Ron Adams goes back to the 1960s-1980s...growing up with monsters, music and days filled with fun. A pop culture ball of wax from days gone by.
Did you mail order merchandise back in the 1960s-1980s? It was different animal back then. Good and bad. And some of the bad, we were quite okay with...
When I ordered stuff from comic books and the back of FAMOUS MONSTERS magazines back in the 1970s, it would take 2-6 weeks for delivery. While that seems bad today....it was just the way it was back then. Plus, it added that extra anticipation excitement. It was a big deal. Checking the metal mailbox each day, hoping a back issue of FM would be there, or a scary paperback book.
I remember missing an issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS in my subscription. I wrote a letter to Jim Warren's office (I think it was in Philadelphia or New York) specifying the missing issue. Just a week later there was a brown envelope in our mailbox. I frantically opened it...and there was an older issue I already had, NOT the one I had asked for. Oh, well. I had a spare.
But, just looking at those mail order ads was so much fun. Where else could you see products like X-Ray Glasses (how on earth did they work???), Hypno-Coins (showing a woman walking with out-stretched arms), products to help you GAIN weight, and rubber masks. Ah, those rubber masks...little illustrations of FRANKENSTEIN, TEENAGE WEREWOLF, VAMPIRE GIRL, GORILLA, CAVEMAN....so cool. There were also "premium" latex masks (Don Post Company) that were even greater....but, totally unaffordable with my newspaper route money.
Best, best of all (or, so I thought), the life-size Frankenstein! I spent hours on my bed looking at this. I lay on my cowboy bed spread reading over and over this ad in a comic book. The monster with ripped pants and jacket. How could they ship such a cool six-foot Frankenstein? I envisioned something that would belong in Madame Tussaud's wax museum. I never could convince my parents to buy me this life-size monster. If I only I had one standing in the corner of my room to scare my baby sister and neighborhood kids. I would be the envy of my second grade buddies.
Well, my parents were perhaps wiser than my seven-year-old brain would credit. I found out years later that it was just a thin plastic sheet with an image of the monster on it. I didn't understand the "heavy stock" reference in the ad. I thought it was a three dimensional figure! It sure gave me something to dream about for years.
I bet you have your mail order stories from your childhood too. Those were, indeed, the days to remember.
Ron Adams, May 2019
Dear Mr. Adams,
You took me back to first grade with your last newseletter. I once ordered the companion 6 foot glow-in-the-dark-skeleton that was also featured with the Frankenstein poster.
Keep up the good work.
Hey Ron and Monster Bashers,
I agree that half the fun of monster magazines (for a monster kid) was fantasizing about all the cool stuff advertised in the back. Day dreaming about the buttons, back issues, masks, rings, posters and toys could fill an afternoon. For me, the most coveted ads were the ones that advertised the super 8 movies. I wanted everyone of those!
Back in 1971, when I was 10, I purchased my first Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. It was issue #87 with the She Creature on the cover. Before that, I only had comic books and the cheap horror comic magazines like Weird. That issue #87 was an eye opener. Still my favorite issue to this day. Not only was it filled with monster pictures and stories, but it had those ads. I stared at the super 8 movies that were for sale and could only imagine owning them. Most of the movies, I had never seen. But there was one that I had to have. It was Frankenstein meets The Wolfman !!! I begged my parents, but that didn’t work. I needed about $10.00 for the movie and issue #42 which had Frankenstein and the Wolfman fighting on the cover. My allowance back then was a quarter a week, so it would be awhile before I could afford them. I just kept wishing and probably whining for the back issue and movie.
I think my mother finally felt sorry for me and gave me a list of jobs to do to make the $10.00. I did everything she asked and she wrote a check to Captain Company in New York,New York. Then came the wait. I was so excited, like waiting for Christmas. I believe it was a month later when they arrived and I loved them.Monsters came to me in the mail !!! I can’t think of anything cooler for a monster kid. To this day, it’s still fun to get a Monster Bash magazine or model in the mail. Keep watching the mail...
-Dave Heywood, FL
Your recent post brought back my own mail order memories. I remember ordering the “giant ghost.” He was nothing more than a balloon head and white plastic sheet, but boy was he awesome to me. I rigged the ghost up in my closet so that when you opened the door, he would rise! It was the best. It was even part of my “monster shows” (which my parents graciously attended and were generous audience participants!) Thanks for all the great memories. See you at Bash!
