I was born in 1965, and I'm very much a child of the seventies.  On this page I present a few of my favorite places and things from my growing-up years.  These are things that made an impression on me, things that meant a lot to me, or sometimes just embarrassed me...but it's all a part of me and helped define the crazy fanboy geek I am today....

"I was born a poor black child...", no wait, no I wasn't.  Anyway, this is the main street of my hometown, Selma Alabama, which was a pretty nice place to live, before the Air Force base closed in 1976 and stripped the town of its economic base.  Then Wal-Mart came to town and ran most of the mom and pop stores out of business.  Bad times for the whole country put the last nail in the coffin.  Most of the buildings you see in the pic, except for the drugstore on the far left, are empty, and have been for years.  I don't even like to visit Selma anymore.  it's a ghost of its former self.

If you'll look at the fancy goldish-colored building about in the middle of the pic to the left, you'll see the building that used to be our 5 & 10, S.H. Kress.  This was my favorite place to go with my family as a kid - They had EVERYTHING, including an upstairs that held furniture for sale, and a basement for toys, and lots of stairways to play on...The drawing above is what our Kress pretty much looked like. The building is still there and has been restored, but like 80% of the downtown buildings, its empty.  I remember buying my first Halloween costume there, in 1969, like it was yesterday.

Fun with Dick and Jane, and Sally and Puff and Spot...A lot of us kids were urged to "See Spot run."  Dick and Jane and their family taught generations of Americans to read.  Even as a kid in 1972 I loved the illustrations in these books.  The Dick and Jane readers fell out of favor in the late seventies.  I don't know what they teach kids to read with now, probably computers, but it can't be as much fun.
Oddly, although I never cared for his sisters, I still love Dick to this day.

"I pledge alliegence..."  What ever happened to this?  When I was in grammar school (Good 'ol Frances Thomas, a gloomy bastille of primary education) we all started our classroom day by saying the Pledge of Alliegence, and if you didn't you were some kind of Commie.  There's nothing wrong with patriotism and national pride, but it also fell out of favor for awhile, until the recent WTC attack.  It still fills my heart with pride and joy to say the Pledge.  I may not always be proud of America, but it's still the best place on earth.

I couldn't find a pic of Selma's old 80 Drive-In theater, but they all looked basically like the one pictured here.  Selma used to have three drive-ins.  "The 80", which was the last one, closed in the late eighties.  It was on the edge of town between two cow pastures, and when a group brought the land next to it and built a church, they complained because the drive-in was showing X-rated movies you could see from their parking lot.  I remember going to the 80 with my folks when me and my brother were young, before my sister was born in '73.  they still showed family movies back then.  By 1983, when I went with some friends during my Senior year in high school, they were showing awful C-grade schlock.  We saw something called "Midnight Nurse", or "Nightmare Nurse", or something like that.  I remember even less about the movie than I do about the title.  No matter.  I'm just glad I got to have a real drive-in experience, including the tinny sound coming from a door-mounted speaker, before they all died out.

Meet the Letter People, another weird artifact from the wonderful late-60s/early 70s.  This was how I learned my ABCs so I could read all of those Dick and Jane books.  Each Letter Person was anthropomorphisized and given a memorable characteristic to help the kids remember their phonetic sound.  Mr. H had Horrible Hair, and Mr. T (no relation) had Tall Teeth.  The Consonants were boys and the girls were Vowels.  As the program progressed and all the letters were learned, we were taught to put the letter people in groups to form words and small sentences, and "decode" their sounds to pronounce the words.  To this day I am still obsessed with the Letter People, even to the point of purchasing old teaching materials on ebay.  Here is my website dedicated to them.

At Frances Thomas grammar school, the closest fire station was only a block away, and every year the school would turn out to the large field in the back of the school between the softball field and the basketball court, and the firemen would come with the fire truck with the cherry-picker, and put on a demonstration.  They'd demonstrate how high the cherry-picker could go, run the sirens for us, and of course give us a talk about fire safety.  At the end of the presentation, everyone got a red plastic fireman hat just like the one pictured above.  I always remember how heroic those fire fighters looked in their crisply-pressed blue uniforms... and they were about ten feet tall too.  I think this was the event that sparked my love of men in uniform.  To this day guys in just about any kind of uniform catch my full attention.

