Showing posts with label childhood tv. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childhood tv. Show all posts

Thursday, November 01, 2012

passing thoughts as halloween passes by

Quick, name things you feared as a child.

For me, it was comic books, films, or TV shows involving transformation sequences or body horror. These scared the beejezus out of me, even if the transformation was merely implied and not shown, such as a deceased Chevy Chase going back to Earth as adorable mutt Benji in Oh Heavenly Dog (a movie which scared Roger Ebert, for other reasons).  At home, I couldn't handle the transition from Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk.

Hearing the Hulk theme music was the cue to scoot elsewhere. Why this shook me up was a good question - maybe I thought it was horrifying that a poor schlep could turn into a raging beast, that he was going through something so unpleasant I didn't want it to happen to me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

you gotta have art

This is a friendly public service announcement to those in the world who find any kind of art, fine or not, unworthy of public support. Perhaps the cold-hearted, controversy-seeking executives of Sun Media (whose coverage of a play about a terrorism suspect assisted the federal government's last-minute decision to pull funding for Summerworks and whose TV channel went off the deep end its in attack on arts funding) had parents who determined that "you gotta have art" was a dangerous message to impart onto their budding shapers of public opinion.

Based on the song "Heart" from the musical Damn Yankees, the "You Gotta Have Art" campaign was a Detroit television staple in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Marvelling at the Diego Rivera frescos on your way into the Detroit Institute of Arts might make you dance too.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

visit us, you'll really like us

When watching late-night reruns of SCTV on Windsor’s CBC outlet during our teens, Amy and I expected that most of our laughs would come from the fake ads on the Canadian comedy classic, not the real ones during commercial breaks. One exception was Woody Pontiac, located across the border in Hamtramck (a suburb of Detroit surrounded on all but one side by the city of Detroit). Their pitchman was dealer Woodrow W. Woody (1908-2002), an elderly gentleman whose on-air demeanour came from an earlier era. Mr. Woody wasn’t a hard sell salesman, nor did he use gimmicks like flying around in a cape (hi Mel Farr!). No, Mr. Woody reached out to potential customers by stressing his long involvement in the car business as a genial, slightly doddering old man whose eyes were fixed on a teleprompter might do.

We imitated his exit lines for years afterward. The cheerful reassurance we’d like his dealership. The quaintness of seeing any TV pitchman from the late 1980s/early 1990s say to viewers “so long, be seeing you.” A wave goodbye to the audience that grew increasingly rubbery. Missing from this clip is an exit line he added on during his last few years on the air—“drive carefully please.”

Woody opened his Pontiac dealership in 1940. As an article in Ward’s Dealer Business noted, it wasn’t an easy start:

He applied for the Pontiac franchise in Hamtramck in 1939. At first the automaker turned him down. The Pontiac zone manager didn't expect a person of Lebanese descent to be able to thrive in downtown Hamtramck, which at the time had the highest concentrated Polish population outside of Poland.

"I said I'm dating a Polish girl and if you give me the franchise, I'll marry her," recalls Mr. Woody, who has been married to Anna for more than 50 years. "The guy started laughing and said, 'Boy, if you want it that bad, you can have it.'"

So, in January of 1940, Woody Pontiac Sales opened and sold 200 cars in its first year, advertising vehicles for $25 above cost. The next year he sold 700 to become the second-largest Pontiac dealer in Michigan.

Woody remained in the auto business until 2000, when the 92-year-old closed the lot. Even though he wasn’t personally selling cars at that point, he continued to come into the dealership five days a week to greet customers (I wonder if anyone asked him to imitate his ads on their way out of the lot office). The dealership stood vacant until it was demolished in 2009. Woody Plaza, which includes a Michigan Department of Human Services office, opened on the site last year.

Back then, we felt we were watching a semi-senile old geezer. After rediscovering Woody's ads, I find his awkwardness and soft sell approach charming in an age of tightly crafted, merciless pitchery. - JB

Thursday, March 04, 2010

at long last...

...Retrontario has dug up an ad I've been searching for on YouTube for years. If you were exposed to Detroit television during the 1980s, odds are good you can hum a few bars of the cowboy's jingle (and sing the missing "here dawg, come on dawg" lyric—there were several variations of this cartoon over the years).

As far as 1980s Detroit car dealers go, I'm still waiting for footage of Walt Lazar ("he's a super, super dealer"), Pointe Dodge (no catchphrase, just the same non-descript balding guy in every ad), Bill Rowan ("Noooobody. Old Bill wants the money"), and Woodrow Woody (doddering elderly dealer) to make their way onto the interwebs*.

*Before anyone asks, Mel Farr Superstar is available for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

but did the chopper jump the shark?

Because the only way to teach American children of the late 1970s/early 1980s about good dental exercise is to employ a Fonzie wannabe.


