Tag: Nostalgia

Welcome to Spooktober 2018!

Retro Halloween

 

With the exception of that traditional eve when jolly St. Nick visits the chimneys of the world, there is perhaps no holiday quite as beloved, or more anticipated by kids than Halloween, the last day in October that we have long set aside as an evening to congregate in costume and perhaps even scare ourselves silly. It is a time of ghouls and goblins, of witches and black cats, of costume parties and grinning pumpkins. And, if that wasn’t enough, every kid knows that it is the one night when it is perfectly acceptable to beg door-to-door for candy. Now, that’s a holiday!

The origins of Halloween trace back centuries, a mixture of Roman and Celtic customs that celebrated the transition from fall into winter. Trick or treating may be traced as far back as the Middle Ages, when it was called “souling”. Poor folks went from door to door, saying prayers for the dead and, in return, received a few scraps of food. In Scotland, they called it “guising” where participants would hollow out turnips, turn them into lanterns and carry them from door to door. For their efforts, they might receive money, cakes or perhaps some fruit. That sounds nice, but it took some American ingenuity to create the confection-heavy version we’ve come to know and love.

The trick or treating we are now accustomed to started in the 30s, then was brought to a grinding halt when sugar rations became necessary during WWII. Shortly after the war ended, however, children’s magazines like Jack and Jill began promoting the practice again, as did the Peanuts comic strip, and even Walt Disney, who released the classic cartoon, “Trick or Treat,” in 1952.

 

 

Kids have been banging on doors ever since, begging for treats, and if denied, perfectly willing to exact revenge via mischievous pranks. Hell hath no scorn like a kid deprived of candy. Most pranks involved such household items as eggs, toilet paper, shaving cream and soap. You can use your imagination, but let’s just say that they were often used in ways in which they weren’t intended. And, of course, the granddaddy of pranks was the smashing of some poor soul’s pumpkin (there’s a band name in there somewhere) on the pavement.

 

Ben Cooper Costumes

 

Perhaps the most important decision to make prior to the arrival of Halloween was the choice of costume. Whether trick or treating or going to a party, a costume was a must. Perhaps as a small child, you picked out a Ben Cooper costume at the store, complete with vinyl smock and sharp plastic mask. Or, maybe you made your own (hobo, anyone?). Two holes poked into a sheet and you had an instant (and inexpensive) ghost. More enterprising youngsters even employed the two-costume technique, where you canvased the entire area for candy, then switched costumes and hit it again.

 

Halloween Sunset

 

When the sun finally set on Halloween, most of us began walking the streets, trusty plastic jack o’ lantern or pillowcase in hand, ready to collect Smarties, candy corn, Dum Dum Pops and an assortment of miniature candy bars. We took our hard earned bounty home and dumped it on the counter so our parents could inspect it closely. Thanks to some pesky (and mostly unfounded rumors) many of us (or at least our parents) believed that there just might be a razor blade, needle or poison lurking in that inviting pile of confections. We waited not-so-patiently for mom or dad to give their candy clearance, and then it was ours to do with as we pleased (in most cases, at least). Some kids would eat only a few pieces each day, while others polished off all the good stuff within the first 24 hours. You also might have had to guard your candy from the likes of larcenous siblings, or a even a sneaky parent with a sweet tooth.

Once kids began to outgrow trick or treating, of course, parties began to take precedence. Still costume clad, kids gathered to dance to The Monster Mash, eat creepy looking food, watch scary movies, and thrust their faces into metal tins of water, in the hopes of grasping a bobbing apple in their teeth. And if you didn’t have a party to go to, you could always go out and try to scare the crap out of the younger trick or treaters. There was always something for a kid to do on Halloween.

But why let the fun and memories be confined to just one night?  Well, you don’t have to.  We’re here to help you get your spooky retro groove on all month long!  Each and every day from now until Halloween, stop back by here at Retro Ramblings for a different “Halloween treat” to bring back those old memories.  Let Retro Rambling’s Spooktober 2018 begin!

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Food: Fast Food Edition

 

If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written before, then you already know that I associate nostalgic feelings and memories with food more than any other subject.  I’ve written several pieces in the past diving into the subject, and today, I’m going a little deeper.  This isn’t going to be like the mega post, Back When Pizza Hut Was an Experience, or an angry diatribe like Why Wendy’s Ain’t Like It Used to Be.  No, this is going to be some quick hits about some old fast food choices that I loved, but are no longer available.  As you also know, there are plenty more foods that I miss, but for today, let’s just hit these bygone classics.


 

McDLT

The McDonald’s McDLT gets mentioned on it’s fair share of fondly remembered foods list, and for good reason. Of all the great, and horrible, things to ever grace the menu of McDonalds, the McDLT was one of the best items they created.

It was a burger in similar size as Burger King’s Whopper sandwich, and featured mostly the same ingredients. A quarter pound beef patty, lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheese, pickles, and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun. The beauty of the McDLT though was it’s packaging. It came in one of McDonald’s signature styrofoam containers. But this one was slightly different. It featured two separate compartments instead of one.

