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.
Kids 'n' Monsters
There was something extra special about a monster movie that featured a kid as one of the main characters in a monster movie. When we saw this, as a kid, it was an instant acknowledgement and affirmation. WE could be that kid in the movie. We understand his, or her, plight. Whether it was facing ghosts, a giant cyclops, Martians invading....usually, the parents and adults won't believe. You understood the kid's frustration...and fear!
Some of these movies that really struck a chord with me when I saw them as a kid.
There was little Charles Herbert in a house full of ghosts in THIRTEEN GHOSTS (1960). He wavers between fun with the ghosts and all out scares. The colorful 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) had a genie (Richard Eyer) who helped our hero and heroine...that was a magical kid to be envious of! Though not monsters, Charles Herbert and Susan Gordon were up against pirates in a time travel dream for Bert I. Gordon's film THE BOY AND THE PIRATES (1960).
How about dinosaurs...it was a natural to bring kids into the fold with those cool prehistoric behemoths in DINOSAURUS! (1960), THE BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN (1958), JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING OF TIME (1955) and THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1967). That was exciting...seeing young kids mixed up with dinosaurs!
Then in some memorable science fiction projects. Richard Eyer was back as a boy genius (weren't we all!?) with a robot buddy in THE INVISIBLE BOY (1957). One of the best "no one believes me" nightmares that involves little boy Jimmy Hunt in INVADERS FROM MARS (1953). The police, and even his parents, are controlled by evil Martians! The delirious dream of a young boy brought us ROBOT MONSTER (1953) too!
On the TV, we were in tandem with kids too. Susan Gordon had an alien from outer space rescue her from a horrible home life in THE TWILIGHT ZONE episode "The Fugitive" in 1962. There was the quirky Wednesday and Pugsley who could help their dad blow-up train sets indoors for THE ADDAMS FAMILY! And, of course, who didn't want to be like Eddie Munster (Butch Patrick) with his own pet dragon that lived under the staircase in THE MUNSTERS.
We connected with the kids on the screen, when we were kids. And, we never forgot.
-Ron Adams, January 2020.
Hi again Ron. Three quick things. Firstly, good choices in the "nobody believes the kids" films, especially "Invaders from Mars" which I recently watched. I have to say the only thing more frightening than that film is its long "who owns the negatives and best film elements" story which has gone on for years.
Secondly, it's nice to see "Two on a Guillotine" go to BluRay. I've always wondered if William Conrad was good friends with William Castle because this film surely resembles a Bill Castle film, don't you think?
All the best,
Another great article.
-Kevin Browne, CA
Sometimes Treasure Is Found
One of our MONSTER BASH staffers, M. Oleman, just discovered in his attic, his original Phantom model from the 1960s. While he's broken, M. Oleman plans reconstruction. The Phantom will live again. These are the treasures that are not worth all the money in the world. A sliver of your childhood coming back like a friendly ghost saying "Remember me?"
Here's what M. wrote:
I'm not going to repaint him. That would be an affront to 8 year old me. But I will glue him back together and put him on the shelf of honor with all the others. The only thing missing is his mask.
Rondo Remembers: Toys, Our Childhood Ghosts...
After a good friend of mine just emailed that photo of a broken PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Aurora model. He got me thinking more about it...
I have a variety of things that have re-appeared over the years to give me those feelings. Sometimes it's something so small, or seemingly insignificant. A magazine ad that showed monsters, in a women's magazine my mom had given me to draw on! But those monsters were what got me. Seeing that ad again brought that excitement of seeing those monsters through six year old eyes all over again.
My dad had bought me coloring books when I had my tonsils out...no monsters, but coloring books of dinosaurs, army men and cowboys. Those are what meant the world to me at that time and take me back. MPC plastic little monsters, zombie, witch, executioner, mummy with snake, skeleton...Marx plastic dinosaurs. All this stuff.
And, me too, those Aurora model kits. The scary black plastic of those gnarled trees on the Dracula model. Foam glider airplanes you put together that had Marvel super heroes on them like The Hulk and Ben Grimm (The Thing). If they didn't survive the years, we search for them.
These things of our childhood are the magic pieces of time that take us back to a simpler place...where there's adventure, excitement and imagination that was so bright. These intangibles are real magic to the kid in us. It's rekindled by these old toys and simple items. The child in us can live again, even for a fleeting moment, a glimpse back. The friendly ghosts of our past.
-Ron Adams, February 2020.
Great article Ron!
Isn't it amazing how much a few simple pieces of plastic can impact our lives and who we become as adults?
It truly was a magical time. And although my originals are long gone, I've managed to track them all down again and give them a permanent home, and the memories are still the same. Every time I hold one of those tiny figures in my hand or crack open those books I'm eight years old again.
They really are the fountain of youth.
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed - and appreciated - your story and comments about the broken Phantom of the Opera Aurora model. For some reason, it really affected me. I think all monster kids love looking back on those years, and often find ourselves wishing we still had all of our "toys."
I remember when I was in my early 20s and my dad called me and told me that he and my mom were cleaning out the attic and they ran across a small styro-foam container. He wasn't sure what it was, and when he opened it he found my Stretch Monster! Here is a picture of me when I received it as a Christmas gift in '77 or '78.
I'm not sure, but I think I told my dad to go ahead and throw it out. Ouch.
Thanks again for the article! It touched something deep inside me.
Brian Nichols, Bryan, TX
There’s no end to the memories that “Monster Kids” have accrued over the decades.
Aurora monster models, Monster Magazines, Monster Posters, and our all time favorite Monster Movies. I enjoyed Japanese Sci-Fi and Hammer films from England, but my all time favorites were the original Universal Monster Movies.
Summertime, Spring Break and Christmas break was the time to stay up late, watch TV and indulge in some of the finest horror films known to man.
By age 9 I could tell you the cast, the director and the synopsis of just about any Universal Monster Movie, you just had to name it. I was a real fan. I knew the behind the scenes stories, changes in cast members, and when these stars had passed away. This was all attributed to my ravenous appetite for monster info, and the best Monster Magazine of it’s time, Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Even decades later, I still love these classics and these days I feed my appetite for Monsters by reading Monster Bash Magazine! It NEVER disappoints!
Thanks for a terrific monster magazine and thanks for letting me share some Monster Kid Memories.
Lots of love for the Aurora PHANTOM OF THE OPERA! That was the very first monster model I ever had! Couldn't begin to tell you how many layers of paint are probably on that thing these days (yes, I still have my original!), as I would repeatedly repaint him as I got older and more experienced at model-making. (These days, he probably looks more like Keith Richards than Lon Chaney!)
Ron, you my friend are the "The merchant of Memories"...!!! Best, Kent.
P.s. Here's the man who started my Monster Memories (my father Neil)...and the "King Kong" model he built in the days (blow-up by me in a moment of youthful lunacy).
-Kent Daluga, Zion, IL
Hey Ron and Monsterbashers,
I hope all are well. Thanks Ron, for sharing your “childhood ghosts” story and thanks to your friend who found his long lost Phantom of the Opera model kit and shared that story with you.
