October 28th, 1989

You know how there are just certain days from your past that you remember more than others? Well October 28th, 1989 is one of those days for me. It was a Saturday, which meant cartoons in the morning, but it was what went on that night that made it memorable. Let me tell you about it.

I’ve talked about the yearly Harvest Festival we had every year at my elementary school. Well, in 1989, the Harvest Festival fell on Saturday night, October 28th. So all day long I was eager with anticipation of that night’s event. It was also the night of WCW’s first Halloween Havoc pay-per-view event, which admittedly, put me in a disadvantageous position of possibly having to choose one or the other to enjoy that evening. So my morning hours were wracked with nervous feelings. Not enough that I couldn’t enjoy my usual Saturday morning cartoons, but it still played on my mind throughout the day. Normally, I can make my mind up quickly about things, but this was different. This particular day offered a very hard decision to make.

But as the cartoons ended and the afternoon started to roll around, my Dad made an offer. Since he would be going to the Harvest Festival with us so he could play bingo, he wouldn’t be there to watch TV. He suggested that we set the timer on the VCR and record Halloween Havoc while we were out! Now keep in mind, this was still the era before we had one of the cable black boxes that allowed us to get all of the PPV shows at no additional charge. At that time, I was allowed to order every other wrestling PPV, and this was the show. I skipped WWF’s Summerslam that year because I had gotten The Great American Bash in July. So we got the PPV ordered and the time set so I wouldn’t have to miss Halloween Havoc after all. With that set, I could turn my attention to the Harvest Festival.

So I spent the afternoon playing with Construx toys while I counted down the time left before time to go to the Harvest Festival. You know how I know I was playing with Construx? Because I was already trying to build what my interpretation was of the Thunderdome cage that was to be featured in the main event of the wrestling show that night. As it turned out, I wasn’t that far off.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I really can’t remember my Halloween costumes from through the years. While that is true, I actually do remember my costume from 1989. I went as a convict. It wasn’t the most creative idea, but at least I had a costume. Time was getting close, so I got the costume on, but I still had a little time before we would be leaving.

It was in that short amount of time that I watched the only episode of the TV show “She’s the Sheriff” that I would ever watch. Since She’s the Sheriff was a syndicated show, and since it had already ended its first run, I probably had to have been watching it on my local Fox affiliate. I can’t tell you what episode it was that I saw that day, and since there are no full episodes on Youtube for me to embed, you’ll just have to make do with a video of the opening credits for the show.

So we finally got to the Harvest Festival and my first order of business was to take my Mom to the showcase and show it off to her. Our school had a big showcase display right across from the office in the main hub of the school. Back then, the top three classes at school all had a part of the Harvest Festival to handle. The 7th graders got to put on the yearly haunted house, the 6th graders were in charge of The Disco, or The Batcave as it was called in 1989, and we 5th graders had to put together the showcase. The theme for that year was antiques, and my Mom had donated her grandmother’s kitchen knife to be put on display with the other relics. The showcase wasn’t really anything special, but since we worked on it, I had to show it off.

Once I got tickets to the games in the gym, it was time to say bye to the folks and go run with my friends for the night while all the parents went to the cafeteria to play bingo. I used to think that would be so boring until I had kids of my own, and then it turned out that the bingo was the highlight of my night when taking my kids to these things.

My friends and I ran around and played games, toured the haunted house, and made several trips to The Bat Cave. Not to dance mind you, but to hear the music and hang out in the darkened room. No self-respecting 5th-grade boy could be seen dancing awkwardly in front of the girls.

But even as I was having all of this fun, my mind kept drifting back to home and the hard-hitting NWA action I was missing out on. The Festival was starting to wind down so I made my trip to the “general store” to buy some old-fashioned candy and got ready to go home to see how things were turning out in the wrestling battles.

The flaw in my plan was realized when we got home and the show was still going. So not wanting to get spoiled on anything prematurely, I waited until it was over, rewound the tape, and started the show!

I had been highly anticipating the Halloween Havoc show because the NWA had done such an amazing job building up not only the rivalries but the theme of the show itself. It had a Halloween setting and had an advertised main event of a Thunderdome cage match pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and The Great Muta. The promotion for the cage itself was fantastic as they boasted it would be the largest cage in history and would be electrified to make sure the competitors stayed inside.

