In lieu of a normal post today, I thought I would do a recap of sorts of several things from the past week.

We’ll start with a couple of things that I’ve put out in places other than here at Retro Ramblings…

  • Over at Geekster, a feature I put together called When Ralston Ruled the Cereal Aisle went live last week. In it, I run down all of the various cereals that Ralston produced in the ’80s and ’90s. While we all probably had some or at least one of their cereals, it’s hard to fathom just how many licensed cereals they put out back then. Click the link above and check it out if you want a fun trip back to the cereal aisle.
  • In the latest issue of This Nostalgic Life Newsletter, I provided the special feature this week as I looked back at Green Stamps and my memories of how big of a deal they were in my family back in the ’80s. Again, you can click the link above to go read that feature.

In the same issue, Eric gives a rundown of some great retro podcasts that you should check out and maybe find some new listening favorites.

  • If you haven’t signed up for This Nostalgic Life yet, I urge you to do so. It’s free, delivers straight to your email inbox every Wednesday, and features great nostalgic memories in every issue from myself and other retro-loving folks.

I also wanted to share a couple of pieces of junk food news I came across in the last couple of days…

This is one of the first new additions to the Frisco Burger line in a very long time. I’m going to be sure to try it, as the very first addition to the line in 1993, the New York Patty Melt, was so good, I still miss it to this day. If this new BLT version turns out to be good, I don’t want to miss out on it.

I’m all about trying anything that features the taste of Kentucky Fried Chicken, so these new chips will be on my shopping list to look for when I’m at the grocery store.

First Watch: Flashpoint (1984)

While browsing the Max streaming app some time ago, I came across what looked like a gem of a movie called Flashpoint. While I didn’t remember ever hearing of it before, the fact that it was from the ’80s and starred Kris Kristofferson was all the reason I needed to give it a shot.

The description on Max read “Texas border patrolmen (Kris Kristofferson, Treat Williams) find a jeep, a skeleton, and $800,000 in cash dating from 1963.” Even though I was already going to watch it anyway, the synopsis was enough to get me further intrigued. All things considered, this is a movie I’m surprised my dad had never turned me on to.

Flashpoint felt like a movie trying to go in several different directions to start with, but as the film wound on, those various directions started to weave together and the pace quickened to what felt like a race to the finish. With a unique and somewhat surprising ending (at least to me), I was left with a feeling of great satisfaction with the time I had devoted to watching this film.

Kris Kristofferson turned in an excellent starring performance and Kurtwood Smith brought the goods as usual. Treat Williams also did a fine job in his role as the young and full-of-spirit border patrol agent hell-bent on doing the right thing. The cinematography was great too. Since most of the setting of the film was the southwestern desert, the film is full of breathtaking shots.

I had never even heard of this film before stumbling across it on Max, but am so glad I discovered this lost gem of an action suspense thriller.

3.5 stars.

If movies from the ’80s are your thing, check out Gary’s ongoing project over at Geekster where he is currently reviewing 84 movies from 1984.

Action Figure Appreciation: Dreadnok Torch (1986)

For this second entry into the Action Figure Appreciation files, I’ve chosen to highlight a figure from the G.I. Joe: A Real American hero line. G.I. Joe always was, and probably always will be my favorite action figure line. Hell, not just action figures…probably of any toy line. My older brother had a few Joes, but wouldn’t let me play with them. All I could do was sit and watch him play with them and drool with envy. But once I got my own Joe and Cobra figures, the battle started raging and has never stopped.

I was one of the lucky kids who had a LOT of G.I. Joe stuff through the years. Not as much as my friend Aaron, but still more than most kids I knew. While I loved them all, the Cobra side of things seems to contain more of my favorite figures than the Joe side. And within the ranks of Cobra, the Dreadnoks were my favorites.