Rondo Remembers: One Afternoon in the Basement
It was 1963 or 1964 and I was just a tyke. I had just received a surprise gift that I will never forget. It was a long box of the FRANKENSTEIN model kit from Aurora.
I had seen it at a sidewalk sale in downtown Grove City, PA. I don't think I had seen any movie with the monster in it at that point. There was just something scary and cool about it. And, he was yellow-green. Keen! Mom and Dad said I couldn't have it. Demoralized, but resilient, I let it go.
Weeks later I did something that my mom thought was helpful. Picked up after myself or helped my dad with the trash...I don't really remember what it was. But I do remember the reward. It was going to wait for my birthday...but, I was gifted early. Out from under my parents bed came that Aurora FRANKENSTEIN model kit.
That weekend, down into the basement my father and I went. We were armed with airplane glue and Testor's paint in those little glass bottles that make a kind of squeaky sound when they were held tightly together. Dad also had a can of paint thinner. I helped as Dad walked me through building a model. A monster model. This creation happened one magic afternoon in the basement of a brown house on College Avenue in Grove City, PA.
I'll never forget it...the beginnings of the Monster Kid branding. Thank you Mom and Dad.
So in response to your One Afternoon in the Basement story. I had a similar but, different experience in my basement on Bergen Street in Garfield. Circa 1977, this monster generation kid, decided he would venture out of his bedroom that he shared with his younger brother, Joe (twin beds and all-LOL). And found a corner in the back of our basement to set-up his round table with 1 big green cabinet and two smaller ones, loaded with every Famous Monsters of Filmland, Highlights, Creepy and Dynamite magazines. Also comic books of every kind, trading cards, mostly non-sports cards and baseball! Monster related books and toys from Mego Action Figures, to Lego Building sets, Army soldiers fighting every plastic Dinosaur in my collection-AMAZING FUN!
But, like Ron, those Aurora model kits, were something that I often would stare at in the Two Guys department store in Garfield or Paul's Hobby Shop in Wallington! I wanted those kits so badly, and I came up with an idea to clean the entire basement in our house in late October (near Halloween) and when Christmas arrived that year there were all these long boxes wrapped and labeled with my name. I opened the first one and it was Count Dracula (bats and all-LOL.) The Wolf Man followed then Ron's favorite, the Frankenstein Monster, also The Mummy, (Kharis-himself) and The Phantom of the Opera (Lon Chaney's masterpiece of the silent era.)
I looked at Dad, and he had a big smile and then handed me another box, filled with Testor's paints, all the basic colors and the model glue to boot! I started to build Dracula with my dad, and from there hours of model building in my little corner of my basement (listening to the Star Wars soundtrack on vinyl), a Monster Generation Kid, was being groomed and since that time I have never looked back unless the lights were out in the basement and I was scared stiff (LOL).
So thanks, Dad and Mom too, for starting me on the wrong path filled with monsters, ghouls, zombies, dinosaurs and creatures of the night-AHH!
Sincerely, Steve Wyka
Great memories Ron...thanks for sharing!
I have a similar story...I was already a monster addict having read the Crestwood House books and played with my Remco Mini-Monsters.
It was 1983 and I was 11 years old when I saw my first monster model at Conley's. It was the Monogram reissue of the Mummy, and I pleaded with my parents, but was also turned down.
Lo and behold a mere week later and I got that very Mummy kit for my birthday! I vividly remember my dad helping me too...covering the kitchen table with newspapers, the tube of Testors cement, and all those little bottles of glossy enamels. That kit sparked a lifelong obsession with monster models that continues to this day.
I've built that same Mummy kit a half dozen times by now...here's a pic of my latest version (above). Wish I still had my original.
One day, my Dad came home from work with his hand behind his back and a big smile on his face.
On the weekend, we went out and bought Testors glue and paint. He cleared off an old workbench he had in the cellar and set up the model kit and paints We went over the instructions to be sure I understood what had to be done. He then left me to my own designs, peeking in every so often. When it was done, I brought upstairs for my parents to see. They were both excited to see that I finished it.
My Dad then got me the “Dracula” and “Wolfman” kits when they came out. I found out that my friend’s father was the New York City and New Jersey distributer of both Aurora models and Ideal toys. Once or twice a year, he would let me come to the warehouse and buy anything I wanted at half price. He had the next set of monster model kits before they were officially released. My parents gave me a few dollars and I bought the “Creature” and “Mummy” kits.
