Jul 102014
 

C&C Cola

While the two soft drink giants, Coke and Pepsi, waged war against each other throughout the 1970s, New Yorkers enjoyed a third alternative. With its unique flavor and enticing bargain price for anyone on a budget, C&C Cola managed to contend with the two behemoths and win the hearts of many a Long Island family.

Cantrell and Cochrane Limited, makers of C&C Cola, entered into the beverage business way back in 1852. Originally located in Belfast, Ireland, the company moved to America in 1955, introducing a unique cone top can that was more economical to produce than glass containers. Original flavors included Ginger Ale, Root Beer, Lemon Up and Orange. C&C marketed their beverages extensively in conjunction with RKO Pictures, placing ads in over 700 films.

In 1962, the company made a smart move when it hired a flavor chemist named John Ritchie to help them develop a new cola flavor. Ritchie had a bit of a track record being that he created Pepsi’s flavor in the 40s. The result was a unique, full-flavored cola that some consider similar to an RC Cola.

Where the new cola really shined though was in the price department. C&C Cola regularly boasted in their advertisements that they were cheaper than either Coke or Pepsi, and they were. By only distributing their beverages to large stores, they were able to keep their costs lower, an appealing factor for families trying to make ends meet.

Did Coke and Pepsi lose any sleep over C&C’s good fortune in the 70s? Probably not, but the soft drink underdog did something many other competitors were unable to do; it stayed afloat, and remains a popular alternative in the Northeast to this day, offering an extensive selection of flavors, from the originals to a number of novelty flavors, including cotton candy and red candy apple soda. The company is currently making a push to expand into more cities around the country, so maybe those that have moved away over the years will eventually be able to get their fix once again.

Did you your family make C&C Cola their soft drink of choice in the 70s? Do you still prefer its flavor over the big two? We’d love to hear all of your memories of this soda underdog in our comments section below.

Jun 242014
 

Last Day of School

There really wasn’t a better day in the life of a kid than the last day of school. Sure, Christmas brought gifts, but it only lasted a day. The last day of school signified the carefree summer ahead, filled with adventure, love, laughter, and yes, a little boredom. But a boring summer day beat the classroom every single time.

 

Every kid took notice when the calendar flipped to June each year. The excitement over a two-month-plus reprieve from the classroom was almost too much to bear, assuming you weren’t headed off to summer school, which could really put a damper on things. Thankfully, those final weeks of June were usually filled with plenty of activities to make the time pass more quickly. First and foremost, there were finals to prepare for, but there was also usually a steady stream of field trips and outdoor activities to get us out of the stifling heat of the classroom, most of which did not have air conditioning back in the 70s.

And so they shipped us off to places like Fire Island’s Sailor’s Haven and a number of parks scattered around the island, also community swimming pools, movie theaters, and any other places that afforded cool temperatures on those hot and muggy June days.

And, after the field trips and finals, after all the yearbooks were signed, the last day of school arrived – and kids all over Long Island proceeded to lose their minds. This was the day when few paid attention to littering, throwing all that spare notebook paper on the floors while cleaning out their lockers, and out of the windows of the bus on that last glorious ride home for the season, screaming with joy the entire way. Bus drivers were less than pleased but they put up with us for the most part.

Once you stepped off that bus, you were free. No more waking up before the sun, no more tests, no more full schedules. The day was yours to hang with friends, eat Italian Ices, walk to the mall, or take one of those dreaded family road trip vacations, sitting alongside your equally miserable siblings and thinking bad thoughts about them.

Truth is, we all probably spent our summers a little differently. Some of us worked jobs, some of us traveled, some of us had a pool and the rest of us had the garden hose. But all of us yelled and ran for change when the bells from the ice cream truck drifted over from the next block, and we all savored each day of summer, at least until the severe boredom set in. By the time August was wrapping up, most of us were starting to miss all of the school friends we hadn’t seen and ready to get back to work, or at least socializing. We had come full circle.

Sadly, there is no video from those last days of school from yesteryear. Hollywood did give us a reasonable depiction of the 70s mayhem at least, in the 1993 film, Dazed and Confused:

The one thing nobody ever tells you as a kid is that you only get so many “last days of school” in life. Sure, when you have kids, you can relive it through their eyes, but you never again get to feel that same wonderful anticipation when the days of June wind down. You likely won’t ever get the chance to freely throw a stack of paper out of your car window and scream with joy in quite the same way either. The last day of school, a ritual passed down from generation to generation, is one of the most memorable days you can have as a kid, and in the 1970s, we enjoyed it to the extreme.

