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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Making another deposit in the memory bank

One of the [many] reasons I keep up this little slice of virtual real estate is so I'll have a place to write down things that I might otherwise forget to share with my kids (or that they might forget that I've shared).

This morning I found something in my inbox purporting to contain "all of my childhood memories in one email".  While that proved to be a bit of an exaggeration, it did contain pictures of a nice collection of things that were certainly still very much part of popular culture when I was a kid (I've added a few at the end that they missed):

45 rpm spindles, Green Stamps, Metal Ice cube trays, Beanie and Cecil, Roller-skate keys, Cork pop guns, Marlin Perkins, Drive in Movies, Drive  in restaurants, Car Hops, Studebakers, Topo Gigio, Washtub wringers, The Fuller Brush Man, Sky King, Reel-To-Reel tape recorders, Tinker-toys, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, 15 cent hamburgers, 5 cent packs of baseball cards, Penny candy, 25 cent a gallon gasoline, Jiffy Pop popcorn, 5 cent stamps, Gum wrapper chains, Chatty Cathy dolls, 5 cent Cokes, Speedy Alka-Seltzer , Falstaff Beer, Burma Shave signs, Brownie camera, Flash bulbs, TV Test patterns, Old Yeller,  Chef Boy-AR-dee, Fire escape tubes, Timmy and Lassie, 'Ding Dong - Avon calling' , Brylcreem ("Just a dab'll do ya"), Davy Crockett hats (with the raccoon tail), Pendleton Jackets, Banana bike seats, Ape Hanger handlebars, Wonderama, Howdy Doody Time, "I pledge allegiance...", home-made kites, home movies and slide shows, Polaroid Land Cameras, "It's not nice to fool mother nature", playing 'Cowboys & Indians' and 'Cops and Robbers', TV Dinners (with 'tater tots'), Square Dancing in school, putting a penny on the arm of a phonograph to keep it from skipping,  Sears & Roebuck catalogs, Woolworth lunch counters, Rexall stores, 'Fountain Service', PF Flyers, Mumps, Captain Kangaroo, ...

Feel free to add your own memories to the list.

Anyway, the reason I've shared this today is that the bit about 'Car Hops' and 'Drive-In restaurants' got me thinking about a hall where I used to play in my previous life as a club-date trombonist.

Without mentioning the hall by name, suffice it to say this venue was one of the least favorite of most of the guys in the band (in the music industry!).  Aside from the fact that the place was owned by the mob and that musicians were treated like dirt there (one band leader was even hospitalized!), it was geographically undesirable... located way in hell over in Staten Island; a schlep from just about everywhere!

I think it puzzled the band's office staff that I always seemed delighted when they told me I had a gig there.  In fact, on more than one occasion I tried to switch with another musician so I could play there and not in one of the 'better halls' in a more desirable location.

The reason for my preference was not the fake marble or tacky decor.  It wasn't the ham-handed, neckless staff or the bandstand set-up between the two main doors.  It was the fact that the place was located just down the block from an A&W Root Beer joint (one of the few left in the region), and they were open nearly all night! 

This meant that no matter how late the gig ended, or what a blood-bath it had been, I knew I could stop off afterward for an ice cold, frosty mug of fresh Root Beer!  It didn't matter that I probably looked foolish sitting in the neon-lit booth quaffing my Root Beer in a Tuxedo.  The promise of that frosty drink kept me focused throughout the gig, and the lingering taste of sarsaparilla and wintergreen made my two hour drive home to Connecticut pass in a flash.

I hope I didn't bore you too badly today. Sometimes a guy's gotta make a deposit in the memory bank... before the memories all fly away. 

Big hat tip to my friend Karl Newman who sent me the original email that triggered this wool gathering session.

Posted by David Bogner on March 2, 2010 | Permalink


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My pleasure. We still have A&W down here. So if you want a nice cold root beer after a hard night of playing your trombone behind chicken wire, come on down. :)

Posted by: Karl Newman | Mar 2, 2010 10:57:22 AM

The first and ONLY time I drank Root Beer was in Fairport NY. I'm sorry, but it must be something you have to be raised on, because I couldn't even swallow it. You probably feel the same way about Marmite:-)

Posted by: Noa | Mar 2, 2010 11:17:39 AM

Cute. I feel the same way about having a gig in Philly in the spring/summer. It's a chance to grab a Rita's Water Ice

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Mar 2, 2010 2:58:28 PM

A little too cold around here to act on the trip down memory lane (hurry up spring!), but we have an old A&W drive-in that's been converted to an independent restaurant (franchise cost, I suppose). Anyway, they still have the frosty mugs of root beer... only drive-in I've ever seen with people waiting for a spot to park!