Speaking of Fonzie, while researching a recent Torontoist piece on the early days of CityPulse, I stumbled upon this picture in the Toronto Sun from the episode of Happy Days that inspired the expression "jump the shark" (Wikipedia has a cleaner version of this picture).

Photo originally published in the September 1, 1977 edition of the Toronto Sun. - JB

Thursday, January 14, 2010

a victorious tiger

Thinking about my aunt prompted me to search on YouTube for the animated tiger graphic WDIV used for their Tigers broadcasts during the 1980s (she watched the game with Dad and I if one was on).

If the Tigers won, the clip above was used as the broadcast drew to a close. If they lost, a whimpering tiger with an icepack on its head let out a sad meow, followed by a grumble worthy of Muttley/Mumbly. So far, no sign of the losing cartoon online.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1,631: geometry of circles, with a dash of frazzle

Watching early episodes of Sesame Street with friends this weekend led to lazy Sunday surfing for classic Children's Television Workshop material. Two picks for your pleasure: the first likely my first exposure to Philip Glass, the second featuring the growly genius of Frazzle. - JB

Friday, September 25, 2009

1,610: why do alien warlords like levi's?

Another example of YouTube proving long-term childhood memories are correct: a Levi's ad that stuck in my head for years featuring a slightly creepy alien warrior who uttered "LE-VI-ZUH!" a lot and chuckled at the end of the commercial. I'm not surprised that I don't remember the wussy human.

The warrior made at least one other appearance, shown above. The jean-makers animated ads from the late 70s/early 80s are stunning in their design, rotoscoping (basing the animation on human models) and overall quirkiness (A farmer who shows great pride in his denim crop? How would jeans have fit humans if we had physically evolved in different ways?). - JB

Monday, June 22, 2009

president's choice memories of toronto childhood television

One of the things I loved about visiting Toronto as a child was watching television at my grandparents. The kiddie shows were completely different than those available in the Windsor area, so I'd glue myself to the TV before the day's activities. This exposure came in handy years later in conversations with those who grew up around the GTA—no head scratching on my part whenever anyone mentioned Commander Tom or Rocket Robin Hood.

While looking for material for this post, I stumbled upon a series I'd forgotten everything about except for the theme music, The Wonderful Stories of Professor Kitzel. Figures I'd watch a cartoon about history. I also loved watching Once Upon a Time...Man around this time.

Tales of The Wizard of Oz was an early Rankin-Bass production, utilizing CBC vets for the voices as they would a few years later for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It also appears as if the persona of the Wizard was based on one of the first casting choices for the 1939 movie classic, W.C. Fields.

One show I wasn't crazy about was Uncle Bobby. Even when I was in single digits, Bimbo the Birthday Clown was obviously a cheap cutout whose voice and manner were beyond the pale. Mom couldn't believe her eyes either. Creeeepy...

DISCLAIMER: JB's Warehouse and Curio Emporium will not accept any responsibility for medical disorders caused by exposure to cardboard clowns with mechanically-processed voices.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Today being this site's fifth anniversary, we present a couple of classic clips from Sesame Street about the number five. The first comes from the "Jazzy Spies" series of numeral cartoons produced for the show's first season, featuring the vocal stylings of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane (insert your own joke about drugs and early Sesame Street).

As for clip two, remember this piece of wisdom: carrying five large baked goods down a staircase can be hazardous to your health.

Both videos loaded by mstatz

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

hey, this place is a zoo!

Today, another ad burned in the brain of anyone who watched Detroit television in the 1980s. To the strains of the theme from It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the residents of the Detroit Zoo gear up for another day of curious onlookers.

I usually encountered this ad while watching cartoons on Detroit's independent stations. Even as a kid I could sense which non-network channels were better than others. For the uninitiated, here are quick sketches of the three main indies during the 1980s:

Channel 50 (WKBD): The classiest of the bunch. Had a sister station in Chicago. Usually ran the better syndicated shows, movies and cartoon packages. Produced its own newscast, anchored for years by Amyre Makupson. Ran the odd editorial in between sitcom reruns. Carried Red Wings and Pistons games. Endless Star Trek reruns. Later an affiliate for Fox, UPN and CW.

Channel 20 (WXON): Production values were a step down from Channel 50 (weaker graphics, grainier station IDs, etc). Endless reruns of Leave it to Beaver, The Addams Family, Adam-12 and Blondie movies. Ran Hammer horror flicks on Saturday afternoons. Use a cheap cake to list kids' birthdays. Turned over part of its schedule to a pay TV service (ON-TV). Later an affiliate for WB and MYTV.

Channel 62 (WGPR): Very low budget, akin to public access cable on the open airwaves. Mostly in-house productions or the cheapest syndicated programming available. Auctioned items during movie commercial breaks. Home of The New Dance Show. Not much in the way of children's programming. Later an affiliate for CBS after their affiliate switched to Fox.