But not only was the main event something I was really looking forward to but there were also several other key matches that night as well. The first meeting between The Road Warriors and The Skyscrapers was dubbed as The irresistible force meeting the immovable object, The Steiner Brothers taking on the mysterious tag-team only known as Doom, Lex Luger meeting Brian Pillman, and other matches.

It was hard staying awake that night to take it all in, but I fought my way through it, and watching that show capped off a great night in my young life.

After all of these years, it’s funny to think back about how a school event and a wrestling show could make such a lasting impression on me. But I think it has more to do with the current state of life we find ourselves in. So much responsibility with jobs, families, and the like, that sometimes our hearts ache to just go back, even if just for a little bit. And that’s what Retro Ramblings is for me. It’s my chance to go back, even if just briefly, to a simpler time. Thanks for taking a minute to make the trip with me.

And just for the record, here’s my ratings for the Halloween Havoc ’89 matches from that night:

  • Tom Zenk vs. Mike Rotunda – 2 stars
  • The Samoan Swat Team vs. The Midnight Express & Steve Williams – 3.5 stars
  • Tommy Rich vs. The Cuban Assassin – 1/2 a star
  • The Fabulous Freebirds vs. The Dynamic Dudes – 3.5 stars for the crowd atmosphere
  • The Steiner Brothers vs. Doom – 3 stars for the mystery
  • Lex Luger vs Brian Pillman – 4 stars
  • The Road Warriors vs. The Skyscrapers – 3 stars for the spectacle
  • Rick Flair & Sting vs. Terry Funk & Muta Thunderdome Cage Match – 4.5 stars for the whole experience

MTV Headbanger’s Ball Halloween Special from 1989

In case you’re staying in on this Halloween night like I am, you may want something to keep you entertained between visits from modern kids looking for free candy. And since you’re here at Retro Ramblings, then you must enjoy the finer things in life like stuff from the ’80s and ’90s. Well, I’ve got you covered on both fronts with this Watch & Listen feature.

It’s the 1989 MTV Headbanger’s Halloween special with Alice Cooper hosting! Not only is he presenting some of the spookier music videos and hosting segments in between, but this video also has all of the glorious 1989 commercials still intact as well. So feel free to make this your Halloween night entertainment, and take a little trip back in time while you do it. Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

The Yearly Harvest Festival at School

With fall most certainly in the air these days, and Halloween not too far away now, I thought this edition of Retro Ramblings would be a good time to talk about what used to be one of the highlights of my year…the annual Harvest Festival at my elementary school!


I’m using the term fall festival so more of you will know what I’m referring to.  But when I was in elementary school, ours was called the Harvest Festival.  Living in a farming community in the heart of the Appalachians, harvest time has always been a big deal to the people around here.  A good harvest was always a reason to celebrate, as the livelihood of most in this area depended on it.  The way nature works, the end of the harvest season lines up nicely with the Halloween season.  Thus, we had a Harvest Festival at school instead of calling it a Fall Festival, a Monster Mash, or other names I’ve heard these events referred to.

So you’ve probably been to one of these things.  The kids dress up, there are games and events, the parents wander around and congregate, and a good time is usually had by all.  Ours was always held at our elementary school and was the biggest event on the school calendar with the exception of the end-of-year banquet and graduation ceremonies.

The gymnasium was filled with cheesy carnival-type games where you could win prizes.  You know the kinds of games I’m talking about.  Like the kiddie pool filled with plastic ducks, and on the bottoms of a few of the ducks was some kind of indicator of a better prize than normal.  Everyone got something like a piece of candy or a spider ring just for playing, but if you pulled one of the special ducks, you may win something like a stuffed animal or the like.  So games like this littered the entire gym floor.  You had to buy tickets on your way in to use to play the games, and the money made from the sale of tickets was used for things around the school.

