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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."