On one side, the bottom bun and burger patty rested, while on the other was the rest of the toppings and the top bun. This allowed the hot parts to remain separate from the cold parts until you were ready to put it together and eat. And that was the brilliance of it all. A fresh tasting McDLT when the hot patty met the cold toppings.  What I could never figure out though, was why the slice of cheese was included on the cold side.  To me it would have made much more sense to put it on top of the patty on the hot side so it could get all melty.  But apparently, I’m not a genius like the burger builders at McDonald’s.

It was released in the early 80’s to much fanfare, but was eventually pulled in 1990 due to pressure from environmental groups protesting their use of the styrofoam containers. Once the divided container was gone, so was the magic of this burger. It was later re-released as the Big ‘n’ Tasty burger, but without the separated ingredients, the burger fell flat.

 

More Forgotten Food  |  The Time McDonald’s Tried to Sell McPasta

 

When I first discovered it as a kid, I was at the age where I was getting a little old for Happy Meals, and found the McDLT to be a perfectly acceptable replacement for it. I’m guessing it was basically the novelty of it that turned me on to it, but it was a great burger in it’s own right so that kept me coming back for more.

As a side note, McDonald’s lost a little luster to me with the fall of those original containers. Each container was a different color to represent what was held inside, and even the McNuggets had a little compartment built-in to hold the sauce cup. I understand the environmental impact and agree with the decision to stop using them, but dang, they looked cool, and figure prominently in my memories of McDonald’s and childhood in general.

The timing of the fall of the McDLT kind of lines up perfectly with my ascent to teenager from childhood.  Maybe that’s why it holds such a special place in my memories, and why I miss it so.


Hardee's Patty Melt

Back in 1992, Hardee’s stumbled across a major hit when it introduced it’s now legendary Frisco Burger.  They combined grilled sourdough bread (in a round slice) with a 1/4 lb burger patty, two slices of Swiss cheese, bacon, mayo, and tomatoes and turned them into a culinary masterpiece.  After strong sales upon release, they were looking to duplicate that success. Enter the New York Rye Patty Melt.

Introduced roughly 4 months after the launch of the Frisco burger, the New York Patty Melt was the heir apparent to their first hit.  Unfortunately, it was not to be. Sales of the Patty Melt didn’t come close to those of the Frisco burger, and it was dropped from the menu about 6 months after it’s introduction.  But man, that was a great six months.

The New York Rye Patty Melt borrowed from its famous cousin and used a regional favorite bread by using New York Rye.  Sliced the same way as the Frisco (round), it too was grilled and paired with a 1/4 lb beef patty. A layer of melted cheese, along with soft grilled onions finished off this burger.  Like most kids, I wasn’t a big fan of onions, but on this burger, they fit right in. But for me, the real star of this taste sensation was the rye bread. I had never had it before, but this burger moved the bread up my list of favorites in a hurry.

As is the case when doing a piece like this, I was quite disappointed when I went to order it one time only to be told that it was no longer available.  If my Father hadn’t been standing there beside me, my fourteen year old self may have let out a string of curse words aimed in the cashier’s direction. Luckily however, the Frisco Burger was still available, and it ranked pretty high on my list back then too.  But for me, the Frisco Burger was always the Sundance Kid to the New York Patty Melt’s Butch Cassidy.

These days, the Frisco Burger is still on the menu, and since it has been a top item for over 26 years, Burger has gotten in on the action with their Bacon Swiss King burger.  If you would happen to be wondering how it compares to the original Frisco burger, you can check out the comparison video my daughter and I filmed for her food review Youtube channel.


Chilito

Ah, the Chili Cheese Burrito from Taco Bell.  A lot of people in this world only know it by that name, but back in my day, it was known as “The Chilito”.

It featured chili flavored beef, Taco Bell’s iconic red sauce, and melted cheese rolled up in a soft flour tortilla and would run you anywhere from $0.69 to $0.99, depending on the time frame when you enjoyed them.  For me, that time frame was the mid-90’s after I started driving. My friends and I on small budgets, due to part-time jobs, would load up on these due to their cheapness on nights of cruising around.  Way back then, you could count on Taco Bell to deliver the goods, not only in taste, but in value as well.

 

More Forgotten Food  |  KFC’s Modern Chicken Littles Have Nothing on the Originals From the 1980’s

 

Taco Bell had these available from the late 80’s through the early 90’s before discontinuing them as a regular menu item.  Some franchises decided to keep them however, and you can still find them on the menu in roughly 12% of Taco Bell stores nationwide.  A while back though, while traveling in North Carolina, I was in a Taco Bell that had a poster up celebrating the triumphant return of the Chilito.  Unfortunately though, I didn’t even notice the poster until I had already placed my order.  Maybe I should have placed a second order, with which I might could have recaptured that magical taste and feeling of the Chilito.  Or, maybe I would have been disappointed by this newer version at a much higher price.  I decided to let things be, and wait until another time to sample the modern Chilito.  I still haven’t, and am not sure I should.  Sometimes the memories are better than what you find today.