Once again you helped conjure up some wonderful old memories that we can all relate to. I too can have old monster memories triggered when I see something from our monstrous past. It’s fun and comforting to be brought back to the little kid in us. For me a scene in certain movies can transport me to a scared yet enthralled youngster watching a Universal Monster flick for the first time. Many other things can bring back that excitement as well. When I see a Palmer Plastics Monster, I remember all the fun adventures I had with my collection of those creatures as a child.
I also get those monster flashbacks when I come across the super 8 Castle Films. So many fun hours watching those black and white silent films.
The Aurora models probably recapture the warmest nostalgia. King Kong was my first kit (a present) then it was Frankenstein. It was so much fun to build and display them. I remember so very well going to Woolworth’s and Two Guys department stores to shop for an Aurora model. Just to look at the shelves and see those amazing painted box covers on the kits and then try to figure out which model I had to have next. Such a hard decision for a little kid and his birthday money. Today when I see James Bama’s artwork on the Aurora boxes, I go right back to that little tyke and my love of those models. I’m not surprised your friend wants to preserve his Phantom model just for the memories alone. Plus that is such a great model kit. Not only does it have the spooky Phantom, but it has that tortured soul behind the bars. That poor guy has been in prison since 1963, shouldn’t he have been paroled by now ??
I would have to say that there is one thing that brings me back to that fun loving kid more than anything else. And that’s going to Monster Bash! It’s a constant flashback of sights and sounds that we all grew up loving. Whether it’s watching a movie, talking with the stars, buying all the monstrous goodies from the vendors or chatting with friends, you can’t help but feeling like a monster kid all over again.
Thank you Ron and all the Staff for giving us this wonderful environment. If you’ve never been to Bash, you have to go, the kid in you will love it !!!
Take care and I’ll see you all at Bash...
Dave Heywood, New Port Richey, FL
Rondo Remembers: The Things We've Lost...
Over the years I've lost a handful of things....many I'd love to have back.
There was the obligatory comic book or two, rubber pencil topper monster and rubber disembodied hand. Those all acquired by my various elementary and junior high school teachers in a most perfunctory way. Zip, and snatched off my desk or from behind my notebook.
My original Aurora models (1960s) and glow models (1970s) that vanished in a move from North Atherton Street to Ramblewood Road when I was in seventh grade. They mysteriously never made the journey. My parents pitching them when I wasn't looking??? Or, a black hole? I prefer to believe in the black hole theory.
Along the way I also lost my monster Soaky Toys, MPC monsters and my treasured Old Maid Monster card deck. Those three things, however, I was able to re-buy (or gifted to me) and now they rest safely at Creepy Classics/Monster Bash HQ.
Now there was one item, that is my missing Holy Grail. It is a film catalog that was given to me by my grandfather. It was a rental catalog for 16mm films...maybe by the Modern Sound Pictures company. It was a Halloween edition that, I believe, had a red cover with various monsters on it. Inside were descriptions and photos from all the classic horror and science fiction films they offered for rental. It probably came out in between 1969-1972. I proudly took it to Park Forest Junior High School to show the other kids this cool, cool catalog. It got passed around our lunch table...and disappeared. I was heartbroken...and have been for the past 47 years. So, if I may, turn this into a classified ad plea....if anyone knows where I could find one of these???
Now the important part...it really isn't just the fact that we liked these "lost" items. For me it's because they're a missing piece of time. A time associated with all the great relatives that lovingly gave you these things...while they were still around. I wish I could thank them all again. I will thank my dad the next time I see him. The combination of all of this is that it's a part of you, these things had, and have emotional strings. They are us, and that's why we'd love to reclaim some of the missing pieces...of our youth.
I enjoyed your reminiscence “The Things We’ve Lost.” I had a similar experience. Around 1971-1972 a friend of my father who was into old movies showed me a catalog for films that could be rented. I do not remember what the cover looked like but I believe it was Halloween/monster themed.
Long story short, I was able to photocopy a few pages of the catalog just to have the pictures. Over the years that same friend gave me various copies of catalogs from a company called United Films. I still have a United Films 16mm Feature Film Gazette for 1974-5, so I am guessing that the catalog I had taken the photocopies of was also from United films (Font and layouts match).
Attached are scans (one above) of those old pages – thought it might help to either dismiss United Films Gazettes or possibly be a clue for you to find your holy grail. Although, what then would you search for?
Doug, thank you so much, I believe THAT was it!!! My catalogs came from my grandfather who managed a building at Grove City College in PA back in the 1950s-1970s. I got general movie catalogs and THIS one Halloween/horror edition. Most were Modern Sound Pictures catalogs, but I do think there were some United ones too! The hunt goes on...but every clue (like this one) helps so much! -Ron
Update! I found it. 16mm film rental catalog from 1972:
I found it on on-line and ordered it! Thank you DOUG!!!!! -Ron
Mail Order Monsters
When I was a kid, ordering stuff through the mail was a big deal. It was stuff you'd never see in any store. At least that's true with the kind of stuff I ordered! You would have to wait two to eight weeks to get something...but it was oh, so worth the wait. The wait brought anticipation, excitement. Just looking at items that could be mail ordered was exciting, whether you could get them or not...just imagining.
Of course, funding when you're eight or nine years old could be difficult. Begging to do chores, stretching a fifty cents a week allowance (that was for gathering the garbage to take out), and basic begging to the parents. Convincing Mom that a rubber mask of an ugly caveman was surely worth it...could be tough.
I would spend much time looking at the six foot Frankenstein Monster and Dracula ads in comic books. I wanted that Frankenstein Monster sooooo much. The Dracula kind of scared me. I envisioned a real six foot monster figure in my bedroom. I never was able to get funding for it, which is maybe a good thing. I found out years later about disappointed kids who had ordered it and getting a thin plastic sheet with the monster illustration on it. I was so convinced that these things were real full, three dimension figures, like you would see in a wax museum, delivered in a large crate like in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.
I did get, mail order, back issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS and MONSTER WORLD magazines. An Incredible Hulk t-shirt, a movie reference book, a "haunting sounds" record, the Jack Davis Frankenstein poster, flaming skull decals....oh man, it was such joy when a generic box or large brown mailing envelope would finally arrive.
Other things I never got, but intrigued me to no end: X-ray glasses (how could they possibly work??), Sea Monkeys (my daughter got these decades after I saw those crazy ads that made them look like merpeople), and a real live monkey by mail (Whaaaaa?). I have a friend that always wanted one of those live monkeys by mail.
Today mail order is much more common and you can get anything by mail. But, the six week waits are rare and so is that magic anticipation.
