Saturday, June 24, 2017

Captain Midnight Decoder Badges

Today's "Anything Goes Saturday" is kind of different!

Years ago, I lived near a number of antiques stores, and would mosey on over to see if anything good was there. On one excursion, a Little Orphan Annie decoder badge caught my eye, and I bought it for a surprisingly low price. After that, I looked for other old radio premiums; I am pretty sure that I found all of these at various shops, and didn't buy any of them on eBay (or other auction sites) which is why they are sometimes not quite as "minty" as I would probably want these days. Still, I love the idea of some kid saving up his cereal box tops (or similar coupons), sending in 5 cents, and happily receiving his or her very own secret decoder badge. I don't have them all, but love the ones I do have. I'll be sharing photos of 6 different decoders from the "Captain Midnight" show.

This first one is a 1942-1944 "Photomatic Code-O-Graph". In 1940, Ovaltine took over sponsorship of the Captain Midnight radio program, and the Captain became the head of a secret government paramilitary group called the Secret Squadron. With the advent of WWII, he fought Nazis, especially spies and saboteurs intent on destroying the old U.S. of A. Kids were encouraged to replace the Captain's photo with their own, instantly becoming a member of this exclusive squadron! Because this one was available for years, it is not hard to find.

1945 saw the introduction of the "Magni-Matic Code-O-Graph". With brass being such a critical wartime resource, Ovaltine instead used stamped sheet steel that was then painted gold. There is a plastic insert with one half of the cipher, and the clear knob also acted as a magnifying lens, mostly used for frying ants. I have read that this was the only Captain Midnight decoder in which demand exceeded supply.

I found this one (and the next one) in a junk shop for a pittance (along with some 1939 World's Fair pins) - that was a good day!

Next is this "Mirro-Flash Code-O-Graph" from 1946. This is the last Captain Midnight decoder released as a badge. With the end of the war, they used stamped brass again. The knob now has a metal insert that could be used for heliography - flashing a reflected signal to passing airplanes. Why just the other day, I got a passing Boeing 787 to land because I had skinned my knee. Thanks, fellows!

This next example is from 1947 - the "Whistle Code-O-Graph". It's a beautiful blue plastic whistle that I  am sure to have with me at all times, often testing it loudly at Starbucks or Target to make sure that it  still works.

And yes, it is still a decoder. We'd whipped the Nazis, but now the commies were becoming a real pain in the neck. To this day I'll see some guy with a bad haircut and ugly brown leather shoes buying a loaf of bread - he must be a commie!! It's the only rational explanation. I always alert the authorities. But I'm no hero - just a regular Joe doing his bit.

How do you like this 1948 "Mirro-Magic Code-O-Graph"? It is made of brass, aluminum, plastic, and steel. The cipher numbers and letter can be seen through those tiny windows. Mere friction is used to keep the two separate parts of the cipher properly aligned, and slippage turned out to be a vexing problem, resulting in many communist plots succeeding.

Here's the back (made of plastic), with yet another handy mirror. Once again you can flash out an S.O.S., or just make sure that your hair already has plenty of Wildroot Cream Oil in order to keep it neat and tidy.

Finally we have this unusual 1949 "Key-O-Matic Code-O-Graph", which was improved from the 1948 version by actually using gears for the cipher elements. The tiny key is required to reset the thing, and not surprisingly, it was often lost. Clever bending of a paper clip would suffice, but these days the keys can sometimes fetch higher prices than the decoder itself.

I hope that you have enjoyed today's "Anything Goes" Captain Midnight decoder badges!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fabulous Tomorrowland, July 1958

Today's scans are the last from a very nice set of  1958 photos - I wish there were lots more! But we must be grateful for what we have, I suppose. 

Let's start with this lovely, amazingly empty view in the heart of Tomorrowland, with the whirling Astro Jets in the foreground. It's interesting to think that the Astro Jets was an off the shelf ride - you could find others pretty much just like it at fairs, carnivals and boardwalks - Tomorrowland was famously unfinished when Disneyland debuted, and the Jets seems a bit like a filler, and yet they survived until construction for the "New Tomorrowland" began. 

Let's go ride the Rocket to the Moon - going to the moon is a good way to work up an appetite. Then we can eat at the Space Bar!

I like this pretty view of Tomorrowland Station - about as minimal as it can be. In 1958 this minimalism probably seemed super modern, if not necessarily futuristic. It reminds me a bit of a simple gas station or car wash. Note the sign for the new Grand Canyon Diorama!