Posted by: Jethro | Mar 2, 2010 4:25:39 PM

thanks for the reminder! - wish you would have written about this last week- had my first gig in staten island in 10 years - totally forgot about the root beer- i may have to drive home thru staten island today

Posted by: roberti | Mar 2, 2010 4:30:53 PM

I have used an A&W mug as my drinking mug for the lasst 30 years. You can get your own at: http://www.awmerchandise.com/

Posted by: Raz | Mar 2, 2010 6:17:00 PM

You need to go visit a Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop store.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 2, 2010 7:42:14 PM

Thanks for reminding me I'm an AK.

Posted by: Sona | Mar 2, 2010 10:34:22 PM

Schilo's Deli in San Antonio, Texas, was established by a German family and brewed beer in the restaurant until the dark years of prohibition. During prohibition, it brewed root beer. Now it brews both.

To my taste, Schilo's beats A&W, but your mileage may vary. Give it a go if you are ever in San Antonio.

Posted by: antares | Mar 3, 2010 6:11:55 AM

There is always time for a frosty mug of A&W... especially in the establishment itself. Although Palm Springs' Tyler's Burgers downtown is very fine for sliders, the original A&W that was located in that phone-booth of a diner was (in my own eyes) more valuable. A block over and down from the 31 Flavors I worked in as my first "real" job slinging ice cream, the A&W was a favorite haunt on lunch/dinner breaks. Sigh.

There are a couple modern A&W joints in the valley. But too far off the beaten path for me to get to, much.

Cheers. And -- you got a little foam on your lip, there. ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Mar 3, 2010 6:35:34 AM

I read that whole list of Old Crap and my first thought was, "Good Gawd, Bogner's an old goat." My second thought was, "Hey, I remember every single thing on that list... and then some."

I guess it's official: We are our grandparents now.

Posted by: Elisson | Mar 3, 2010 7:59:58 AM

What does it mean when you don't have any recollections of these items, but know what they are? Does that mean we are only our parents, not grandparents? Also, Staten AAWLAND has a different connotation for me - my dad worked there as a principal for 18 years. My sister was know as "Mr. Fischman's DAAWWWTER".

Posted by: Aharon | Mar 3, 2010 3:04:31 PM

I clicked back to your post about your previous life as a club-date trombonist. It was from before my Treppenwitz-reading days. Beautifully written - thanks for linking it.

And BTW - next week I am playing my first gig in Cordon Bleu in over 20 years. I didn't even know the place still existed.

Posted by: psachya | Mar 3, 2010 11:44:33 PM

Do you think A&W makes the best root beer?

I LOVE root beer. When we were in Disney, I drank a LOT of root beer. I definitely liked A&W better than the Publix version. But I remember a different brand of root beer that I loved... I just can't remember the brand name....

Posted by: RivkA | Mar 4, 2010 1:19:02 AM


Until you wrote "Staten Island" I thought you were talking about the OTHER assumed "mob" joint. The one where EK made up alternate lyrics to the tune "Ditto Bay (sp?)..."

At any rate, I recall a couple of us sharing post-gig root beer floats at the A&W at least once. I haven't worked that hall in a lotta years... Come to think of it, with the business having taken the hit (economy, etc) that it has, there are more than a few places I haven't worked in quite a while...

I was reminded of one two weeks ago. Did an "out of office" gig (Neshoma-referred, however) where the groom was a member of the family that used to run the Washington Hotel. Nice to see some familiar faces from the past. Last June I officially became a "20-year-guy" w/ Neshoma...

Hope all's well... Mike S

Posted by: Mike Spengler | Mar 4, 2010 5:27:33 PM


RBC? They made good cream soda, too. Which, when I buy it, it's usually at the place Where Shopping Is A Pleasure (TM).


Posted by: Karl Newman | Mar 5, 2010 5:42:41 AM

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