Loved your story about Mail Order Monsters. I certainly remember those days. Some of the items I ordered were the fake brick, smoke from your fingers, x-ray glasses, dancing ghost, fake blood, and the pamphlet about how to hypnotize people. The 4-6 weeks of anticipation was actually better than most of the items! One item I do fondly recall is the 6' Frankenstein monster with glowing eyes. It seemed like I waited forever, my anticipation growing every day. What would it be like? It finally arrived in an 8x10 padded envelope. What? How could a 6' Frankenstein monster fit in that? Turns out it was a poster on a very thin sheet of plastic. The glowing eyes were two little stickers that you put on his eyes and they'd glow in the dark (for a few minutes). In all honesty, it looked pretty cool hanging on our door and my brother and I kept it there for a long time. Like many things from my youth, I wish I still had it.
-Brian Nichols, TX
p.s. The holy grail of these items was the nuclear submarine. I never had one, but I did find a couple pictures (see above).
Really enjoyed your piece about mail ordering stuff as a kid, Ron! Yes, I have those same memories as a kid growing up in the 70's. Us kids riding our bikes to the local 7-11 on Saturday afternoons, and using the money we'd earned to buy slurpees and comic books. The comics I loved for the stories themselves, but also for all the ads for cool stuff you could order through the mail.
I remember joining the "Monster Fan Club" (?), and getting a packet of stuff for $5.00 or something like that, and included an official membership card (of course!), a cut-out monster mask and black and white photo of Boris Karloff, which as I remember, looked like it was a publicity photo from when he was doing "Thriller" in the 60's. I knew only one other kid who was really a big monster fan like me, and we always had a great time with that stuff.
Like you said, just the anticipation of waiting weeks for your package to come in the mail. After ordering and allowing a few weeks to go by, coming home from school every day and checking the mailbox hoping "maybe today'll be the day". And then when it finally did arrive! Oh man! I would be so excited! Sometimes it would be a disappointment, like some of the kids you mentioned, but other times it really was cool stuff. I sure wish I had hung on to some of those things. I'd give anything to have them now.
Anyway, thanks again, Ron. Always enjoy your posts and reminiscences. Especially during the very difficult time of this Coronavirus pandemic, and everything associated with it, it really is a nice surprise to check one's email and find that you've posted a new one. Hope you and your family are doing well during all this. Take care, and please keep posting!
You are ON target with this newsletter! As always, thank you for the great job you do and always seem to hit the nail on the head! I guess all the guys that grew up in our generation at that time seemed to have very similar experiences.
I vividly remember waiting for that very non descript package to arrive that was in the shape of a Famous Monsters Of Filmland back issue, or a Creepy Magazine. And the money! I can still picture that check my parents wrote to the Warren Publishing back issue department, ($2?) I think in the very early 1970’s for a Famous Monsters #56, (Boris Karloff tribute, and, coincidentally I still own it!) and what seemed so magical at the time that they could write an amount on a piece of paper, slip it in the mail and someone would receive value for it. Seemed like a “too good to be true “ concept at the time (all that money with just a swipe of a pen...good for them I wasn’t writing the checks, I would have cleaned them out!).
But you hit the nail on the head with the “anticipation.” I remember being so excited when I finally saw the package arrive that I knew contained the 8MM film “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman”, “House I’d Frankenstein,” and “Man Made Monster,” I think I lost my breath when I saw it in the mailbox. Those were the days! You really hit home with this newsletter....can’t thank you enough for the bit of time travel....thanks again!!
-Chris Raymond, Upper Saddle River, NJ
Rondo Remembers: Art, Music & Monsters
It seems fairly universal that growing up liking monster movies seemed to go hand-in-hand with drawing, writing and music.
I grew up drawing dinosaurs, monsters...and even imagined making monster magazines and drawing covers....see above from when I was about eleven. Ironically I've gone on to publishing MONSTER BASH magazine and even used a Lorraine Bush painting for issue #23 that kinda mirrored that drawing from long ago.
My grandfather would let me go to work with him a lot and would give me used poster boards from signs that college kids had put up. I could draw on the back of them (which was blank) with all kinds of magic markers. On the floor, near his desk drawing. Years later, my daughter would do the same thing...drawing monsters on the floor next to me while I worked.
In my twenties and thirties I did a lot of pen-and-ink drawings and paintings of monsters (see to the left). It just seemed to be the thing I gravitated to.
I always enjoyed reading and writing. The movies would inspire me to read things like H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury. I'd write stories on torn out notebook pages and on a beloved portable typewriter I had when I was in 6th and 7th grades.
And, music seemed to always be a part of my life too. Playing my dad's oldies albums of 1950s rock and roll endlessly.
Remembering being in the barber shop, getting my hair cut when I was five or six. Looking through the comic books the barber had there for kids that waited. A Jerry Lewis comic book had a back cover ad for Aurora monster models...I was grooving on a careful examination of that when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles came on the barber's radio. I loved it and the barber was talking to another older customer about those long-haired guys from England that were on the Ed Sullivan TV show.
But, it's always been art, music and monsters for me. The more fellow monster movie fans I meet, the more I see this as a pattern too. It's all that pop culture wax that molded together to make us.
Growing up, I played with plastic dinosaurs and my Palmer plastics monsters. I also played with the 1960’s GI Joes. One of them I painted green to be Frankenstein and another I wrapped in toilet paper to be a Mummy. After completing dinosaur coloring books, my parents started buying me sketchbooks. These were soon filled with monster drawings. I also made monsters from play-doh.
While I was drawing or building Aurora models in my room, I played the radio. Then one day I got a tape recorder and would wait for my favorite songs to come on so I could record them. I recall getting so frustrated if my little sister made noise while I was tape recording ! As I got older, I bought albums. Then it was music cd’s. I also became aware of artists by name, but of course I was most impressed with monster/fantasy artists like Gogos and Frazetta. As I’ve mentioned to you before, I taught high school art for 30+ years. Not only were my students exposed to classic monsters, but I played music during class which helped the kids learn of different eras and styles of music.
Now today all music is at our fingertips, which I love. I can call Creepy Classics for my “monster fix” and I’m still drawing monsters. I guess these things are burned into our memory cells forever and I couldn’t be happier. That’s why I love Monster Bash so much, because we have all found each other to share these likes and be part of one big family!
Take care and I’ll see “the family” soon at Monster Bash !!!
Dave Heywood, FL
Wow...from the heart, Dave...love it. -Ron
Once again I find myself saying “thank you.” I think I had mentioned I’m a physician in NJ, but one thing I hadn’t mentioned was that I came to be more of personal friends with a patient of mine who was unfortunately , battling cancer which until more recently had been in remission for many years. He LOVED all the old Universal Horror movies and looked forward to watching Svengoolie on Saturday evenings as his cancer returned, and he was undergoing treatment for a very long time and was physically limited a bit in what he could do. Then I had the idea to get him interested in the Monster Bash site, which he was.
As he bravely faced what he soon learned was a terminal condition, I learned I could keep up his spirits in discussing your newsletters with him. He LOVED it. And up until the weekend that we recently lost him, as recently as the the Thursday before, to keep his mind off of his condition as much as possible, I would call or text him and discuss your newsletter and he would relate to me a movie or particular monster or event in your childhood that he identified with and enjoyed talking about. And I would get him laughing and not thinking about his end which we both knew was getting closer.