What do you remember most about the last day of school? Share all of your memories in our comments section below and help us relive the childhood glory.

May 172014
 

Stay AliveTo emerge victorious in Stay Alive meant more than utilizing strategy. Your fleet of marbles sat above an unpredictable sea, one that could open up without warning and swallow your prized spheres like the Bermuda Triangle, making this quite the memorable 70s game.

It all came down to the levers, the evil levers. You had to pull them. Everyone had to pull them. And with each gingerly tug, one made with all the apprehension one might expect from a bomb squad and a pair of wire snips, you were either going to victoriously sink your opponents marbles, or lose your own. Unlike the game of Ker Plunk, you could breathe a little easier knowing that a virtual marble avalanche wasn’t on the horizon. Although, at least Ker Plunk allowed you to see what you were doing and estimate the consequences. Here, it was simply blind faith and that last marble was all that stood between you and defeat.

Stay Alive was played on a 7×7 grid of holes. A series of slides that surrounded the board were moveable into three positions, some which covered the holes and some that didn’t. Each player placed five color coded marbles onto the playing field and the fun began. As players took turns at the levers, they opened and closed holes on the surface of the board. Any marbles atop one of these opening holes had the misfortune of falling in. The player with last marble above deck won the game.

Introduced in 1971, Milton Bradley’s Stay Alive was a popular staple of the 70s game closet. When it was repackaged in 1978, the company perhaps missed a prime opportunity to slap the faces of those loveable Bee Gees on the cover in all their disco glory (they were enjoying much success thanks to a hit song by the same name). It seemed so logical but it just didn’t materialize and the ramifications were severe. Neither the game, nor the pop music act, enjoyed much success into the next decade. That’s what happens when you ignore the obvious.

Check out this classic commercial for the game featuring Vincent Price:

And yet, Stay Alive, the ultimate survival game, lives on in the hearts and minds of many. One can only hope that the traumatizing memories of pulling those sinister levers were replaced over the years by fond recollection.

If you have your own stories to share about playing a rousing game of Stay Alive, we welcome them in our comments section below.

(Editor’s note: This article appears courtesy of www.retroland.com)

Mar 252014
 

Happyland

They might not have agreed upon the name of the place, but for two decades, families on Long Island frequented a little amusement park in Bethpage officially called Happyland. You might know it as Nunley’s, Smiley’s, or by the name of the restaurant next door, Jolly Roger. One thing we can agree on is that it sure was a fun place for a 70s kid to visit.

William Nunley was an established Amusement Park entrepreneur on Long Island when he decided to open Nunley’s Happyland in 1951. His friends called him crazy, telling him that there wasn’t enough people in the area to support such a venue. When postwar families started laying down roots in the surrounding neighborhoods by the thousands, the naysayers were proven wrong. Only, Nunley wasn’t around to see it, having passed away six months before the park opened to the public. His widow, Miriam, would run it for the next 27 years.

Unlike other local establishments, Happyland was designed to operate year-round, with many of the attractions enclosed. Nunley used large glass panels from the ’62 World’s Fair to build the wide doorways that could be opened in the summer or closed in the winter. A 400-car parking lot catered to the growing population of car owners in the area.

Visitors to Happyland could choose from attractions such as a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, bumper cars, a miniature train ride, carousel, boat ride and pony rides. The park also boasted a large arcade of pinball machines, Skee-ball, and other mechanical games to test your skills.

Jolly Roger restaurantA restaurant next door to Happyland led to much name confusion over the years. It wasn’t owned, nor had any connection to the amusement park. Perhaps its name, Jolly Roger, just sounded like an amusement park, because many families on Long Island still refer to the entire place as “Jolly Roger’s.” In later years, the restaurant changed its name to Robin Hood’s, and closed in 1974. Sadly, Happyland didn’t last much longer, closing its doors for good in 1978.

Although Happyland has been closed for over three decades now, many happy memories remain for this quaint little amusement park that brought smiles to the faces of thousands of Long Island kids over the years. We might not all call it the same name, but that hasn’t diminished our fond memories.

Do you have any recollections of visiting Happyland that you would like to share? We’d love to hear your memories in our comments section below, as we pay fond tribute to this long-lost gem on Long Island.

Mar 242014
 

Choco'-Lite

The discontinued candy graveyard is filled with confections that once delighted us in our youth, yet for one reason or another, dropped off the radar. Such was the case with a sweet treat from the 70s called Choco’Lite, an airy candy bar consisting of whipped milk chocolate and something described on the wrapper as “crispy chips.” Today, they are but a memory.

