Tag Archives: vintage

Episode Review: Son of Ghoul Presents THE VAMPIRE BAT (November 7, 1997)

Happy Halloween!

Ah yes, the big day is here once again. From decorations and television programming dedicated to the holiday proper, to the simple look and feel of ‘real life’ outside, I love the ambiance of this day and October in general – and that’s something even stupid dumb COVID-19 can’t ruin. Not totally, anyway.

I know, I know; I didn’t post as much as I had initially hoped to this month. Hey, I did say it’d be iffy! Nevertheless, methinks this Halloween post today will make up for whatever shortcomings I may have, uh, come up short with. Or not; whatever.

As you may have gleamed from that helpful post title, we’re taking another venture into the world of Northeast Ohio television, and horror host, icon Son of Ghoul, played by Keven Scarpino. This isn’t the first time we’ve taken a look at a vintage SOG broadcast, there’s also been this and before that this. But, it is the, erm, latest. As of this posting, anyway.

It’s also almost as far back as I can *personally* go with this subject. Why’s that? Because this was the very first episode of The Son of Ghoul Show I ever taped, that’s why! That’s also why what we’re looking at today hails from November, rather than the more-expected month of October. Although in regards to that aspect, I’d say that aside from specifically Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year/Easter themed episodes, almost any horror host installment works for a Halloween update. Or not; whatever.

And, this does still tie into Halloween, and even the upcoming holiday season, all of which we’re pretty much at right now. As of this posting, anyway.

(Also, hopefully I won’t use that paragraph-ending-repetition-for-ostensible-comic-effect bit too many more times in this article.)

Airing on November 7, 1997, on my much-loved WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-25, this is very nearly my SOG fandom at its very earliest – basically at the start of a journey that continues on to this day in 2020; just about 23 years later! Read on, I’ll explain all of this in more detail momentarily.

SOG starting the show.

First off, SOG’s intro places us squarely in early November, with his announcement of “we have survived Halloween” near the top of it. This was a nice bit of continuity with the previous week’s show, which of course was the big Halloween episode. I know this because, well, that’s where I as a SOG fan entered the picture.

I know I’ve recounted this before so I’m just going to give the shortened account this time around, but that Halloween episode was where I was first actually introduced to SOG. Oh I had seen bits and pieces beforehand, but it was whilst flipping around the TV on November 1, 1997 (back then, SOG ran on both Friday & Saturday nights, same time, same episode. Halloween ’97 fell on a Friday, I stumbled in on Saturday) that I first really watched SOG.

I was hooked immediately. From the skits to the sound effects to the movie (Night of the Living Dead, another first for me that night) to, obviously, SOG himself, at 11 years old I became an instant fan. And, while I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back, this was where my love and fascination with local broadcasting first truly took seed. You wanna know the honest truth? Without SOG, there’s a real possibility you’re not reading this blog right now. Not just because I’m talking about SOG at the moment, but rather because I just don’t know if my interests and hobbies and whatnot would have played out the same without him. It’s entirely possible that they wouldn’t have.

Simply put, that November 1, 1997 Son of Ghoul broadcast of Night of the Living Dead was perhaps the single most transformative television broadcast of my life.

So, less than a week later, I was in front of the TV with the VCR at the ready. I was, as you would say, “chomping at the bit” to further dive into this new thing I had discovered, the results of which you’re reading about this very moment. (By the way, I learned the hard way that both the Friday & Saturday shows for a given week were identical, though this made it handy for recording when one of my eventual letters was read on the air, or if I just particularly liked the movie/episode.)

Anyway, back to SOG’s intro. Along with just some general fooling around (and man, just seeing him on that old set and goofing off, what a trip!), he states that the movie that night “aw man, this is a first run on this show – I hope it’s the last!” Of course that wound up being wildly untrue; most of these movies have been seen repeatedly on the program over the years, though there’s something undoubtedly neat about capturing one of these standbys in its Son of Ghoul debut.

The Vampire Bat’s cute lil’ title screen.

The movie was The Vampire Bat, from 1933. At the time, this was an entirely new flick to me! I was, and am, I serious sucker for these old cheapies, and as a King Kong fan even back then, the mention that Fay Wray was in it only added to the interest.

So yeah, The Vampire Bat. You wanna know the honest truth? I’ve wound up sort of ambivalent towards the movie. I love it for it’s public domain ever-presence and quasi-Universal vibes (it used some of the same actors and sets), and the whole look and feel and the history surrounding it. But as a movie movie itself? Well, I think it’s just okay. Certainly not bad, and I get seriously excited over various cleaner/completer available prints, or even just new-to-me budget home video releases from years past. But yes, the flick itself is just alright in my eyes. Heck, I couldn’t even muster up the enthusiasm to actually re-watch it for this review. (Although I probably shoulda, considering whatever credentials I imagine myself to have.) I’m the same way with another early-30s horror film: White Zombie. I like it fine, it’s not bad, I take a real interest in it, but perhaps conversely, I don’t tend to feel like watching it very often at all.

Of course, The Vampire Bat was a bigger deal to me back in 1997 when SOG was winging it at my face. Like I said, this was new territory. That’s why we’re here now, after all. It was only as the years progressed that I relatively cooled on it.

If nothing else, The Vampire Bat features a cool lab.

The plot? Even if you haven’t seen this, you’ve probably seen something like it; it’s an early 1930s horror movie with vampires as the subject, so you can probably guess the gist of it before ever pressing “play.”

The short synopsis: a rash of blood loss has hit a village, so naturally vampires are suspected. Particular suspicion falls on one “Herman Glieb,” because he likes bats. (Glieb is played by Dwight Frye, so you’ve probably got a good idea of his performance before ever pressing “play”.) However, it’s actually a mad doctor played by Lionel Atwill, who’s draining villagers of their blood for some sort of organism he’s created. Also, Fay Wray is our heroine.

Yeah, I don’t have much more to say about this one. Look, it’s wildly public domain, so if you haven’t seen it, it’s not like it’s hard to do so. Some of the imagery in it, such as Atwill’s cool laboratory set (that’s it above), sticks with me more than anything. As such, it makes for a cool horror host feature and/or something fun to have lazily playing in the background around Halloween, and indeed, it does look appropriately “Halloweeny.” It may not knock me out, but it certainly does its part adequately enough.

Obviously, since this is an episode review, I’m sorta obligated to cover the movie in some fashion. A necessary aspect of this post? Uh, yeah. But if I’m being honest with you (and I am), it’s all about the Son of Ghoul here. And luckily, because I dictate how this article transpires, we’re at that point right now!

I’m not gonna hit each and every last segment aired, just the highlights as I see ’em, but rest assured, this was a pretty good episode of The Son of Ghoul Show. There was plenty of then-new stuff and a couple fun throwbacks, and while someone who didn’t grow up with all this may be a bit mystified by the enamor I’m exhibiting, trust me, as a whole this was (is) some solid SOG.

While I certainly love de facto skits, my favorite part of pretty much any horror host show is the simple host segment; the respective host, sitting on the set, reading viewer mail or just goofing off. Or more often than not, doing both. Such was the case right here, with this fairly lengthy (about 15 minutes total) mail bit.

In it, SOG shows off the poster and promotes a movie he has a small part in: the then-upcoming Little Miss Magic. Also, that past Halloween night, SOG appeared at a party at the Sheraton Suite, along with Big Chuck & Lil’ John. Such things are pretty par for the course nowadays, but back then it was a rarer occurrence. According to SOG, “We had a dynamite time! I mean, the three of us got along just like peas in a pod! Or a pod that took a pee, one of the two; I can’t figure it out.”

Reading Brett’s letter.

But the area of most interest in this segment? My good friend Brett Van Wagner, who has contributed to this site before (including the SOG 30th anniversary tribute; have it again) had one of his early letters to the show read on-air here! Although Brett and I were born like two days apart and grew up loving a lot of the same things (obviously!), he discovered SOG a few months before I did, so he was already in the game by this point. He and I share a common trait where we kinda cringe at some of our early, pre-teen letters to SOG (my first would be in January), although I think that’s probably a personal viewpoint; this stuff isn’t as embarrassing to somebody else watching.

Indeed, I thought Brett’s letter here was pretty funny. He asks for an autographed picture of SOG, but not mailed; he wants it dropped off personally at his house. (SOG just gives a smirk to the camera and moves on.) And when he asks to lend him money for a SOG t-shirt and an extra $50? “Start holding your breath right now.” Good stuff, Brett!

Scarey Tales.

An installment of “Scarey [sic] Tales.” This is an old TV-67 bit; there were more of these older things ran back then than I caught on to at the time, but they still worked, and in retrospect I’m glad they were run. A little Son of Ghoul history for the newbies!

These skits basically amounted to SOG recounting an ostensibly-spooky story with some kind of comic conclusion. In this one, he tells us the tale of Little Miss Muppet; the story unfolds the same as the version we all grew up with, until the end, when Little Miss Muppet decides to eat the spider that sat down beside her, too.

You know, Big Chuck & Lil’ John once did a skit with the exact same outcome. Which came first? Was this an instance of mere coincidence? Does it really matter?

SOG & Fidge: together again.

As implied by Brett’s letter, official Son of Ghoul t-shirts were the hot new item of the day, a point driven home directly by this next segment. Here, SOG gives us all of the details on how to order them. For $16.75 ($13 + $3 s/h + 75¢ Ohio sales tax), you had your choice of adult-sized large of extra large. There was still time to order and get them before Christmas, but you had to hurry!

The best way to demonstrate their “wearability,” you ask? Have the late, great Ron “Fidge” Huffman come out and model one! It’s always nice to see Fidge during these old shows. I met him once; very friendly guy.

I myself never got one of these exact shirts; in retrospect, this was a mistake. But then, I wasn’t into that sort of memorabilia back then. I’ve since made up for that over the years, but I can tell you now: if I ever come across one of these vintage versions (or better yet, an old 67-era shirt) somewhere, you just might hear me flipping out from wherever you happen to be.

Festive SOG?

Another mail segment!

In this one, someone sent SOG a sombrero, which he happily wears for the rest of the bit.

Also, to further illustrate the point that Halloween was just freshly past, a piece of mail is shown wherein someone carved a SOG jack-o-lantern! It actually looks pretty cool, and SOG got some comedy out of it, too. “A nice fat face, just like me…how dare you embarrass me like that in front of family and friends?! Who do you think you are, guy?!” Of course SOG’s just kidding. (I hope!)

Shortly thereafter, there’s another piece of mail that’s legitimate hate mail. Apparently someone was not too enamored by SOG, because he sent a homemade button that had little pictures symbolizing a rather, erm, crude expression relating to SOG. SOG: “I have to tell you, that really hurts my feelings,” after which he proudly pins it to his chest.

Finishing up the show for the night.

Following an after-movie cartoon (a short WWII-era Bug Bunny pitch for war bonds), the show was all over. During SOG’s outro, he mentions that the movie next week would be The Corpse Vanishes.

Now, I actually did tape that one as well. Like The Vampire Bat, The Corpse Vanishes was a new-to-me horror cheapie. I’m so used to so much of this stuff in this day and age that it’s amazing to think there was a time when I wasn’t familiar with a lot of it!