Their antics on the cartoon was always one of the highlights of any episode they were in. Besides the “Dreadnok” aspect, Zaartan was a figure I really wanted due to the color-change and costume features. And while having Zartan was pretty cool, I instantly wanted his Dreadnok lackeys as part of my collection. For some reason, while off on a trip with my Dad, my brother brought me home Torch, Ripper, and Buzzer to go along with the Zartan that I already had. I’m sure my Dad was actually behind it, but it was a cool gesture on my brother’s part anyway.

Maybe my Dad saw in the Dreadnoks one of the things I saw in them…that they looked and acted like my uncles…Dad’s brothers. But he wouldn’t have known of their antics or attitudes having not watched the cartoon with me. Ol’ Torch here in particular looks like my uncle Randy. And was crazy like Randy now that I think about it.

But as for the figure itself, it’s hard not to love him since he sports shaggy hair, a bandana, and shades. A look that I myself have been known to sport from time to time. Hell, I even sported the same facial hair for a while back about ten years ago. Maybe this is where my inspiration came from, I don’t know. Add in the fact that he carries a flame thrower and isn’t afraid to use it doesn’t hurt his case either.

I thought everything about the Dreadnok figures was cool, and Torch always ended up playing the role of second-in-command of the Dreadnoks behind Zartan in my world. While the others all had to pile into the Thunder Machine, Torch always had the distinction of riding solo on the Cobra Ferret.

This Torch figure got more playtime than most figures in my collection at the time and has earned his featured spot in this Action Figure Appreciation post.

Wendy’s SuperBar

Of all the things Wendy’s tried through the years, the Superbar was the idea that I liked the most, and is very possibly the fast food item/gimmick that I miss more than all the others.  When it first debuted at Wendy’s, my whole family was eager to try it. As you may remember, my dad would be out of town most of the week, and when he would come home on Friday, he would take the family out to eat. Once we tried the SuperBar, we were hooked, and it became our Friday night destination more weeks than not for at least the first year it was available.

The SuperBar was a set of three food bars that expanded Wendy’s dine-in options several times over and was a big hit with a large part of their customer base.  The first of the three bars was a salad bar that featured what you see at most salad bars. There was lettuce, tomato, carrots, cucumbers, and various dressings. The salad bar was also where the dessert options could be found. The dessert options weren’t mind-blowing by any means, but for an eleven-year-old like myself at the time, it served its purpose. At least at our local Wendy’s, there was vanilla pudding and chocolate pudding, and on occasion, there would be Ambrosia. I guess you could count the mixed fruit as a dessert as well, but no self-respecting kid would be caught picking that over the pudding options.

The next bar was the Mexican Fiesta bar, which was my personal favorite section of the whole thing. There were all the things you needed to make tacos and burritos like chili, seasoned beef, salsa, taco sauce, shredded cheese, melted nacho cheese, taco shells, and soft tortillas.  Of all the bars, this was the one I would make the most trips to on every visit.

The third bar was the Pasta Bar which featured spaghetti noodles, fettuccine noodles, spaghetti sauce, and alfredo sauce as the pasta quotient of the bar. But the best part of this bar was the garlic bread which was made by flattening and grilling their hamburger buns with garlic salt and butter.  It was delicious, and on every trip out to Wendy’s to indulge in the SuperBar, I would eat five or six pieces of this bread.

While the SuperBar as it was presented was just fine, there was a little something else that could be done with it. My dad would order a baked potato, and when you ordered a potato, you could take it to the SuperBar to top it. I don’t remember if that was an extra cost or not though. But my dad would go to the Mexican Fiesta bar and load his potato with the chili and melted nacho cheese. I saw him do this a couple of times and decided to try it myself. After I had topped my potato, I sat down and started to devour it just like my old man…and it was delicious! But he stopped me after a couple of bites and told me that I was doing it wrong. I was perplexed at the age of 11 years old and he could see that, so he enlightened me. He explained that to get the most out of the experience, you first consume just the chili and cheese from the potato, and then you go back and refill the potato with more chili and cheese. Then you consume the whole thing as I was previously doing.

