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Thursday, March 29, 2012

WHERE IS JAMES DEAN WHEN WE NEED HIM?

James Dean's ultra cool 1949 Mercury used in his film "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955).  Dean was a great influence to teenagers of his era; especially in their love for cars.



If you grew up in the 40s, 50s, 60s or even later, you can probably remember the love affair between kids and cars.  In small town America, kids would “drag Main” on a Friday night after a football game with their AM radios blasting in hopes of meeting some babes at the local Dog and Suds.  In cities like Phoenix it was a similar existence only on a bigger scale as Central was the street to cruise and KRIZ was the station to blare the current hit tunes.

I wonder how many gallons of Aqua Velva and Hai Karate the kids poured on themselves in those days to match their slicked down Wildroot Cream Oil soaked hair.  Their cars were the coolest too.  I remember the competition between the Chevy and Ford owners.  It didn’t matter which car you had, it better have a set of “duals” with “glass pack” mufflers and be able to “get rubber in second.”

A lot of guys from that era were good mechanics and did all the work on their “heaps” themselves.  I was no expert but I always changed my own oil and oil filters and spark plugs.  You could get Pennzoil for 25 cents a quart and a filter for about $1.50 at K-Mart.  Then, you would park your car over a curb and slide under to drain the oil.  For about $2.75, you had an oil and filter change.  Today, the same job is about $35 at a dealer.

Those were fun days.  Cars were a lot simpler and any kid with a mechanical aptitude could easily work on his own car.  The front seat was a bench so three could easily ride there.  Even more important, when you took your girlfriend out (hopefully to the drive-in theater!), she could sit right next to you.  I had a stick shift Chevy and I would drive with my right arm around her while she shifted gears.  

Those days are apparently gone as I read recently from two different reports that kids don’t really care about cars anymore.   Veteran sportswriter Frank Deford reports that NASCAR has been in trouble because “those old, white guys, who were the bread-and-butter NASCAR constituency, were not being replicated by their sons and grandsons. Frankly, the younger generations don’t care to mess around with cars.”  The love affair with the car is apparently over.

The New York Times reports that “Today, Facebook, Twitter and text messaging allow teenagers and 20-somethings to connect without wheels. High gas prices and environmental concerns don’t help matters.”  They think of a car as “a giant bummer.”

Maybe they should start thinking of what a giant bummer it will be when they realize they can’t spell or write correctly with their dependence on Smartphones, texting, and the other nonsense today that is considered by many to be progress.

As for me, I prefer to remember hanging with my buddies in our heaps with the radio blasting Elvis, The Drifters, or Dion and enjoying our 4/70 air conditioning.




Am I dreaming or is that a room full of 1955, '56, and '57 Chevy convertibles in mint condition?  Some billionaire owns them and a couple more garages full of similar cars.

Friday, March 23, 2012

AMERICAN HISTORY IS IMPORTANT; CHECK IT OUT

Photo from c. 1940 of gas for 20.5 cents a gallon.  Apparently the station owner was receiving flack about his price so he broke it down so customers knew he made only 4 cents a gallon!



I received some photos of the past this week from reader FD in northern Arizona.  They are great relics and illustrate how life used to be in the good old USA.

It begs the question:  “What was life like in the US of the past?"  Unfortunately, a lot of people simply don’t know or care.  However, I’m sure many of them know how to text while driving a car and can recite the last two episodes of “Jersey Shore” or “The Kardashians.”

That’s fine (except for the texting which is stupid) but shouldn’t everyone know something about the history of their country?  I hear that American History is not taught much anymore in some schools.  Maybe that is why, along with the political stances of some teachers, so many kids and young adults don’t know the simplest answers to questions about the past.

Here are some questions Jay Leno has asked students over the years in his “Jaywalking” segment of the “Tonight Show.”  The answers are so ridiculous that they are funny but at the same time are sad because it shows the lack of history being taught today.

1.  Jay shows a kid a picture of Thomas Jefferson and asks him who it is.  His answer?  “Jefferson!”  Very good until the next question:  “What is Jefferson’s first name?”  answer:  “George?”  Oops!

2.  Jay asks:  “When is Independence Day?”  Answer:  “July 4.”  Very good.  Who did we win independence from?  Answer:  “Mexico?”  Whoops!