Unlike The Vampire Bat however, I later taped over The Corpse Vanishes. I no longer remember with what, but it (probably) doesn’t matter; this action was eventually revealed to be a big huge mistake, based almost entirely on that flick and it’s extreme poverty row Lugosi-ness. I’m serious; it actually took me years to truly warm up to it, but nowadays I absolutely love The Corpse Vanishes. And, well, you’ve seen how ambivalent I am regarding The Vampire Bat. Not that I’d trade this ep for that ep, there’s still that personal history with SOG to be accounted for. But nevertheless, file this one under the follies of youth or some other stupidly wistful saying like that.

(The above ain’t no joke; I’ll reiterate to fill space. It did take years to realize, but this is one record-over I seriously regret nowadays. A great cheap movie, airing during the early weeks of my SOG fandom, one that I had and then let go, as it were? Regret. Of course, at 11 years old and with even less money than I have now – which is really saying something – I had to be extra choosy with VHS tape space. Does that make me feel any better? Not really. Do I take solace in the fact that whether I kept this Corpse Vanishes episode or not, my life wouldn’t be appreciably different today? Not really.)

So anyway, there you have it; a quick rundown of The Son of Ghoul Show from November 7, 1997, a week after Halloween for this Halloween.

BUT WAIT! We’re not quite done just yet!

What’s left, you ask? How about a few old commercials! Nothing quite takes you, or at least me, back in time quite like an old commercial. There were several good’uns seen during this broadcast, so real quick now, here are my three favorites:

The Cafe in Stow’s cool 29/35 ad!

The Cafe in Stow! As I mentioned in my post on the first of this month (here, have it again), I absolutely love local restaurant memorabilia and the like. Of course that extends to old commercials, which means that I was quite pleased to see this ad for The Cafe in Stow, long a local institution, turn up during the episode.

The commercial itself is simple but effective: a jaunty “Let’s Eat” jingle plays over footage of patrons, erm, eating while a voiceover extols the virtues of The Cafe in Stow. Like I said, simple but effective.

But what makes this really cool is just how local it feels. That was one thing you could absolutely count on from 29/35: a serious sense of local pride. In a lot of the actual programming, sure, but also in the advertising. There were ads for places that you could (probably) only see on 29/35, which only added to the good vibes of the station.

The Cafe in Stow is still open to this day, and while I’ve never been there, it is now absolutely on my “gonna try” list. Why? 20+ year old commercials, that’s why! (Plus, I just like patronizing local establishments like this.)

Columbia House’s cool M*A*S*H VHS tapes!

M*A*S*H on Columbia House VHS! Advertising on 29/35 wasn’t just local; there could also be national-type stuff (sort of like what we saw here). Take this spot, for example. This is just fantastic; a minute-long commercial for Columbia House’s VHS releases of M*A*S*H! As a long, long time M*A*S*H fanatic, you better believe something like this airing during The Son of Ghoul Show is pure icing.

This series of tapes first showed up in the early-90s, but 1997 was the 25th anniversary of the show (can you believe we’re now closer to the 50th anniversary than we aren’t?), so not only were they being pushed once again, but you also got a swanky M*A*S*H 25th Anniversary t-shirt when you ordered! I really like this screencap here; they went all out and included a martini, stethoscope, even some golf balls! That’s dedication! (The $4.95 + s/h seen here was an introductory price; subsequent editions cost $19.95 + s/h, though that was still a small price to pay for some quality M*A*S*H. Plus, you got that shirt.)

In the years before the official DVD sets (and actually, VHS sets too – for the first five seasons, anyway), these Columbia House tapes were the only way to get much of the TV series as official releases. Oh sure, the big huge series finale “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” got a standalone release not long after airing, and of course the 1970 feature film was out there multiple times over, but there was a lot of good stuff in-between all that which could now be owned and watched whenever y’all pleased! Except for the super-long finale, which was naturally also included in this collection, there were several ‘themed’ episodes per tape. No, these weren’t in order from start to finish, and the whole series wasn’t represented either (though there were, I believe, over 50 volumes in this collection released, so you eventually got a good chunk of the show’s run), but does any of that really matter? It was M*A*S*H, a show I’d argue is in the top ten greatest U.S. TV series of all time, officially released on good ol’ VHS!

JC Comics & Cards, just being cool in general!

JC Comics & Cards! Ah, *my* comic place! I was already well familiar with JC’s before discovering SOG; as a young Star Wars nut (a fandom that eventually subsided considerably, though I still like it plenty), JC’s box of $3, loose old school SW figures was a thing of beauty.

Fortuitously, JC was also a sponsor of SOG. Why fortuitously? Because as I’ve recounted before, JC’s was where I first *met* SOG in person! Yep, SOG made a personal appearance at JC’s that coming December, and I was there; it was really the first time I ever felt the need to meet a celebrity, which shows you just what a big deal SOG was to me.

So, obviously JC ads were often seen during the show back then, and something still just feels ‘right’ about it when revisiting these old episodes. This particular spot is a herky-jerky (as in video effect) romp around the store whilst showing off its wares. At one point, a big inflatable Spiderman is seen, which I recall hanging in JC’s front window for years.

JC’s is still there in the same location, and while I’m no longer the Star Wars or comic book guy I once was, I do pop in occasionally, usually to check out the cool vintage toys in stock or to raid the 25¢ comic bins for neat old print advertisements (I’m a sucker for old video game ads, and I generally don’t feel too bad about extricating them from cheap old issues). JC’s is awesome.

And so with that, our big Halloween update comes to a close. Needless to say, I’m still a huge Son of Ghoul fan to this very day, so it’s a trip to go back to when that fandom was in the earliest of stages. I mean, I had just been introduced to the show less than a week prior! It’s amazing to look back and realize all that was ahead of me, some of it good, some of it bad, all of it still TBD at the time. And yet, one constant has been The Son of Ghoul Show; it’s still on the air! And, he had been on the air for 11 years before I even came into the picture! Talk about a local institution! I know nothing is forever, but I’m sure grateful for the time we’ve had, and will continue to have for the foreseeable future.

Have a Happy Halloween, everybody!

Art’s Frank-N-Stein Pizza & Subs in Lewisburg, PA – Vintage Wooden Nickel

Welcome to October 2020!

At the moment, I plan on having several posts throughout the month that will be fitting for the Halloween season. Some knickknacks, some movies, maybe (maybe) even an appropriate video game – provided there’s one I feel like playing and getting fired up enough to exhaustively write about.

Of course, those are my plans now. Naturally I don’t know if real life is going to intervene and heartlessly bellow at me “y’all ain’t postin’ on no stupid blog today!” But for the time being, my *intentions* are good…

Anyway, let’s kick things off with a cool little promotional item I picked up on eBay recently. It’s not from a location local to me, but as a collector of restaurant/food memorabilia, as well as someone who is pretty much always a sucker for old “monster-related stuff,” it’s directly up my alley. Especially since it combines those two elements, which is something capable of turning me into a veritable babbling maniac. (I’ll try not to be here. Not too much, at least.)

Dig this: from Lewisburg, PA, it’s an old promotional wooden nickel for an establishment named Art’s Frank-N-Stein Pizza & Subs. I officially deem it “neato.”

I don’t know how long they were around or from what year(s) this nickel hails, and I haven’t really found much corroborating evidence via online searches (more on all that in a bit), but I’m reasonably confident in stating “it old.”

Well, there’s no area code in the phone number or web address printed here, so at least there’s that. And while there’s no caricature of the Frankenstein monster anywhere on this nickel either, it’s reasonable to assume they had one of some sort in their advertising. I mean, how could they not have?

The idea of using the “Frank-N-Stein” name for restaurants, advertising, beer glasses, etc. is actually a pretty common one. As far as restaurants go, I’m unclear if “Frank-N-Stein” was every actually a chain or just a popular naming convention, but either way, there have been multiple Frank-N-Steins in multiple places over the years. Obviously, it’s a moniker that lends itself particularly well to establishments that specialize in hot dogs (frank) and (n) beer (stein). GET IT???

The omission of that particular aspect from this particular nickel is, believe it or not, something that added, erm, additional endearment to me when I stumbled upon it on eBay. Like I said, I collect old restaurant stuff in general, but I have a particular affinity for pizza places (and burgers/drive-ins and steakhouses, while we’re at it). I focus mostly on local-to-me memorabilia, but joints from all over are fair game, provided they sufficiently pique my interest- which is obviously the case here.

In short, I really like the fact that this wooden nickel specifically advertises pizza, as opposed to hot dogs.

Though, with that name, it’s probably a safe guess that they sold hot dogs and beer at Art’s Frank-N-Stein, too. But then again, maybe not; it’s not like I have any real idea here. At any rate, there’s no doubt it’s a cool name nevertheless.

Wooden nickels weren’t always just promotional pieces; some had a coupon-like aspect that, ostensibly, kept the customer coming back for more. Judging from the back of the coin we’re looking at today, this Art’s piece was one such example.

As you can see, this nickel advertises the offer of collecting 15 total to net yourself a free pizza. Of course, the combined profits from the orders that would get you those 15 wooden nickels in the first place probably more than made up for the eventual free pizza, as you would expect, but it’s a nice gimmick, and hey, if you were gonna eat there anyway…

So how much did this old promo piece set me back?

For something I was immediately enamored by at first sight, I actually didn’t buy it right away. The seller had it listed at $29.99 with free shipping, and while it may very well be worth that, that was a bit more than I was willing to pay. So, I sat on it, though truth be told, I did seriously consider taking advantage of the “make an offer” option and trying for $20.

However, for once my procrastination paid off; unbeknownst to me beforehand, eBay was honoring their long, long time members (of which I’m one) for their 25th anniversary with $25 coupons. You had to buy something for at least $25.01 to take advantage, and while I don’t know how many they wound up sending out or to who, I imagine they could afford it. (My guess? You probably had to have been fairly active over that period of time, which I have been, to warrant such a generous gift. Or maybe not; what do I know?)

Needless to say, upon arrival, that $25 coupon was not long for the world.

After taxes, my total cost for the Art’s Frank-N-Stein wooden nickel? $7.01. That’s certainly a lot better than $30, or even $20. Plus, I would assume eBay reimbursed sellers any differences when buyers used these coupons, and if that was the case, then everyone came out a winner here.

This nickel is a welcome addition to my collection, but I’d still like to know more about the actual Art’s Frank-N-Stein location. When did they start? How long were they around? Was it part of a chain or a standalone? Did they use some kind of Frankenstein caricature in their advertising? Is there info online somewhere that I just didn’t see? Hey, any Lewisburg, PA residents (or former residents), chime in! Please?

While digging around online, I came across this Pennsylvania location with a similar name that closed just last year, but I don’t think there was any relation between the two. Or was there?

The most helpful bit of info I found was this fantastic Universal Monster Army forum thread that not only features a pic of another one of these specific wooden nickels, but also pics of memorabilia from other Frank-N-Stein-named places. A plethora of it, in fact; there are some things seen there that, should I come across them during my travels, why, you just may hear me flipping out from wherever you happen to be.

And with that, the Halloween season has officially begun here at the blog! Stay tuned, there’s more to come! (Well, I hope there’s more to come; just stayed tuned anyway, okay?)


It’s been awhile since we’ve had an old video game review, so what say we talk some turtles today, eh?

If you came up to me right now and asked for a list of my favorite video games, not per console but of all time, I’d first reply with a concerned “w-why are you in my house?” But then, ever the crowd pleaser, I’d probably attempt a top 10 or top 20 list that, if nothing else, I’d be happy with for the time being. Still don’t like you being in my house, though.