And I thank you for relating all the wonderful stories of your childhood, he truly enjoyed them as much as I did and they did make him smile and reminisce about happier times. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, your newsletter added a lot of smiles and fun conversation and DISTRACTION to what was otherwise an unpleasant time. Thank you!
Chris, thank you for sharing that...the little extra time I spend writing about growing up with monster movies all seems very worth it after reading your words. Blessings to all. -Ron
It's been a while since I discussed one of my favorite places on Earth. The Newsstand in Grove City, Pennsylvania. It's now a shimmering memory, my favorite place, as it was between 1965-1977. A place of magic, discovery and a large floor fan that cooled the interior on those hot, golden summer days.
It's one of those places, I image, that maybe I can re-visit somewhere in a future dimension. That period of time still existing out in space there somewhere. When I'm gone...you can look for me in that newsstand in that segment of time. I'll be the one in the blue jeans, plaid untucked shirt, black Converse tennis shoes and crew cut.
I wish I could go back there now. Push down that gold, well worn metal thumb tab that would open the door. The mixed aroma of newsprint, tobacco and oiled wooden floor hitting me in the face. It was a refuge, a kinda place where I felt at home. Dark and cool.
To my right would be he wooden magazine racks. I'd have to stand on the lower tier to reach the place where FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine would be...maybe hidden behind a wrestling magazine, hot rod magazine, football magazine and next to CREEPY, MAD and CRACKED magazines. I might even, on occasion, see a CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN or FOR MONSTERS ONLY mag.
On the left would be stacks of the latest newspapers from the towns of Sharon, Butler, Pittsburgh and others. These stacks would often be taller than I was. Beyond the stacks was the counter with a big old cash register that had those push-down buttons. A box of Bazooka bubble gum on the counter.
Moving down the dark cool store there were the comic book spin-around racks. Maybe there was no new issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS...surely I could find a FANTASTIC FOUR comic or a TALES FROM ASTONISH that featured The Incredible Hulk. There might be a STRANGE TALES with Doctor Strange with that Steve Ditko fantastic art. Maybe a METAL MEN or JERRY LEWIS comic where he met monsters. Or, a STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES that had army men fighting prehistoric, ravenous dinosaurs.
Then another step back into the long narrow newsstand and there was a large red Coca-Cola cooler. You could insert a dime and open up the top. The glass bottles of soda pop could be slide along a metal rail and released as you pulled up. The bottle opener was on the side of the machine. On the floor, wooden crates with slots to put empty bottles in.
At the back of the store, paperback book racks. I would stare endlessly at the great cover art. DOC SAVAGE books, Gothic novels with some fleeing woman and a castle in the background (one upper window lit), CONAN books with Frazetta covers (I didn't know his name at that time) and DARK SHADOWS books too.
In the 1980s the newsstand was closed. The last time I checked, there was a travel agent there with carpeted floors, desks and no sign of my newsstand. That place in time that I remember, I want to find again someday, someway. It was heaven to this Monster Kid.
I remember my heart racing as I approached the old green wooden shelves were the books, magazines were “sleeved” into. The smell of comic ink and newspapers, and the chocolate shakes they would make behind the soda fountain counter. The one brother SCREAMING at the top of his lungs, “What am I running, a BLEEP BLEEP library!?!” if one of the kids was reading a comic for 30 minutes and not purchasing, lol.
Once again, thank you!!!!!!!
I enjoyed your e-mail The Newsstand, and it reminded me of experiences I had in my youth as well. It's always surprising to me how many Monster Kids have had similar experiences growing up. It was really a special time, and I don't think we will see its like again.
What's really remarkable to me is the mention of the smell of newsprint and tobacco. While I don't want to get into the issue of smoking, the sweet smell of what I assume was pipe tobacco is indelibly imprinted on my memory.
-Vince Simonelli, Streamwood, IL
Great memories Ron... I was almost there I think. In my neighbourhood we had a "general" merchandise store that sold just about everything, or so it seemed. We would often be sent there for a half pound of sliced baloney or a quart of milk or loaf of bread.
I recall the day of the big controversy in the neighbourhood as the mothers were discussing, over the loads of laundry hanging on their clotheslines, that a loaf of bread had just gone up in price from 26 cents to a whopping 29 cents! Such scandal for a homemaker to deal with!
On the other end of town was what we called the corner blue store. It had one of those cement steps that went around the corner of the intersecting streets. It also had the heavy hardwood stained door with the big brass thumb handle and the bell that rang as we entered. On our way home from the Saturday matinees we would stop there and pick up our comic books or monster magazines if we had any money left. In those days we liked "Gold Key" or "Classics Illustrated" comics.
One buddy who was a bit older liked "Sgt. Rock." Maybe you can tell me which monster mag I bought that had the tag line "Lon Chaney Jr... The Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy; He Played Them All!" Or something to that effect. Thanks for the memories.
-I believe that would be MONSTER FANTASY #4 (pictured above). Best, Ron
Hello, Ron and Fellow Memory Lovers,
In the early 1970s, I grew up in the little hamlet of Verplanck, N.Y. Two blocks from my house, at the main intersection of our town was Tom Murray's Luncheonette. In through the doors was that glorious aroma of lunch counter delights...coffee, burgers, eggs-n-bacon, and French fries with the little "devil's fork" sticking out from the red-striped cardboard bowl. Well, just to the right of the long counter with stools, was the huge magazine rack with all of a Monster Kid's horror delights...FM, Creepy, Eerie, etc...and a high shelf way up high above the magazines. On this shelf was housed all of the Glow-in-the-Dark, large square 1970s Aurora Monster Models. My first acquisition was The Wolfman...still my favorite Monster! Soon to follow was Dr. Jekyll &Mr. Hyde, The Mummy, The Creature, King Kong, and so on. My visits never timed out right to get Dracula or the Frankenstein Monster, but still I was so happy with what I could have.
Mr. Murray's Luncheonette eventually closed its doors and our new U.S. Post Office found its home there. But, I will forever remember that feeling of anticipation walking the two blocks from home to see The Monsters, almost averting my eyes until the very last moment when my upward gaze would behold the magazines and the models perched aloft awaiting my careful selection for that day.
Sometimes when the memory is that sweet and warmly remembered, even no longer possessing those prizes in our adulthood is okay when we come together to share these memories together...thanks gang.
Rondo Remembers: Oh No, You Can't Have THAT!
I was pretty lucky growing up liking monster movies. My dad was into 1950s sci-fi. My mom was cool with it....she saw me drawing and thought it was good in that way.
However, there was a line not to be crossed. Some things went into the "taboo" column in my mom's eyes. I think many of us Monster Kids had a few items that we wanted....but our parents just said..."no way."
The first items that come to mind were the black and white horror comic magazines. I would go for these when there was no FAMOUS MONSTERS, FOR MONSTERS ONLY, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN or other movie monster mags on the rack. Mom put the nix on those black and white horror comic magazines like CREEPY, EERIE. Worse yet, when she saw me with one of those really garish ones like WEIRD, TALES OF VOODOO, HORROR TALES, oh, man. I would get, "you're not having these!" I guess when they pictured half naked ladies getting steel spikes hammered into them, fangs bared...while a Frankenstein Monster was cutting off the head of Dracula and there was blood everywhere....Well, maybe that was a little much for Mom.