Our gym was connected to the lunchroom by a set of double doors, so it was easy to bounce back and forth between the two places.  The cafeteria was where the parents generally stayed.  There were concessions like hot dogs and pizza, and there was bingo all night.  And the bingo prizes were top-notch.  A lot of the businesses in town would donate really nice stuff to be given away, and this was another opportunity for the school to raise money.  I can’t even begin to remember what the bingo cost, but it wasn’t cheap.  But the price was small in comparison to how you would be helping the school, and the prizes you had a shot at winning.  I’m talking about stuff like brand new televisions, rocking chairs, a date night package with dinner at the restaurant and tickets to the theater….stuff like that.

We also had a haunted house as part of the event.  The 7th-grade class was always responsible for putting it on, and they would spend all week setting it up, and then they would dress up and be a part of the haunted house.  It was never too scary of an affair, but they tried.  We also had a dance room that some years was called The Disco, and other years was known as The Batcave.  But you could go there, the lights were turned out and black lights were in use, and there was a DJ spinning the hottest tunes of the time.  You and your friends…or your boyfriend/girlfriend could kill time together.

The whole event was great, and it was so much fun getting to run free and hang out with my friends in that environment for several hours on a Saturday night.  It was also cool that since it was usually the week before Halloween, everyone would dress up in their costumes to come. 

When I find myself drifting back to memories of elementary school, the yearly harvest festival is almost always the first thing that comes to mind.  But what about you?  Did you have anything like this when you were growing up? Share your stories in the comments section below.

Tom & Jerry’s TBS Funhouse Halloween Special

Looking back through all of my years on this earth, my absolute favorite bit of Halloween viewing was Tom & Jerry’s TBS Funhouse Halloween Special. It debuted in 1987 (before I had access to cable) and was repeated every Halloween season for a few years after.

Back in the late ’80s, Ted Turner and TBS launched Tom & Jerry’s TBS Funhouse.  It was an hour-and-a-half cartoon block every morning and afternoon where they combined Tom & Jerry shorts with Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, shorts from the Droopy library, and Popeye cartoons.  It was a really fun block with great variety.  During the holiday seasons, they kicked it up a notch and put together specials for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

These specials would usually air several times in the weeks leading up to the holiday, and they selected appropriate shorts to fit the theme.  Mixed in with the cartoon shorts were live-action bumpers filmed with Josh Jarboe and Audra Lee of the TBS show, Kid’s Beat.  They would dress up and tell jokes or give history about the holiday featured in the special.

In 1987, we got the first Halloween Special.  I didn’t have cable at the time, but my grandparents did, and rarely did they ever change the dial from TBS.  So when I was there visiting, I was treated to NWA Wrestling, episodes of Andy Griffith, and Tom and Jerry’s Funhouse.  I was lucky enough to be there one time and catch a commercial for the coming Halloween Special.  I got pretty excited about it, and my Mom actually took me back to their house when the special was on so I could watch it.

I remember being ecstatic about it, and really enjoying it, as it was a special filled with just Halloween shorts.  A year later when we had cable at our house, I was super excited when I saw a commercial on TBS advertising the special once again for the 1988 Halloween season!  I couldn’t believe it.  I was going to get to watch it again.  Not only did I watch it again that year, but I watched it every year it was on going forward.

I wish kids today had the opportunity to experience the anticipation of events like this.  Something that you just can’t get instantly, and that you have to wait for.  Things that are special for, and unique to the season.  There is just a certain feeling that can only be achieved by waiting for it, and old specials like this are one of those things.

Unfortunately for most people, 1992 was the last year they were able to view the special.  But all of you reading this aren’t “most” people. You’re part of the select few who can still view the original special in all its glory, as it’s been uploaded in its entirety to Archive.org! So I’m going to quit rambling on about it and post the video for you to watch if you like. I highly suggest you do so during this Halloween season.

Hot’n Devilish Chex Snack Mix Recipe from 1988

Here is another old recipe for you to try out at home in the modern age. I looked over the list of ingredients, and everything you need is still on the market today. This twist on the traditional snack mix looks really good, and should fit the Halloween season really well. I’ll be making a batch of this for Halloween night as my snack of choice while enjoying that night’s TV viewing. If you make this, drop a line in the comments with how it turned out.

