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Friday, April 23, 2021

Dick Tracy Wrist Radio (1947)

The Dick Tracy Wrist Radio was a crystal radio, powered by nothing by AM radio waves, an aerial and grounding wire connected to a grounded piece of metal (like a radiator pipe.) And a kid's imagination.

You could even talk to a friend with the radio by connecting the aerial wires to your friend's Dick Tracy wrist radio. And it worked primarily because you were in actual speaking distance from your friend.

It wasn't very loud. In fact, it was hardly audible and you had to have your ear right against it to hear it. And even then, it only picked up the strongest local AM radio broadcast signals (in spite of this ad copy hype, crystal radios have no superheterodyne tuning, which made AM radio signals squeal, distort and drift.)

$3.98 sounds like a average price for a disposable piece of junk (unless you were a hardcore Dick Tracy fan. And how dare I call it 'junk'.) But bear in mind $3.98 in 1947 had the same purchasing power as $48.21 in 2021. To put into perspective, most parents had better things to do with that kind of money. Besides, they knew you could put together an even better working crystal radio for much, much less than that and even from parts already around the house (many built radios for themselves and their families in the Depression, as many kids did since money for new radios was so scarce, it was cheaper for mom and dad to just learn the science and do it themselves.)

A battery powered transistorized version later came on the market in 1958 (hopefully better working.)

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Classic Public School Pizza Recipe

Long derided by snooty food critics entirely too old to be eating in school cafeterias anyway, The classic American Public School Pizza is a beloved treat of generations of American elementary school kids.

In fact, I looked forward to pizza day so much, by second grade, I began devising new ways of getting extra slices. Flattery and fresh picked flowers for the lunch ladies worked. At the expense of my reputation with my classmates. But I'm not the kind to burp and tell.

But this rectangular treat has all but vanished from many modern school lunchroom menus. Replaced by bland, "healthy" foods.

The recipe had been preserved on schoolpizzarecipe.com, but this site has been offline. However, I got the recipe off Internet Archive and here it is for your drooling pleasure.

  • 2 ⅔ flour
  • ¾ cup powdered milk
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 packet of quick rise yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ⅔ cup warm water (105-110 degrees)
  • 2 T vegetable oil


½ pound ground chuck

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 8oz block mozzarella cheese – grated yourself (To be authentic school pizza, you will have to use imitation mozzarella shreds.)

Sauce (Make sauce the day before):

  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ½ tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tbsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary crushed


  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Spray pan with Pam and lay Parchment paper down (Pam makes it stick)
  2. In a large bowl – flour, powdered milk, sugar, yeast, salt – whisk to blend
  3. Add oil to hot water (110-115 degrees) – pour into your mixture
  4. Stir with a wooden spoon until batter forms – don’t worry about lumps – you just want no dry spots
  5. Spread dough into pan using fingertips until it’s even.  If dough doesn’t want to cooperate, let rest 5 minutes and try again
    1. Bake just the crust for 8-10 minutes – remove from oven and set aside.
  6. Brown meat until it resembles crumbles – set aside and drain meat
  7. Get out the pizza sauce – to partially baked crust, assemble:
    1. Sauce – spread all over crust
    2. Sprinkle meats
    3. Sprinkle cheese
    4. Bake at 475 degrees for 8-10 minutes until cheese melts and begins to brown
    5. Remove from oven – let stand 5 minutes
    6. Cut in slices and serve.
Some of you may opt for gluten-free flour and real cheese, but that's missing the beauty of school lunch pizza, it's supposed to be a sinful treat.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The S&H Green Stamps

If there was an American institution sorely missed now more than ever, it's the Sperry & Hutchinson Green Stamps. But there's a twist to the tale.

For decades S&H Green Stamps were the nice little extra of American life from the 1930s until the end of the 1970s. And S&H weren't the only customer loyalty/trading stamp program. There were several others, but S&H is the most nationally recognized.