The SuperBar was our go-to while they had it in their stores.  A lot of those Friday or Saturday nights that Dad would take us out were spent eating at Wendy’s while we talked and laughed as a family before we would hit the department stores in town where Mom would do her shopping for the week.  

The SuperBar is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Wendy’s, and it’s a shame they had to get rid of it. As I’ve read in years since, the bar was a loss leader for the stores, and it provided so much extra work for the staff to keep it neat and clean. I understand why it died off as a concept, but that doesn’t mean I miss it any less.

Before I go, here is a video of a news report detailing the Wendy’s SuperBar from around the time of its launch.

Campfire S’mores Cup Noodles Instant Ramen

I know it’s summer, and I know a lot of people in this world like S’Mores. But a S’mores flavored ramen? I don’t know about that one. The flavor and texture combo just feels like it would be all wrong. Apparently, the packing suggests that you add some crushed graham crackers and/or mini marshmallows to “recreate” the texture, but that just makes this concoction sound even worse to me.

And I’ll add this concoction is from the Nissin Cup Noodles brand, which I’ve always found to be inferior to other cheap ramen brands on the market.

Does this sound appealing to you? The only interest I have in it is picking a cup up to add to my food packaging collection, but certainly not to eat. I prefer my S’mores adaptations to be closer to the real thing, like Suddenly S’mores was back in the day.

Re-watch: Independence Day (1996)

Back in the summer of 1996, I was working full-time at the grocery store that I would go on to work at for a decade. I had just graduated high school and was fortunate to be in the position of having friends from school and friends from work to hang out and do stuff with.

When the ads for Independence Day started dropping, several of those friends and I were getting excited to see this latest summer blockbuster. The little two-screen theater in the town where I worked was a weekly stop for us as we took in at least one movie every week. When Independence Day weekend rolled around, there was no question as to what movie we were going to be watching.

Independence Day is the story of an alien race coming to Earth to take it over for its resources. After a first strike that wipes a lot of major world cities off the map, the US stages a counter attack that is ineffective. Fortunately, the world has an ace up it’s leave in genius Jeff Goldblum. He figures out a way to weaken the aliens, and a rag-tag group of former combat pilots led by the President show the way to bring down the hostile invaders, and the world lives to see another day. One of the hooks of the movie is that the events take place across July 2, 3, and 4 in the movie, leading to the United States declaring it’s freedom on the 4th of July once again.

Independence Day was the major summer blockbuster of 1996, and all of the hyp leading up to it had me very excited to see it. Watching it in the theater there was an electric mood as the packed house loved every minute of the spectacle.

It was also a breakout performance for Will Smith. Up until this point, he had starred in the movie Bad Boys and was still a sensation on the hit TV show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but this was his coming out party as a major leading man in Hollywood.

With it’s massive scope, incredible effects, and all-star cast, Independence Day became one of the biggest movies of the ’90s, and one I still go back and watch every Independence Day weekend.

4.0 out of 5.0 stars 

What If Sting Slammed Yokuzuna in 1993 Instead of Lex Luger?

I was always a fan of the Marvel Comics series What If?, where they would take classic stories, give them a twist, and give us readers a look at what might have been. I’m doing the same thing here with a classic moment in wrestling history.

Let me set the stage for you. In 1993, Yokuzuna was the WWF champion and portrayed as an evil Japanese bad guy. He was dominating the competition, and at over 500 lbs. he was a massive wrestler. In celebration of Independence Day, the WWF brought Yokuzuna to the U.S.S. Intrepid that was harboured in New York City for a body slam challenge. They invited several celebrities to come and try slamming the big man, as well as several good guys from the WWF. No one was able to get Yokozuna off his feet and slam him.

