Category: Long Form

Construx – One of the Best Toys of the 80’s

In 1983, Fisher-Price rolled out it’s newest toy creation.  It was called Construx, and was possibly the most versatile building/construction toy since the erector set.  It featured plastic beams in various lengths, multi directional connectors, plates, axles, wheels, pulleys, and much more.  What you could make with Construx was really only limited to your imagination.

 

Construx

 

Next to Lego, Construx was the greatest building toy that I ever laid hands on, and in some ways, it surpassed Lego. The size of the pieces and the way they were designed allowed for larger projects than Lego could handle, which allowed for such projects as bridges, buildings, and any other thing you could dream up. These were awesome if you had a fertile imagination…which my brother and I did, and we used our Construx to build goose neck trailers for our Tonka trucks to pull along, fork lifts to load those trailers, and a host of other equipment to be used with them.

 

Construx

 

The first set that I had was the Bridges and Tower set that came out in 1983. I remember it not being exactly easy to follow the directions and complete the build, but not so hard that I had to have help either. I just had to take a little longer than my older brother did to complete it. But when it was done, oh my was it ever a fun thing to play with. He and I ended up using those Construx bridges to enhance the fun in our G.I. Joe adventures. As a matter of fact, just about everything we built with the Construx were to play with some other toy line we had. Rarely did we build anything just for the sake of playing with the Construx. I would put together swords and ninja stars when I would watch a martial arts movie and then let my imagination run wild. I would use them to construct obstacle courses and run my G.I. Joe men through their paces trying to re-enact the latest episode of American Gladiators. We used them to build tunnels and other things to go along with our Hotwheels fun.

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That Time When McDonald’s Tried to Sell McPasta

McPasta

 

McDonald’s has tried a lot of off the wall menu items in their time. Some are fondly remembered like the McD.L.T., and others are still scorned to this day (I’m looking at you here Arch Deluxe). But a few products have come along that most of the population totally missed out on, and McPasta was one of them.

In 1990, McDonald’s decided they would try to add some entrees to their menu that weren’t hamburgers or Chicken McNuggets. They dreamed up this concept of McPasta dishes and roasted chicken legs, and felt sure it would be a big hit. Before they released it to the masses though, they went the test market route.

A small area in New York was selected, as well as chain of franchise stores in Northeast Tennessee for this new line of McPasta products. Fortunately, I lived in a part of southern Virginia where that franchisee had two locations, and they put the product in those two stores as well.

You can check out the New York Post story on this test from 1991 here.

What they offered was a selection of Spaghetti, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Lasagna, and Fettuccine Alfredo. Each dish came with a garlic bread stick as well. They also decided to offer roasted chicken legs as a side item, as well as mashed potatoes. How those last two items fit in to the McPasta lineup I’ve yet to figure out.

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The Chrononaut Chronicles: NWA Clash of the Champions II: Miami Mayhem – June 8, 1988

 

The Chrononaut Chronicles
NWA Clash of the Champions II: Miami Mayhem – Wednesday, June 8, 1988

– It’s Mayhem in Miami as the Four Horsemen run wild at the second Clash of the Champions! Ric Flair and Lex Luger sign a contract for an NWA World Title bout at the 1988 Great American Bash, Sting & Dusty Rhodes challenge Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard for the NWA World Tag Team Title, Barry Windham defends the NWA US Title against Brad Armstrong, and much more!

 

Miami Mayhem

– LIVE from Miami, Florida! Jim Ross is stationed outside the James L. Knight Center as limousines arrive to the building eight years before the nWo made it their gimmick. JR claims that a host of celebrities and dignitaries will be in attendance, and the disappointment is immediate as the first limo contains Lyle Alzado, Frances Crockett, and a dude who has some affiliation with the ownership of the Chicago Blackhawks. The star power doesn’t stop there, though, as the next limo opens up and out come NWA promoters Gary Juster and Elliot Murnick. Somehow, this qualifies as a pretty big deal.

 

Lyle Alzado
Man, they’re really pulling out the big guns tonight!