I stopped making the Aurora models when “The Bride of Frankenstein” kit came out. The completed models remained at my parents’ for several years after I married. They threw them away when they moved. I unfortunately was on a business trip and didn’t know until after I returned.
The Aurora monster model kits provided many enjoyable hours and find memories
Rondo Remembers: The Other Magazines That Held Us Over...
There I was a handful of decades ago....stopping into all my magazine haunts. In State College, PA it was Boots Dariette, McLanahan's Drugstore or Dean's Market. All places known to carry FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine back in the 1960s and 1970s. When we frequently visited relatives in our home town of Grove City, PA, the hot spots for FM were The Newsstand or another across the railroad tracks, in a yellow brick building, though I've forgotten the name of it. I might never have known.
I checked so often, that I was, more often than not disappointed. I was looking for that little image of Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera (that's what usually was in the upper left hand corner of FAMOUS MONSTERS mags). That Phantom face would be sticking out from behind a MAD magazine or motorcycle mags or wrestling magazines. That odd entertainment section of the magazine racks.
Soon I discovered some alternates that could "tide me over" until I actually found the latest FAMOUS MONSTERS. There was the very infrequent CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN. It was great to see some of the subject matter treated very seriously...but, it was a muddy looking mag. Layouts weren't dynamic...multiple fonts made it unconsciously uncomfortable to the eye, ink smeared, photo reproductions weren't always very good...but, it was different and still loaded with monster movies. It was a blessing to find.
I once mailed away from an ad for a copy of PHOTON magazine. Wow! Glossy pages and great photo reproductions and even a free 8X10 glossy photo in the center. My copy had THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) on the cover. I was really delighted to get that. Not sure why I didn't have more of those when I was a kid.
Then there was a slew of others that could do the trick until a new FM appeared. There was FOR MONSTERS ONLY, MONSTERS OF THE MOVIES, MAD MONSTERS, MODERN MONSTERS, various Charlton specials, CRACKED magazine specials (it was like MAD) that featured monsters a lot. There was MOVIE MONSTERS and the really great THE MONSTER TIMES tabloid style monster newspaper. There was black and white comic mags like CREEPY, EERIE, PSYCHO and those super gory publications (when I was in desperation for a monster fix) like WITCH'S TALES, HORROR TALES, WEIRD, TALES OF VOODOO.
Those were the days of the search. Lurking the magazine racks in hopes of finding....monsters. I'm sure I wasn't alone in these monster movie magazine missions.
My friend, right with you again re: finding the FM issues back in the day, wherever they could be found. Fortunately, in central NY we had a grocery store that carried it fairly regularly called The Giant. Mom would take me and my brothers to the store to do the 2 weeks supply of grocery shopping, always on Fridays after school, and I'd always scope out the mag rack for FM anxiously hoping to find a copy. Was not always successful but finding FM made those times shopping with mom all the more special.
And, when the monster cereals were out, that made it even more exciting for a kid to be at the grocery store. I later found LOTS of back issues of FM at an SF bookstore that was only a short bike ride away so I managed to amass a whole box full of FMs on the cheap and relished them. I used to like the painted covers of those 60's/70's issues the most as, like Frazetta paintings, you knew you were entering another world looking through those mags. #114 was probably my all time favorite issue since was devoted to the Toho monsters.
See you next month at Vincent's festival!
Nick Posengal, FL
There was a fabulous news stand in Barnesboro (now Northern Cambria) PA! Every time we’d travel to Pennsylvania from Cleveland to visit my favorite aunt, my cousin and I would make a beeline for it. They stocked EVERY monster mag and comic under the sun (also really cool novelties like these little things you could put in a cigarette to make it explode!). Gosh, I miss that place!
What is that photo above from...some lost Hammer movie? Just wait...and read on!
When I was growing up it sometimes could be a long wait before the next horror or science fiction film would come on TV. Yes, this was the pre-on demand days...before home video too! So it was a real treat to see monsters appear out-of-the-blue on various TV shows. Monsters as a bonus!
Our favorite creeps, spooky houses or space creatures could appear as "guests" on some normal TV shows!
Some of my favorites surprise run-ins included these:
WILD WILD WEST...this western show frequently featured science fiction and horror elements. One of the first I remember was a gunslinger that was out to get the hero, James West. After some bullets hit this gunslinger, his rubber flesh peeled back to reveal shiny metal! He was a robot! Wow, cool. In another episode there was a haunted house that had a life of its own...a living haunted house full of bizarre personifications.
THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW featured a "Haunted House" episode where Opie and friend accidentally put a baseball through the window of a spooky abandoned house with a reputation. Deputy Barney Fife and gas station attendant Gomer go in to retrieve the lost ball...and things get scary! I was four or five when I saw this! My monster/spooky interest just getting fired up!
F-TROOP had a Halloween show where Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker had an encounter with a mysterious stranger. It was Vincent Price as a "vampire!" Now, that was great for any monster nut...looking for any morsel of creepiness on TV.
And around Halloween time you could always depend on the flashy variety shows to have a skit featuring vampires, werewolves, mummies or the Frankenstein monster.
I know there are scores more, but those were the ones that came to mind first....but, I saved the best for last.
GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. There was one episode I saw first run, so I was very young, that featured a long and scary (for my little brain) dream sequence. It was the cast in an old horror movie setting with perfect re-casting. The professor became Sherlock Holmes and The Skipper was Dr. Watson - vampire hunting. The other cast members were fit neatly into the cliche horror movie characters....and Gilligan was a vampire! You wouldn't think that this goofy show could be full of horror for a six year old...but it did the trick. Will never forget it!
You had to watch for monsters wherever you could find them back in those days.
This is great, Ron! We were watching a Columbo episode where he was investigating a murder during a screening of Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman and there's a Rockford Files episode where a character has the original 1931 Frankenstein on TV! McMillan & Wife and The Snoop Sisters both had Don Post classic monster masks in episodes and so did McHale's Navy, The Hardy Boys and The Brady Bunch!!!
Rodney Dangerfield was watching Island Of Lost Souls in the movie Easy Money, and an R.L. Stine movie had a young girl watching The Mummy's Hand! It's great to see these come up in popular culture and that's a fun story of yours!!!
Check out the Vampire episode of Sgt. Bilko where Joe E. Ross dresses as Dracula and is obsessed with monster movies...Hilarious! The Lucy Show has a great color episode like that too...You should do a feature in Monster Bash Magazine!!!
LOL I remember so many of those, especially F-TROOP. Another unlikely horror offering came from MY THREE SONS. There was an episode where the father was away, so the three boys and Uncle Charlie were alone at home during a stormy night. Suddenly, a heartbeat can be heard...and it's COMING FROM THE BASEMENT! Turns out it was just the sump pump, trying to keep the water out of the basement during the storm. But, for the better part of 30 minutes, I just knew there was something horrible down there, lurking in the shadows.
Bob Statzer, IN
I love that episode of Gilligan's Island! I remember watching it (in later reruns) when I was a kid and, like you, my monster kid antennas were alert. The Brady Bunch had a few spooky episodes, too.
-Brian Nichols, TX
As you said, there were no videos to rent or blue rays to buy. We were at the mercy of network tv. I could always count on an occasional monster on Lost In Space , Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea or Star Trek. Saturday cartoons like Jonny Quest featured monsters and I could always rely on my Super 8 monster movie collection. But as you said, when a monster showed up on a tv show, it was a surprise bonus!
All the ones you mentioned, I saw and loved ‘em. Especially the Gilligan episode with the Vampire dream sequence. Gilligan’s Island had the best dream episodes. Once the Skipper was a giant and Gilligan was Jack who climbed up a beanstalk. The best one for me was when Gilligan dreamed he turned into Mr Hyde at the mere mention of food. He looked pretty scary. I also enjoyed an episode of Bewitched when Endora turned Darrin into a werewolf !
Other pleasant surprises came in commercials. Alpha Bits had some monster ads and of course it was fun to see Count Chocula and Frankenberry. I have one other memory of a scary commercial that I wonder if anyone in the Monster Bash family remembers? It was a Crackerjack commercial that had someone leave a box of crackerjacks at the front door of a haunted house. Great atmosphere for an ad!
Take care and keep those great memories coming... Dave Heywood, FL.
There's something unique and very special about seeing the movies you love in a theater with an audience. I'm actually finding it hard to describe what makes it all so special. I think it's a variety of elements that all come together and create a form of magic. It's the experience of others around you that feeds your experience. It's the warmth of the carpeting, the walls, the aroma of theatre food...that buttered popcorn smell that is engrained in the theater, thick and heavy. Those velvet curtained and rich, deep colors...the classical patterns on the carpeting. The sound in the large open air.
