1. Andy Griffith – As I’m sure you know, Andy Griffith passed away this week and there’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said. The Andy Griffith Show was a staple in my house growing up, and a lot of my love for old television, bluegrass music, and Don Knotts stems from repeated (near-forced) viewings of this program at a very early age. My father is a huge fan of the show, and the first gift I can remember actually saving up money for was a VHS tape of 10 Andy Griffith Show episodes to give him for his birthday. I believe he still has the tape, though he may not have a VCR to watch it on.
At any rate, I think The Andy Griffith Show stands out from the other “American Family” sitcoms of the 50s and 60s because it was approached with a real love for the lifestyle that it portrayed. The town is its own character, and the people in the town act like its limbs. No matter how different the people are from each other, they’re all Mayberry.
I’ve seen several video tributes to Andy Griffith that feature clips from the show, his comedy routines, and the Matlock opening, but here’s a bit from a 1959 episode of What’s My Line? The looks on his face during the first three questions are priceless.
2. Chicken of Tomorrow – Eat Drink Better’s featured one of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 shorts, the Chicken of Tomorrow.
Head over there and watch with fascinated horror at the Poultry industry of the 1940s. Disclosure alert: my wife, Becky, wrote this post. She brings up a good point that the film’s recommended cage space was 1296 inches in 1948. Today it’s 67 inches.
3. Comic Book “Prizes for Cash” – I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole trying to find an ad that had enticed and tormented me as a child, in just about every comic book I read. This operation called Olympic Prizes for Cash would relentlessly try to employ children to sell products for them, to earn credits, to get any of a myriad of cheap rewards. As a kid, these rewards were nothing short of astounding.
It’s a little bit tough to see, but the prizes ranged from a telescope to a set of walkie talkies to a monkey that hugged you to a bicycle computer. Bicycle computer?? As a 7 year old, the idea of a COMPUTER on my BICYCLE was incomprehensible. I still don’t know what what that thing was to this day. Did anybody get it?
I finally found this ad from a post on Cavalcade of Awesome, who’s got a writeup on 10 amazing comic book ads from the 80s. Check it out! He’s also got this ad for Cube Lube, for Rubik’s Cubes. Amazing.
4. Freedomland – So, in 1953 this guy Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood was hired by Walt Disney. He picked the plot of land in Anaheim, CA where Disneyland was built, and became close with Walt over the next two years. Eventually, the two had a falling out and Wood was fired from Disney. The reasons for his dismissal are unclear, ranging from embezzlment to a more competitive form of betrayal. Whatever the cause, Wood went on to create Magic Mountain in Denver, Pleasure Island (sound familiar?) in Massachusetts, and eventually Freedomland in New York.
Walt had considered the idea of a theme park in New York before Freedomland came about, but the climate of the Northeast dissuaded him from ever going through with it. It’s generally a good idea to build a theme park that can be visited year-round, and New York’s weather in the winter isn’t exactly conducive to outdoor amusement park attendance. Well, Wood decided to build a park in the northeastern section of the Bronx known as the Baychester area. The park was a celebration of the United States of America. It was shaped like the continental US and its areas were reflections of the different regions of the country. There was an Old New York area, a Chicago area, a Great Plains area, a Mardi Gras area, and others, including a Satellite City area that focused on the future. If this didn’t play into the Walt Disney ideal at the time, I don’t know what would’ve. As a big fan of the Disney park history, Freedomland fascinates me with its attempts to be “more” than just an amusement park, something only Walt had tried to that point, and also with its short life and catastrophic failure. About 8 months after its opening, six buildings at Freedomland were damaged by fire and had to be torn down. The park was built on a landfill and swampland, which complicated construction. Automobile transportation to the park was easy, but subway transportation (which much of New York City relied upon) was confounding. All in all, the problems piled up and the park was shut down in 1964, just four years after its debut.
While none of the ideas about Freedomland seemed smart to me, one thing I’m fond of is the design of the map and the layouts of the brochures. Here!
5. You and Office Safety – If you’ve made it this far, you’re in for a treat. Enjoy this 1950s safety film about the perils of being a human being in an office. The sound effects are 100% genuine. You really can’t make this stuff up.