But to begin, the stamp game worked like this; It added customer loyalty. For certain amounts you spent, or for certain products that the retailer wants to move, the customer got x amount of S&H Green Stamps.

The stamps came in denominations of 1, 10 and 50 points that you filled up in a stamp book like this. 

You needed 50 of the 1 point stamps to fill up a single page of a book. Or five of the 10 point stamps or a single nice fat, juicy 50 point stamp (when you bought something big or shopped generously at your locally participating business. And almost every local business was participating in S&H Green Stamps.) 

Each book could hold 1,200 single points of stamps. With a cash value of $1.20 each (not a shabby amount at the 1950s/1960s peak of the Green Stamp.)

You could then pick out whatever you liked from a neat, convenient catalog of whatever. Or brought your completed books to a local S&H showroom.

This solved a lot of problems. For you the customer, everything from first apartment furnishing to last minute Christmas gift ideas can be found here.

For you the retailer, you can move that pesky lingering stock or promote a new item with Green Stamps. This also helped restaurants sell specials, gas stations when you bought a certain amount of gas, banks when you opened an account and beauty shops, etc. And kept people coming back because they got bonus treats like these just for shopping local.... 

The S&H Ideabook was your passport to sublime cashless wishes. Where the only requirement was carrying a stamp book in your glove box/visor, bookbag or purse around town and making sure you got your stamps.   

The downfall of the S&H Green Stamps came in the 1970s with the rise of the credit card. You didn't need to wait forever collecting all these stamp books for things you can get with charging it right now.

The other was the downfall of the local retailer, as downtowns began emptying into suburban malls, local businesses that carried Green Stamps began to die. Looking at the husks of remaining shopping malls these days, I doubt it was worth it.

However, it was the Greatest Generation that understood the secret true benefit of collecting stamps and books; It was a little bonus of life. Maybe the products were average and you had to wait a long time, diligently collecting stamps and books to get them. but it was just something you didn't have to pay precious hard currency for that you could use for other, more pressing things. And over time, those savings added up. 

The surprising news is S&H Green Stamps were still around until last year.

"S&H Green Stamps are no longer valid and we are no longer accepting them. They have no value."

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Last 78 RPM Records

"Gwendolyne" Julio Iglesias (1970, Colombia) Image: Discogs
What was the last 78 RPM record?

I've been asked this question now and then and to be perfectly honest, the 78 RPM speed is still with us. Mostly for collectors items and not as general releases. But it does occasionally surface.

But as general releases, 78 RPM was largely passe in America by 1957. In 1957, sales of 78 RPM records accounted for 4,500,000 units in 1957. In 1958, it plummeted to less than 500,000, less than 5% of overall sales and the writing was on the wall.

"Fannie Mae" Buster Brown (1959)  This is considered one of the last commercial American pop singles released at 78 RPM. Image: 45 Worlds. However, there were some 78s pressed on budget labels and independents well into the early 1960s .
But it still had a visible, if fading market for children's records (mostly because kids inherited hand-me-down phonographs from their parents and many kids phonographs also still had that speed.)

Phonola Record Player, 1950s -60s Note the case is pure Vanity Fair/Imperial Party Time, but the tone arm is a plastic gramophone reproducer that used steel needles. These players (which also sold under Woolworth's house brand, Audition) had two speeds, 45 and 78 (which were the speeds of most kids records available at that time, 45 by the 1970s, but many 78s from the '50s and '60s. still existed.) These players were sold well into the early 1970s. Image: Etsyspot
But what I'm going to focus on here is what were the last general release singles worldwide at 78 RPM.

While 78 RPM was all but abandoned in America, (save for certain budget, independent, promo releases and oddities (The "Just Like Gene Autry; A Foxtrot" track on Moby Grape's Wow album is one example.) In South America, 78 RPM was still in use until the early '70s for certain pop releases.

"Jolie" Latimore (1973, Brazil) Image: Discogs
 In the UK, 78 RPM was still being used for kids records.

Image: Discogs

Here's one from the Soviet Union, circa 1979.