A slight zoom shows us some details, like the lady in the ticket booth, and the loud speaker on top of the booth - what did it play? "Ticket book holders, please tear out a 'D' coupon..." or something along those lines? (As you know, E tickets did not yet exist in 1958). 

One gentleman sits on the bench, possibly perusing his souvenir guidebook - I guess he might be waiting for his kids as they ride the Autopia?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Vintage Postcards - Coney Island

Hey ho, it's time for another post featuring some vintage postcards from the collection of Ken Martinez! This one is especially great in my opinion - I have always been fascinated by those early amusement parks and their "scenic railways". The postcards make them look pretty amazing. Heeeeeere's Ken:

Coney Island Mountain Range

One of the things I discovered when I first started digging into the history of amusement parks back in the 1970’s was that there were “mountain” type  attractions well before Disney built them in their parks. Coney Island was a prime example which contained various “mountain” attractions through its early history, usually a rolling gravity scenic railway with manmade rocks, crags, tunnels and peaks.

Here’s an early Thompson wooden scenic railway called “Pike’s Peak Railway” which was located off Surf Avenue near Dreamland.  The ride operated from 1906 to 1911.  The structure which was in the form of a mountain rose to a height of 138 feet (only 9 feet shorter than Disneyland’s Matterhorn).  The ride would take riders up a lift hill and down the gravity railway, passing through the “mountain” over precipitous crags and through various caverns.  The attraction perished in the 1911 Dreamland fire.

This postcard kind of reminds me of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland.  It was officially called “Over the Great Divide” but was also referred to as “Trip over the Alps”.  It operated from 1907 to 1911.  20-passenger trains would travel to a height of 50 feet then wind their way down the tracks around turns, through tunnels and over a 70 foot bridge between “Yellowstone Mountain” and the “Great Divide” over a lake 40 feet below.  There was also a volcano that erupted at the highest point of the trip.  Each train was operated by a motorman who controlled the speed of the trains during the run through their course.  As with the “Pikes Peak Railway” this attraction also perished in the 1911 Dreamland fire.

Pictured here is the “Mountain Torrent” ride which was a combination coaster and shoot-the chutes ride.  Its location was in Luna Park near the Dragon’s Gorge Scenic Railway.  Passengers actually climbed by foot up an 80 foot “peak” where they would board vehicles/boats (which had utilized wheels) and raced down a flume which carried high volumes of rushing water helping push the “boat” along.  The ride ended in a finale with a splashdown into a glacial lake at the bottom of the mountain.  Sound familiar?  It ran from 1906 to 1910.

Here’s a close up view of the “Mountain Torrent” vehicles.  Another aspect of these cards that I love is the clothing worn by the people from the 1900’s.

Hope you enjoyed a peek at Coney Island’s “mountain range”.  There are more Coney Island postcards to come.

Information Source material: 
Funland U.S.A. copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko
Coney Island History Site

MANY THANKS to Ken Martinez for this awesome post!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Special Guest Mega-Post

Today we have a contribution from GDB pal JG (you know him from the comments!), who visited the park a few months ago, and took photos until his phone was much heavier from all of the extra pixels. The massive Star Wars Land construction has removed some options from a typical visit, but it has also added a few cool opportunities, of which many of us have not been able to take advantage. (I'm not sure if I've place JG's commentary exactly where he intended, but you should be able to follow along). And now, let's hear from JG (with my own additions in blue)!

As most of you know already, the DLRR has been shut down for over a year as part of the Star Wars Land construction, which required realignment of the railroad and the Rivers of America to make room for more Ewoks.

To provide some interest for visitors in this quiet period, Disney set up a static display of one of  the DLRR engines, the old Kalamazoo hand-car and several other exhibits about the DLRR.

I had a chance to visit the Park recently and this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit was one reason to brave the ever-larger crowds.  Since the GDB crowd seems to be keen on the railroads, I took these pictures partly with the blog in mind.  Hope everyone enjoys them.

I was most interested in the old station building, which I remembered from it's original position on the guest side of the track, it has been marooned on the far side ever since the opening of NOS.  This will probably be the last chance in my lifetime to see the old building up close.

A temporary deck was built across the tracks to provide safe access and a number of interpretive boards were put up under the baggage area of the station.  The first told of Walt's passion for trains. Another described some of the specialty cars that have been part of the DLRR over the years, including the Lily Belle, the Combine Car and the  Kalamazoo Hand-Car.  I don't remember the hand-car from childhood, but GDB commenters sure do, so I took several pics. More boards discussed the various railroads at the other Disney parks and displayed attraction posters from over the years.