Anyway, there are three games that would not only be on that list, but have actually been locks for the majority of my life. All three appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System, all three created a video game fervor on my part back in the day that was fairly unprecedented, and all three I’m still crazy about.

Those three games are: 1) the original Super Mario Bros., which is timeless to me in a way that the sequels aren’t – despite technically being inferior to said sequels in pretty much every way. 2) Batman: The Video Game, which not only fit perfectly into the Batmania I and countless other kids fell into in that 1989-1992 time period but was also that rare movie-based game that looked, sounded and, most importantly, played utterly fantastic.

And the third game? Had you been paying attention to the title or introductory sentence of this post (you know, I put those there for a reason, Ace), you’d probably have some inkling. Oh alright, here, take a look…

Nostalgia, thy name is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Released by Ultra Games (which was really just Konami) in 1989, this game – and that console in general – were huge hallmarks of my childhood.

No kidding, everything about that picture there takes me back like you won’t believe. The classic toaster NES, of course that’s just timeless in general, but that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartridge itself, man! Just the mere look of it, from outside appearances alone I mean, frankly, I think it’s a legitimate objet d’art. From that everlastingly cool label artwork (yes, I know it was taken from one of the original comic books) to even just the standard cart shell that (almost) every NES game had anyway; to me it all coalesces into a single entity of pure late-80s/early-90s-ness that, I admit, I’m finding hard to adequately explain. Maybe it won’t mean as much to someone who wasn’t there for it back then, but as a full-fledged TMNT kid entranced by the notion of actually playing as the heroes in a half shell, the very image of the cart just by itself is something powerful to me indeed.

The Ninja Turtles, the property as a whole, really was a force to be reckoned with at the time. If you were a kid, anyway. The cartoon, the movie, the comics, the toys, that inexplicable concert tour, the other endless amounts of merchandising; TMNT was just everywhere. So, for them to appear on the NES, which had also largely taken over the children of North America, well, that was both an obvious and necessary inclusion to the growing 8-bit Nintendo library, wouldn’t you say?

Heck, it was actually the first NES game I ever owned…and I didn’t even have an NES yet!

At first, the console was a phenomenon known to me via my neighbor, my cousins, and one of my friends at school. But before I got one for myself, and unlike Super Mario Bros. and Batman, which were, barring some scattered exceptions (like that Vs. Super Mario Bros. arcade), exclusives to the NES, I could play TMNT. Or rather, the sad MS-DOS adaptation of it. Even back then, I was cognizant of the fact it wasn’t very good. It didn’t play nearly as nicely as the NES version, it sure didn’t sound as nice, and while better graphically from a technical standpoint, it lacked the total dudes-with-attitude vibe the Nintendo version managed to pull off. Oh, and not that I ever even came remotely close to getting that far in it, but apparently it’s impossible to complete without cheating, too. Figures. (This game actually appeared on a number of home computers of the day, none of them seeming like they were very good; your mileage may vary.)

So, just how did I manage to finagle a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES before, erm, actually owning an NES? At one point, a trip to Sears, initially for a as-promised-by-mom copy of the TMNT Fall of the Foot Clan Game Boy game, instead yielded a selection of on-sale NES games. One of said cheap games was, say it with me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Evidently the pleading on my part – not to mention the fact it was cheaper than what we went there for – was enough to convince mom, because I went home with the game I had long been obsessed with that day. (Besides, it’s not like I couldn’t ever play it; I recall taking it with me to my cousins to play on their NES. Plus, it was only a matter of time before I got my own, and when, eventually, the neighbor down the street was selling his off cheap, man, I was ready to rock.)

Because of the popularity of the franchise and the NES, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one those games that, for a time, everyone seemed to have. And yet, today, it doesn’t seem to receive the widespread praise that other TMNT games from the same general era enjoy. The following, beat-’em-up-oriented games in the franchise, at least the ones prior to the 2000s TMNT reboot entries (and maybe even those now too, I dunno) are generally looked back on with copious amounts of gushing nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in that pre-reboot-gushin’ camp too, but I never didn’t have a healthy appreciation for the one that started it all. In contrast to the later TMNT games, this first one here was one of the few that really tried to do something different, both in how it played and in how the story unfolded as you played. Was it ultimately successful? I think so. But, lots of people out there apparently don’t.

I have some bias towards it, I admit. BUT BUT BUT, that doesn’t mean I can’t look at it objectively nowadays, either. Or at least try to. Is it a perfect game? Well, no; it definitely has some faults, some trappings of the 8-bit era in general as well as some programming quirks that are occasionally infuriating. Still, nostalgia aside, I really do think it does more right than wrong.

(By the way, this review assumes you’re already somewhat familiar with the franchise as a whole, or at least the franchise as it appeared in the mainstream in the late-80s and early-90s. If you don’t though, I don’t know, go read every last word about it on Wikipedia or something.)

An early boss battle, featuring antagonists Bebop and Rocksteady and captured ally April O’Neil – as well as a good look at the platforming set-up typical of the game.

Unlike later TMNT games that were in the beat-’em-up vein, this inaugural NES edition is in the platform game genre; jump on platforms, hack away at enemies, traverse stages, face the occasional boss, proceed until you finally defeat the game. You know, a platformer. And a pretty difficult one, at that; many 8-bit titles in this genre were known for their hair-pullin’, controller-throwin’, cardiac-event-inducin’ gameplay, and, uh, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is certainly one of them.

The game moves fast, has tight controls, and doesn’t start out too difficult, but ultimately maybe doesn’t have the pick-up-and-play quality inherent to subsequent entries.

Part of that is due to the incessant, often respawning, enemies; they aren’t too big of a deal in the early going, but as the game progresses – and it doesn’t take too long to reach this point – taking cheap hits becomes a mandatory way of life. This becomes a particular issue later, when you’re required to make a lot of tricky jumps; one knock, and you’re likely falling into rushing sewer water or off a building. And late in the game, when you enter the de facto enemy fortress Technodrome and the enemy lasers really start flying, well, no one would blame you for rage-quitting. (Stick with it though, and the sense of accomplishment is palpable; I know this from experience.)

Doesn’t help that when a lot of enemies get on the screen the game slows to a crawl and the graphics exhibit a ton of break-up, either. You’ll take a lot of unavoidable hits thanks to this too, but ultimately it doesn’t break the game.

Your pause slash status slash character select screen.

Since the dawn of time, nearly every TMNT game has allowed you to select your preferred turtle to take into battle at the start; it’s probably considered a crime against humanity to not allow the option. (So where does that leave Radical Rescue?)

NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles takes that ideal to the extreme: from the onset, you can not only pick your turtle, but can also switch to any one at any point. Yep, hitting the ‘start’ button brings up your status screen, which not only provides a respite from the action, but also a map and vital information from allies Splinter or April, as well as your selectable turtles. Not only can you monitor their health and special weapons allotment, but can also choose the one that’s best suited to a particular situation. Unlike many (most?) other TMNT games, where the choice of a turtle is typically based mostly on personal preference, here they each have unique attributes, and choosing the right one at the right time adds a legitimate dose of strategy to the game.

Leonardo is the most well-rounded of the four, with moderate strength and decent weapon range and speed via his katana blades. Michelangelo is comparable strength-wise (maybe a bit weaker), but his attacks via nunchakus are faster, though with comparably limited range. Donatello is the strongest of the four, with his bo having by far the best strength and range of all four turtles, but he’s also the slowest, attack-wise. And Raphael, he’s second-strongest, but is otherwise, to be blunt, borderline worthless. As a lifelong champion of Raph, this hurts me deep to admit; his sai (sais?) are powerful enough, but their range is pathetic.

Each turtle acts as a life, and should one be captured during the proceedings, you have opportunities later in the game to rescue them; neato! You also get three continues should you get a game over, but using one (obviously) takes away your special weapons, and late in the game, that’s pretty much another death blow all over again.

Speaking of the special weapons, you get several to help you on your quest: a ninja star, triple ninja stars, boomerangs, and the devastatingly-helpful scrolls, which are like energy wipes or something (the manual deems them “kiai”) . Except for the scrolls, which are always found in assigned locations, these weapons appear in the wake of defeated enemies, and they come in allotments of 20. You’ll want to save the powerful scrolls for the bosses and crazy tough later stages, but the other special weapons definitely come in handy throughout, especially the boomerangs, which are endlessly reusable, provided you don’t fail to catch one on its return or throw one off-screen.

There are missiles you can equip your Party Wagon with to blow up barriers, and ropes for traversing rooftops, but those are only present in one part of the game, albeit a fairly large one.

(You’ll also pick up “Mr. Invincibility” icons, which give you temporary spinning invulnerability. These are pretty scarce.) 

Health is, of course, replenished via pizza icons. I think a TMNT game neglecting something that obvious would also be considered a crime against humanity, too. A single slice restores two health units, half a pizza restores four, and a whole pizza, uh, restores it all. (I point this out because you’ll take a lot of hits throughout the game, and doling the right pizza increment out to the most deserving turtle at the right time is vital to progressing. Luckily, pizza icons tend to be relatively plentiful.)

One final comment on the health system: in an apparent attempt by the programmers to apologize for the extreme difficulty of the game, when a turtle reaches half his respective life bar, he inexplicably becomes stronger. Enemies that would normally require two hits to defeat will go down with one, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t make much sense, but it does help matters, as well as provide an added strategic element: do you risk clearing out a stage with a dangerously-damaged turtle, or do you switch to one with more health until you can find some pizza? It’s like Sophie’s Choice or sumthin’, man!

(By the way, as you peruse this review, you just may ask, “hey, northern video person, where’d y’all get all these swell screenshots?” The answer to that is: I took them myself, via my own NES console and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartridge and video capture card. I consider emulation to be jive and I wasn’t about to rip someone else’s pictures, so yes, these were all taken by yours truly from my actual gameplay footage; a single, uninterrupted, cheat-less playthrough, in fact!)

An overhead map, typical of the game.

While the gameplay is primarily platforming-based, it isn’t just level/end boss/level/rinse & repeat. Nope, the world of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is actually more expansive than you first may expect.

As you can see here, there’s an overworld map throughout. Via that, you can enter manholes or buildings of your choice, sometimes even bypassing entire parts of the game. It’s just like Mario but with mutated talkin’ turtles, man!

In each new area, there’s a ‘main’ path to take that’ll get you to the next section fastest, but like a Sonic title, there’s also lotsa places to explore, even though they won’t necessarily progress you in the grand scheme of the game, aside from maybe netting you some more items (or further trying your patience). There’s so much of this game that’s burnt into my memory, to the point that I don’t even think of going beyond where I know I need to, that some areas are essentially new to me. Despite loving this game for the vast majority of my life, I think there are areas in this game I’ve still never even seen!

Unfortunately, for as good as they are at presenting a virtual ‘world’ here, the overhead maps also prove to be a little too large and, frankly, daunting. The first one is simple enough, but later stages can be somewhat disorienting, given their size and sheer number of places to go. Indeed, the first post-dam (more on that stage in a bit) world was where I tended to get hung up for years, not so much because I couldn’t complete it, but rather because I wound up wandering around and around and around, just trying to find the right place to go. I know the right direction now, but back then? Most of my playing time was spent there!