I think I hid a copy of CREEPY #28 for years, buried in between my FAMOUS MONSTERS. It had a giant bat with a skull head on the cover. That wasn't too bad...but inside a Marie Antoinette decapitation story.
Then, there was stuff on TV....movies like THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM. Well, with a title like that, I didn't have much hope, even though it had Christopher Lee in it. So I never announced that movie I was staying up for one Saturday night in around 1971. I knew better. So I kept the sound low while Mom and Dad were sleeping. I headed that one off at the pass.
There were the deluxe Don Post rubber masks advertised in FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine. No, I COULD NOT have one of those. This time it wasn't because they were gross or unsavory. It was because they were over thirty dollars...a fortune for a monster item back in the late sixties!
Then there was the movies in the theater. I had to hit just the right time, the right mood on Mom. A delicate operation. I succeeded with EQUINOX (that's a whole story in itself), THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and other lighter fare. I got shut down on TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA...the title blew it right away. Then....there was TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Myself and a group of friends from junior high...we were all going to go and meet there. Mom was okay with it, till she saw the ad in the newspaper. I had to pull out, embarrassed to tell my friends that I couldn't go.
But, these cases were few and far between. For the most part I got to see and collect the stuff I loved. But, you never forget those exceptions....
LOL. Oh the memories your memories bring back. I managed to get a couple of the Aurora Monster Scenes kits (Dr. Deadly and one of the lab kits) before my parents heard about all the controversy stirring over those. I was allowed to keep the ones I had, but there would be no more. As for the B&W horror comics, I felt like I was purchasing porn as I smuggled the occasional issue of Vampirella into the house.
-Bob Statzer, Richmond, IN
Enjoyed your musings as always. I'm surprised your mom let you see House that Dripped Blood with that title but didn't let you see Tales from the Crypt. And, yes, very wise to not have mentioned Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism. I remember seeing some of the garish B&W comic-mags you mention when I was a kid and thinking "this is very strange"; I think there was one mag like that called Psycho (!).
Your story of Creepy #28 reminded me of when, in the early 80s, Fangoria had a severed-head-in-the-fridge on it's cover (from Fri. 13th Pt. 2) and I walked up to the grocery store register with this thing partly rolled up like it was a Playboy or something, while my mom was placing groceries on the belt, and I plopped it down behind her on the belt, and she and the cashier were absolutely aghast when they saw it, but then it became funny because the cover was in such bad taste, so I ultimately was allowed to have it. Humor saved the day??
- Nick Posengal, FL
Hi Ron, So as I look back on those wonderful and precious days growing up in Garfield, NJ. I too had the special place, it was not a newsstand per se, but it served sort of the same purpose. It was called Morgan's Candy Store, which was about a 1/2 mile straight down the street from our house at 26 Bergen Street.
Like you I wish I could transport myself and my childhood buddies, Michael, Larry and John back in time to that landmark, which holds a very special place my heart. The time was between 1975-1982, now it is a townhouse, but back then it was little place filled with every candy you could image, from Bubble Gum Cigars to Bazooka Gum, from Lik-M-Aid (Fun Dip) to Twizzlers Strawberry and Chocolate Twists) and from 3 Musketeers to any flavor of Turkish Taffy. You wonder why I had to go to the dentist at least twice a year (LOL).
Then it was the Comic Book rack, they had a metal one, with just about every popular comic book at that time: Superman, Justice League of America, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Batman, Action Comics, Sgt. Fury, Black Lightning, Archie, Josie and the Pussycats, Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, just to name a few. And who would of thought that they would be able to make this comic book characters into Blockbuster films-WOW!
Then to the wooden rack against the wall my favorite place to go especially on Friday's after being paid from my paper route (The Herald News). Bringing in $15-20 bucks a week for a kid in the 1970's, I was loaded-(LOL). So I could afford those monster magazines, which I loved so very much and still do, thanks to my good friend, Ron Adams and Monster Bash Magazine!
My very first Famous Monsters of Filmland was Issue # 114 some irony there considering that issue with Godzilla and Rodan on the cover and featuring: All of Japan's Monsters, is one of most popular and sought after issues, which I still own to this day. Of course there was Vampirella (really hot vampire superheroine) and Monster World. And let us not forget a laugh or two or three with Mad and Cracked Magazine (hysterical).
Morgan's Candy Store, with Eileen and her mother, behind the counter, were so lovely and always greeted me and my friends, with a smile. So thanks for the amazing memories and now collectors items that are in my collection. I hope that there will be a way to return to that little place of paradise, for this Monster Generation Kid.
-Steve Wyka (Wallington NJ)
Hi again Ron.
I just wanted to say thanks again for a good editorial... it struck some memories in this old head of mine as well. I actually think your words are important in today's times as we still need the brakes put on ourselves and our kids and grand kids from time to time. When one thinks back we know why Mom or Dad would say yes to some things and no to others and right or not about certain things, they still needed to show us that at times, there are limits.
Some late comers in the monster mag business had to push the envelope a little with extra blood and gore in order to get sales up and sometimes business doesn't think about the possible consequences that could ensue with impressionable kids. This isn't new because if you look at the evolution of the horror film you will know immediately that as time went on, the blood and gore replaced the story to sell tickets.
I don't think I'd ever try to censor this medium however if we refer to Mom's "No, not that magazine today." then it gives us time and a chance to think about what it is we need in our lives to really enjoy this medium. It may be a little late coming but thanks Mom, you knew best.
-Dave MacDonald, Canada
Like you, I had to tread lightly around certain areas of monster kid-dom. My mom was a single parent from when I was 5 to 10 years old, and I sometimes think the pressure she was under affected her decisions about my love of monsters. Most old b&w movies were fine, but I do remember two instances where she made me shut the TV off. One was during King Kong. I think she’d had a tough day and hearing the sailors screaming was too much. The other movie she made me shut off was Murders In the Rue Morgue. The scene with Lugosi and the screaming woman tied to the beams in the shape of an X was the straw that broke that camel’s back.
Since my parents were divorced, and it wasn’t harmonious, that also could throw a wrench into my monster kid plans. One year I came home from my dad’s with an Aurora model kit (the mummy), and my mom had a fit. It was only years later I began to understand why. There was nothing wrong with it, and she would’ve been fine if SHE’D bought it for me, but because it came from HIM it was deemed bad. That’s a tough tightrope for any kid to walk.
The biggest blowup during that time that involved my parents was over JAWS. I was 10 and wanted to see it, but my mom said no. She was probably right. However, one Sunday we went to our dad’s and he wanted to take us (me and my sister) to the movies. He asked what I wanted to see and I said, “JAWS, but mom says I can’t see it.” My dad said, “I’m your dad and I’ll take you!” I think he also wanted to see the movie, but I understand now that it was also about sticking it to my mom.