These boards remind me of Michael Broggie's book, "Walt Disney's Railroad Story"... I wonder if he was involved in creating them?

Someday they're gonna give me a ride on the Lilly Belle as a V.I.P! Yes, I will be wearing a top hat and monocle.

I thought it was interesting that they devoted so much space to the combine, which can now be seen in Griffith Park.

There are the four WDW locomotives; compare and contrast them to their Disneyland cousins! I have never seen that "Santa Fe and Disneyland RR" sign or poster before.

The artwork in the upper left is familiar to me, but I was surprised to see that it is credited to Fred Joerger; I believe that he was famous for his models and sculpting, but I had no idea that he also did concept art.

Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland get a mention.

Hooray for posters! Thanks to the book, "Poster Art of the Disney Parks", I knew that the same basic design had been reused a number of times. But they left out the Disneyland Bicentennial version!

I'd like to think that lots of people actually read these signs and learned something about the history of railroads in the U.S.A.

The pointing hand shows the way to the telegraph office. Clickety click! I'm not sure what you would call that ornamental device that resembles a wheel, but it reminds me a bit of the Santa Fe Railroad logo, which was sometimes depicted at an angle.

Like this:

There was a nice model of a steam train boiler cut-away so we could see the internal works and some very lucky Cast Members whose jobs were to explain it all to the visitors.  

What a cool thing to include! I wonder if this was custom-made for this exhibit.

It's so strange to see guests walking right in front of the station!

I don't recognize the train that was set aside as the main event  but I'm confident someone will.  The shot of the cab interior is fascinating, but the valves and levers are Greek to me. Hopefully Steve DeGaetano will explain.

These photos show the Ernest S. Marsh, but I wonder if different locomotives were on display on different days?

One of the best parts of the whole affair was being able to take photos up and down the line from the center line of the track.  This part of NOS has always been fun, with the laundry flapping on the lines on the back stage buildings and the water tower, etc.  The only thing missing was the old Santa Fe logo to make my memory day complete.

What a treat to really be able to get a close look at this old locomotive, with its beautiful paint and gold leaf details. 

Where's the steering wheel? How am I supposed to play my 8-track tapes?

Here's a friendly staff member who can answer all your questions, including dumb questions about 8-track tape players.

There's the Kalamazoo Handcar, on the world's shortest railroad spur. If you only need to go 18 inches, you are in luck!

My tour of the exhibit ended with the Delta Ramblers playing on the station platform.  Then off to the Haunted Mansion.

All of this has now been dismantled in the run-up to the re-opening of the River and starting the train again.

And finally, JG included this final photo, along with a very nice note: I am enclosing one last photo from the end of the day.  I stopped at the Hearthstone Lounge in the Grand Californian for a nightcap.  Since I can't buy you a real drink, I'm sending you a virtual one.  Up to you whether you include this last one (or any of them, for that matter) on a family blog, but it's a toast to you and all our friends that make GDB so interesting.  It would be a grand party to have us all together at the Hearthstone.

Aw, thanks JG!

Until I read JG's text, I was not aware that this display of Disney railroad stuff has since been removed. It was definitely an experience that has never been available before (as far as I know), and I am grateful that JG was able to see it and share his photos with us. MANY THANKS to him!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Disneyland Locomotives, June 1963

There seems to be less and less "Walt" at Disneyland as the years pass; for some people, the whole park is a tribute to his legacy, and that's not wrong. But I mean that the things on which Walt Disney had a direct influence, things he helped design, or even attractions that he would have been able to ride during his lifetime, have become fewer and fewer. For those familiar with the history of park, the Disneyland Railroad feels like a direct link to the man that so many of us admire - I am grateful that the locomotives are not only still there, but seem to be more popular than ever.

Here's a nice shot of the E.P. Ripley waiting at Main Street Station - the little locomotive is parked above the west tunnel. For some reason I thought that the trains were mostly run by old-timers back in those days, yet that fellow with the hat looks to be a young 'un. The "Ripley" looks wonderful as always, with gleaming paint and polished brass.

Our photographer must have had a fondness for the trains, as he also captured this shot of the C.K. Holliday... possibly taken mere minutes after the previous picture. I assume that the fellow just exiting the frame to the left is a DL&SFRR employee - perhaps he is taking this opportunity to cool off after being in that hot cabin.