Image: Discogs
 But by this time also, 4 and 3 speed record changers were in twilight and practically non-existent outside a very select range of high-end turntables in the '80s and '90s.

"September Song" Ian McCulloch (1984, UK) An unusual offering from Ian McCulloch, New Wave legend and frontman of Echo & The Bunnymen, best known for their hit "The Killing Moon", The flip side had a longer version of "September Song" and "Molly Malone (Cockles and Mussels)" and played at 45 RPM. Image: Discogs

"You're The One For Me, Fatty" Morrissey (1992, UK) Image: Discogs. Morrissey was the former lead singer of the British pop group The Smiths, best known for their 1984 alternative rock mega hit "How Soon Is Now". In 1992, he released a few 78s with selections from his solo album Your Arsenal.

"Millennium" Robbie Williams (2000, UK) Limited Edition of 999 numbered copies issued to commemorate the opening of the new HMV store in Oxford Street, London. Image: Discogs
The speed reemerged in the 2000s on some newer Crosley type junk players for playing old 78s. But some better quality turntables also began including it as the vinyl renaissance swept the country and anything with grooves fascinated Millennial hipsters. But most turntables still offer only the standard 33/45 speeds.

So to sum up, the last official general release new Western pop single on 78 that isn't a reissue, novelty, oddity, collector's item or promo is one that may never truly be known, even among collectors and they're still searching. The 1973 Brazilian Latimore 78 mentioned above is the most recent I've seen yet. I have heard of others that extend into the disco era, but I've never seen any as of this writing.

"Terraplane Blues" Robert Johnson (2019 Record Store Day reissue) Image: Discogs

Friday, October 25, 2019

Dumpster Diving in The Internet Archive

If you love random free, old, fun and useful stuff. But can't find anything useful on the curb outside and you're tired of the disappointing and questionable crap on Craigslist.

Or you're simply happy just where you are, curled up with your laptop, I, your Rip Van Winkle-like blogger, would like to introduce (or reintroduce) you to a valuable and ever expanding web resource. The Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive is where our public domain, copyright-lapsed, obsolete and often oddball media goes not to die. But to wait to be rediscovered.

You'll find:   

CD-ROM Computer Games, Operating Systems and Software

Image: Internet Archive
Image: Internet Archive
In recent years, The Internet Archive has become a motherlode for miners of classic video games. 1980s and 1990s computer games Gen-X and older Millennials grew up with such as Beavis & Butt-Head Virtual Stupidity, SimCity 3000 and others are now free and legally downloadable ISO files you can burn to CD or run with an image writer.

This includes obsolete operating systems* too. What this means for you, the person with a few old computer towers/laptops collecting dust and you lost or misplaced the rescue CDs, new hope. They make excellent retro gaming computers or home MP3 server jukeboxes.

An old low spec 32 bit 512 MB - 1 GB RAM older Pentium computer tower, can also be revived for secure modern use with some 32 bit versions of Linux are available like Bodhi LegacyLXLE and antiX can also run on systems that low) but the speed and performance of these systems will not be the same as with a modern PC. Simply because the hardware is too old for modern demands. But as a very basic computer, they will do fine.

*The Catch: Select carefully and download at your own risk. Some OSs/software aren't official releases or are in foreign languages. File scan everything for malware/viruses before installing. I'm not sure of the screening process (if any) at IA for software. But it doesn't hurt to make absolutely sure.

The Great 78 Project

For those looking for way out of the brain fog of modern pop music. Here's a fun place to explore.

It's like going through a musty mystery box of 78 RPM records, but much more accessible.


- No more back-breaking hauling in boxes of heavy shellac discs.
- No more fear of accidental breakage of some of these now rare records.
- No more daddy longlegs or other unsightly visitors lurking in the corners of these boxes. 
- No more needing to find an appropriate record player with 78 RPM speed.
- No more meticulous listens with different points of stylus to find just the right one. (It's already been done for you. With sample plays)
 - No more social embarrassment if you accidentally try to play the Edison Diamond Discs of the 1910s on a standard Victrola reproducer (tsktsktsk). Or having to rearrange the cartridge wires.