In short, it can all become a little overwhelming – especially near the end where the correct doorway/path to the Technodrome becomes randomized. *shudder* (Actually, I do believe it’s always only one of two locations, as far as I saw anyway, but don’t quote me on that.)

Wandering foot soldiers and, more distressingly, steamrollers roam these overhead maps, and later, bomb-droppin’ planes and searchlight-sportin’ choppers make appearances, so always tread carefully! At one point you get to cruise around in the Party Wagon, which is fun (plus it’s much faster and a whole lot safer than walking around on foot).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a real, as I like to call it, “sit back and work on it game.” You know, where you set aside a chunk of time and build up the nerve to really work on a game. It’s definitely a change of pace from the usual straightforward beat-’em-up style of other entries in the series, and while I’m okay with it, I can absolutely see somebody else hating it.

Besides large areas to traverse and lots to see and do, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also has something resembling a plot line. I mean, you don’t get an uber-detailed, line-by-line breakdown throughout, but there’s a real sense of progression running through the game.

A cutscene that helps advance the plot (and showcases Shredder’s apparently 3-D hand; I can’t have been the only kid who noticed that).

At one point, there’s a cutscene in which, after foiling a nefarious Foot Clan plot, the turtles return home only to discover their mutated rat/sensei/father figure Splinter has been kidnapped. It’s a neat sequence with some terrific graphics, but it’s a bit of an anomaly; a good deal of the plot advancement throughout is actually seen “in-game.” Which, by 8-bit platformer standards, is also kind of an anomaly.

For example, if you scroll waaaaay back up to that very first game screenshot in this article, you’ll see the very first boss battle, in which you face henchman Bebop while fellow bad guy Rocksteady holds reporter/turtle ally April O’Neil hostage at gunpoint. The kidnapping of April, a common TMNT video game trait, is ostensibly the main focal point at the onset. Well, defeat Bebop, and Rocksteady will grab April and escape. You then have to make your way to the end of the area and face Rocksteady in order to save her, after which she replaces Splinter as advice maven on your status screen.

One of the in-game moments that helps advance the storyline, as the Foot Clan escapes via helicopter. Side note: I dig the kickin’ NYC skyline in the background.

Then, as you’ve seen, Splinter is shown to have been kidnapped, which becomes the new objective. Once you rescue him, a short animation of the baddies escaping via chopper (Splinter’s exclamation of “OH!” implies this is an undesirable occurrence) provides the next plot point you must follow: making your way through an airport to get to the Turtle Blimp in order to give chase. (Yes, there’s a cutscene of the turtles entering the blimp and taking off. And in another nice touch, the sun is shown setting as the blimp flies away. In the sequence that follows, it’s then dead of night.)

Oh, by the way, while I’m hesitant to spoil it, there is indeed an ending and pay off to everything you go through in this game. Don’t expect fireworks with an 8-bit title of course, but it IS satisfactory, as far as I’m concerned.

Tecmo’s NES port of Ninja Gaiden (though it’s so wildly different from the coin-op that it’s only a “port” in the absolute loosest sense of the term) tends to get credit for popularizing the whole cutscene/plot/cinematic flair thing in 8-bit titles – and rightfully so. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles certainly didn’t invent the idea, but still, I don’t think it ever gets much credit for the sense of progression it manages to present. There’s a real idea of a larger world and battle at play here, which is pretty impressive when you think about it.

Unfortunately, to see most of that, you have to pass a certain part of the game…

The scene of many gamer nightmares? Undoubtedly!

Pictured here is the “dam sequence” of the game, and simply put, it’s one of the most notorious aspects of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES. While not the most difficult portion of the game, it certainly represents the high difficulty the game is known for aptly all by itself. It’s not hard to imagine that countless kids gave up on the quest at this point right here.

The setting: the Foot Clan has planted bombs in the dam (the instruction manual specifically points this out as the Hudson River, and swimming through the Hudson River back then, well, the turtles would have been going through things a whole lot worse than mutagen ooze…). Needless to say, this is unacceptable, and thus these bombs must be disarmed. Sounds simple enough, until you realize the bombs are laid out haphazardly around the dam, there are both electrified force fields and electrified seaweed to avoid, as well as underwater currents to fight through. Also, you only have a little over two minutes to do all that.

You know, I’ve played through this dam so many times over the years that I’ve got it pretty much down to a science. Even as a kid I could beat it (once you know where to go and don’t try to speed run through, it really isn’t that hard). Today, the locations of the bombs are imprinted on my brain, traversing the dam as a whole is basically automatic response on my part. Really, the only thing that’s left to chance nowadays is how safely I can or can’t make it through the electrified seaweed maze. I pretty much never die during the level, but sometimes it takes two turtles to make that happen.

The really amazing thing about the dam is that it’s actually not the toughest section in the entire game; that honor belongs to the inside of the Technodrome and specifically a gauntlet of laser-wieldin’ flyin’ soldiers that you have to run near the end to make it to Shredder. For the inexperienced though, or those just utterly stuck in the water, that’s, uh, not much consolation.

But hey, if nothing else, it’s definitely a different gameplay element to add to the mix that is NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The game may be maddening from time to time, but it’s certainly never boring!

Look, I may love it, but there’s no question that certain parts of this game that are decidedly “not righteous, dude!” (That’s turtle-esque speak for what the layman would term “whack.”)

A big honkin’ Mouser! A good example of just how graphically-impressive this game is when it wants to be.

Graphically, I think the game is mostly good. Your turtle sprites aren’t particularly huge, but they’re well-detailed and walk around with some serious ‘tude; they just look tough. I still think they look genuinely cool, but back in the day? Man, you have no idea how obsessed I was with them. I used to draw pictures of these specific turtles! No foolin’!

Other characters familiar to fans are recognizable too. I’ve shown you Bebop and Rocksteady as well as April and Splinter, already. Of course there are the expected foot soldiers and mousers (aka common grunts), Mechaturtle, and, needless to say, Shredder at the end of it all. (Strangely, Krang doesn’t make any appearances – an oddity among vintage TMNT games.)

There’s also enemies of a more anonymous and/or generic nature. Robotic flies, dudes with chainsaws, fire-breathing guys who, when defeated, have heads that detach and fly around the screen, Foot Clan-emblazoned weather balloons that drop bombs, some kind of weird flying pairs of legs, ED-209 rip-offs, dudes running around on fire, annoying guys who ‘fall asleep’ until your back is turned and then they attack, a big mean frog (he looks a little like Napoleon Bonafrog, but wasn’t he always one of the good guys?), robotic kangaroos, deadly porcupines, deadly armadillos (?), deadly laser-wielding flying soldiers, deadly…well look, just about everything’s deadly, okay? (And, be careful; they tend to respawn!)

I don’t recall if everybody/everything here had a corresponding cartoon or comic book counterpart, but you gotta admit, there’s certainly a variety!

That variety comes with a caveat however, and that’s the flicker/graphical breakup/slowdown I mentioned 9000 years ago in this article. The flicker and breakup isn’t that big of a deal, but the slowdown kind of is. You can take even more unwanted hits than usual when it occurs, though luckily, it doesn’t occur too often.

Generally, for an 8-bit game, there’s a decent amount of detail in the levels, backgrounds, characters, etc. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is for the most part a solid looking, typical late-80s/early-90s NES title; it looks fairly nice, not as plain as early games on the console nor as “Microsoft Paint-y” as late releases. But, it’s not known (or doesn’t seem to be known) as a particularly impressive title graphically…

Before you fight *in* the Technodrome, you fight *the* Technodrome. Unique? Why sure it is!

…HOWEVER, there are points where it really does flex some graphical muscle. Maybe not to the level of, say, Batman, which came out in the same era but looked so good that it often bordered on being 16-bit in quality. (No joshin’!) But, when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles decides to “go big,” it goes from looking to good to looking really good.

For example, scroll waaaay back up and you’ll see Shredder in that cutscene screencap; dude looks just like he did in the cartoon. (Alas, no corresponding voice of the much-missed James Avery, though.) Also, as I showed you just a bit ago, there’s no mistaking that cool giant Mouser for a, uh, cool giant Mouser. (Wait, was that ever in the cartoon?) And as you can see right here and now, you’ve got the Technodrome, de facto enemy fortress and something you invade in most classic-era TMNT games, looking just as it should.

Speaking of the Technodrome, in a unique, and honestly sorta weird, twist, you actually fight it, as an actual entity, before going inside for the final sequences of the game. Since the Technodrome was supposed to be a humongous fortress, this doesn’t make much sense, but it’s yet another aspect that sets this game apart from later entries. I’m assuming there’s a tunnel or something inside that leads straight down to Shredder’s spacious lair, because unless it’s like a TARDIS or something in there, it’s kind of head-scratcher. (And stark realism is something I’m always looking for in a game starring four pizza-eating anthropomorphic turtles adept in the martial arts.)

Still, oddity or not, it sure looks neat.

Sound-wise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is pure, unadulterated NES. In turtle-speak, it sounds “totally radical, dude.” No kidding, the soundtrack is great. The NES was capable or putting out some really terrific harmonized music. No, it didn’t sound like a full orchestra was emanating from out of the ol’ toaster or anything, and asking it do voice synthesis was usually unwise (hence, no likelihood of James Avery *sniff*), but when it comes to immensely catchy, downright cool musical scores, the NES is second to none. Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, Double Dragon, Contra, The Legend of Zelda, even less-obvious stuff like Rambo (the music might be the only thing some people consider good about that one), Jackal, Mission: Impossible or, once again, Batman, they all have music that just doesn’t get old (figuratively, I mean). It’s actually sort of hard for me to explain, honestly; something about the NES’ unique form of outputting music, the drum beats, the whole package, it just still SOUNDS. SO. GOOD.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is absolutely among the ranks of “classic” on the console, as far as I’m concerned. Okay, yeah, it falls in among the less-obvious choices when it comes to this subject, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound terrific; it does. Maybe some of that is nostalgia on my part – there’s so much of this soundtrack that’s veritably burnt into my memory that it’s actually some of the first music I think of when I think of the Ninja Turtles franchise in general. Yes, maybe even before their famous cartoon theme song (which, except for the “heroes in a half shell” beat at the end of a tune that plays whenever you complete a particularly major section, is otherwise totally absent from the game soundtrack here). But even looked at objectively, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES just sounds really, really good.

There’s a catchy marching beat (first heard when the title screen appears and prevalent throughout afterwards), a unique main Turtles theme, jaunty overworld tunes early on and evocative ones later, music that’s just completely appropriate to whatever situation you happen to be in. (Yes, even in the dam.) And when the sub-boss tune pops up during an otherwise ‘normal’ stage, as soon as it starts you just know somethin’ ’bout to go down.

The sound effects are also pure NES; not technically realistic for the most part, but they get the job done. The alarm that sounds off when one of your turtles gets dangerously low on health is the very definition of, erm, alarming. (Go figure!)

Okay, so the game looks good, sounds good, has a lot to see and do, but is relentlessly tough. Now let’s talk a little strategy.

Like I said before, all of the screenshots in this review were taken by me on an actual console, during a single uninterrupted playthrough. No cheating, either. Hey, the Game Genie was fun and neat and everything, but using one to complete a game would be a victory I consider to be dirty pool, or at least decidedly hollow. (And honestly, I’m a little iffy on the subject of using controllers with turbo, slow motion, etc. options, too. I didn’t use any of those, either. It’s one thing if said features were present and advertised via first party from the start, i.e. the Turbografx-16, but otherwise, the area starts to get a little grey to me. Your mileage may vary, of course.)