Poster alert!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Golden Horseshoe, August 14 1956

Digging through some previously-unscanned slides, I pulled out today's photos from the Golden Horseshoe Revue. They'd faded to a dabolical magenta, but I figured I'd give them a scan and see what I could do with 'em. The results were decent, if not spectacular. Still, it's fun to have these early views of a classic Disneyland attraction.

Whoo-eee, those gals sure can shake a leg! The scandalous can-can is not quite as scandalous at Disneyland, but I'll bet you two bits that this photo was taken by a dude. Once in a while I am surprised at how tiny that stage is, considering all of the hubbub that went on there.

There's Donald Novis, the Irish (actually English) tenor who preceded Fulton Burley. I love being able to see the kids in the boxes at the side of the stage! The gentleman in the lower left doesn't like what he's hearing, apparently.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


After spending a few hours admiring my exquisite collection of thimbles (from the Franklin Mint!), I decided that I would try to rescan a few old slides and see if I could make any improvements. The results were mixed!

Here's a pretty nice vintage view of Fowler's harbor, taken on August 14, 1958 (for those of you keeping track). It looks adorably ramshackle - maybe the gals from Petticoat Junction would feel at home there. Authentic riverboat junk is scattered along the wharf, while a Keel Boat rests to our left.

The rescan lightened up some of those very dark areas (including the vignetting), and I smoothed out some of the grain. Otherwise it doesn't look that different. BUT... it's an improvement just the same. 

This next one is from July 25, 1961; it's a swell view of the parking lot, with plenty of old cars, Monorail Blue, and a kid in a Civil War kepi holding a striped tube that probably held a souvenir map. This one was OK, but was a bit heavy on the cyan.

Here's the rescan, lighter, brighter, and with the cyan mitigated somewhat. I think it looks loads better! Howsabout you?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Eastman Kodak, 1964 New York World's Fair

The Eastman Kodak pavilion was one of the more distinctive buildings at the 1964/65 New York World's Fair, and that's saying something! 

Here's a previously-posted exterior. See what I mean? I'm not sure what architectural style was used, except something like "Spaceage Googie", perhaps?

Today's photo were taken from the "moon deck" an undulating surface from which fairgoers could get some sweet views of the rest of the Fair. 

In this first photo we can see things such as a helicopter, probably on its way to the roof of the Port Authority building; the Sky Ride; and from left to right, a "moon berry" (that's what I calls 'em), indicating the location of a "Brass Rail" eatery; the red roof of the Republic of China pavilion; the blocky "House of Japan"; the spindly crown of the Indonesia pavilion (with the large U.S. pavilion barely visible in the distance); Shea Stadium; and the wooden A-frames of the Austria pavilion. The grassy area closest to us was the "Garden of Meditation".

In this view we can see the medieval buildings of the Brussels pavilion; the fluted roof of the Vatican pavilion; the sharp angle of the Christian Science building; the barbed wire cylinder of the Astral Fountain; and the "Tent of Tomorrow", part of the New York State pavilion.

We can just see a sliver of the Schaefer Center; the blocky hexagonal "Better Living Center; and closest to us, Pepsi Cola and Unicef's "it's a small world" (all lower case for K. Martinez), with the infraggable Tower of the Four Winds.

What a Fair!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Two Random Goodies

I had a couple of nice standalone slides - images that were not part of a larger lot. These are good enough for a Friday!

Like this great shot of Main Street Station from the parking lot, from a slide date-stamped "May 1958". Everyone's dressed for a cool day, and the clouds are a hint that this might have actually been March April. I'm always a little surprised at how well you can see things like the Bank of America, the Opera House, and City Hall from this distant vantage point. Presumably they are obscured by trees these days. Sure, I could look on Google, but that would involve effort. I hate effort!

Those original ticket booths look so teeny tiny. No room to swing a cat, that's for sure. There's no train at the station, so points are deducted, but I can recognize several attraction posters, which adds points right back. I can identify the Jungle Cruise and Skyway posters (near the "I" in the Disneyland sign), the Frontierland "tri-level" (under the first "N"), and the Autopia (under the "L").

What do I win?

Here's a neat photo of the Motor Boat Cruise, from May, 1960. The Monorail beam passes above us, and we can see little Fantasyland Station and the Disneyland Railroad pulling the yellow passenger cars. The boat to the left might contain a Grandpa and two little girls - looks like the older girl is "steering".