the 1934 version of "Winter Wonderland" performed by Richard Himber (the first recording ever made of that song), and other rarities.

Of the 300 plus recordings, you will no doubt hear the same song (such as "Winter Wonderland" and "The First Noel") performed multiple times but each rendition with a different singer.  

Many familiar songs but with unfamiliar renditions from your favorite singers. (Believe me, I will have this radio station playing all day at home, and streaming through my iPhone when I travel during the holiday season.) The radio station will expire January 1 so enjoy this while it lasts. And I hope this musical yule log not only suits your palate, but many of these songs become a favorite of yours. My Christmas present to you.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

KING KONG: The "Lost" 1933 Radio Serial

The year was 1933. The country was in the height of a Depression and weeks after the Bank Holiday concluded, RKO Radio Pictures promoted a new motion picture as "the picture destined to startle the world." An ambitious statement when many in the country were facing financial hardship.

In the weeks leading up to the theatrical release of KING KONG, executives at RKO purchased an unusual time slot for an eight-week radio serial, adapted from the screenplay. The studio made a daring move by not only giving away the entire plot of the movie before the picture was released nationwide, but by eliminating the advertising agency which most sponsors employ, an executive at NBC hired stage actors in New York City to report to the radio studios at Rockefeller Center, twice a week, to dramatize the epic that took place on an unchartered island and a monster rampage through the streets of New York City. 

The radio serial has a fascinating history. To start, Max Steiner's music score was not featured and music was almost non-evident. The cast replicated the island natives as they chanted "Ani Saba Kong" repeatedly as the series opener, with solo drums. The majority of the serial took place on Skull Island and featuring a harrowing epic of survival, including scenes that never made it to the final cut of the theatrical release -- including the notorious and often talked about spider pit sequence. Nationwide coverage of an earthquake in Los Angeles pre-empted the broadcast of one chapter, causing the script writer to combine the final two episodes into one, effecting the dramatic portion of Kong's rampage through the asphalt jungle known as New York City. The script writers chose to eliminate the unrequited love and the repression of violent sexual desire that was evident in the movie, the stand-off against the voodoo natives, and there was no opening scene that depicted economic oppression.


Broadcast "live" over NBC in New York, Nebraska and British Columbia, but not coast-to-coast, recordings from that 1933 radio serial do not exist. Radio historians knew of the serial, but little was known about it beyond reviews in Variety magazine. Until recently, the radio scripts were also considered "lost" -- a Holy Grail among radio researchers and fans of the horror classic. Recently discovered, all 15 radio scripts were scanned into pdf files for digital preservation. The complete run, along with bonus extras such as radio scripts for the April 1933 New York City and Hollywood movie premieres, is now available in book form (both paperback and hardcover). For fans of King Kong, this is a treasure.


To ensure top value, the book is being limited to a printing of 100, pre-sale only. This ensures the book will gain value over the years (and for those who plan to resell them years from now, an investment). At the time I am typing this blog entry, more than half of the books are sold. As I am raising money for the construction of a coffee shop throughout the winter (contracts are signed, the contractors break ground in the spring), limited edition projects such as these will be common. But while a few will be eyebrow raisers among fans of old-time radio, this one might be the most impressive. 

If you want to order your copy today before they sell out, visit

And for deep-analysis and historical information about this 1933 radio serial, click here: 


Friday, December 2, 2022

The Lone Ranger Museum in Mount Carmel, Illinois

Earlier this year a friend of mine and I spent a week traveling through the state of Illinois and stopped over in Mount Carmel, the hometown of Brace Beemer, known to millions as radio's Lone Ranger. The museum is worth checking out if you are a fan of the masked rider of the plains, with collectibles, memorabilia and historical artifacts on display. 

The display is located in the Wabash County Museum at 320 Market Street. A mock studio shows Fred Foy and Brace Beemer holding a Lone Ranger radio script. A saddle owned by Brace Beemer, authenticated by his family, is on display. There is a fascinating display case of memorabilia owned by radio announcer Fred Foy. Young children can use plungers to replicate the horse hoofs of Silver just as the sound men accomplished on the radio program. The casting call board from the original studios of WXYZ is on display just as you walk through the door. Over 1,500 items related to The Lone Ranger are available for display, rotated on a regular basis to ensure every visit will have something different.

Most unique is the entrance to the exhibit, where you walk through the original door from the Maccabees building at radio station WXYZ, in Detroit. 

We spent more than two hours at the museum, not just reviewing the numerous items on display, and timeline along the wall, but also looking over some of the items that were not on display. A die-hard fan like myself had to see everything -- even if some of the collectibles were not on display for the general public. The curator was awesome is granting my friends and I the privilege.

If you want to financially support the museum, you can buy a Lone Ranger mug, key chain, clock, lunchbox, Christmas tree ornament, trinket box and much more. The link is provided below. (Disclaimer: yes, my Lone Ranger book is available for sale through this link. I donated the books to the museum and am in no way making a profit for the sale.)