I do, however, consider whatever is programmed in the final, finished product to be, for the most part, fair game. Obviously a game-breaking bug is one thing, but otherwise, I tend to  work under the assumption that the game is operating the way the programmer(s) intended. If they’re gonna allow me to take repeated advantage of health and special weapon icons, especially in a title known for its difficulty, well, I’m just gonna have to be okay with that.

This section right here is your key to [easier] victory!

Lemme explain: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles allows you to re-enter areas you’ve already been through. When you do so, obviously enemies respawn, but so do items. It’s a good way to replenish your whole squad when a pizza icon is handy, and I imagine I wasn’t the only one who took advantage of it both back in the day as well as nowadays.

An even more vital spot is in, as deemed by your status screen, “Area 3.” In it, there are two buildings, connected by a sewer running between them. There’s a full pizza icon down there, which is obviously helpful, but more importantly is what’s found in the right building: a scroll icon! Since it doesn’t take particularly long to get to and the sewers are located two screens beneath it, you can go in, grab some scrolls, head down and get the pizza if needed, or simply jump in the sewer water – which harmlessly brings you back to the overworld right outside the buildings. Rinse and repeat as much as needed and/or desired! (You can also grab a 3-pack of ropes in that sewer, and since I always habitually grab them on the way down, I wind up with far, far more than I ever would or could use. See that Raph/Splinter “OH!” screenshot earlier if you don’t believe me!)

Here’s my preferred method: I always load both Leo and and Don up to the full allotment of 99 scrolls, and usually Raph as well (but if not 99, then at least plenty for him). I won’t, however, give Mike any. Why’s that? Mike is the “daily driver.” Y’see, I tend to save Leo and Don for only when they’re needed (Leo generally sees almost no play time), and Raph for a boss battle or when I need him to take the brunt of damage instead of a better turtle. Mike though, I use him for the majority of the game.

So why not give him some scrolls too? Because it can be awfully easy to lose them. Ninja star or boomerang item icons pop up after an enemy is defeated, and in the heat battle or when you’re rushing through a stage, it’s VERY easy to accidentally grab one. Not a big deal if it’s the same special weapon as what you already have; then you just get more of it. But, since the scrolls never, ever appear after defeating an enemy, well, it would be serious heartbreak to accidentally replace 99 of them with 20 single ninja stars.

Using a scroll-less Mike for the majority of the game though, then it’s not an issue. I prefer to keep Mike loaded with the reusable boomerangs, but if I mistakenly replace them with something else, well, that’s a far less egregious offense. (I know this from experience!)

The final battle with Shredder. As you can see here, I had exactly one unit of health left going in, yet he basically went down without a fight! Why? The scrolls, man, the scrolls!

Since scrolls only come in allotments of 20, can repeating this practice over and over become monotonous? Well, yeah, a little bit. But, the scrolls make boss battles so, so much more manageable, and are practically a necessity inside the Technodrome, so it’s not like it’s wasted time.

The battle with Mechaturtle (in two separate forms!), the giant Mouser, the outside of the Technodrome (which has several weapons that need to be disabled), the various enemies inside the Technodrome, not to mention Shredder himself at the end of it all, scrolls may not technically be a requirement for any of it, but like I said, they sure life here a whole lot more manageable. (And in Shredder’s case, he’s actually really, really easy to defeat with them, despite the fact he has a weapon that can kill you with one shot! Just fire away at him as quick as you can; that’s it!)

Now, I’m not trying to make it sound like nabbing a buncha scrolls will let you cruise through the rest of the game unhindered; they’re certainly helpful, and will keep your blood pressure low(er), BUT, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is just plain challenging regardless. Sometimes, you just have to be cautious, strategic, and patient.

Using the right turtle at the right moment isn’t technically mandatory, but you’re probably gonna lose a lot of health unnecessarily if you don’t. And, you don’t always need to rush your way through; there’s no time limit in the game (except for the dam, duh!), so proceeding cautiously usually pays off – especially since you’re almost certainly going to take some cheap hits no matter what you do. It’s just a question of how many!

And, sometimes you just have to apply the 8-bit ideal of learning the moves and patterns of an enemy. Punch-Out!! this is not, but jumping over and/or walking under baddies as they attack can make a huge difference. Use your bean and you may not even have to do that much at all. The giant Mouser, for instance; it likes to shoot lasers out of its eyes at you. So simply stand directly underneath it, the lasers will pass harmlessly along both sides of you, and then when its mouth opens, jump up and fire away at its weak point. The thing looks far more fearsome than it actually is!

Basically, my strategy boils down to this: use Mike for the main gameplay, bring Raph out for boss battles or to keep Mike healthy, use Don for his strength and reach when necessary, and save Leo for last, whenever that may be. Take advantage of easy pizza respawns/refills when needed, keep lotsa scrolls on hand, and generally proceed with caution.

Do all that, and it’s still a hard game, but certainly not unbeatable.

1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the first of four TMNT games to appear on the Nintendo Entertainment System:

Despite the fact the 1989 coin-op was the only TMNT game of my earliest years to rival the first NES game in me-obsessiveness (no joke, the machine was seemingly everywhere; I can still recall it’s side art and glowing marquee beckoning me in the movie theater lobby), and thus a title I’m happy to see present on the NES, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II on the console doesn’t play as well as you or I would prefer to remember. The fighting system is a little wonky and involves a lot of hit-walk away-hit…unless you just feel like rushing in and taking a lot of cheap shots from the Foot Clan.

Tournament Fighters also appeared on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, each with its own unique aspects to set it apart from the others. The NES version was a very late release on the console, one that probably shouldn’t have happened but is kinda neat that it did. While used copies have been pricey for some time, it’s particularly expensive to acquire a copy nowadays. (I’ve played it before, but this is the only NES TMNT game I don’t currently have. One-on-one fighters were never the specialty of the system, and I’m not big on them either, so I want this cart more for collectability and fandom sake than anything.)

And as for The Manhattan Project, well, it’s not only the best TMNT game on the console, but also one of the best beat-’em-ups in general on the console. It looks and sounds terrific, and plays wonderfully. It may not have the recognition or coin-op clout of II, but when it comes to 8-bit TMNT beat-’em-ups, it’s a superior game in every facet.

But, needless to say, I still come back to that first NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Everything about it, from the look to the sound to the, yes, even that extreme difficulty, it’s just so ingrained as a part of me. The era it hails from, the TMNT mania that was so prevalent among kids, even something as simple the comic book advertisement for the game, it all fills me with such a strong sense of nostalgia for the game, the console, and that time in my life. (Speaking of that print ad, I found a spare copy in a 25¢ comic once; that ad now proudly hangs on a wall in my house. No, that’s not a joke.)

Is all of that enough to consider Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a GREAT game nowadays though? While subjectively I obviously think so, looked at from an objective standpoint, I’m just not sure. It’s difficult and flickery and occasionally overwhelming. Maybe a tolerance for 8-bit platformers is essential. Or maybe, and I dread saying this because it’s a phrase I genuinely despise, it’s something you had to grow up with to fully appreciate. If something is truly great, shouldn’t it be timeless regardless of when it’s played/seen/heard/etc. or by whom?

Of course, my pontificating here is pointless; like music, movies, television, art, and yes, video games, it’s all subjective. You can look at all of the facts surrounding a property, have a perfect understanding of the era whatever it is hails from, but that still doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like it. In the end, it simply comes down to individual taste.

As I said way at the start, lotsa people sure don’t like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES. I can’t totally separate my memories from it, but taken on its own, I still think it’s a genuinely good game. Once, again, it’s not perfect, but it really tried to do something different, and personally, I think it was more successful than it wasn’t. At the end of the day, I find the game just plain fun, and I suppose that’s the most important thing here, isn’t it?

So before ending this review, here’s what I want: you know those cheap new retro all-in-one handhelds that have been popping up, the ones that collect a number of old console and/or arcade titles? I want Konami to give us one of those, dedicated solely to classic TMNT games. You hearin’ me, Konami?! The original NES trilogy, and maybe Turtles in Time from the Super Nintendo, please? That would be SUCH a no-brainer purchase – as long as this first NES game was included, of course. That’s the prerequisite man. I gotta have that one.

(Or they could release a handheld with nothing but the 1989 arcade. I could live with that, too.)

AMF Paragon Nite Owl TV Timer (Model # TVT-00)

Dig this neat little vintage piece of electronic gadgetry I found just yesterday: it’s the AMF Paragon Nite Owl TV Timer, hailing from, near as I can tell, somewhere in the 1970s. I know not the exact year or years this was manufactured, but it certainly looks like a definitive product of the 70s. Maybe I should I wear my leisure suit whilst handling it? (Seriously, I have one; I could do it if I were so inclined. Which I’m not – that thing’s itchy.)

Now at first glance, this may not look like a terribly ‘big’ find; I mean, it’s a woodgrain-and-plastic box, with a knob on the front. If I had a hard time drumming up interest in my Wonder Wizard and Magnavox ’85 TV posts (and I did; I really thought people would care more), I don’t expect this article to instantly have numbers that bump the figurative ceiling.

But then, just like I figured when I wrote about that Spartus talkin’ clock, this will be there when/if the right person comes along looking for it. And if, also like the Spartus, it eventually attains a level of viewership high enough to put a pointless smile on mah face somewhere down the road, well, more’s the better.

No kidding, I love old TV-related gadgets and gizmos like this, and I’d like to think that some of my readers do, too. Sure, they may not have much practical use nowadays, but as artifacts of a bygone era in television and electronics manufacturing, I think they’re still indispensable, even it’s if only for what they represent. The shape, the design, the intended function, it all points so clearly to a specific era. I love stuff like this.

If I’m being totally honest with you though, it really all comes down to that name for me: “Nite Owl TV Timer.” Man is that cool! Indeed, that’s what caught my eye at the thrift store yesterday, and precisely why I pretty much had to come home with the thing. (By the way, handling this, two mugs, several CDs and a vinyl record is unwieldy to say the least. Luckily I had someone with me to help shoulder the load, because this particular store doesn’t have carts, and there’s not really enough room to safely maneuver around in even if they did. But, I digress.)

That name alone evokes an era of late night television broadcasting that I find irresistible. The late late movie and/or local horror movie host programs – which obviously brings to mind legendary Columbus TV icon Fritz the Nite Owl (remember that time I met him?) – the room preferably illuminated only by the glow of the cathode ray tubes bringing it all to you. And, I like to imagine, viewed while sitting on a really ugly plaid chair or couch of some sort. Oh, am I putting too much thought into all this? Look, I like the name a whole lot, okay? (Hey, I am, and have been for many years, quite the “nite owl” myself!)

So anyway, what exactly does the Nite Owl do, you ask? Obviously it’s some sort of a timer intended for use with television sets; hasn’t that already been made abundantly clear by now? Pay attention, sporto! Oh alright, let the back of the unit explain things in more detail…

I went searching for instructions online, full-fledged paper manual-type instructions I mean, but the only hit I came up with wanted me to register in order to view it. Man, don’t hand me that jive! So the (nicely detailed) description on the back of the unit here is going to have to do.