Well, the movie terrified me (and all these years later I still love it). When he dropped us off that night at home, my mom asked what we’d done with him. I told her we’d gone to the movies. Then....she asked me what movie. I could’ve said any movie title, but I blurted out JAWS. You can imagine how that went over. She was on the phone with him, and somehow all that anger got turned back on me and my sister. That happens to many children stuck in between parents who are acting like children.
Wow, that was probably more than you wanted to know! I actually had a pretty good childhood, and my love of all things monsters was, for the most part, accepted, and, often encouraged. All these years later I have a movie room full of classic monster memorabilia (including JAWS items), and I’ve enjoyed making homemade monster movies with my family. Sometimes monsters can be pretty good friends.
-Brian Nichols, TX
Loved reading this...like You, I was pretty lucky with both parents not being overly strict about what magazines I would buy. In Jonesboro, Arkansas , FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #59 was the first didn't get the next few until #66 with THE OLD DARK HOUSE on the cover then CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN #19. We moved to San Francisco Bay Area afterwards and could not fin FM anywhere, so mainly bought comics. Found my first Eerie pub (TALES OF VOODOO with a Golem like creature in a cave, water up to his knees holding a very scantily clad blonde) on a trip to Yosemite, than started buying the rest of the Warrens while driving across the country to Norfolk VA where I started finding CREEPY, EERIE and VAMPIRELLA (#47, #41 and #19 respectively). Also found a couple more Eerie pubs and finally another FM (#93)!
Looking back, I guess if I was reading, Mom in particular didn't seem to mind, even when I also started getting Wrestling magazines with the Weston mags standing out (THE WRESTLER, INSIDE WRESTLING, BEN STRONG) and almost always had some poor slob drenched in blood on the covers, normally Bobby Heenan. The only magazine cover I recalled her objecting to somewhat was CREEPY #50 with sexy Vampirella around the table. Risque, perhaps, but at least not PLAYBOY. We moved to Panama Canal a few months later and I hit the Motherlode, finding every magazine/comic I wanted, so good times.
Mom especially liked the old Horror films and I remember sitting up with her watching CREATURE FEATURE out of Oakland CA with Bob Wilkins, but I was forbidden to watch WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE.."That horrible Movie!" and PSYCHO. She did have reservations over me seeing ASYLUM, but gave me the go ahead and really by that time, I was pushing 12 and She probably felt I could deal with it. However, all pleading, scheming and suggesting could not convince her to take me to THE EXORCIST...there was a limit and TE was probably it!
Thanks so much for these Youthful reminiscing...always takes Me back to a simpler time, when our biggest worry was finding our favorite publication.
A Wrinkle, or Room in Time
It seems most of us kids that grew up loving monster movies turned our bedrooms into mini-museums of honor. Tributes to these movies of ours. And now, a slice out of time. I look back at a room I had spent a handful of years in as a kid, maybe it was like yours too.
I had a brown and cream colored cowboy bedspread that showed a cowboy in action on horseback..the image repeated dozens of times in the fabric. I also had a rather coarse feeling green bed cover gridded in yellow stripes. Strange how you remember little things like this...and forget bigger events that might have been happening with the family at the time.
I had some wax dinosaur figures that I had gotten from one of the coin operated presses when we visited a touring Sinclair dinosaur exhibit. One had slightly melted on top of my cream colored table top radio that rested on my night stand. On the wall shelves were Aurora models...some that glowed that eerie green when I shut my light off at night.
I had a strange rubber gooney bird with blue feather fur that my dad had gotten for me somewhere on those shelves too. A large piece of petrified tree that my mom had given me...still have it in my bedroom to this day. A make-shift table desk that my dad had painted bright yellow. On that desk, my beloved manual typewriter that had been a birthday gift. I used it for a lot of articles that I wrote for my junior high school newspaper, The Silhouette. We're talking 1972 and 1973 here. Some articles were co-written with Kevin Slick, a friend to this day. I loved that typewriter. I would also create long "checklists" of horror movies I had seen, or wanted to see.
On the wall, my Frankenstein and Incredible Hulk posters that had been mail ordered. Coming in cool long cardboard tubes. Plus, an awesome KING KONG poster that my grandfather had rescued from the college he worked at after a screening of the film there. It had some color highlights on it that the student organization had painted on.
And, of course, my prized collection of comic books and monster magazines that lay in neat stacks below my desk and on the lower shelf of my night stand. A few Scholastic books were in there too, like THE MUMMY WALK AMONG US and various "real" ghost story and UFO books.
That was my room. I sit here typing and I'm there again. That cream colored radio that had tubes and got hot playing things from the local radio stations like American Pie by Don McLean or The History of The Beatles show on special weekends. I lay on that cowboy bed spread flipping though FAMOUS MONSTERS magazines and looking at the newspaper movie ad clippings of horror films I had Scotch taped on the wall. It was this boy's heaven and I still remember it like yesterday.
...and this submitted:
Above: Ronald Papa of Cranford, NJ in his "Monster Room."
Really enjoyed the story about your room. In 1963, we moved to the "city" (Cherryvale, Kansas, population 3200!) from the farm. My new bedroom was a converted attic, a sort of "L" shaped room at the top of the stairs with no door. Two window afforded a breeze (no A/C!) with one in a gable with a steep slanting ceiling on each side.
Tall metal shelves held my own cream colored radio. My Monster model collection was slim, consisting of Frankenstein, Godzilla, The Munsters living room, and later, the Forgotten Prisoner. All were proudly sisplayed atop those shelves. Below then was the ever present set of World Book Encyclopedias. Next shelf held my most prized possesions...my collection of Monster Magazines: a large stack of Famous Monsters and a few Castle of Frankenstein, Monster Madness and a couple of large format hardback Jules Verne books!
The back corner of the room was often converted with cardboard boxes and soup cans into Dr. Frankensteins laboratory! I would cut holes into the boxes ans insert the cans to look like gauges! The rest of the controls consisted of pencils and Mom's butter knives stabbed into the boxes to make levers! I would spend dark stormy nights during a thunderstorm bringing life, over and over to my Soaky bubble bath Frankenstein Monster! Like you, hours were spent on my bed in front of that gabled window reading and re-reading Famous Monsters magazines, and drooling over the wonderous items in the mail orde pages.
Great memories. Thank you four jump starting my dreams!
-Don Richardson, Chanute, KS
Above: TERROR TALES mag...a little much? Well, yeah maybe...better hide it from Mom!
As always, enjoyed the memories very much! The thing that strikes me is how every boy growing up in the late .60’s and early 70’s had the same parallels. I also had “Weird” and “Terror Tales” hidden. My parents even tolerated “Creepy” and “Eerie,” but I remember my father saying that the others were “just too much.” Makes me wonder how I would feel if my now 12 yr old son brought home a magazine with a female Vampire on the cover, whose torn dress shown boobs popping out and having a stake driven through her skull. Probably the way my parents were in 1970. “Just too much,” lol.