Just when it looked as if no one could pull it off and the challenge was over, a helicopter came into sight and landed on the deck of the intrepid. Off stepped Lex Luger, who up until this very moment was a bad guy in the WWF, but had a history of being a very popular good guy. He came off the helicopter decked out in an American flag pattern shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. He climbed into the ring, gave Yokozuna a shot and then lifted him into the air and slammed him to become the WWF’s #1 good guy and all-American hero.

What followed that event was a summer tour on a bus to drum up support for his title match against Yokozuna at that year’s Summerslam event. The push didn’t go as anticipated, and Luger never really captured the imagination of fans across the country the way the WWF was hoping, and the whole thing fizzled out when he didn’t win the title at the end of the summer.

But let me give you an alternate version of events that I think might have went a little better for everyone involved…

By 1993, Sting was solidly the face of World Championship Wrestling, the WWF’s chief rival. While he had a contract with WCW, it was not impossible to get out of them at the time, and if the WWF had shelled out a buyout payment, they could have probably gotten Sting’s services for their company. Imagine if when the helicopter landed, instead of Luger getting off, it was Sting wearing his American flag ring coat and American flag face paint like he wore at Great American Bash ’90. It would have been patriotic as hell.

The shock of the crowd in attendance would have been off the chart as they would have just watched WWF alumni and celebrities alike try and fail to slam Yokozuna. Then there would come the most popular wrestler from another company, give one of the passionate promos that Sting was known for, and then be the one to give Yokozuna the slam for all of America.

Sting would have been on a wave of popularity, unlike anything he had seen up to this point. If he had gotten the bus tour, he likely would have gotten over much better with the people all around the country and probably would have been popular enough to get the title win over the evil sumo wrestler at the end of the summer.

Who knows what the future would hold from that point forward, but certainly a feud with former best friend and still bad guy Lex Luger would have been very likely. It may have even led to a showdown at Wrestlemania the following March.

We’ll never know, but I like to sit around and wonder, What If?

This Nostalgic Life Newsletter Issue #6

The latest issue of This Nostalgic Life newsletter is now out and available to view. If you don’t subscribe, you can still view the newsletter by clicking on the image below.

In this latest issue, I tell the tale of the non-traditional summer vacation we took for several years in the ’80s. We would go on a “wagon train” and travel around our local area in a caravan of wagons and camp out every night for almost two weeks.

Also in this issue, my co-collaborator Eric debuts a new ongoing weekly feature where he looks back at the music charts of 1983 and 1990. He reviews the current week’s timeframe but in those years. It’s a fascinating look and listen at the music that made us.

And as always, we’ve included a batch of recommended reading links pointing the way to some of the best and most fun nostalgia and retro-related content from around the web.

If you’ve not signed up for the newsletter yet, I urge you to consider it. We publish the latest issue every Wednesday and it’s delivered straight to your email inbox so you never have to go searching for it. It’s absolutely free, it’s ad-free, there’s no spam, and you can always cancel at anytime. Every issue features a main feature, the weekly recommended reading links, the new ongoing We Got the Beat section, and a smaller feature that rotates between Do You Remember, Nostalgia Nuggets, and other mini-features. Just click on the image below to be taken to this week’s issue where you can subscribe if you’d like.

Toys I Never Had: G.I. Joe U.S.S. Flagg Aircraft Carrier

The USS Flagg was and still is my Holy Grail. Never was there another toy that came before GI Joe in my eyes. It was the granddaddy of ’em all. I had most of the figures, the vehicles, the playsets, the action packs, and nearly anything else tied to the GI Joe toy line. But the one thing that always eluded me was this aircraft carrier.

When fully assembled, this toy was a whopping six feet in length! That goes beyond the realm of a toy, and into the realm of something more like a coffee table. It was released in 1986 with a hefty retail price of $89.95, so it was definitely not to be found in my house. My dad would have had an easier time giving birth to one than actually paying that much for a toy.

But for years I would sit and think about all the cool battles that could have been had featuring the Flagg at the center of the action. It was so big, that you could have incorporated many planes and helicopters on its deck. You could have loaded it with fifty or more figures without cramping things too much. Even while typing this, my mind is drifting away to endless assaults on Cobra Island with this thing as the centerpiece.