Basically, the thing would automatically turn your TV off for you. Whether to regulate your television-viewing habits, help save on the electricity bill should you fall asleep during whatever crummy old movies the local channel foisted upon you regularly, or even to help with those who may have mobility issues (I’m assuming this was released before remote controls were quite as commonplace as they’d become), the bottom line is that with the Nite Owl TV Timer in place, the only heavy lifting you had to do was with your eyelids HAW HAW HAW!

That knob on the front, as per the instructions on the back of the timer, it worked in hour-long increments, up to six of ’em for those of you who like to watch up through the wee wee hours of the morning. (Hey, I can and do relate!) At the end of the allotted time, the timer would then turn your TV off for you, lest you awake in your ugly easy chair to the abrasive sights and sounds of snowy, off-air static. (Stations used to regularly sign-off, after all!)

(I’m going to guess that the timer was exact enough so that placing the knob in between, say, the 5 and the 6 would give you five hours and thirty minutes of safe TV-watchin’, but I really have no idea – maybe an actual instruction manual detailed further? I assume that you could also increase or decrease the time during viewing as well, should you plan to go to sleep later or earlier than initially anticipated, but that’s also strictly guesswork on my part. Anyone know for sure?)

“Hey, does the name mean you could only use it at night? HAW HAW HAW!” Drop the silly goose routine, jack.

I tend to think of ‘extra’ electronic components from that era to be relatively complicated installation/operating processes, at least when viewed from a modern standpoint. Inputs and outputs and wires and RFs and screws and buttons and knobs and so on and so forth. I mean, you ever see an early generation VCR? Why, just looking at the process involved with setting the recording timer is enough to make ya head swim!

Of course I’m (mostly) just joshin’ you here. Obviously things became progressively more simplified as technology advanced, and there’s generally a learning curve with any new piece of equipment you bring into your home.

So what am I even blathering about? Meh, that’s just my long-winded way of saying the Nite Owl was really, really easy to use. All you did was plug your TV into the, as per the Nite Owl itself, “piggyback plug” here (is that an official name for these?), then plug that into an outlet, and then you were pretty much good to go. Set the knob, and prepare for a night of mind-at-ease late Bela Lugosi movie-viewing. It’s so easy, a corndog could do it!

During my online research of the Nite Owl, it quickly became apparent that AMF Paragon was a big manufacturer of timers in general. I *think* they still make timers nowadays, but nevertheless, it doesn’t take much searching to see all the different varieties they released back then. So now I’m wondering: obviously this Nite Owl was made for television use, but would plugging any electric appliance into it produce the same timed result, or is there circuitry inside specifically and exclusively designed for use with TVs?

That’s what I’m wondering, but what you may be wondering is why I’ve posited all these questions throughout the article that could easily be answered by merely plugging the thing in and taking it for a spin. The answer to that is this: it’s really more of a display piece to me. Oh sure, I could fire it up, but aside from a few words one way or the other on my part, I can’t really take any pictures of the thing operating that would be helpful. So what’s the point? It’s not like I’m selling it. It was obviously sturdily constructed, so despite some expected wear from presumable years of usage, I imagine the thing still works.

But whether it does or doesn’t is sorta immaterial to yours truly; it’s all about the feelings of a bygone era this thing evokes. A time of woodgrain and shag carpets and big lapels, a time of knob-based TVs, before VCRs were widely available to the consumer (if they were even available at all), when staying up late to catch a movie on TV really meant something.

And even if it doesn’t hail from that era exactly, it still looks like it does.

Plus, that name, that name! If I ever have the opportunity to meet Fritz the Nite Owl again, I’m considering asking him to autograph it despite the tenuous connection between the two entities. That’s not a joke, either; I can think of no higher honor to bestow on the Nite Owl. (The timer, I mean.) It would sure make me feel like the proverbial big man on campus, at any rate.

Panasonic RE-7441 FM/AM Radio (Circa-1969)

People seem to like the old electronics posts, so I’ve been looking to get another one up lately. Not that I don’t already have a bunch of ancient clocks, radios, VCRs, or whatevers lying around that I could write about, because I do. Oh how I do. BUT, nowadays I really prefer to spotlight items that showcase the era from which they hail particularly well.

Well, as luck would have it, I found a doozy of a candidate at the thrift store just earlier today. Dig this retro piece of cool, because man, I think it fits the bill:

This is the Panasonic RE-7441 FM/AM radio, and what it lacks in all-encompassing-photographability (that is, a single shot just doesn’t do it justice; read on, there’s more), it more than makes up for in stylish, late-1960s/early1970s good looks. And crevices; I’ll say right upfront that I did my best to clean the decades worth of dust and grime off of and out of this thing, but it was a battle I just couldn’t totally win. So when looking at these pics, know that, hey, I tried.

Functionally, there’s not really a whole lot to the RE-7441. It’s not a clock/radio, it’s just a radio. There’s the standard on/off/volume knob, a tone (bass/treble) knob, frequency selector (FM/FM AFC/AM) knob, and of course a tuning knob (it’s how you get your channels, man!).

But actually, provided someone nowadays wasn’t put off by the retro aesthetics (how could they be?!) or lack of satellite radio or some such, this thing is theoretically just as useful today as it was approximately 50 (!) years ago. That is, provided it works, naturally…

…Which, I’m happy to say, it does. Exceedingly well, in fact! The sound is very nice and I was able to tune in a decent number of channels. And bear in mind, this was in my messy basement and without any extra accoutrements, i.e. an external antenna. Had I used one of those and/or had this out in a garage or something, I’d probably be batting an even better average.

The flash on my camera totally drowned most of it out, but the display on this remains nice and bright, too. Indeed, except for some of the expected wear-and-tear that comes with years of presumable usage, this thing works like a champ. I’ve showcased before (here and here are just two examples) of how fond I am of vintage Panasonic products, and the RE-7441 just reinforces that mindset.

There’s no date on this model, but my initial, patented Northeast Ohio Video Hunter deductive reasonin’ told me 1970s at first glance. However, a quick online search found this forum post about the radio, and responses in that thread seem to point to this being a late-1960s innovation. Now that’s cool. And what’s more, Logopedia says that the Panasonic logos seen here were changed in 1971. Further research shows that Panasonic continued producing this radio with their updated logo afterwards, so yeah, my model here hails from somewhere around the late-60s/early-70s, it seems. As seen in this update’s title, I’m going with a circa-1969.

The back of the radio is pretty minimalist; except for the cord and external antenna inputs, there’s not much to speak of.

The back here does actually give a better idea of the cool contours this thing has. If the preceding front-of-radio pics didn’t get the point across (and I know they probably didn’t), you do get a sense of the sloping speaker/grill design from the back.

In fact…

…Here’s an even better look, taken from the very side. Yep, the speaker/grill portion on the front of the radio is actually raised and sloped, giving the whole thing a proto-Atari 2600 appearance, which, you know, is just plain neato.

Beyond that, as you’ve seen, this thing is built of black plastic, aluminum trim, and obviously, faux-woodgrain sides. Again, it gives the whole thing a proto-2600 sensibility; no wonder my initial thoughts told me this was strictly a product of the 1970s!

(Yes, I know in the 70s it was the Atari VCS and that the 2600 branding began in ’82 when the 5200 came out; you know what I meant, lay off.)

Here’s the very bottom of the unit; condition-wise, this one’s a little rough, but that’s to be expected. Besides, it’s not like it matters all that much, since you, uh, probably wouldn’t be looking at the underside of the radio whilst listening to the hip, groovy tunes you love so.

Look close and you can see the $12 price tag I was almost able to decently remove. I did mah best. You can tell I like this thing because under normal circumstances a 12 dollar price tag would cause me to (figuratively?) ball up my fists and crinkle my face in disgust. That’s to say, I don’t really like paying that much for anything. But then, needless to say, the RE-7441 was so worth it.

If you’re inclined, click on the picture for a supersized view. See, Re-7441. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. I like the presence of the original serial number sticker; I wonder if the actual date of the machine can be traced through that, somehow?

(I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something identifying the date of manufacture on the inside, though I’m not going to go through the trouble of opening it up, mainly because I don’t want to know what horrible creatures crawled and subsequently died in this thing over the past 50 years. Plus, wouldn’t opening it void the warranty, he said facetiously?)

Here’s one last front-view look; you can kinda see the sloping grill better here.

The Panasonic RE-7441 is definitely a slick piece of retro technology, ridiculously cool lookin’ and still perfectly functional in this day and age. It would have easily looked at home in someone’s modern, space age living room or some long-haired, “with it” teenager’s desk, and it still exudes personality to this day. Indeed, it’s not a small radio, but not terribly big, either; find one in working condition, and you’ve got a still-usable radio that also makes for a cool conversation piece.

$12 may have been about $7 more than I would have liked to have paid for it, but that’s just because I’m cheap; $12 is in actuality a pretty reasonable price, and just goes to show that awesome vintage electronics like this can still show up for decent prices. You just gotta keep your eyes peeled! (But not in my general vicinity, please; I don’t need the competition.)

WEWS TV-5’s The Morning Exchange – Vintage Coffee Mug

Yeah yeah, I know, I took nearly all of August off. A combination of being busy, lack of ‘writable’ material and absence of drive kept me from duly updating my arbitrary blog. Those last two reasons are related; technically, I’ve always got lots of stuff I could write about, but the fire man, the fire has to be there. It’s like how a car don’t go without no gas or some stupid analogy like that. And when I go out thrifting, I very nearly always come home with what I consider some good winnins, but it’s the cool winnins that give me the fire. And it’s those very cool winnins that have been more-or-less MIA in recent weeks. This, my friends, was not an ideal situation for your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter, but it’s not like I had much say in the matter.

‘Course, it’s times like that when I can just sit back and let my old material do the work for me. I mean, when I wrote about that sentient alarm clock over a year ago (!), I held no illusions about it being a particularly popular post; I just got jazzed enough over the device that I wanted to introduce it to a potential audience. It’d be there for the right people when they come looking. And for quite awhile, that’s pretty much where things sat, until in recent months when its popularity relatively exploded, with enough page views and comments to put a figurative smile on mah face.

ANYWAY, this find from just last night is, rest assured, just the sort of thing that can get my creative juices flowin’ and another new update on the dinner table. Dig this: it’s a vintage coffee mug promoting WEWS TV-5 of Cleveland’s long, long running and incredibly influential daily talk show, The Morning Exchange. Cool winnins.

I take solace in the fact that (apparently) most people don’t find the same things that I do interesting, because this is the sort of thing that I would (and did) snap up with extreme fervor; there was absolutely no question it was coming home with me from first glimpse. And yet, when I came upon it, it sat nearly alone in a big tub, seemingly unwanted by those who knew no better. But I knew. I knew.

Now to be honest, I’ve got lots of glassware and mugs and what have you that I could write about, and sometimes I did consider doing so during what turned out to be my unintentional hiatus. I decided against it though; it just felt too soon after the last time I looked at old Northeast Ohio television-related coffee mugs. Heck, in the time since, I picked up yet another new-to-me WVIZ java accessory, but I just didn’t want to go back to that well. Not yet, anyway. I don’t want to become known as “The Mug Man,” man.

This Morning Exchange thing is different though. Not only because it’s promoting an absolutely legendary piece of Cleveland television history (it was so popular locally, it inspired ABC to create the national Good Morning America!), but also because it was hosted for nearly all of its 27 year (!!) run by local icon Fred Griffith, who sadly passed away recently. No joke, Griffith was a certified local legend, and from what I’ve heard, a genuine good egg to boot.