So why go through all that needless fuss, work and expense when at last, you can practically say "Alexa, play 'Low Bridge! Everybody Down!' Billy Murray"? Your great-grandparents wouldn't.

Among my other discoveries in the corner of the Internet Archive:

"Radar" Mr. Bear & His Bearcats (1956)

My latest full-throated shower singing masterpiece.
 "Transfusion" Nervous Norvus (1956)

"Money" Big Jim Buchanan (1954)

I wrote about this one before.

Decca Curtain Call Series Volume 2 - Side 1

Image: Discogs

Image: Internet Archive

Side 2

Image: Internet Archive

Image: Discogs
This crunchy sounding, yet free and downloadable copy of this respectable 1953 Decca 10" LP compilation album of catalog artist material from the 1930s (with informative liner notes on the back cover.) is a great starting point if you're doing research into this music. It's one of the handful of odd early 33 1/3 RPM LPs also in the Great 78 Project. The 10" LP was considered to be one of the early 33 1/3 RPM LP's selling points. A smaller size album the size of a standard 10" 78 RPM single (most 78 RPM albums of the '40s contained 4 records and 8 songs.) Eventually, 12" became standard size for LP records by the mid-1950s.

Unlocked Recordings

Unlocked Recordings are recordings that have fallen out of copyright. Or exist in a copyright limbo know as Orphaned Works.

If you're looking for albums beyond the '40s, the pickin's here resemble the typical thrift store selection.

All Time Favorites by Tops All-Star Orchestra / Tops, 1956
Country And Western Favorites by Chuck Hess and his Chuck Riders / Strand, 1960

Golden Favorites by Russ Morgan and his Orchestra / Decca, 1950

Crap From The Past

This 28 year running show on KFAI Minneapolis has been my mandatory Friday (10PM CT) listening for years. Specializing in lost hits, rare versions of hit singles, B-sides, demos, obscure tracks, should've-been-hits, cheesy cover versions and the really strange of pop primarily from the '70s to the '90s, Hosted by Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber, he takes you on a graduate level course in pop music. If you miss the live broadcast on KFAI, you can hear/download it here.

A-Log on The Airwaves

If you remember and miss Dr. Demento since he left the airwaves, Anthony "A-Log" Logatto, a devoted fan of The Good Doctor, has a worthy radio fix for us (it's the only one we currently have of this type). Focusing on current releases, song parodies and a few original tracks with a generous amount of Demento classics and a weekly theme, each program is three jam packed hours of fun. It's how I was introduced to "The FuMP", a community of comedy musicians and fans. Highly recommended.

Feature Films

You won't find modern box office blockbusters (the best known public domain feature films are Birth of A Nation, Night of The Living Dead and Reefer Madness.) But if you love the kind of TV movies you saw on the Late Late Movie, get the popcorn ready. You'll also find crazy conspiracy films, Film Noir, low budget horror and sometimes, their trailers.

Ephemeral Films

An school A/V club member goldmine, these were the films you saw in class when you were growing up. You also get to see company training and promotion films and old stock footage

Classic Television

Brian Henderson's Bandstand, October 19, 1968: The disembodied head of Cilla Black is regular nightmare fuel.
For those who love the off-network TV shows often seen on independent UHF TV stations back in the day, here's manna: Several classic TV series, such as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, I Love Lucy and Ozzie and Harriet are available for download on Internet Archive. Plus, you get to see some foreign TV programs, such as Australia's Brian Henderson's Bandstand and several early UK TV programs we also missed here too in those days.

But all this great stuff isn't 100% free. It costs money and dedicated volunteer time to keep the selection expanding and the servers upgraded. So please consider a small donation to Internet Archive. It's a great deal for the price and keeps our pop culture history complete.

Have a great weekend!