The space program was still a big deal in the early seventies.  Americans were still making regular trips to the moon, then the Apollo-Soyuz  and Skylab missions kept America enthralled.  I always looked forward to the splashdown, when the capsule returned to Earth and those three big red and white parachutes opened up to gently glide the astronauts to safe waters.  Often we would get to watch the take-off and splashdowns on TV in class.

My dad had a truck like this, a '56 Chevy.  It was the only vehicle we had until the mid-seventies.  Of course, my dad's truck wasn't in this nice a shape.  The old truck finally stopped running in the mid-eighties, but my dad refused to sell it, and passed up many, many good offers for it.  He finally did sell it around 1995 or so.  I remember the battery was stored in the floor on the passenger's side, and when you uncovered it you could see the ground underneath the truck, which was a little unnerving at fifty miles an hour.

This was the first book I read on my own.  I checked it out from the library at Frances Thomas in the second grade.  I spent a lot of time in that library, and I often checked out books that were written for kids way beyond my age group.  Libraries are still my favorite places to hang out.

My grammar school had an almost complete set of first edition Oz books from the early 1900s.  I'm sure they were purchased new and had been there for sixty+ years by the time  I saw them in the early seventies.  They were pretty worn and beaten-up.  I now have a complete set of reproductions of Baum's Oz books on my shelf, and when I look at them it makes me nostalgic for that little public school library set up in the back corner of the school auditorium at Frances Thomas.

Walter Cronkite was known as "the most trusted man in America."  I remember the CBS Evening News, which he anchored, was what my family watched.  He always signed off by saying "...and that's the way it is."  Walter was a comfortable constant in our home until he retired from the Evening News in 1980.

The Banana Splits was a Saturday morning kids show that was on the air in 1968-69.  I remember sitting in front of the TV with a big bowl of cereal watching this colorful, goofy show.  The Splits hosted a club and they showed cartoons and a action serial called "Danger Island", which starred a very young Jan-Michael Vincent.  The Splits were also a rock band, and they kind of pioneered the music video on their show.  I got their songs on 45 rpm records as cereal premiums and must have drove my own folks bananas by playing the shit out of them all the time.  Watching the Banana Splits in reruns as an adult makes me wonder why I'm not brain-damaged.  the comedy of the show consists of very bad jokes and the Splits bumping into eachother and falling down...a lot.  The cartoons aren't even that good.  But something is still magical about it.  Truly a acid-inspired product of 60s hippy-pop, it's just so damned weird.  The only thing that was weirder was H. R. Pufnstuf.  Pictured from left to right are Fleegle, a dog, Bingo, an ape, Drooper, a lion, and Snokey the elephant on keyboard.

Long before Steve Irwin, the Croc Hunter, may he rest in peace, there was a long-running animal show, presented by the Mutual of Omaha insurance company, called Wild Kingdom, and hosted by Marlin Perkins.  Every week Marlin, who looked like someone's rich uncle, presented all kinds of wildlife in exotic locations.  Marlin was smart enough to not do anything dangerous himself:  He always sent his assistant Jim to rassle the alligators, lions and boa constrictors.  Now Jim was a big, tan, strapping specimen of manhood who seemed to be able to hold his own while trying to tag this or that dangerous wild animal, but I always wondered if he got hazard pay...

Speaking of big, tan, strapping specimens, him Tarzan, me faint.  Yep, this is Mike Henry, who played Tarzan in the late sixties.  They used to show "Tarzan Jungle Theater" every Sunday    afternoon on one of the local stations in the early-to-mid 80s.  My mom was a Tarzan fan and always tuned in to watch, even if she'd seen the movie before.  Around this time I was in my mid-teens and just beginning to figure out who I was, and what I liked.  Can you guess why this guy was my favorite Tarzan?

The Seventies.  The Brady Bunch.  Nuff said.

"Danger Will Robinson!"
"Lost in Space" was the antithesis of "Star Trek."  Where Trek had thought-provoking stories about people who explored and sought out peaceful co-existence, the Robinsons wandered around aimlessly and loudly, bumping into goofy aliens and zipper-backed monsters bent on taking over the galaxy.  Despite its goofiness, the show is still endearing, but as a kid, all of the scientific inaccuracies and stock footage bugged the hell out of me.  it was like the script writers never had a science class in school...I liked the Robot, especially when you could see Bob May's shoes sticking out of the bottom of the suit.