I also had the shelves with my glowing Aurora models, and as I remember at least two of my friends in the neighborhood had the same shelves. My posters were “Dracula” and “Frankenstein.” I remember the thrill of Saturday night was watching Creature Features on Channel 5 in the hopes of seeing the words they would flash at the bottom of the screen at different points in the movie that would form the title of another movie and the race to the phone to be the kid that called it in first (who were we calling late on a Saturday night??) and won a box of Good N Plenty or something not too impressive, lol.
If it wasn’t Creature Features my friends father had reels of spliced together Castle Films, and they were the little cheap silent short ones, like 25 feet, you’d blink and they would be over.
As I sit here in 2020, confined to the house, not able to work, I wonder how I never knew in 1970 that my 25 foot silent version of “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman,” or my shelved rows of glow in the dark King Kong and Dr Jekyll models, or hidden copies of “Terror Tales” (the real terror was the fear my parents would find them!) would represent a place I would give anything to go back to and re-live!!
Thank you for the memories,
Dr. Chris Raymond, NJ
Remembering Paperback Books
While loving to watch the good, the bad and the ugly in monster movies, I naturally extended my interest to paperback books. They were affordable when I was a kid and I could find all kinds of interesting ones. Through the 1960s...right though today my eyes immediately zeroed in on paperbacks with a horror or science fiction theme. The joy of finding a "good one" has never gone away.
I keenly remember finding Christopher Lee on the cover of a paperback at a mall in the early 1970s. It was the paperback edition of the motion picture SCARS OF DRACULA. Wow, what a find.
There was a Hallmark store I used to frequent. Mom might be there to buy some birthday card for a relative and I would quickly shoot to the back of the store where they had wall racks of paperbacks. I had to be quick because Mom might not be too long in getting cards. At that store is where I saw a row of the H.P. Lovecraft paperbacks that featured creepy faces with black background. So cool. I had to get one at a time...since funds for a pre-teen are not easy to come by. I had to wait for the grass to grow tall enough to mow. Then with lawn-cutting money I would be able to get a book.
The olive green-framed covers of the DARK SHADOWS series and the super-dynamic DOC SAVAGE covers by artist James Bama were at the local newsstand in the back...along with all those Gothic romances. The Gothics were too gooey in theme for me; but what cool covers with a girl running from a castle or mansion that had only one light in a window and gnarled trees reaching for her. Ah, but no monster.
Finally, a great used book and comic store opened in State College, PA. It was run by a married couple named Joe and Asher. Later it would be sold to Lane Carpenter who's interest in comics and spooky stuff was so welcome. The store was called Book Swap. There I latched on to every Robert E. Howard CONAN book I Could find. They had interesting purple edged pages and those Frazetta covers. I also loaded up on the Ace paperback Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. Pellucidar, Mars, Venus...and, of course, Tarzan books.
From the school Scholastic books I ordered all things spooky and was able to get classics. DRACULA by Bram Stoker, FRANKENSTEIN by Shelley, Poe collections and many others. In fact, I just re-read my copy of a collection of mummy stories: THE MUMMY WALKS AMONG US. A Scholastic book.
There was a another used book store I located in Grove City, PA when visiting my relatives. It was a concrete block, unattractive former gas station! The place was loaded with unorganized stacks and stacks of paperbacks. Thousands. What a treasure hunt that place was.
And...there's nothing like he smell of an old, yellowed paperback or comic book. Ahhh, the memories.
*Special note...I had mentioned Lane Carpenter and his Book Swap store I used to hang out at in the 1970s...well, my ol' buddy Kevin Slick has comlimented my ramblings with these photos of that very store, Lane and his dog Shaffer that was ever-present at the store as well...such great, great memories:
Yes the paperback section always held wonders. Frazetta covers, doc Savage, Ray Bradbury, and tons of Sci fi. keep up the great work.
-Larry Burbridge Woodstock, IL
Rondo Remembers: Made-For-TV Horrors
In the 1970s there developed a product that was the perfect fill-in during the week. Something that would hold us over until the weekend. It was the made-for-TV horror movie. Mom and Dad would usually watch them too.
They seemed to just pour out in the 1970s and they were a great way to end an evening of homework. They usually started at around 9PM and I had to get permission to stay up an extra half hour (school nights) to see these movies through the end.
The biggest impact of these made-for-TV horrors had to be THE NIGHT STALKER in 1972. And, one particular scene got me good. It was when the powerful vampire is caught stealing blood from a hospital and literally throws a guy through an upper floor window like he was a rag doll. I thought, whoah. Not only is this guy supernatural, scary, drinks blood...but he's as strong as a superman. That was one monster not to be messed with.
There were so many of these in the 1970s and early 1980s. THE HOUSE THAT WOULDN'T DIE (scared me), THE HORROR AT 37,000 FEET (scared me), NIGHT GALLERY (The pilot movie...scared me), THE NIGHT STRANGLER, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, TRILOGY OF TERROR (Zuni doll), SALEM'S LOT (Ahhhhhh, the kid vampire at the window!) and so on.
Now GARGOYLES got me for a special reason that was a little too close to home. It featured these big Gargoyle creatures and in one scene a gargoyle (thump!) lands on the roof of the family's station wagon. They couldn't get away! What electrified me like a lightning bolt is that my family had a station wagon too (a silver-gray 1967 Dodge). Needless to say, I thought of that the next time I was in the backseat of the car, looking up.
Made-for-TV horror movies...their own little sub-genre of the creepy movies we love.
I agree...1970's made for TV horror movies are the best!
There were three that REALLY got to me when I was a kid...Salem's Lot, Gargoyles, and Curse of the Black Widow.
Curse of the Black widow is solely responsible for a lifelong fear of spiders. I'll never forget the image of that huge, shiny black spider scurrying down the hallway of the burning house.
I painted this tribute bust from Salem's Lot a couple years ago...it's one of my favorite pieces in my collection! (Above left pic! -Ron)
Above: Kim Darby, an alien, and William Shatner in the great Made-For-TV movie THE PEOPLE (1972).
Dear Mr. Adams,
This newsletter struck a chord with me. "Gargoyles" was one of my personal favorites, as was "Dark Night of the Scarecrow." I would add "Stranger in Our House," This House Possessed," and "The People," which was produced by Francis Ford Coppola!
Keep up the good work...
For me, The Night Stalker and it’s sequel, The Night Strangler were the best. I can watch those 2 Blu-ray movies over and over. The Night Stalker was another screen play written by the great Richard Matheson. Darren McGavin and Barry Atwater created scenes that nightmares are made of ! Atwater portrayed a superhuman, evil vampire.The scariest thing about Atwater’s vampire character was that he didn’t speak. He didn’t want to boast of his power or tell you of his plans... he just hissed as he killed you !
For fun I did this cartoon/drawing of McGavin and Atwater because I love these characters (pictured above -Ron)! To all of my Monster Bash friends, I can’t wait to see you this summer at Bash so we can discuss YOUR favorite TV horror movie !