 

– Tony Schiavone and Bob Caudle are on commentary. No offense to Bob, but is there some reason he can’t be standing around the parking garage while JR handles the play-by-play?

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Do You Remember Green Stamps?

Raise your hand if you remember S&H Green Stamps.  For those of you without telepathy, my hand is high in the air.  That’s because I certainly remember Green Stamps.  Now, for those of you who don’t remember them, or aren’t old enough to know about them, let me give you a brief summary of what they were.

I guess the easiest way to explain them would be to say that they were like bonus points you get when you use your credit card, or frequent flyer miles that you can rack up with the airlines, but for everyday things.  The most common place you would get them were at grocery stores.  How much you spent on your grocery shopping trip determined how many green stamps you earned.  

 

Green Stamps

 

There was a little machine next to the register, and the cashier would dial-up how many stamps you had earned and it would spit them out.  The actual green stamps themselves were about the size of a postage stamp, and worked in much the same way, as you had to lick the back of them to stick them in the green stamp books.

 

Green Stamps

 

Now those books, once they were filled, could be used to buy all sorts of stuff from the Green Stamps Catalog.  It was usually the type of merchandise you would find at a Dollar General store, but they also carried some nicer items as well.  So for just doing what you normally would by doing your weekly grocery shopping, you earned some free shopping spree money!  These things were so popular, that the grocery stores used them as a way to bring in folks.  They would often run “double stamp day” promotions where you would earn double the amount of green stamps that you normally would.  This was a big deal in my house, and shopping day always lined up with double stamp day.

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Heisenberg: My 80’s Contraband Life

Heisenberg

I read an article last week talking about the fact that cassette tapes were making a comeback. In fact, cassette tape sales were up over 130% in 2017. I used to love cassette tapes. They were my musical modus operandi all through junior high, high school and into college. While the renewed interest in this antiquated technology may be nothing but a passing fancy, reading the article brought back some fond, fond memories for me.

I was a late bloomer, musically. I didn’t really get into music till around the age of thirteen. Up to that point (and even after), my parents had tried to head the rock and roll devil off at the pass by pushing me towards Christian music. Early in 1984, though, I heard two songs that cemented my rock and roll fixation forever: “(You Can Still) Rock In America” and “The Reflex”. One day, while at a mall with my family, I spent some of my hard-earned lawn mowing money at Hastings Records and Tapes on two cassettes. I bought Midnight Madness by Night Ranger and Seven and The Ragged Tiger by Duran Duran. My parents promptly made me return them, opting instead to take me to the Christian book store where I plunked down my hard-earned cash on a couple of tapes from a little known Irish band called U2, October and War  (the jokes was on them with that purchase…but I digress).

 

Night Ranger

 

I didn’t matter though. I was hooked. I found a friend at school who had the album versions of both the tapes I tried, unsuccessfully, to purchase and paid him a dollar a tape to record them for me. I started recording everything. I had cassettes full of songs recorded off of the radio as well as television. I also soon discovered that a local radio station, KMOD in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would play albums from beginning to end in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. I started recording those as well. I would set a watch alarm under my pillow so I could wake up and change the tapes out when I needed to. On several occasions I scored the mother lode. One night, they played four Van Halen records back to back (I, II, Diver Down and 1984). Recorded them all. Another night, they played four Ozzy Osbourne records (Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of A Madman, Speak of The Devil and Bark at The Moon). Got them too. On and on and on.

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The Chrononaut Chronicles: NWA Clash of the Champions 1

I’d like to introduce Joel Geraghty to Retro Ramblings with his Chrononaut Chronicles, where he goes back in time and reviews old wrestling shows!  I’ve been a fan of his work for a while, and I’m sure you’re going to be as well.  He’ll be dropping his great reviews on us on a regular basis, so take a minute and help me welcome to the family.

Along with his actual reviews, I’ll be popping into them as well with little comments of my own personal memories of what he is reviewing to add another level of nostalgia.  You’ll see my comments in bold wherever I drop them in.  With that said, I proudly present to you the first edition of The Chrononaut Chronicles here on Retro Ramblings, as Joel takes us back to the very first Clash of the Champions show from 1988…..