"Dark Shadows" was a Gothic soap opera shown on ABC five days a week from 1966 to 1971.  It was about the strange, cursed Collins family who lived on a spooky estate in Maine, where it always seemed to be dark, and storming.  Barnabas Collins was the family's 175-year-old vampire, who tried to keep his curse secret and his fangs out of his relatives' necks.  His cousin was a werewolf, and his ex-wife, a witch (no, really) who was responsible for turning him into a vampire.  The estate was crawling with ghosts, demons and gypsies, and every day when you tuned in the story got crazier and crazier.  This show scared the crap outta me when I was five.  Today I have the whole series on VHS, all 1,225 episodes, and I can watch it for its live theater aspects and sometimes brilliant storylines.

"Walt Disney Presents" came on every Sunday at 6 PM.  I loved to watch it, especially when they showed specials about how animation was done.  Disney is what got me interested in drawing, and drawing was what I was able to use as a social "ice breaker" with my peers in jr. high school, finally making me acceptable among them as the "kid who can draw."  For a awkward and painfully shy kid, that was a priceless gift.  Thank you, Mr. Disney

What can I say about the original "Star Trek" that hasn't already been said?  I can tell you that as a child I saw it as the natural, desirable progression of all of those missions to the moon and to Skylab.  I don't think anybody saw the writing on the wall - that America would loose its hard-on for outer space, and that our progress in spaceflight technology would be reduced to a crawl (on broken knees yet) by skyrocketing expense and public apathy.  But the Federation of the 23rd Century is still a noble goal, and maybe if we can get someone in the White House like Captain Kirk, we may yet get that fleet of faster-than-light ships.
When I was a kid, a good episode of Star Trek would make me walk outside after dark, look up at the stars, and wonder,...and dream.  I still do that sometimes.

Okay, I admit it:  As a prepubescent boy I sometimes wanted to be a genie, wear pink chiffon and live in a bottle.  "I Dream of Jeannie" was, and still is, fun to watch.  Larry Hagman was a genius of comic timing and reaction.  Samantha Stevens may have had more crazy relatives, but Jeannie's sister was just delicious.  I have two Jeannie bottles, one is a porcelain reproduction I bought already painted, and the other is a "real" Jeannie bottle (actually a 1964 Jim Bean commemorative whiskey decanter) that means much more to me.  I hand-painted all of the nerve-racking detail on it myself during my convalescence after heart valve replacement surgery in 2000.

This is one creepy, creepy movie.  Made in 1972, I watched it on TV with my brother probably around 1976.  It was about twin brothers, so me and my brother really got into it, although we're not twins.  This movie gave us nightmares for weeks, and the twist ending blew my little eleven-year-old mind and and really screwed with my brother's head too, and he was already mildly disturbed.  I mean, come on, the little boy in the movie cuts the finger off of his father's corpse as his body lies in the coffin in their living room, just to get a ring off of his father's finger.  Then the boy carries the finger with the ring still on it  around with him, wrapped up in a piece of blue cloth.  Shudder.  That's cold-blooded.  I highly recommend this movie, but I wouldn't let kids watch it.  It's emotionally intense.

Spirograph - one of the coolist toys ever made.  Ingeniously low-tech, this thing kept me occupied for hours, even days. I had a set just like the one pictured above.  they still make these, but they don't come with as many little pieces now (choke hazard), so you can't make as many variations in design.  What does it do?  It makes,...um, Spirographs, which are kind of like hand-generated fractals, I guess.

I got a "Which Witch" game for Christmas in 1970.  There's even an embarrassing picture floating around of me holding it up for the camera after I just unwrapped it on Christmas morning, grinning my big gapped-toothed five-year-old smile.  (Hopefully no one will EVER see that picture.)  It was a typical "Roll the dice, move your mice" board game, but what was so neat about it was that the game board was a diorama of a haunted house you put together before you could play.  The prep time was often considerable, but for me putting the thing together was more fun than playing the game.  If you drew a particular card, you had to drop a metal ball, called a "whammy," down the chimney chute in the middle of the game board, and if the ball came out in the room your game piece was in and knocked it over, you were out of the game.  There was also a chance card where you could be turned into a mouse, until you drew another card to break the spell.  The object of the game was, I think, to reach the top of the stairs and escape the house first.  Now that I look back on it, running over your friends to get out of a haunted house first probably isn't a good trait to teach kids.