The only visit I recall was a field trip in Kindergarten, though there may have been some family outings. All I remember are the ride over and eating a rare sno-cone. I suspect that my soon-to-develop uneasy relationship with the animal kingdom didn't place any zoo on my list of must-visit childhood destinations...or I was content to stare at the exotic birds and go for quick horse rides at Colasanti's Tropical Gardens.

Considering that school trip was over a quarter of a century ago, I may be overdue for a visit. The only danger would be the temptation to recite lines from the ad near certain animals or show Melvin the right direction to run in. - JB

Monday, December 24, 2007


Since today is Christmas Eve, it seems appropriate to sample part of a childhood favourite, 1978's Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. This harks from the days when Mr. Hooper was alive and well and nobody had heard of Elmo. The sample below includes one of my sister's favourite segments - Oscar the Grouch doing some amazing stuntwork after being flung off the ice at an arena.

There's also a great running gag involving Cookie Monster's attempts to contact Santa Claus. If at first you try pencil, then typewriter and fail at both, why not place a direct call to the North Pole?

You can find the rest of the special sprinkled throughout YouTube.


The Warehouse now takes its holiday break. There might be a posting or two over the next week, but chances are regular programming will resume just before 2008 arrives. - JB

Monday, December 10, 2007


First off, a request - does anyone have any suggestions for Toronto neighbourhoods currently well lit/decorated for the holidays? I'm looking for areas to snap some photos. I know that perennial best bets include Lansdowne north of Bloor and the Bloor West Village strip, while a brief drive last night around Dufferin and Dundas showed promise.


Some readers may have been puzzled by Friday's entry. After an inspiring battle against cancer, site contributor Ken Trueman passed away last week.

The funeral was held on Saturday. Though there were many tears shed, it was a joyous celebration of his life, full of laughter and love. In some ways, it reminded me of Dad's sendoff - neither of them wanted family and friends to go through a grim procedural. You have to admire someone who departed this world to the full version of the Blue Jays theme song instead of a funeral dirge.

Your family and friends will have many memories to share for years to come.


After a post-service drink, I went to a Christmas party some friends threw. I overindulged in cookies and other holiday treats, some reminiscent of Mom's (I may ask the hosts to bring some goodies over the next time they come for dinner...). Midway through the night we played a board game called Battle of the Sexes, where my ability to retain useless information suddenly became useful. The object was to ask a male team questions females would know the answers to and vice versa.

The female team was stunned when I knew the answer to this question: who narrated the opening of Days of Our Lives?

I remember this clip from childhood channel flipping when I'd alternate between the only options for afternoon viewing, soap operas and educational programming. It always struck me as slightly odd that the star of the show would introduce themselves out of character in the opening credits - the closest example I've seen recently were the program lead-ins used on CBC.

Stumbling through other old soap intros on YouTube, I noticed many shows used cliched theme music straight out of 1930s radio broadcasts deep into the 1970s. Were there ironclad contracts with the organists union? - JB

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Tyler 8-7100. WE DO GOOD WORK.

If you grew up within antenna or cable distance of Detroit from the 1960s onward, there's a good chance that phone number and slogan are burned in your brain, thanks to Belvedere Construction.

I don't recall seeing today's YouTube find when it originally aired, though there were so many ads featuring Mr. Belvedere (aka Maurice Lezell) they may have blurred in my brain. Note the painters cap and the bumper sticker on the belly of the robot. Perhaps its mouth doubled as a credit card reader or spit out estimates for good work.

According to a 2002 Metro Times article, Lezell named his company after both a street in Detroit and the character played by Clifton Webb in a popular late 1940s movie series...which later inspired the 1980s sitcom. While searching for more of the classic Detroit commercials, I stumbled upon this odd club for kids...

I'm sure that admitting that you were a member of this fan club was a one-way ticket to a schoolyard pounding. - JB

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


From way back in their PBS days (1980 to be exact), Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert explain why they gave Halloween a thumbs up and its imitators/ripoffs thumbs down.

As I've mentioned before (#1,195), I became a movie buff at an early age and dimly remember watching everyone's favourite dueling thumbs while they were on public television. I also recall not being too impressed when they suddenly disappeared from Sneak Previews (Jeffery Lyons and Neal Gabler were their replacements, the latter later replaced by Michael Medved). Same thing happened years later when they left their first syndicated show (At The Movies), though Rex Reed could be amusing.

I also suspect I may have been a more articulate film critic at age 7 than now. Other kids thought I was going to grow up to be the next Ebert. Certainly my bulk was headed in the right direction...but the closest I ever came was the theatre beat in university, a job made easier by knowing a large mumber of drama students. Nowadways, you can't get me to reveal my favourite movies, since I hate having narrow down the options or worry about not coming up with the right words that pinpoint my likes and dislikes.