3.  “In what war was the Battle of Gettysburg?”  Answer:  “World  War II?”  That is, of course, wrong but I’ll give a hooyah to the kid for at least knowing that there was a World War II.

4.  “Who won the Civil War?”  Answer:  “Unfortunately, the South.”  HUH?  Jeez, she had a 50-50- chance and still muffed it!

5.  “What happened at Pearl Harbor during World War II?”  Answer:  “It was bombed?” CORRECT!  "Who bombed it?”  "Uh….Hawaii?”  Ouch!

These are just some mild examples of the things people don’t know about their own country.   History is important; it tells why we did what we did in the past and how it affects us today.  It should be taught as a serious subject in schools.

This photo from World War II shows women (all wearing dresses!) at a meat counter.  The sign on the meat case in the foreground says:  "Save waste fats for explosives."  Meat along with sugar,  butter, and other staples were rationed during wartime and NOTHING was thrown away.

World War II  was a time when Americans banded together saving anything for use in the war effort.  It was also the time when women stepped up to the challenge and worked in war plants by night while running a household during the day often with precious little sleep.

Post World war II America saw women gaining more independence and leaving the pre-war expectations of getting married, having children, and running a household.

Many women who worked in the plants liked getting a paycheck and wanted to continue doing it after the war ended.  It was the beginning of women's lib!

(For more information about WWII on the home front, google "WWII Victory gardens" and "WWII Scrap metal drives.")

Saturday, March 17, 2012

YOU WAITED IN LINE 8 HOURS TO BUY AN iPAD?

(Left:  Yes, they are waiting in line to buy an iPad)



I forget who said it and I am too lazy to check but it may have been Jefferson (Thomas, not George) who once claimed:  “The people are a great beast.”  Well…..maybe not a beast in the literal definition but a beast that will congregate for one to eight hours in sleeping bags or drinking mass quantities of black joe just for the privilege of plunking down $500 to $850 for a new 3rd generation Apple iPad.

It seems kind of sad that people who otherwise have at least an iota of common sense would have to have that item the exact moment it is available.  What’s the hurry?  If it were children waiting for a Christmas present of a new pair of roller skates (Do kids still roller skate?  You know, the kind of skates with a key), I could understand.  But, adults?  Please!

If it is so important to have the latest in iPad technology, you would think that the pseudo intellectuals who allow such technology to control their lives would at lease pre-order the damn things to avoid the long line of those salivating for the delicious moment they can push that “on” button to begin their descent into who knows where.  In Scottsdale the pre order people stood in a line of five people while the disorganized rabble had a line of 60.

So, there they were all over town in front of Apple, Best Buy, and A T & T stores waiting for the big moment when they could get their new iPad with Wi-Fi and 4G wireless data transfer.  Don’t ask me what that means; I just report the news, not live it.  I’m still cruising all the small office supply stores looking for liquid paper, typewriter erasers with the little brushes, and a print ball for my Remington Selectronic.

Somewhere in computer heaven Steve Jobs is laughing himself silly watching these scenes of people waiting in line all night to give a clerk a lot of money for what is basically a toy.  I can imagine him telling Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and the rest of his new buddies how he punched out the iPads for $1.98 and sold them for $500 and up.  Recession?  What recession?

I have often wondered about the timing for these “latest and greatest” versions of any product.  I’m not saying that Apple holds back advances that could all happen at once just to increase sales, but doesn’t it seem a bit odd that there always seems to be a new and improved model ready to sell fairly soon after the latest new and improved item?

The golf equipment business is similar.  If you play golf you probably know that there is always a “latest and greatest” set of clubs on the market that will allow you to hit the “latest and greatest” golf ball farther with a lot less effort.   It’s all about the merchandising and keeping sales figures intact.

As silly as it is with the iPads, at least the customers seem behaved while in line.  It might have something to do with their knowing lots of three and four syllable words and having a college degree or two.  On the other hand, don’t get in line for the latest Michael Jordan shoe unless you have no regard for your life!

Monday, March 12, 2012

CHECKING OUT THE PASSING PARADE

                                                                                         

Probably the most read column I have done since I started this blog in 2005 is the one from November 2008 dealing with “Kids Growing Up too fast.”  Second place would go to “Dancing with Fred and Ginger” from August 2011.  I don’t have actual numbers but those are the two that keep popping up on the meter the most.  Many of the hits even come from overseas.