Here’s the thing with this mug: as you can see in the above pic, the logo is quite wide, and as such, getting the whole thing in one definitive shot just isn’t going to happen, unless y’all wanna provide me with one of them Matrix cameras or something. Wait, I don’t think that would work here, either.

So anyway, to better educate and inform and annoy the masses, I’m gonna have to provide some additional pictures. As such, here’s the left side of the mug, showcasing the, uh, left side of the Morning Exchange logo. Also visible: the ever-handy, erm, handle that allows one to make use of the mug without scalding their delicate lil’ hands.

Look, I don’t really know what you want me to say about it, okay? It’s one side of a coffee mug. And since I just used up whatever I could think to say about it here, I’m already questioning what I’m going to write about the other half. Nothing can ever be easy in my world.

So yeah, here’s the right side. The rest of the logo, close-up of the channel 5 logo, big swoopy thing comin’ off the “g” in “Exchange,” you can see it all here. The white lettering over burgundy is an attractive, appropriately morning-ish look. I dig it!

(Yeah, now I’m spent.)

It’s funny; I didn’t (and don’t) ever really watch any morning shows, mainly because I’m rarely up in time, and even though I have little direct history with The Morning Exchange, because it was such an ever-present part of the Northeast Ohio television landscape for such a long time, I remain fond of it. My grandmother used to watch it, my mom says she used to watch it, so there’s some pleasant memories there. But really, it’s more about what this mug represents that enamors me so. What’s that? One of the giants of Northeast Ohio television, that’s what!

All that said, I have no idea how old this mug is; there’s no date anywhere on it. I’m considering it late-80s or early-90s, but I could be dead wrong on that. The channel 5 logo was updated around 1995, so methinks it’s prior to then. The Morning Exchange ran from 1972 to 1999, so even at the latest it’s around 20 years old as of this writing. I really don’t think it’s even that relatively-recent, though. I do think it’s somewhat newer than this example, but how, when and where it relates to these examples, I do not know. I’m going with a mental “circa-1990” descriptive term, though I’m not confident in it enough to add it to the title of this update. (While on the subject, I couldn’t find a sequence of wording for the title that I was totally happy with, so if it reads awkwardly, that’s why.)

How would one go about getting one of these back in the day? My brother suggested it was a souvenir of actual guests on the program. If that’s the case, MAN is that cool. I’m not prepared to go quite that far though, not just yet. I’m thinking this was a promotional item anyone could have gotten, but that begs the question: where? There (probably) wasn’t any internet yet, at least not in any form approaching how we now know it. So, personal appearances by the hosts? Industry swag? A mail order item? Was there something akin to what WJW TV-8 later had, their very own store? (It was in Summit Mall.)

These are questions I know not the answer to. Maybe it was a guest-used/show-used item. That’d be, as the hip individuals say, pretty baller.

Regardless of its origin, the very fact that this coffee mug promotes a veritable Cleveland institution such as The Morning Exchange is more than enough. The fact it’s a coffee mug (cause coffee/morning, dig?) just makes it all the more appropriate. The era and images and feelings it invokes is indelibly Northeast Ohio. A bygone era in our broadcasting history. The sad fact of the matter is stuff like this doesn’t turn up all that often, but when it does, it’s cause for celebration and weird, amateurish touchdown dances. I didn’t, but I could have.

There’s your precious update. Maybe I’ll get another one up within the next several decades, we’ll see.

The Pizza Shop of Canton, Ohio – Vintage Promotional Playing Cards

“Oooh where has yoy been East Video Dood???”

Here’s the deal: I had something ordered on eBay that I felt stood a very good chance of being worthy (ha!) of being spotlighted on my silly blog. I was excited for it, it held promise, so of course the seller never sent it. Days went by without any update to the order after my lightnin’ quick payment, I (politely) opened my yap, the item was then marked as shipped – but without a tracking number – days later. Then, weeks went by without said item arriving, so I (politely) opened my yap again. A week went by before I received a response promising it was going out ASAP, I gave the benefit of the doubt and waited some more, nothing happened again. So I finally filed a complaint and got a refund.

Any semi-reasonable buyer would have filed said complaint and gotten said refund looong before I actually did, but with a generous window of time to act, only being out 12 bucks, and really wanting what I ordered, I played extraordinarily patient but was not rewarded. Not only did I not get what I hoped to write about (and I’m not saying what it was cause I don’t need all y’all battlin’ me if another one pops up), but weeks and weeks went by without a proper update here in the interim. I’m not saying that was the only reason you didn’t get an update during that time period, but it’s the factor I’m laying all the blame on.

So, instead you get to read about pizza-related playing cards. A fair trade-off? Without knowing what I was hoping to detail instead, you’ll just never know, will you??? (Unless I can obtain said item in the future; then I’ll spill the beans.)

No, this update has nothing to do with video, broadcasting, electronics, or any of the other normative suspects on this site, but it does have to do with Northeast Ohio and advertising, so I’m saying it fits. And even if it doesn’t, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.

Behold! It’s The Pizza Shop of Canton, Ohio, immortalized in playing card form! Actually, nothing here specifies if it was Ohio’s Canton, and Wikipedia sez there are lots and lots of places in this world with that moniker, but since I found these in Canton, Ohio, methinks it’s a safe guess that that’s where these originally hail from. Quite a leap, huh?!

Found with a two-compartment, ridge-sided plastic holder that appears to have originally had a lid at some point (there were none to be found in the vicinity, and I looked), many of these cards were all over the place when I came across them at a thrift store several months ago. They appeared to have been part of some card collector’s collection (that’s alliteration, as well as slightly redundant); other cards of the playing variety were strewn about as well. The Domino’s Pizza cards went back because they didn’t feature The Noid, but I’m a sucker for vintage local restaurant memorabilia, especially when said restaurant apparently doesn’t exist anymore, so there was no way these weren’t coming home with me – once I gathered them all back up, anyway.

I say the place apparently doesn’t exist anymore because I  can find no information on it whatsoever. Granted, typing “The Pizza Shop” and “Canton” into a search engine doesn’t exactly make for a narrow set of results, but nevertheless, I could find no info on this place at all. Is it still around? Did it evolve/merge into another place? Do you remember it? PLEASE, share any info you have in the comments! This is an interactive site, y’see!

The image you’re seeing on the left above is found across the back of each and every card in the set, presenting what I surmise were the actual logos of the restaurant proper: the name (which is sort of a must-have in cases such as these) and a little chef giving the “okay sign” and wearing a kickin’ bow tie (though aren’t most bow ties pretty kickin’ anyway?). There’s also the tagline proclaiming the place to be “Canton’s Original,” though original what isn’t specified. Was it Canton’s original pizza place, the original location of what was a local chain, or…?

(Also, if the plastic holder these are in did originally feature a lid, I wonder if any kind of graphics/info pertaining to The Pizza Shop was printed on it as well? If indeed the holder is even original to these cards in the first place, that is.)

Otherwise, and as demonstrated with the card on the right above, well, it’s just a normal set of playing cards. Brown & Bigelow playing cards to be exact, as per the company info printed right there for all to see. Brown & Bigelow of St. Paul, MN is evidently no longer around; this site says they existed from the 1920s to the 1980s. I have no hard data regarding what possible date(s) these could possibly hail from, but even if they’re from the extreme of the 1980s, that still counts as vintage so stop finding fault with my post title.

Actually, the font of “Canton’s Original” strikes me as being 1960s-ish. I have absolutely nothing to support that other than a gut-feeling, but I get that impression nevertheless. Again, if you can confirm or know otherwise, drop some knowledge in the comments!

Like I said, many of these cards were all over the place when I stumbled upon them, which meant I had to duly collect them all back up for collecting-purposes. It appears I got them all; I counted 53 cards here. That is, it’s a normal 52-card French-style deck, with one Joker. I searched pretty diligently, so if there were any more Jokers, I know not where they got to. I really do think I’ve got the whole set here.

Given my lack of success in figuring out when or how long this restaurant existed, the chances of my figuring out when and/or how exactly these cards were originally obtained seems doubtful as well. Free with a pizza, perhaps? Nevertheless, the deck is a cool little piece of Northeast Ohio eatery memorabilia, one that appears (to me) to hail from a truly bygone era. I don’t normally collect playing cards, but these were just too neat – and ostensibly obscure –  to pass up.

I wasn’t kidding before; if you have any info on this place, please share in the comments!

Vintage KSTP-TV 5 DIALING FOR DOLLARS Promotional Token

Do you remember back in June when I showcased a vintage Dialing For Dollars keychain from the Duluth and Superior areas of Minnesota? Of course you don’t.

Anyway, we’re taking another trip back to “The Gopher State” (unknown to me beforehand, but that’s apparently one of its nicknames; Wikipedia sez so) for this update, because I’ve obtained another vintage piece of Dialing For Dollars memorabilia from Minnesota, this time from the Minneapolis/St. Paul market. KSTP-TV 5 had their own version of the franchise, and I’ve got the promotional token to prove it.

Like the above-linked keychain, this was an eBay find. (What, you think I’m likely to come across stuff like this locally?) Unlike the above-linked keychain, this was an auction, rather than a buy it now. This meant I had to bide my time and hope no competitors had their eyes on the same prize. I waited, they didn’t, and so here we are. I’m the champ?

Here’s the ‘face’ of the token, presenting what I presume was “the count and amount” system that viewers needed to know in order to win the big, big bucks. (In other words, when  the host came a-callin’, y’all best know it was “15 DOWN” or “1 UP” or however they went about playing the game.) I’m a little confused as to why it’s labeled “LETTER GAME,” when it seems to me that numbers are much more the focal point here, but then, I wasn’t there and I wasn’t watching, so I’ll just guess that whoever struck the coin knew better than I.

One thing about Dialing For Dollars in general that I talked about in the earlier article: because it was such a 1960s & 1970s phenomenon, much of it aired in the pre-home video-era (in a widely commercial sense anyway), and as such, learning about the finer details of some iterations can be difficult. For example, the host(s) and/or exact format for a particular market isn’t always immediately certain. At least not from what I can discern through online research; respective television historians from wherever probably know all this stuff automatically, but for those of us ‘on the outside’ and learning about things waaaay after the fact and waaaay outside of the original area, well, sometimes it can be tough.

Also, some local versions of the franchise were movie showcases, with a daily flick interrupted by the, say it with me, dialing for dollars segments during the breaks. But for other versions, it was all dialin’ for dinero, all the time. (As in, that was the whole show.)

My issue here: I couldn’t figure out which ‘type’ KSTP’s version was. I don’t know how long it ran, I don’t know who hosted it, and I don’t know how it was exactly played. I’d certainly prefer that it was of the movie-hosted variety, but either way, it represents a live, call-in aspect of television history that just can’t happen anymore. (At least not on a regular basis.)

Never mind, I found some solid info: this site has an advertisement for the show. KSTP’s Dialing For Dollars was evidently not a movie showcase, but rather a standalone program, albeit one with interviews, cooking segments, and other things you’d expect of a typical daytime program. Interestingly, the ad makes a loud and specific declaration that this wasn’t just a woman’s show, despite the fairer sex making up 63% of its audience (which makes sense; more women stayed at home back then, after all).

The host, or hostess rather, was Jane Johnston, who sadly passed away in 2007.