If you ever meet me, don't ask me for a top 5 list. Please don't ask! - JB

Sunday, July 29, 2007


If you grew up with Detroit television from the mid-1980s, today's clip is an ad you inevitably ran across. This Father & Son campaign is still going strong, though our handymen are now rendered in goofy 3-D computer animation. - JB

Friday, April 27, 2007


If you are of a certain age, there is a good chance your grasp of French, however limited it may be, was helped by a talking pineapple and singing skeletons.

Yes folks, we have stumbled upon a 1980s TVOntario show whose theme song, once you've heard it, will never, ever, fully escape your brain.

Ladies and gentlemen, we present the opening minutes of episode one of Téléfrancais. Bonjour, allo, salut!

I recall that by the time this was shown to my class, we may have been too long in the tooth to appreciate Ananas with anything other than mockery or looks of disbelief. Sol from Parlez-Moi was more our speed. Then again, characters developed to teach French to Ontario students tended to be bizarre or off-kilter (70s-granny-clothes-wearing mice travelling from Chicoutimi to Rimouski, constant references to "Roc LeRoc" in the Vive Le Français series, etc). The strangest textbook I remember came in high school, a reader where nearly all stories ended with the protagonist's death or other unhappy circumstances (examples: man goes to a deluxe Mexican resort where people go to end it all, a lousy detective shown falling out of a window after the last panel, etc).

Even our teacher made fun of those tragic tales.

One other odd thing: in the 1970s and 1980s, TVO had a habit of inserting singing skeleton puppets into their educational shows. Mr. Bones from Readalong was a much hepper cat than Les Squellettes, if only because he was less beholden to musical trends of the time. - JB

Monday, July 17, 2006

vintage highland appliance ad of the day

Dipping into the well of commercials from my childhood...

Highland Appliance was a Detroit-based chain known for their goofy commercials that had a habit of burning themselves into the brain. Whether it was Benjamin Franklin dispensing the immortal phrase "never eat spinach with a stranger" for the President's Day Sale or the electrical graphics used for the "thing" sale, it was hard to ignore Highland, even if customers eventually did (the chain went bankrupt in the early 90s).

And then there was our Cold War-era pal Plotchney...

I lost count of the number of times friends dropped the line "50 watts per channel, babycakes", with faux Russian accents, into conversation. Try it, or "where's Plotchney?" on anyone who grew up with Detroit television stations.

Note the price of the VCR in this commerical.

Now if only I could find "here dog, c'mon dog", "Walt Lazar Chevrolet is the super, super dealer", Mel Farr Superstar, the Dietrich's Furs mime, "who's your uncle in the furniture business? (UNCLE ROBINSON!)", Crazy Clarence from Wonderland Music, "Ollie's Oops Sale" and any el cheapo ad from WGPR Channel 62...

Shouldn't leave Windsor pitchmen out of this either. There was Marathon Ford, who offered free jars of jam from the dealer's mother with a vehicle purchase. A.J. "Gus" Gervais Furs, where "manufacturing makes the big difference!". Helmut, the dweeby proprietor of the House of Waterbeds. My Place, a plus-size womens' clothing store, where "God made you just the way you are - make your place My Place". Ken Knapp Ford, in "beautiful downtown Essex", even though the actual core is 1-2 kms down Talbot Street.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

toledo children's television department

Post revised October 19, 2009

Amherstburg's geographical location made it a mecca for picking up TV stations without cable. With strong reception from Windsor, Detroit and Toledo, plus the occasional burp from Sarnia or Cleveland, we didn't need no stinkin' converter box. An antenna (living room) and mega-bunny ears (basement, later my bedroom) were our passports to home entertainment. This meant a large variety of kiddie shows to choose from.

On Sunday mornings, channel 11 (WTOL, Toledo's CBS affiliate) ran the locally-produced Patches & Pockets. I remember little about the show, other than discovering years later the theme was Bernard Herrmann's overture from Citizen Kane!

Here's an experiment, humble readers - walk into your local TV station wearing clown costumes, pitch your idea for a zero-budget kids show and see what happens...if you make it past security. According to one defunct Toledo television history website, that's more or less the story of how Patches & Pockets reached the airwaves.

Some background on the duo from the October 4, 1976 edition of The Bryan Times, when they were in the Ohio town to address a Christian fellowship:

Sue Donner and Beve Schwind...have appeared [for] the past five years as [the] Toledo area's foremost children's personalities. As Patches and Pockets they represent two rag dolls with lots of heart, on a program based on the Golden Rule. They write all of their own material. In real life they are both wives and homemakers who share a spirit filled ministry of love and laughter...

(I don't recall the show being preachy, unless any Biblical references flew over my widdle head)

Note the slower, relaxed pace that wouldn't fly on most kiddie shows today...or didn't on tomorrow's featured kiddie show. - JB