What is your favorite movie from 2011?  That’s an easy one for me; it was Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”  It contains good acting and no glorifying of the stars in the credits as Allen lists them small and alphabetically.  Allen has been making great “small” films for years and always on a low budget.   The man is a genius in the business.

Does anyone but me feel that Michelle Wie is basically stealing all the money she is being paid by sponsors to be on the Ladies Golf Tour?  She made something like $19 million last year and didn’t do much on the golf course.  She once said she wanted to compete with guys instead of women.  Big mistake!  She better learn to beat the girls first and quit her whining.

Ron Pinkowski, a fellow Plugged-in writer for the Sunday Arizona Republic,  observed recently that with so many people having total dependency on iPhones, who would know how to survive if all those gadgets suddenly disappeared?  His answer was “seniors.”  Good point, most seniors don’t have and don’t need the latest communication technology.  Somehow they survive the “old fashioned way.”

My favorite recent quote comes from New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie as he was talking about Warren Buffet:   “He should just write a check (for more taxes) and shut up.  Really…..I’m tired of hearing about it.”  Amen!

What is it with luxury car TV ads today?  Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes, and others are trying to sell cars showing them skidding sideways at high speeds.  To me, it looks ridiculous unless they are trying to entice immature drivers.  But then, are they the ones with enough dough to buy those overpriced heaps?  Just wondering!

Are spring training games in the Phoenix area having attendance problems?  It’s still early but some of the crowds have looked pretty dismal, especially since the weather has been nice.  Recent totals show 2,781 showing up at a Kansas City-San Diego game in a stadium that holds 10,714.  Los Angeles drew 7,038 against the Giants in a 13,000 seat stadium and the normally popular Chicago Cubs had 6,415 show up in a 13,100 seat stadium against the Rockies.  To me spring training is OK but I prefer the Fall League.

Last year in Fountain Hills I really had a lucky break.  I ran a stop sign while turning left off Pueblo Boulevard onto Mohave Road on the Yavapai reservation.  No big deal, right?  Well, maybe if the incident would not have taken place in front of a parked Maricopa County Sheriff’s car!  The only way I can figure he didn’t see me is that he was probably doing some paperwork and wasn’t looking.

(Note:  Since I switched to this format after the demise of Plugged-in Scottsdale, I have received 473 hits and 92 comments (21 per blog).  That's a great turnout and I thank everyone who is still tuning in.....  JM)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

PHOENIX, GENE AUTRY, AND WATER BAGS ON ROUTE 66


Recently my wife and I decided to stop by a restaurant in north Scottsdale that we have patronized for years.  When the place was built about 15 years ago, it was in a lonely desert setting in the Frank Lloyd Wright and Pima area.  In those days the patio was a nice place to sit and have a drink when the weather was pleasant.  Today, the patio faces an “on” ramp to the 101 and the restaurant has changed names. 

Not much stays the same in the Phoenix area.  I moved to Scottsdale in 1987 and remember when I would turn east on Bell Road off I-17, there was a mileage sign saying “Scottsdale 21 miles”.   That’s not very long ago but there were still Arabian horse farms along Bell Road around 60th Street.  They are long gone and replaced by strip malls and homes.

Scottsdale Road from Camelback Road to Carefree has heavy traffic, shopping areas, car dealerships, the 101, and four to six lanes all the way north but in the early 1960s, there was one traffic light at Lincoln Boulevard before you reached the Gainey and McCormick cattle ranches.  From there it was clear sailing the rest of the way.  The road was two lanes and paved but north of Bell it was like a roller coaster because of the many washes crossing the road.  It remained that way into the 1990s and from my experience, it was not a road you wanted to drive on when it rained.

1964-1970 was a great era to be young and partying in the Valley of the Sun.  It was the time of the “British Invasion” where The Beatles inspired a new wave of music from the UK tailored for the taste of the fickle younger crowd.  Clubs like JD’s and the Red Dog Saloon in Scottsdale did a brisk business.  For the teens it was the Pacesetter Club and the Fifth Estate.  There were even dances in the lobby entrance to Chris-Town Mall.  During this time Alice Cooper and his group The Spiders became a favorite of partiers as they did cover versions of tunes from The Rolling Stones.  Does anyone remember Phil and the Frantics playing at JD’s in those days?

