An ad found in Astounding Science Fiction, December 1956:  “HOW IS YOUR ROBOT SUPPLY HOLDING OUT?”   Is last year’s model broken, or have they all just wandered off?  I suppose there’s also subtext as to whether your robots have revolted and killed all their masters, or…well, I suppose that’s where all roads lead anyhow.

It’s offering a ‘turtle’, a light-sensing robot with ‘hungry’ and ‘avoid’ states called the Machina Speculatrix, which was actually a significant leap in technology: remember, this is the mid-1950s, experimental robotics wasn’t something they taught in an afterschool program using Legos, Radio Shack was still focusing on radios, and the original plans are vacuum-tube based.  The ad was from Oliver Garfield Company, whose biggest contribution was the Geniac calculators, and also offered basic instruction in ‘hyperspeed reading’, modelling a nerve cell in electronics, and digital and analog computers.

The instructions for the Machina Speculatrix were $5, which is a pretty hefty amount — $50 in today’s dollars — and buying the unassembled kit would set you back a cool grand in 2019 money.  But, really, isn’t a few weeks’ salary a small price to pay for cutting edge robotics technology?

Women’s Mud Wrestling – Like You’ve Never Seen It, 1982

From the January 1982 Howard Binford’s Guide, an ad for the sporting event of the season – women’s mud wrestling, “Like You’ve Never Seen It!”   I don’t know exactly how much women’s mud wrestling the Old Broadway thought Fargoans had seen, but it was apparently nothing compared to what the Chicago Knockers would bring to the Fargo Civic Auditorium on that cold Thursday night.

The Chicago Knockers were worth above-the-fold crediting; if you’re a fan of G.L.O.W. on Netflix, you’d appreciate that there’s more to women’s wrestling in the 1980s than nationally syndicated WWF-style rings and wacky characters.  The Chicago Knockers toured internationally, bringing their muddy messiness to audiences everywhere.

They had their detractors though: during his term as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, future Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders had to remind the city council that, although he thought women’s mud wrestling was degrading, they shouldn’t me making moral decisions when issuing entertainment permits, after the council denied the Chicago Knockers a chance to perform.  A lawyer stepped in and the Chicago Knockers brought their messy fun to Burlington anyway.

It appears the “celebrity matches” were generally local celebrities dragged into the athletic hijinks, but I’m not sure who they would have taken to the mat: my votes are for Dewey Bergquist and Kay Burgum, but they probably weren’t available.

That Old-Timey Look

Collector’s Weekly has a well-thought-out article about a ‘revival’ that defies modern explanation, and tries to identify why Grandma’s House, for those of us in our thirties and forties, is such a specific set of style choices.

At it’s most basic, the 1960s to 1970s experienced a reaction to the clean-cut Modern look by casting an eye back to the 1800s (via cowboy movies and TV) and colonial times (via Bicentennial nostalgia), resulting in some of the most god-awful furniture seen at rummage sales today.

Williston’s Landmark Pizza Hut, 1992

Every so often I get a VHS urge; I have boxes of old VHS video tapes that I’ve gotten from relatives, exes, rummage sales, and who-knows-where.  Many have no labels, and many aren’t what the label says, so I put them in my VCR and fast-forward to see if there’s anything interesting.  I’m always surprised at the obscure things that are already on YouTube, but for the most part I’m digitizing interesting and iconic commercials and posting them on my YouTube channel.   These two caught my eye — see if you can see what they’ve got in common:

These both aired in different slots during a 1992 episode of Jeopardy! — that time period was during the oil bust, but Williston was still the “big city” to a lot of communities in the Bakken and eastern Montana.

Apparently, though, it was still small enough that the best way to tell customers how to find you is based on the Pizza Hut’s location.   Of the two, I would have guessed furniture would outlive the fickle, ever-changing world of communications, but while Kotana is still around selling radios — still right behind the Pizza Hut! —   Thrift House Furniture is no longer on the map;  I Keating Furniture looks like they’re the current furniture shop two blocks west of Pizza Hut.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The AMF Probe Jr, 1970s

There’s few things that make me go, “What’s that – I need one!” than when I saw this guy:

Three wheels, a space-age half-steering wheel, and a grill off a muscle car?