1984 McDonaldland Fun Times Magazine Halloween Edition

It’s been a little while since I added any new scans to the archives, so what better way to make up for that than by posting a Halloween-related scan. There’s already a McDonaldland Fun Times magazine scan in the archives, but it’s from 1990 and wasn’t tied to a holiday or anything. But this one, oh my, this one is a Halloween-themed one and from the mid-80s, so it may be more in some of your wheelhouses. I hope you enjoy it.

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Revisiting Western Steer (Kind of)

Earlier this week, I attended a “going away” lunch for a co-worker who is taking another job in a faraway state. We went to a Mexican restaurant that opened near the tail end of Covid. I had never visited this establishment in its current form before, nor had I visited the place while it was occupied by other restaurants. Before being a Mexican restaurant, it was a seafood place called Harbor House. Before that, it was a seafood place as well called the Mayflower. Both have been pretty popular through the years, but I never went in. While eating lunch and looking around the place, I had to strain my brain to remember just how long it actually had been since I was in there. 35 years. I was ten years old the last time I was in that building, back when it was Western Steer.

As a kid, Western Steer was as fancy of a place as my family went as far as restaurants go. It was what I grew to call a $10 steak house as I got a little older. In the mid to late ’90s, we became inundated with “fancier” chain steak houses like Damon’s, O’Charley’s, and a few others as we added new mega shopping centers in the area. So a $10 steak house was a place where you could go grab a chopped steak, potato, salad, and bread for around the aforementioned $10. While a $10 steakhouse wasn’t as impressive as the others, it allowed you to take a date to a place nicer than Taco Bell but helped you avoid going broke at the same time.

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GI Joe Killer WHALE Hovercraft

Toys I Never Had

Throughout my memories of the mid-’80s, two action figure lines dominated my playtime. Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe. The cartoon series and the Real American Hero toy line were a powerful combination. I lived and breathed G.I. Joe pretty hard back then. I mean, I still do today, but not nearly like I did back then. The toy line was full of awesome toys, and I still miss one in particular that I never had the pleasure of owning…the Killer WHALE Hovercraft

Like most things I salivate over in old toy commercials, I never owned the WHALE, nor did I ever get a chance to play with it. So watching the kids in this commercial put it through its paces makes me excited even today. The fact that it actually floats on water is a big drawing point, and watching the depth charges roll off into the water almost sent me over the edge. It was a stellar toy in a line full of them, and yet it still stands apart from the rest because of all its cool features.

I mean, it seems like the ultimate assault weapon during playtime. The twin guns, the depth charge feature, and the belly of the thing holds even more Joe figures. And check out the commercial for it below…what about that environment they are playing with it in? I wish I had had a place like that to take my Joes back then and fight out the battles between G.I. Joe and Cobra.

Nintendo Cereal

In 1988, I was all about Nintendo. It had probably taken over as my favorite toy by that point if you want to consider it a toy. And I was already self-aware of my finer tastes in junk food. So Nintendo cereal coming along was right up my alley. It was made by Ralston, who was the king of producing commercially-licensed cereals in the ’80s and ’90s.

This short-lived cereal featured a split package designed and contained both Super Mario Bros. cereal and Zelda Adventure cereal. The Mario cereal was “fruity” flavored and was made up of super mushrooms, Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Bowser-shaped pieces. The Zelda side consisted of berry-flavored Links, hearts, keys, boomerangs, and shields.

Given how I love gimmicky junk food, the fact that this mimicked Nerds cereal by featuring two different flavors packaged separately in the same box made it a sure bet that a box of this would end up coming home from the grocery store with us. And since she knew how big of a Nintendo fan I was, my mom didn’t put up a fight when I asked to try it.

I can’t recall the taste or if I was a fan or not, but the fact that it had no marshmallows was not a good start for a kid’s cereal if you want to make it long-term. It hit the market in 1988 and was gone in 1989. While it may not have stuck around long, it made a lasting impression on a lot of people, myself included.

WWF Thumb Wrestlers

WWF Thumb Wrestlers

The WWF Thumb Wrestlers were my consolation for not having the LJN figures.  Now I really didn’t mind not having the full-sized LJN figures as they weren’t very fun to play with due to their inflexibility. The only reason I wanted the full-sized LJN counterparts was because everyone was getting them.