Take care... Dave Heywood, FL
Mysteriously missing made-for-TV fright film 'A Cold Night's Death" starring Eli Wallach and Robert Culp about two research scientists holed up in some remote arctic research station experimenting with a variety of apes in order to determine their awareness capabilities.
-Robert Giglio, Pittsburgh, PA
Above is one I've heard about, but have never seen. It seems to be one of the most obscure made-for-TV horrors along with THE MUD MONSTER. I'd love to see a release of some of these that haven't, officially, seen the light of day. -Ron
Fantasy Spectacles on Sundays
I was never into sports that much as a kid, well, I take that back. During baseball season I liked listening to the Pittsburgh Pirates on the radio and collecting 8X10 color photographs of those Pirates of the 1970s that were given out with "fill-ups" at a local gas station. Those were the days of gas station attendants that would fill up your tank for you, and check your oil. Remember the long black snake hoses that would "ding" as Dad drove across them. It would alert the attendant that there was a car to service. A grease stained red or blue rag would hang out of the guy's back pocket.
But, I was less interested in football. So when Sundays rolled around and I was home or visiting grandparents that we frequently did, I really wasn't watching too much football. Before or after games there was something that interested me more on TV. It seems many networks and local stations would play fantasy spectacles and epics. Sunday movies would air like JASON AND THE ARGONAUNTS, JACK THE GIANT KILLER, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF BROTHERS GRIMM, THE MAGIC SWORD or THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD.
Those movies had the adventure, magic...and sometimes monsters that I was ever on the lookout for. I would be glued to the TV as my father or grandfather awaited the beginning of a game. Then when football was on, or golf....I would pull out a copy of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine or a STRANGE TALES Marvel Comic that featured Dr. Strange and Nick Fury.
Another place I saw those fantasy epics would be at "Kiddie Matinees" in a local theater. They would re-issue some of those for Saturday and Sunday shows aimed at kids. There was nothing like seeing the giant creatures of stop-motion Dynamation master Ray Harryhausen on a giant screen. Even that fire-breathing dragon from Bert I. Gordon in THE MAGIC SWORD was simply amazing on a big screen when I was about 7 years old.
There was color and pageantry of far-off lands where magical things happened and there was action and mystery at every open market bazaar. That was the stuff of dreams and wonder.
Above: MEDUSA VS. THE SON OF HERCULES.
Sundays did seem to be the perfect day for fantasy films. It was on a Sunday afternoon broadcast that I got my first look at JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. It was on a Sunday afternoon that my dad took my sister and I to see the then-new GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD.
And, although my memories of this are vague because I was just a little kid at the time, I remember Sunday mornings found one of our local stations running the SONS OF HERCULES package of syndicated films. This was a package of Italian sword & sandal films about various characters that, with a little tweaking and new opening narration, were gathered together as an "instant franchise" under the SONS OF HERC banner. Depending on when and where you saw them, you might get the whole film in one setting, or it might be shown in installments. In my area, these ran early Sunday morning, before the family went to church. I remember the MEDUSA AGAINST THE SONS OF HERCULES film the most, because the creature in it scared the crap out of this 4 or 5 year-old. And the MOLE MEN entry was cool, too, as the underground dwellers turned into skeletons (ala John Carradine's Dracula) when the sun hit them.
Revisiting some of these today, I find my dim memories are often better than the actual movies. (But I'll watch Hercules battle the Moon Men any day of the week!)
All the best,
Whenever Lon Chaney, Jr. is on the screen, I can't help but follow him, even if the action is taking place with other actors.
I always thought Lon Chaney, Jr. was just cool. It probably started with THE WOLF MAN (1941) on some Saturday evening in the late 1960s. I'm sure I saw it first on CREATURE FEATURE on WNEW coming out of New York. I also saw it on Pittsburgh's CHILLER THEATER with host Bill Cardille at some point. The pathos and empathy I felt for his Larry Talbot is probably what grabbed me first.
But regardless of whether it's THE WOLF MAN, the great OF MICE AND MEN (1939), his sheriff in HIGH NOON or down into the lower tier of entertainment like DR. TERROR'S GALLERY OF HORRORS or DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, it's "The Lonster" that steals the scenes.
The shouting Cajun in THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE, "The Butcher" in INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN, a cured werewolf in HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945)...he always owned the role. You can see that Lon Chaney, Jr. fist clenching even breaking through when he was covered in a Kharis, The Mummy, get-up. His explosive power that was in full view for THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, SON OF DRACULA or when he's confronted with a wolf masquerade mask in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. He just seemed like the loud, bodacious and honestly "real" guy that I would have liked to hang out with over a pizza in a local pub.
I remember one hot July day in 1973 when I was in the passengers seat of our gray-silver Dodge station wagon. Dad was behind the wheel. We were on North Atherton Street in State College, Pennsylvania heading for Dean's Market. I was listening to the radio...maybe a Mott the Hoople song playing. There was a break for news at the top of the hour. The newscast ended with a sad note, that actor Lon Chaney, Jr. had passed away. It hit me in the face. I'd never get to meet this guy that I loved watching in movies on TV.
I occasionally find a movie or old television show that I have never seen before, and there he is. And, I can never get tired of seeing him again and again in THE WOLF MAN. So, he's still around, for all of us to view in films. Long live "The Lonster."
Truly, Kent R. Daluga, Zio, IL
I really enjoyed your reminiscing of Lon Chaney Jr and his screen presence. You are so right that he commanded a scene. Not only was he the only Universal actor to play all four of the classic monsters (Wolfman,Dracula,Frankenstein’s Monster and the Mummy), but he appeared in so many other great horror films. In everyone of those movies, it was Chaney that you remember. His face, his voice and his acting.
I also remember Lon Chaney Jr for all of his guest spots on TV westerns. It seemed like he was on all of them! I recall watching him on : The Rifleman, Rawhide, Wagon Train, Wanted:Dead or Alive, Bat Masterson and 2 episodes of Have Gun-Will Travel. In one episode of Have Gun (written by Gene Roddenberry), Chaney shared a prison cell with Paladin. Chaney used his bare hands and ripped out some bars in the prison cell window. Lon was too big to fit through the window, but was glad to see Paladin escape. It was a very touching scene.
Now who could forget Lon Chaney in the TV episode of Route 66 ? It’s fun to watch Lon and his pals get together again in the episode...Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing.
Ron, you may recall that I just ordered the DVD “Of Mice and Men”from Creepy Classics for my daughter. She had to read it for her high school English class. I wanted her to watch it after reading the book to see the characters brought to life. After it ended she looked at me and said “Wow, that big guy who played Lennie was really good”. I just smiled and thought, well the Lonster did it again!
Take care and I’ll see everyone soon at Monster Bash...
Dave Heywood, New Port Richey, FL
In A&C Meet Frank, Lon really brings a heroism to the character, is the heroic character in the film, he brings a depth to a comedy film - he's the one who's really trying to stop Drac and co., and indeed he sacrifices himself at the end going out the window after Bat/Drac. He was a great actor and would have been great at Bash.
Nick Posengal, St. Petersburg, FL
Read more flashbacks, CLICK HERE!