This is the Probe Jr., a pedal car made from the late 1960s to early 1970s.  I can’t imagine it’d be very stable, being so narrow and on three wheels, but crashing is just the fun of it, right?  That pressed-steel body will absorb most of the impact.

Overall, they seem pretty rare — most discussion on the internet starts with, “I found this, what the heck is it?” and there’s a few restored that show up on eBay and Etsy from time to time.



Vorr-Trexx The Defender

The 1980s were a golden time for cartoons: they came on at 6am, ran until you had to go to school, then as soon as you walked through the door after school, more cartoons until dinner.  At least it was that way on KVRR, the UHF station that aired Fox affiliate shows in the evening but the rest of the day was a cornucopia of syndicated content.

KVRR was so devoted to children’s programming they even enlist the help of this guy:  Vorr-Trexx the Defender:

Vorr-Trexx The Defender

For the life of me, I don’t remember the dude, who looks like he would have a fine career in pro wrestling if he hadn’t devoted his life to cartoons and other cartoon-like TV programming.   He was so awesome he did in-person appearances when necessary, as documented in these three spots I found on an ancient video tape:

I hope he was well-compensated for this role; the lives of children were at stake!  Or, at least it kept us out of our parents’ hair for a while, which is almost as important.

Vinyl Roof Must Go


Culture Clash Records in Toledo, OH, was nearly out of business due to road construction, when the owner decided to give their roof an upgrade: he took hundreds of record albums, climbed a ladder, and screwed them into his roof:CTY-Cultureclash10p[1]The owner says the albums immediately started melting and warping in the sun, and he loved it.

The city, however, doesn’t love it:  his vinyl roof has been declared a “public nuisance” and he has to take it down.  He doesn’t mind — he’s going to find something “cooler and stranger” to do — but I hope he does something about the hundreds of screw-holes in his roof, that can’t be good for waterproofing.

You Know, For Kids!

From the Grand Forks (ND) Evening Times, December 15th, 1911, a great idea for under the Christmas tree!


Accurate .22 rifles — take your pick from Stevens, Winchester, Remington, and Savage brands!

Granted, in 1911 in North Dakota a rifle was a practical tool for farm work — it wasn’t a toy, it was something necessary to getting things done, from shooting pigeons in the barn to hunting dinner…and what kid is going to start taking pot shots at the neighbors?  Well, maybe guns aren’t the best thing to give a kid…but sometimes the kid isn’t the one who shouldn’t be messing around with a gun.  And yet nobody let Ralphie have a BB gun.

Garbage Pail Kids: Where Are They Now?

As a child of the eighties, when I was twelve I walked down the three blocks to the corner grocery store and paid a quarter for a pack of Garbage Pail Kids as often as I had the money — but, time passes, that corner grocery is now a parking ramp and my Garbage Pail Kids card collection is long gone: but where are those Kids today?   Bruton Stroube Studios took their cameras to the streets and found out.

Photographer W. Brandon Voges (Bruton Stroube Studios) Concept Jake Houvenangle Retouching Jordan Guance (Bruton Stroube Studios) Producers Tony Biaggne, Matt Siemer and Sherry Tennil (Bruton Stroube Studios) Assistants Steve Eschner (Bruton Stroube Studios) Mandi Kohlmeier (Bruton Stroube Studios) Stacy Collier Hair/Makeup Julie Dietrich (Talent Plus) Priscilla Case (Talent Plus) Props/Wardrobe Cathy Rauch (Bruton Stroube Studios) Food/Barf Styling Cathy Chipley (Bruton Stroube Studios) Set Builder/Rigging Bill Stults (Bruton Stroube Studios)