It's great to be able to view stuff when you want in the comfort of your home...but there is a magic in the theater that can't be replicated.
I loved those actual tickets you used to get too. The rolls of tickets behind the glass with the "speaking" circle cut in the window. An elderly lady with glasses on the other side. The posters, lobby cards and 8X10 photos behind glass, sometimes inside/sometimes outside, depending on the theater.
Looking back, I loved those "premium" little toys and items they gave away at certain weekend showings that were aimed at us kids. I was elated to get plastic glow-in-the-dark fangs and little square puzzles where the pieces moved around. You had to figure out how to get the image back in order by moving the little white squares around on the puzzle. I'm sure, I'm going to remember later, other premiums that we got too.
And, of course, the candy...besides the stock brands, there were the more front and center theater candies like Junior Mints, Raisinets, Dots, Necco Wafers and, of course Jujyfruits. The Jujyfruits either pulled your fillings out or, occasionally, got tossed at the screen during love scenes. There was one candy that I can't remember the name of. I loved the cardboard box design...it was red with an image of, I believe, Charlie Chan on it. The candy inside were little red "jaw-breakers."
A giant-size hall of adventure, imagination and fun. There was nothing like the theater experience when I was young. The excitement and the feeling of home away from home...magic showmanship in America.
-Ron Adams, July 2019
Above: The Palace Theatre in Canton, Ohio...restored.
Thanks to both Bob Statzer, Greg Obaugh, Kevin Browne and super fan Kent Daluga for providing the answer to the Charlie Chan candy I remember from the theater:
Monster Toys We Grew Up With...
Those MPC monsters pictured above were so neat. Little plastic figures from a company called MPC (Multiple Products Corporation). One of the initial exposures to monsters that I had. It was the early 1960s when I discovered these little guys in a department store. My parents bought me "The Haunted Hulk" which was a plastic ship with a set of these MPC monsters that would fit onto little plastic pegs on the boat.
My dad and I played with them on the hardwood floor on our house. The hardwood floor slats were waves as the monsters sailed the oceans.
An MPC line-up of creatures: there was a Frankenstein-zombie thing that I always thought resembled Lurch from The Addams Family TV show. A grim reaper (scary), a skeleton with a bat on his shoulder, a vampire that looked more like Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera, an evil looking witch, a cool mummy with a snake around its leg, an executioner with knife and a frisky looking werewolf!
These toys were one of my jumping off points...finding out more about monsters, monster movies and all things creepy. These little plastic toys were fuel for a five-year-old's imagination. The colors seemed al too perfect too: black, orange, gray-purple and green.
There were variations of these monsters sold too, larger ones where the heads-popped off and could be snapped back on...you could switch heads from one monster onto another monster's body. I only had a couple of those bigger "pop-tops."
I think every monster fan had some favorites "monster toys" that helped start off interest in monster movies.
It's amazing what the power of toys can have a young kids...for me, I loved these things and, well....still do.
When I was in 1st grade back in June of 1967, the class had an “end of the school year party” that involved cupcakes and presents. Each student in our class had to bring in a gift to give to another student. I received a truck that had a camper attached to it. I thought it was pretty cool until I saw what another boy received. He got a package of monsters! I was floored when I saw them. His present was the Palmer Plastic Monsters in several bright colors. There was King Kong, the Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Creature, Gorgo, It The Terror From Beyond Space and the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Several of these monsters were unknown to me, but they sure looked impressive. I asked him if he wanted to trade (several times) and he declined. That night I told my mother about them and I’m sure she listened politely and told me to be happy with what I received. She was right and I played with my truck.
A few months later in September it was my birthday and my parents gave me a gift with a big smile. It was the Palmer Monsters! The greatest gift ever! I played with them daily both indoors and outdoors. I had a blue cyclops, and he was the toughest. Probably because he had that built in weapon on his head (the horn). For years, those toys were part of my life.
Thanks again Ron for the memories and for creating a place where we can all meet and share these stories. See you at Bash !
Dave Heywood...New Port Richey, Florida
Saw your nostalgic memories of the Haunted Hulk. I got those monster figures in 1964 when they were free inside bags of Lays Potato Chips & six packs of Fritos Corn Chips. Our ma would always buy family size bags of Lays chips anyway so I didn`t have to request them. I collected all of them. My favorite was the executioner with the knife & skull. Alas, they disappeared over the years.