Popular singing cowboy Gene Autry had strong ties to Phoenix.  While stationed at Luke AFB in 1942, he met future communications magnate Tom Chauncey who was a jeweler in downtown Phoenix at that time.  Gene and Tom saw a bright future for “over the air” media in the Phoenix area.  They pooled their resources and bought radio station KOOL which broadcasted Autry’s show “Melody Ranch”.  After his military discharge in 1945 and with television booming, Gene bought more stations and in 1953 expanded KOOL radio into the TV business with the establishment of KOOL-TV, Channel 10 (currently KSAZ).  He also bought KOPO-TV in Tucson (which became KOLD) and invested in several radio stations around Arizona.  Autry saw the future of TV and it made him a lot of money.

My first contact with Arizona was in August of 1959.  I was a wide eyed 18 year old kid with my buddy driving to Los Angeles from Cincinnati via Route 66 in a ’57 Chevy “six banger”.  I remember an attendant at a Whiting Bros. gas station in New Mexico telling me to get a burlap water bag on my bumper before driving across the desert.  The only time I had seen one of those was in the 1951 Kirk Douglas film “Ace in the Hole” where Kirk had one on his DeSoto.

The Whiting Bros. gas stations were a staple on Route 66 from 1926 until 1985 when 66 was decommissioned in favor of the interstates.  A few years later, they were gone leaving behind a lot of memories.  Bobby Troup summed up the old road in Arizona best in his song from 1948, “Route 66”:  “Flagstaff, Arizona.  Don’t forget Winona; Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.”

In 1940, John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” was filmed partly along Route 66.  It was a grim story about a family leaving the mid-west dust bowl during the 1930s Depression in search of a better life in California.  If you travel the backroads today you can still see evidence of the old road from that era.

             Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, and Dorris Bowden in "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940)

Sunday, March 04, 2012

WELCOME FORMER PLUGGED-IN READERS

I want to thank everyone who has followed me from Plugged-in Scottsdale to my Blogspot blog.  Although this blog is new to many of you, I have been doing it since 2005 when I did a weekly 800 word column for the hard copy North Scottsdale Independent  newspaper.  

The days at the Independent were fun as they let me do my own thing which included a variety of subjects with as little about politics as possible.  During that time I did a couple of concert reviews in Laughlin, Nevada (ZZ Top, Crosby, Stills, and Nash) and covered the McDowell Mountain Music Festival.  That and the other subjects that you see listed in the title of this blog are and were my main items of interest.  I think we have so many political so called “experts” now that you don’t need to be reading another amateur’s opinion on that subject.

Plugged-in Scottsdale was fun for the 5+ years it lasted but it was doomed when the comments on the blogs became too nasty for the Republic to bear.  An attempt to solve that problem by accepting only Facebook comments was a failure.  Hence, the Plugged-in blogs will now join the long list of historical footnotes.

As far as what I am about, you can get a good idea about me from my short bio in the right column of this blog.  To that information I would add that my career was in sales to the grocery and drug store trade.  I spent my career working in the mid-west and living in Johnson County, Kansas which was basically a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.  I have no children and my wife spent her career as an elementary school teacher.  At this time we have been married 44 years so we get along fine.

This blog has gained something of a following over the years as I have received hits from many countries besides the U.S.  Since I have several topics listed in my title, I think a lot of those hits are people generally researching some of the subjects I have written about.  If I had to guess I would say that the two blogs visited the most are “Kids growing up too fast” from November, 2008 and “Dancing with Fred and Ginger” from August, 2011.   Those are two different subjects for sure but they are consistently numbers one and two in popularity.  It’s not that they get a lot of comments, but the hits are numerous.

That is pretty much the case with all these blogs over the last seven years.  I average over 100 hits a week on them with few comments.  Now that Plugged-in is gone, I should have more local interest and the comment totals should increase to at least close to the 30-40 per week I received at Plugged-in Scottsdale.

Thanks for stopping by and if there is any subject you would like to see discussed, let me know.  I also can add photos if you think you have something you would like published.  Remember, all comments will receive a reply and if you like what you see here, tell your friends.