Comic books were, and still are, a big part of my life since I was ten years old.  Avengers # 150 was the first superhero comic I picked out an bought myself.  It was 1976 and we were taking a vacation trip to Foley, Alabama to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins.  We stopped for gas at a little mom and pop convenience store in the middle of nowhere.  They had a small selection of Marvel Comics, including, strangely, some that were several years old.  I bought Marvel Triple Action #16, a reprint series that also featured the Avengers, at the same place.  I followed the Avengers, off and on, for the next twenty-five years.  I also liked the Fantastic Four, especially the Kirby/Lee reprints in Marvel's Greatest Comics.  There was a Lost In Space comic too, which I thought was based on the TV show, but it wasn't.  Like the producers of the show, the comic just took the concept of Swiss Family Robinson in literature and set it in outer space.  Beyond the name there was no similarity.  The comic probably picked up many readers who, like myself, thought it was a TV tie-in.  Anyway, they always had fantastic painted covers, which was the best thing about the whole series, 'cause the stories were retarded.  I still own Avengers #150, I have just about everything Kirby produced for Marvel in one form or another, and I've purchased many back issues of Lost In Space on ebay, including the one pictured here.
Oh yeah, I also read Spiderman.  When I was nine a church guy bought me a Spiderman comic (Marvel Tales) as a bribe to get me to go to church.  My mom and dad made me go...so me and Spider-man always had issues.

As a kid I loved cereal.  My brother and I tried them all.  I guess when everything was said and done, the monster cereals were my favorites, Count Chocula, Booberry, and especially Frankenberry.  I thought it was so funny when they redesigned the monsters because parents thought they were too scary-looking.  Count Chocula used to have fangs, but now he's just buck-toothed.

Freakies cereal had the best toys inside.  The cereal itself tasted a lot like Captain Crunch, and cut your mouth like Captain Crunch too.  The Freakies were weird little creatures who lived in a cereal tree, and they sang on the commercials.  What made the Freakies so popular was that they had personalities, each one representing a schoolyard archetype.  Go to this fansite to learn more.

Quisp cereal had the coolist commercials, done by Jay Ward of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame.  I loved the propeller on Quisp's head.  The cereal was kind of bland, though.  Quisp has disappeared from the supermarket shelf, but you can now buy it on the internet, of all things.

Icees were sold in several places in Selma when I was a kid - at Dairy Queen, the mall, and the Cahaba Twin Theater, which was our movie house once the 80 closed.  (It's closed now too, btw.)  these things gave you a headache if you slurped them too fast.

My favorite candy was Now & Later.  I like the chocolate and banana kind.  Like just about everything else from my childhood, they've been changed.  They don't taste the same and the package isn't as big anymore.  At 10 cents a pack they werethe best value for a kid's money.

Yes I once wore plaid pants like these, for a brief period when I was ten.  Actually, my brother and I had several plaid outfits with coordinating shirts and pants.  We looked like eye-sores, I'm sure.  I've seen the pictures to prove it.  Looking at the two of us together dressed like this would probably temporarily blind you, or at least give you a eye-strain headache. I think if we both wore our plaid shirts and our plaid pants together, with the patterns going one way on the shirts and the other way on the plants, we caused some kind of distortion in space-time.  This is one seventies trend I definitely DO NOT miss.

It's hard now to believe that Pong was state-of -the-art video game technology in 1976.  My cousin Jamie had his own Pong system.  Hell, he had his own TV in his own room too, lucky sucker.  My dad never went into buying every expensive gadget on the market for my brother and me, but whenever we went over to my cousin's house, we played Pong, for hours.....With all the video game eye candy available now, it's amazing to me that this ever held anyone's attention at all, but it was da Shizit back in the day.

Finding enough nerds in my hometown to play D&D was a challenge equal to any quest from the King in a Dragonlance campaign.  In eleventh grade my best friend Matt introduced me to the world of pen and paper role-playing games.  D&D was the forum of pure imagination, a wonderful outlet for a repressed romantic like me.  I've tried many RPGs since, but other than Call of Cthulhu, which is of a different genre, the original D&D is still the best, at least to my nostalgic mind.

How could I forget Underdog?  Well, I almost did.  He was my hero  My brother and I had Underdog sheets and pillowcases on our beds.  Seems Underdog kept some kind of "energy pill" in the secret compartment in his ring.  It really gave him a boost, kind of like speed...

Last updated September 14, 2006.  All images © copyright by their prospective owners.