Introduced by Nestlé in 1972, the Choco’Lite bar consisted of milk chocolate that was whipped, resulting in numerous air pockets that made it much less dense than the typical candy bar. It was given texture thanks to the aforementioned “crispy chips” which remain somewhat of a mystery. Unlike a Nestlé Crunch bar, which uses puffed rice to achieve its crunch, the Choco’Lite bar contained no rice, nor anything else mentioned in the ingredients that would account for the crispy texture. To this day, people still debate what gave these bars that distinctive taste, but one thing that seems universally agreed upon is that they were one-of-a-kind and delicious.

Today, you will not find a Choco’Lite bar in any of the many available retro candy outlets. Some point to the modern Nestlé Aero bar as a suitable substitute, but it really bears little resemblance. Sure, it’s light and airy, thanks to its use of whipped chocolate, but gone are those enigmatic crispy chips that gave the Choco’Lite its distinctive crunch. And, while we are all left to ponder what exactly made these confections so special, there is little disagreement that they were wonderful – a treat from yesteryear, both fondly remembered and sorely missed.

If you have fond memories of biting into a Nestlé Choco’Lite candy bar back in the day, we hope you’ll share your recollections with us in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this mysterious delicacy from our collective youth.

(Editor’s note: This article appears courtesy of www.retroland.com)

Feb 202014
 

Sonny and Cher

It seemed that every celebrity in the 1970s who could sing eventually got their own variety show. Most were forgettable, but a few won our hearts – perhaps none more so than the husband and wife team of Salvatore Bono and Cherilyn Sarkisian, better known to millions as Sonny and Cher.

Sonny was a songwriter working for Phil Spector in the 60s when he met a young singer, eleven years his junior (she was 16 at the time). The pair developed a friendship, followed by a relationship, as they tried to score a hit on the pop charts. They got their wish in 1965, with a moderate hit called “Baby Don’t Go.” The same year, they released their debut album, Look At Us which contained a little ballad called “I Got You Babe.” The song soared to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts and Sonny and Cher became a household name.

As the pair made countless television appearances to promote and perform their material, America got a glimpse of their undeniable chemistry. When the pair guest-hosted The Merv Griffin Show, they caught the eye of CBS executives who offered them their own variety show. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted in 1971 as a summer replacement series and quickly became one of the most popular shows on television.

Consisting of a mixture of sketch comedy and musical numbers, The Sonny and Cher Show started each week with the pair singing a few songs, then launching into a number of comedy shorts that featured that week’s guest stars. Some of the many celebrities that appeared included George Burns, Ronald Reagan, Burt Reynolds, Carol Burnett and Farrah Fawcett. Steve Martin appeared regularly and was one of the show’s writers. Terry Garr was also a regular, often appearing alongside Cher in a popular laundry room sketch called “At The Laundrette.” Each week, the show would end with Sonny and Cher looking lovingly into each others eyes as they sang their trademark song, “I Got You Babe,” usually accompanied by their (then) daughter, Chastity.

For the first three seasons, the show always ranked in the top-20 but tensions were brewing between the once-happy couple. Sonny and Cher separated, then divorced, shortly after the season’s end. Cher married rock star Greg Allman and CBS decided to cancel The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

Each took a stab at their own variety show. Sonny’s lasted a few weeks, while Cher’s lasted a full season and garnered four Emmy nominations. By 1976, the pair was on friendly enough terms to give the old show another try. The Sonny and Cher Show resumed in 1976, but the charm had diminished. What once seemed like playful insults tossed at each other now seemed less cute and more venomous. The public lost interest and the show was cancelled for good in 1977.

Cher went on to do some respectable movies and Sonny entered a life of public service, becoming a U.S. Congressman. Sadly, he lost his life in a tragic skiing accident in 1998. A decade earlier, the pair made this emotional appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, singing their trademark song one last time. When they finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

If you have fond memories of watching The Sonny and Cher Show back in the 70s, we’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section below.

Nov 122013
 

Candy Cigarettes

Perhaps one of the most ill-conceived confections ever devised, candy cigarettes enjoyed enormous popularity among children of decades past, and the 1970s was no exception. Available in a variety of forms, they gave kids a way to emulate their heroes of the day, who always seemed to have a cigarette dangling from their lips, or a pack rolled up in their t-shirt sleeve.

First introduced in the 50s, candy cigarettes quickly became a favorite among youngsters, mostly from the allure of looking more adult-like than for the actual flavor. Still, many can still remember exactly what they tasted like. The thin white rods in each pack (each with a little dab of red food dye on the tip for effect) were chalky in texture with a hint of mint flavoring. Despite the size of each box, which was mostly filled with air, each “cigarette” was thinner and shorter than their real-world counterpart and it wasn’t uncommon to finish of an entire pack in a few minutes.