Here’s the back of the coin, with more pertinent identification information. After all, what good is an advertising token if you don’t let the people know where they can tune in? You’ve got the station call sign, the viewing area the station served, and who the owner was. And look, color television! I love that they call specific attention to the fact it was a color station; it’s just so evocative of that era of television broadcasting.

While I don’t have an exact date for this coin, I do, hopefully, have a time frame: according to Logopedia, the style of logo seen on this token was only in usage from 1968 to 1969.

HOWEVER, that above-linked advertisement claims to be from 1966, and the logo seen in it is identical to the one here, so I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. Johnston’s obit says she came to KSTP in 1963 and hosted the show in the 1960s and 1970s, so…? Did she immediately start this show in ’63, or did it take a few years? It had apparently been on the air for some time before that ad came about.

Another question remains: how would someone go about obtaining one of these back in the day? Was it a prize for contestants? Something given away during personal appearances by Johnston? A promotional item passed out during industry events? Unfortunately, these are things I just don’t know. (Also, I wonder what that “8101” stamped into the back designates? Does it refer to the number of coins struck? Are there possibly 8,100 more of these out there?!)

At any rate, I love pieces of promotional material like this, because there’s only so much pertaining to the source material (seemingly) still floating around nowadays. I mean, maybe KSTP has footage of the actual show in their archives, and if it ran into the 1970s, it did crossover into the commercial home video-era (technically 1972 with Cartrivision, but more likely 1975/1976 with Betamax if it made it to the middle of the decade), but in regards to what can fall into my paws, I imagine I’m limited to the smaller accoutrements such at this. Maybe some press photos, potentially some appropriately-branded mugs or glasses, probably print ads from old TV listings (TV Guide or otherwise), but realistically I can’t think of a whole lot else.

That’s okay though, because even on its own, this token is suitably neat; I wouldn’t wait for an auction to end for anything less! As it stands, it now proudly resides right by the Duluth/Superior keychain I linked to at the start of this update. They belong together because they is cousins.

Vintage WUAB-TV 43 & WAKR TV-23 Golf Ball Markers (Circa 1984)

I went Christmas shopping this past Saturday. Well, ostensibly; I did find one thing to check off my list, but came up empty for everyone else. Well, except for me. I did find a few things for me.

I wasn’t trying to – really! This was a mission to get Christmas shopping done, and since I don’t have that many people to buy for, theoretically it could have been completed during this one outing. Several locations were visited over the course of several hours, and where I myself was concerned, I dutifully passed up on some things I considered merely “neato,” because unless something practically jumped out and punched me in the face with awesomeness, I wasn’t going to get anything for my personal collection. It wasn’t an issue of cost either; this was about principle. I was on a specific mission, man!

I made it safely through the day – until the last place I visited. There, as I perused small display boxes made up of compartments filled with various knick knacks, my eyes fell upon the baggie you’re seeing right here. This was one of those cases where I got so immediately excited, so incredibly stoked, that I dropped what I was doing and instantly began extricating it. I knew, I knew, that as long as the price wasn’t prohibitive (and it wasn’t in the slightest), it was coming home with me. And so it did.

I hadn’t been to this antique store in several months (as it has been operating on reduced hours lately), so this must have been a fairly new addition to their wares, because I’d really hate to think my normally-fairly-astute eyes passed over this time and time again. Dig this: two pairs of vintage Northeast Ohio television-branded golf markers, WUAB-43 and WAKR TV-23! Cool winnins!

And Golf markers! If there’s one thing my collection lacks, it’s golf stuff. Not that I have anything against the sport; it’s just that aside from some old school video games and Happy Gilmore, I have little experience with it. Heck, I wouldn’t have even known what these markers were if not for the handy sticker affixed to the baggie notating the contents. This was an entirely unexpected find, but this was also exactly the sort of random TV-related thing I’m always hoping to come across.

(Also picked up for myself at the same time? I rarely drink alcohol, but a vintage Bud Man patch for only a buck was just too cool to pass up.)

It was the old WUAB logo here that first caught my eye, and because I have such an ongoing-affinity for the station, those markers were the ‘biggies’ for me. As you can see, one is pink and one is white, but otherwise they’re identical with the black “half-moon” 43 logo. (“Half-moon” is how *I* refer to this particular iteration of the station I.D., but as far as I know, I’m the only one to do so. Maybe that is the ‘official’ term for it though, I dunno.)

The WAKR markers are less logos and more mere station identifications. Unlike the two WUAB markers, they’re both completely identical to each other. Besides WAKR, WAEZ is also featured; I can only guess that this refers to what later became WONE 97.5 FM, which was WAEZ prior and WAKR-FM before that. There was some kind of connection there, is what I’m sayin’.

I have no idea what the actual age of these markers are. I’m assuming both pair hail from the same general era, but they could have just as easily been, erm, paired up later. WUAB only used that style of logo from, roughly, 1980 to 1986, before going to a full-circular version. WAKR TV-23 became WAKC TV-23 in 1986, and WAEZ became WONE on January 1, 1985. So yeah, I’m sticking with what I used in the title of this update: “circa 1984.” That seems to be a safe guess. At any rate, the WUAB ones have to hail from 1986 or earlier, and the WAKR/WAEZ ones from before January 1, 1985.

Regardless of the actual date(s) that brought these markers forth, they both demonstrate a terrific time in Northeast Ohio television, when quirky local programming and an eclectic line-up of movies and shows was the order of the day. I love that!

Hey, know what I discovered when it came time for a picture-taking session of these earlier today? Golf ball markers aren’t the easiest things in the world to photograph! Not these ones, anyway. Because they’re rounded, they tend to roll ll over when I don’t want them to. Indeed, I had to poke them through a disposable styrofoam plate for the main shots, and to your left here is the best I could come up with as far as a side-view goes. See, they done got lil’ pegs, perfect for plunkin’ down into the ground! These aren’t especially big markers, they’re all the same size, which is roughly that of a regular shirt button (a bit bigger actually, but not by much). They seem to be bright enough to show up on the ground during a golf outing, but I’d have thought they’d be a bit bigger for easier visibility. But then, I’m not a golfer; far be it for me to go tellin’ ’em their business.

The last remaining question for me is: how did someone go about acquiring these originally? They almost seem too niche to be widely-spread promotional items. I have seen golf balls with station logos/I.D, emblazoned on them, so this sort of thing was (is?) not unheard of. Perhaps they were from some industry event? A friendly game between the staffs of 43 and 23? These are things I do not know, and perhaps the finer details of which have become lost to time. (If you’ve got some additional information on them, by all means share it in the comments!)

So, as it stands right now, I’ve still got some Christmas shopping to do, but when I come home with cool promo items such as these to add to the ever-growing collection, well, how can that ever be considered a wasted trip? Like I said earlier, TV-related things like this are what I always hope to come across during my travels; sadly, it doesn’t happen often enough for my liking, but when it does, it’s usually worth the dry spells. Given the last update, I seem to be on some kind of streak right now – hopefully it lasts a bit longer!

Vintage McDonald’s / WAKR 1590 AM “Adam and Bob in the Morning” Coffee Mug

My friend Jesse found this for me several weeks back. His alert came via text message, with a simple caption of “need?” Yes, Jesse, need. Need now. (Or maybe the caption was “want?” Either way, my response was highly in the affirmative.) Jesse knows I collect broadcasting memorabilia and promotional items, and indeed, some months back it was he that found me an old WVIZ mug that was subsequently covered here. (Would you believe he picked me up another one of those later, too? No foolin’!)

‘Course, if you have thus far callously neglected to scan the title of this post, and still refuse despite my vaguely passive-aggressive reminder right here, you may be looking at this picture and thinking to yourself “broadcasting?” True, the face you’re seeing is just the famous McDonald’s logo. But that font! Those arches! Coupled with the color scheme and design of this plastic coffee mug, the nostalgic vibes emanating forth are still enough to make me unacceptably giddy even without an added attraction. I think we pretty much all grew up with McDonald’s, and If this is as old as I’ll momentarily surmise it to be, well, I can already hear the appropriate jingles of yesteryear ringing in my head. This thing just looks like breakfast at McDonald’s! Fast food or otherwise, I generally skip the first meal of the day, but this has me wanting one of their sausage biscuit things. Or maybe some eggs, provided they served them to me in an old school styrofoam container. (Wait, the eggs did come in styrofoam at one point, didn’t they?)

Ah, but it’s the other side of the mug that not only gives this a broadcasting connection, but a local broadcasting connection to boot. Dig this: the other side is a promo for Akron’s WAKR 1590 AM, specifically their morning show of the 1970s to the 1990s, The Adam and Bob Show. Cool winnins!

No, seriously, this is really, really neato. I’m into radio memorabilia quite a bit less than I am television, but even so, this is legitimately awesome.

Adam and Bob were Adam Jones and Bob Allen. Sadly, Bob Allen passed away in April, 2017. They had a long running show on the station, starting in 1978 and running until either 1991 or 1995. (I’m seeing both years listed online; can anyone confirm which is correct?)

I really don’t think this mug hails from the extreme of the 1990s though, or even the late-1980s. Given the size and shape of it, I’m guessing early-1980s; even though the show started in 1978, I’m not sure they would have been producing mugs of this nature that early on. I mean, maybe they were, but I’m getting the notion (basically just a gut-feeling on my part) that it’s from about 1980. No later than 1984, anyway. That’s my best guess.

(I did a search for the specific WAKR logo seen here to help narrow things down even further, but nothing doing on that front.)

To top it all off, despite some (minimal) wear to the graphics and outer mug in general, I don’t think it was ever used. A little slip of paper was still inside, giving the company info as Whirley Industries of Warren, PA. (I’ve seen/got a few other mugs of similar shape by them, and each one appeared/appears to be of notable vintage.) I just can’t see someone using this, washing it, and then replacing this slip of paper afterwards each and every time. So yeah, I’m guessing it’s technically “new.”

Though, as the instructions make clear, it’s not quite complete; these Whirley travel mugs (officially deemed the “Easy Rider Travel Mug,” as per the pic here) originally came with a ‘holder’ that would be affixed via tape to a flat surface, ostensibly in that of a moving vehicle of some sort, and which would then allow the owner to slide the mug in and out for easy usage and then safe, hands-free holding.

Mine does not include said holder, so maybe the original owner intended to use this only as a “breakfast table” item? Maybe? Or perhaps it was just simply lost over the years? Oh the mysteries this mug presents!

Anyway, the last big question remaining is: how did someone go about obtaining this mug back in the day? The obvious answer is McDonald’s, but I mean how? Did you have to order breakfast and then pay a nominal fee for your collectible local mug? Could you just walk in and buy one alone? Was it included free when you ordered coffee? Oh the mysteries this mug presents!

Or perhaps it was a giveaway from The Adam and Bob Show direct? A call-in trivia prize? Something given away at personal appearances? I just don’t know, but if anyone does, please hit up the comments section and share!

However it was originally obtained, it was certainly put “out there” somehow, much to my eventual intrigue and delight. What a cool mug! It just feels like McDonald’s in that late-1970s/early-1980s era, and the local connection just makes it all the more irresistible. You could drink out of it while perusing the newspaper in the morning, or at work, or maybe even on the drive to work (perhaps all while listening The Adam and Bob Show, even!).

For this lifelong Akronite, that all makes it an indelible addition to the collection. (Thanks Jesse!)