 

 

 

The Chrononaut Chronicles: NWA Clash of the Champions – Sunday, March 27, 1988

– The Clash of the Champions was the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions’ answer to Saturday Night’s Main Event and came as a result of the intense promotional war with Vince McMahon and the WWF. Riding high on the success of WrestleMania, McMahon had added another PPV event in 1987 entitled Survivor Series and scheduled it on the same night as Starrcade, pressuring cable companies to drop the NWA’s signature supercard. Not satisfied with that major victory, in January of ’88 the WWF presented the first televised Royal Rumble for free on the USA Network opposite the NWA’s Bunkhouse Stampede PPV. In response, the Clash of the Champions was conceived as a special TV event broadcast live on TBS the same night as WrestleMania IV, featuring PPV caliber match-ups.

This was a huge deal and proved so successful that the Clash became a Superstation staple, spawning thirty-four more broadcasts over the following nine years. By 1997, the introduction of weekly two-hour shows such as Nitro and Thunder rendered the Clash obsolete. In this series, I will take a look at each Clash in chronological order. Let’s go all the way back to the very first Clash of the Champions as it aired opposite the WrestleMania IV tournament for the WWF Heavyweight Championship. Years before the Monday Night Wars, it was WrestleMania vs. Clash of the Champions live and head-to-head!

 

 

– LIVE from Greensboro, North Carolina! Bob Caudle and Tony Schiavone welcome us to the Clash live on the Superstation, but it’s actually Tony and Jim Ross who handle commentary at ringside.

– NWA World Television Title – Amateur Rules: “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin (w/Precious) vs. Mike Rotunda © (w/”Gamesmaster” Kevin Sullivan)

I never understood what kind of connection the occult-minded Gamesmaster had with a group of standout collegiate athletes like the Varsity Club. Sullivan as a brutal taskmaster of a coach would be logical, but he was still wearing black robes and being billed from Singapore. In accordance with the stipulations of the match, three five-minute rounds are scheduled with a one-count sufficient for a pinfall, so more emphasis is placed on Rotunda and Garvin staying off their backs. The first round is pretty even, ending with Rotunda using his considerable amateur skills as he struggles and fails to pin Garvin’s shoulders to the mat. Rotunda sneaks in a quick cheapshot during the 30-second rest period and assumes control in the second round, but Gorgeous Jimmy mounts a comeback and hooks up the champ for the brainbuster.

Before he can execute the maneuver, Sullivan and Precious get into an altercation on the apron and Garvin gets distracted. Making Syracuse proud, Rotunda rolls Garvin up for the one-count to retain the NWA World Television Championship at 1:10 of the second round. Afterward, Garvin brainbusters Rotunda and punches Sullivan, but another Varsity Club member strikes in the form of Rick Steiner. Precious swiftly makes the save and completely emasculates her husband by whacking Steiner with a 2×4 and garrotting Sullivan with a coat hanger. Seriously. She strangles the Gamesmaster until Garvin drags Precious off of him and out of the ring. I knew Precious was spunky, but damn girl.

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My Earliest Video Game Memories

 

When Christmas day rolled around, I felt this huge urge to hook up the old Super Nintendo and spend the day playing some of my old favorites like Super Mario World, Duck Dogers, Street Fighter II, and more.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to, but I did think back on some of my first memories of video games and shared them with the kids.

The very first memory would actually be about going to the Bristol Mall in Bristol TN and seeing the arcade there that was called The Gold Mine.  However, on that fateful trip, I didn’t get to step inside and relish in all the goodness it had to offer.  I simply got to walk by it and gaze in amazement at all the flashing lights and tingle with excitement from all the sounds coming from within.

 

 

So my actual first experiences with video games in any form would be when my cousin Tim first got his Nintendo.  Somehow, I had missed out on all of the marketing and talk surrounding the Nintendo when it was launched.  I had never seen nor heard of such a thing.  One day while visiting the grandparents, my uncle Ernest mentioned that he had gotten Tim a Nintendo Entertainment System, and that I should come over and play Super Mario Brothers.

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