Some of you may also remember the bubble gum variety which consisted of a cigarette-sized piece of colored chewing gum that was wrapped in thin paper. Although the gum wasn’t very flavorful, it was coated in a layer of powder (presumably powdered sugar) that kept it from sticking to the paper. And, thanks to this coating, if you exhaled through the cigarette paper, you could blow out a nice little cloud of powdery “smoke” as if you were really smoking! For a kid trying to emulate an adult, it didn’t get much better than that.

Of course, if bubble gum was your desire, there was a better option than the gum cigarettes. You wanted an El Bubble cigar. Made by Dubble Bubble, the cigars had a much better flavor and were available in fruit, banana and mint. The large portion of gum was softer and more conducive to actually blowing bubbles. Finally, if you were more of a chocolate person, you could also get your faux cigarette fix. Much like the gum cigarettes, these consisted of tubes of chocolate wrapped in paper. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the generous coating of white powder so you would need to use your imagination to see those wisps of white smoke.

As you might have surmised, this entire line of confections fell out of favor as we learned more about the dangers of smoking. When the 80s arrived, candy cigarettes began disappearing from store shelves. They haven’t entirely vanished, however, and thanks to our Long Island 70s Store, a box of candy cigarettes, El Bubble cigars or bubble gum cigarettes that smoke are all just a mouse click away.

Were you a fan of candy cigarettes as a kid? Did you blow powdery smoke from the end of a bubble gum cigarette? We hope you’ll take a moment to share your memories of these politically incorrect snacks in our comments section below.

Oct 252013
 

Creepy Crawlers

Kids have a fascination for bugs. Not only are they fun to play with, but a well-placed insect can induce a scream from an unsuspecting sibling. Bugs have minds of their own, however, scurrying at the least opportune moments and ruining the fun. Thankfully, with the invention of Creepy Crawlers, the days of uncooperative insects were over. Now you could make your own rubber replicas, much to your little sister’s horror.

Creepy Crawlers were invented by Mattel Toys in 1964, as a way for kids to make their own rubber versions of their favorite insects. Each set consisted of a set of metal molds. Fill the molds with a few squirts of colored goo, place the pan into a preheated oven, maybe add a few accessories such as the supplied plastic wings, and watch the goo transform into a hideous array of critters. Next, pull the metal pan from the oven, taking care to remember that, although the bugs were fake, the oven was not. Sure, a bunch of former kids have a few battle scars from trying to take out one of those metal pans without the supplied tongs, but it was nothing that a well-placed ice cube couldn’t mend, and it was a small price to pay for creating an arsenal of frightening friends, ready to be placed on a pillow, inside a jacket pocket, or maybe your younger brother’s shoulder.

Throughout the 60s, Mattel sold a wide array of Creepy Crawler sets, expanding the line to include everything from rubber flowers and cartoon characters to facial disguise stuff like fake scars or a third eye. Still, thanks to the oven, it wasn’t considered the safest of toys. A less-dangerous version, called the Thingmaker II, was released in 1978 and featured plastic pans and a reformulated goo that didn’t require much heat. What it did require was an abundance of time, as the new goo took much longer to set. The new Creepy Crawlers were undoubtedly safer, but not quite as much fun. Popularity of the toy began to wane at the end of the 70s decade.

Thankfully, in the 90s, the toy was reintroduced by a company called ToyMax, which developed a lightbulb-powered oven, similar to the Kenner Easy-Bake Ovens of yesteryear. The new goo was more vibrantly colored and some even glowed in the dark. All of this served to revive the popularity of Creepy Crawlers for a whole new generation of kids, eager to unleash their rubber playmates on an unsuspecting populace.

Did you play with Creepy Crawlers as a kid? Do you have any scars to show for it, or perhaps a great story of how you scared your sister? We’d love to hear all of your memories of this iconic toy in our comments section below.

Oct 232013
 

Lake Ronkonkoma

There are countless legends and mysteries woven within Long Island’s rich history. One of the oldest and most enduring concerns Lake Ronkonkoma and the tragedy that befell a Native-American princess. If you grew up in the surrounding area in the 1970s, you are undoubtedly aware of this ominous Lady of the Lake.

The picturesque shores of Lake Ronkonkoma have captivated locals and visitors for centuries. In the early 1900s, it was a popular resort, thanks in no small part to William Vanderbilt, who built his own private road from Manhattan to Lake Ronkonkoma. The wealthy traveled the treacherous Motor Parkway on the weekends and recuperated at the lake, swimming, fishing and staying at one of the many inns that dotted the shore.