As an adult in the early 2000s, I tried again to acquire one. Searching on eBay, I found dozens of them, but none were complete. The incomplete ones there were going for several hundred dollars. I actually did see one in a comic book shop one time, still sealed in its original box, but with a price tag of $1500. If I could have ever decided which child to sell, I may have ended up with it.

But who knows, maybe one day I’ll run across a good deal on a complete one and be able to purchase it. Then my friends, the battle for the superiority of the bedroom will resume once more.

American Defense Action Figures of the 1980s

These American Defense figures are the first G.I. Joe “bootleg” figures I recall seeing on store shelves. I had 3 3/4″ figures from other lines that I tried to mix into my G.I. Joe play, but it just never felt right. Like mixing in a Stormtrooper from Star Wars…it just didn’t fit.

So these were the first bootlegs of decent quality that actually matched the vibe of G.I. Joe and could mix in almost seamlessly. For the most part, they were constructed the same way as our beloved Joes, but with cheaper materials. And while they may not have made for a good figure line on their own, they were certainly great at filling the role of figures who could take the bullet or jump on the grenade instead of your favorite Joe characters. And let’s be honest, we all needed figures like that. You can’t just have Gung-Ho or Quick Kick taking an early exit from playtime, No, you need some fodder in the lineup so the real stars can continue with the mission.

A lot of times I used them as “new recruits” who were trying to make the team. That would usually end horribly for a few of them though. The small playsets that are shown in the ad were actually pretty fun. They were cheaper than Joe sets and still provided good fun.

I want to mention that my favorite figure from the line is pictured in this ad. At the bottom, second from the left, that soldier in the karate gear always made the cut and I would pair him up with Quick Kick as a stealth special unit. That figure has always been an honorary Joe figure in my mind.

Watermelons Aren’t As Good As they Used to Be

After a long hot week at work, my body has been craving fresh fruit. So I got up and went to the local grocery store this morning to pick up some various fruits to satisfy my cravings.

The first thing that greeted me in the produce section was a display of fresh-cut watermelon. All of it had a nice deep red color and looked like it would be full of flavor, so I picked up a quarter of one to enjoy this afternoon along with some other tasty choices.

But once I chunked it up and started to eat it, I quickly realized that looks had been deceiving. While it looked really ripe, it had a mostly bland taste and was devoid of the sweetness of the watermelons of years ago. This seems to be a trend over the last decade or two, and I guess it’s because most watermelons you can get these days are the hybrid ones, and the ones engineered to be seedless. With each of these iterations, the watermelon loses something.

I can remember as a kid getting a watermelon was a big deal. They were super sweet and everyone wanted a piece. I can remember numerous times, someone in my mom’s family would pick one up, and then call the rest of the family to meet at the grandparents and have some. There were many Sunday afternoons that my grandparent’s front porch would be full of my aunts and uncles, and their front yard was full of us grandkids all chowing down on juicy watermelon and spitting seeds everywhere.

And as you’ll read later this week in the latest issue of the This Nostalgic Life newsletter, the nightly watermelon races were a big part of wagon train every year. I can’t imagine anyone running as hard as they can to try and win one of today’s watermelons. That really speaks to the loss of sweetness through the years.

Or maybe all of this equates to me finally turning into an old fogey who just complains about how things aren’t as good as they used to be. Maybe I’m just one step away from yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

This Nostalgic Life Newsletter Issue #5

This week’s issue has a tremendously fun tale of Eric’s music piracy ways back when he was in school, as well as me being nostalgic for my favorite meal of the day. This issue is also filled a pile of my traditional recommended reading links pointing you in the direction of some really fun nostalgic and retro content around the web.

Click on the image above to check out the latest issue and if you like, go ahead and subscribe. It’s free, and each issue is delivered straight to your inbox every Wednesday morning.