Now, at least I stop at just writing about missing the Chilito, but here’s a dude who wrote a whole song about Taco Bell taking it from the menu:


McDonald's Super Hero Burger

Historically, the Big Mac has always been the largest burger on McDonald’s menu.  But for one glorious month in 1995, it played second fiddle to the Super Hero Burger.  With it’s 3 (that’s right, 3!) burger patties on a hoagie length bun, with two different slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo….this sucker was a monster.

The Super Hero burger had two promotional tie-ins attached to it.  First and foremost, it was available during the release of the movie Batman Forever, and Batman, Robin, Riddler, and Two-Face all figure prominently in the advertising spots for this burger.  Secondly, 1995 was the year that McDonald’s released a different burger every month, and this was the Burger of the Month.

I was driving by this point in life, so that meant I spent a fair amount of time “cruising” through town.  Most nights, a stop by the local Mickey D’s was how we ended our night, and for that month that this super burger was on the menu, it was what we ordered.   We probably could have kept this item on the menu all by ourselves based on how many of them we consumed, but as expected, when the month ended, so did the Super Hero Burger.  Alas, another fast food item was added to my list of fondly remembered food from back in the day.

I’m not the only super fan of the Super Hero Burger, and someone over at DudeFoods.com got tired of waiting for McDonald’s to bring it back, so they tried their hand at creating their own.  You can watch the video here.


In closing, I want to say that I’m thankful to have even gotten to try all of these items in the first place.  My dad would take us out to eat on the weekends when he was in town, and that provided ample opportunity to indulge in so many great menu items from a variety of places.  And as the saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.

So tell me, what extinct fast food items do you miss and wish was still around?  What memories do you associate with them?  We all have a story, and I would love to hear yours!  Just drop me a line in the comments below, and tell me that story.  Heck, I probably have memories of YOUR favorite too.  Also, did you have any experiences with the items on my list above?  Tell me that too!  The next time I talk about food here, it’ll probably be about dining experiences that no longer exist, or my favorite snacks, or something else of the sort.  But until that time comes, hit me up in the comments below, or on Twitter @yesterdayville.

The Year Santa Became Real

By the fall of 1986, my thoughts were starting to turn to the coming Christmas season, and anticipation was starting to build for the holiday. The hope of children isn’t easily pushed to the side, but back in those days, I would be lying if I said that Christmas didn’t feel a little lacking.

Admittedly, I personally never felt slighted on Christmas morning. Whatever was under the tree from Santa Claus always left a lasting impression on me, even if I sometimes felt the little internal tug of wanting a little bit more. But when I would return to school, and see and hear about all the cool things my friends and others had gotten for Christmas, I would get a little jealous.

I was a good kid. I never caused trouble at school, and I definitely knew better than to cause trouble at home. I did my chores and I ate my vegetables, so why did I seem to be farther down Santa’s Nice list than some of the other kids? “Jonathon pushed Samantha down and hurt her arm”, “why did he get a huge Lego set and I only got a trumpet?”. “Zach punched me in the arm all year…hard.” “Why did he get a cool G.I. Joe HISS Tank and all the Dreadnoks figures and I ended up with a set of cars?” Such are the worrisome wonderings and questions of a kid who is not aware of all the comings and goings of adulthood.

What I didn’t know or understand back then, and actually I’m still learning and gaining a greater perspective on now, is that times were very tough for my family in the early eighties. My Dad was a self-employed business man. He bought and sold new and used conveyor belts to coal mines, and as the coal business went, so did my family’s financial well-being.

1983 was a very tough year. My Grandfather’s alcohol addiction was in the last stages of consuming his life, and my Dad spent more time helping my Grandmother, both emotionally AND financially, than he did on the business. The first week of December, my Grandfather passed away. Christmas was lean due to dealing with the emotional struggles of losing someone close, and the fact that so much time had been spent away from the business.

1984 came along, and so did the large-scale United Mine Workers of America strike in West Virginia…..primarily against the A.T. Massey Coal Companies and subsidiaries. West Virginia was always the bread basket of my Dad’s business. When strikes occurred, it crippled his business and our financial well-being for quite some time, and unfortunately, this strike would not be over quickly.

1985 came, and the strike was still on. It wasn’t resolved until late in the year. Too late for lost income to be made up. Several straight years of lean and underwhelming visits from Santa Claus was wearing on my faith in the man.

But then came 1986. The strike had been resolved, and with the mines back in full-time operation, orders poured in from all sides. It was a VERY good year. Not so coincidentally, Santa seemed to fill his sleigh completely just for my family. I guess he was making up for lost time.

Continue reading “The Year Santa Became Real”