But the history of Lake Ronkonkoma goes back much farther. Around the 1600s, it served as an official border to the territory of three indigenous tribes. Its original name, Raconkamuck, meant “boundary fishing place” in the Algonquin language. That much is known as fact. The legend, however, begins with a Princess, believed to be of the Setauket tribe … and that’s one of the few aspects to the story that people agree upon. From there, the tragic tale is recounted in dozens of ways.

Some say her name was “Ronkonkoma,” others say it was “Tuscawanta.” Either way, she supposedly fell in love with a white settler, much to her father’s disapproval. He forbid her from seeing the man, but the two lovers continued to meet, according to some legends. Others say that she sent him notes that she floated across the mile-wide lake.

Some legends say that she rowed a boat across the lake to meet her love, but drowned along the way. Others say that he was the one who drowned trying to meet her. As a result, some say, she committed suicide. Regardless, the end result was the same. A curse was placed on the Lake, one that would claim a young male victim every year. The cause of death is either the Princess yanking them underneath the murky waters, or a mysterious whirlpool that sucks them deep into the abyss.

The legend might have died out long ago, except for the pesky fact that many young males have drowned in Lake Ronkonkoma over the years. Now, the skeptics may point out that people die in practically every lake each year, but this lake does seem to have an inordinate fondness for young male victims, all of whom allegedly resemble the Princess’s lost love. There have even been a few sightings of ghostly Princess apparitions over the years. She has reportedly been seen raising her arms in the center of the lake at night, and even trying to lure young men with her persuasive powers to their watery graves.

The Princess isn’t the only legend associated with Lake Ronkonkoma. Most kids have heard at one time or another that the Lake is bottomless. Some even say that it leads to the Long Island Sound and that victims who drown in the lake are often found along the ocean shoreline. None of this is true. The lake does indeed have a bottom. While much of Lake Ronkonkoma is only 10-15 feet deep, however, there are some very deep areas, as much as seventy feet. There are also legends that say that the lake once connected to the north shore, and that it was a favored place for pirates to store their loot. Those stories are pretty unlikely as well. But the one legend that persists, the Lady of the Lake, does so because, just about every year, Lake Ronkonkoma claims the life of a young male, either while swimming, or occasionally by falling through the ice. And it is doubtful that those stories will subside anytime soon.

Have you taken a swim in Lake Ronkonkoma and lived to tell the tale. Do you have any spooky circumstances you would like to share with everyone? We’d love to hear all of your memories of this infamous body of water in our comments section below.

Oct 212013
 

Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House

For the past five decades, Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House has served as the unofficial soundtrack for Halloween. Released by Walt Disney Productions in 1964, this collection of spooky sound effects and scary stories became an annual tradition throughout the 1970s and beyond, heard at countless Halloween parties and at homes awaiting the arrival of trick or treaters.

Back in the early 1960s, the Imagineers at Disneyland in California were hard at work on what would become one of the most beloved attractions in the park’s history, The Haunted Mansion. Perhaps as a bit of cross-promotion, they decided to take all of the spooky sound effects they had amassed over years of movie and cartoon creation and present them via a novelty record. Little did they know that this little endeavor would lead to millions of copies of Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House being sold in the decades that followed.

Voice artist Laura Olsher provided the unnerving narration for the record, which opened with the following recitation:

“You are a bold and courageous person, afraid of nothing. High on a hilltop near your home, there stands a dilapidated old mansion. Some say the place is haunted, but you don’t believe in such myths. One night, a light appears in the topmost window in a tower of the old house. You decide to investigate. And you never return…”

From there, she guides the listener through a collection of creepy scenarios – the approach of menacing wild dogs, a cat with a mean streak, a creaky old bridge, and the infamous “Chinese Water Torture” skit, which, although not exactly politically correct by today’s standards, is one of the more fondly remembered tracks. Disney, of course, always had the youngest listeners in mind, so the record mixes in plenty of humor to keep from scaring young kids half to death.

If you still have a copy of the record, take good care of it, for the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House is no longer in print and is now considered a collector’s item. Thankfully, it is possible to download the entire recording from iTunes or our own Long Island 70s Store, should you decide to enhance this year’s festivities with a little retro fright. One listen will bring you back to the days of trick or treating, when seemingly every house had this playing in the background. It is an iconic part of the Halloween tradition, one that we hope continues for decades to come.

Do you have fond memories of listening to Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House as a kid. Did your family play it each time Halloween rolled around? We hope you’ll take a moment to share your memories of this classic recording in our comments section below.

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