The Thumb Wrestlers were cheaper, so I was actually able to pick up several packs of these with my weekly allowance, and that gave me enough variety to really enjoy having these.  I had Hulk Hogan, JYD, Hillbilly Jim, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, and Big John Studd.  As I said, enough variety to play around with and have some matches. 

The WWF machine was clicking on all cylinders and they really knew what they were doing with these thumb wrestlers. I mentioned how they came packed two per package…well, they mixed them up and the same figure would appear in multiple packs. This meant that you could theoretically find any matchup of the figures you wanted. To the best of my research abilities, here are the two-pack combinations that were available:

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Time Capsule: Kenner Star Wars Return of the Jedi Toy Catalog from 1982

In this Time Capsule, I’m treating all of you Star Wars fans to something really special. It’s the Kenner Star Wars Return of the Jedi Collections catalog from 1982. Flip through it all you want and salivate over all of the cool toys they were offering at the time!

The flip book below is super easy to use. The controls are in the control panel below the book, and you can use them to go forward or backward. I suggest using the expand button to blow it up to full screen for maximum enjoyment.

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

When Konami unleashed the first Castlevania cartridge on the Nintendo world in 1987, I was still too wrapped up in Super Mario Bros., ExciteBike, and Pro Wrestling to pay much attention.  Even though the original game was much loved and had a lot of hype around it, I was still impervious to the franchise’s existence when Castlevania 2:  Simon’s Quest rolled out in 1988. 

I’ve never hidden the fact that this game is my favorite all-time for Nintendo. Most players hold Castlevania III in much higher regard than this, and I can see where they are coming from. Dracula’s Curse was an amazing game with an amazing feature that lets you keep changing which character you were using. But for me, it all goes back to this being my first role-playing game, and I had bought it myself with weeks and weeks worth of saved-up allowance money. Thus, I prefer this over the more popular Castlevania III.

Now I don’t know how much advertising was put into this game, but this comic book ad…boy is it a beaut! It’s got screenshots, box art, details on the game via intricate storytelling, and great art that is relative to what the game is. Take out the fact that this is my favorite game, the ad itself is just really good. It sends a pretty good message as to what you would be getting in the game and creates a sense of need to own it. Even Don Draper and the boys at Sterling Cooper would be proud to have made this ad.

But not seeing this ad until much later in life, I’m not quite sure what attracted me to it in the first place.  All I know is, that one Saturday afternoon I took all the money I had saved up to the local K-Mart when my Mom went to do her usual shopping.  I went straight to the electronics section and started scanning the available Nintendo games, as I was intent on picking one up that day.  Maybe it was the only game they had, or maybe the box art just got to me.  But little did I know, that I was purchasing one of my all-time favorite games for the Nintendo system.  Matter of fact, when I bought a Wii for the kids when they came out, I immediately downloaded Simon’s Quest for it and played it right up until the system got outdated and the kids moved on to something else.

In Castlevania 2:  Simon’s Quest, you take the role of Simon Belmont on a journey to undo the curse placed on him and his family by Dracula at the end of the original Castlevania game.

The quest of Simon to destroy Dracula was the simple premise, but the much more complicated facet of the game was just where in the heck did you find Dracula, and what weapon do you use on him when you find him? You spent your time traveling through towns, forests, and mansions killing skeletons, wolfmen, sea creatures, and everything else that got in your way, including spiders and floating eyeballs. 

You earned “hearts” that were like money and you used that money to upgrade your whip and buy additional weapons like Holy Water, Laurel Bushes, Diamonds, and numerous other curiosities. You also had to talk to the townspeople to get clues on which direction to go to find Dracula and how to beat him. All this wrapped into the game made it one heck of a time-waster, and I can’t forget the Saturday afternoon that I finally beat the damn thing.

 Castlevania II was the first role-playing game that I can ever remember playing, and even to this day, role-playing games are not my cup of tea.  But Simon’s Quest has stood the test of time and holds a special place in my heart as one of the best, and most fun video games I ever put my hands on.

Castlevania 2:  Simon’s Quest is readily available on the numerous Nintendo emulator and ROM sites you find on the web.  If you never played it back in the day, I highly suggest you give it a shot on some rainy Saturday afternoon and see what you think.