Monday, May 14, 2018

Let's Go to the Zoo and Make a Mold

If you are a certain age and had a penchant for touristy destinations as a youngster, then you should probably be well aware of the Mold-A-Rama machines.  But for some bizarre reason, I had never heard of them until recently.

Family vacays to the Alamo and whatever crappy Florida beach we ended up at in '84 should have sculpted me into a hardcore Mold-A-Rama-Maniac but they were totally off my radar until their recent return to fashion alongside my precious penny smashers at various roadside destinations.

All that preamble leads me to today's topic:  "Hey, the Oklahoma City Zoo has a Mold-A-Rama machine!!"

Actually, they have several.  And actually, they seem to be called Mold-A-Matics now.  Above is a look at the beauty I had stumbled upon.  If you're like me (or like I used to be) and you're not particularly familiar with the Magic Souvenir Maker, here's a rundown by the Chicago Tribune.

The tl;dr version is that it's a vending machine of sorts that squishes a plastic souvenir for you as you watch.  The one I found makes a blue hippo. 

I knew they were making a comeback but didn't expect to see one anytime soon, so when I spotted this magnificent beast I immediately thought, "Hey, I can crap out a blog entry about this, can't I?" and couldn't cram in my credit card fast enough.

Three dollars later I had my very own hippo.  And while I'm not exactly sure where it is now, I'll always have the memories of carrying it around in my park during the rest of my trip to the zoo.

And if I see another Mold-A-Whatever at another Oklahoma attraction, odds are I won't think of it as losing three dollars, I'll see it as gaining a new member of my plastic menagerie. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Contemporary Arts

This weekend is the end of the COMIX OK exhibit at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center and they are celebrating with their very own comic convention.  ContempCon features the artists behind the comic book work that his been on display at the studio for the last two weeks.

Artist Johnnie Diacon speaking with a fan

I was able to attend yesterday to meet some of the artist, shoot some video and get some interviews for an upcoming project. Both the exhibit and the con highlighted the diverse types of art and artists that call the Sooner State home and featured how the comic book medium can include many different types of content.

 Interviewing Tulsa artist Melanie Gillman

The event included panels, demos, workshops, vendors, a cosplay fashion show and just about anything you could want from a comic convention but with a local focus.  Oklahoma has had (and continues to have) a large amount of comic book creators and cartoonists and it's about time they get their due.

Green Lantern from Tulsa's DC Marvel League cosplay group

The exhibit and the con are over this weekend but there will be plenty of chances to check out Oklahoma comic creators throughout the year.  I'm going to try to hit as many of those types of events as I can so stay tuned...

Monday, April 2, 2018

A Walk to Remember

Today is the day that Oklahoma public school teachers are staging a walkout at the state capitol in protest of low salaries and insufficient school funding.   So while I sit here in my bathrobe wishing them the best, it seems the best way to keep up with the protest is via Social Media.  Here are some of the highlights that I stumbled across so far:

@Jamiebh73 shows off his kid's ratty textbook which is only in slightly better shape than the textbooks of my youth.  I'm sure this book includes Oklahoma statehood but the fact that I'm not 100% sure is troubling.

@PhilBacharach points out that preparations have been made for the biological necessities that come up when any large group gets together.  Any good teacher could tell you that when nature calls you have to answer.

Former X-Man, current robot cowboy and native Oklahoman James Marsden hopped on Instagram to show off his snazzy new shirt and give a shout out to Okie teachers.

Protesting can be hungry business so, knowing that teachers don't get paid much, several local restaurants are offering discounts to entice famished educators.  Rep. Forrest Bennett (D-Dist 92) helped spread the word.

And, of course, if you're gonna protest you need to bring your strong signage game.  @TimothybBlack thought this one was his favorite and I think it's pretty good too, especially considering the pic from above.

Will the teachers get their raise?  Will Oklahoma text books start include the most recent couple of presidents?  We can only wait and see...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sausage Party

While there's still plenty of places and things to visit on my Oklahoma bucket list, occasionally you get lucky and something interesting comes here.  Case in point, the legendary Oscar Mayer Wienermobile recently stopped by the 46th state and I saw it!

This particular stop was at the Walmart in Newcastle but the previous day it appeared in nearby town of Mustang and was headed to Norman next.  So, c'mon, you didn't have much of an excuse to not go see it.

The "Hotdoggers" (the people who drive the Wienermobile)said that after Oklahoma they were headed to Arkansas but, don't worry, I'm sure it won't be too long before the wiener wheels feel the sweet caress of the Oklahoma red dirt once again.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Oklahoma Ape Escape of '44


It's time to take a look back at Captain Marvel's visit to Oklahoma City.  It was 1944 and the day started off in the most normal, mundane way: a clown was trying to commit suicide by leaping to his death.  (Mondays, amitite?)

Well that's all it took for young Billy Batson to say the magic word and transform himself into Captain Marvel, the world's mightiest mortal.  The Captain immediately proceeded to go about the business of clown catching only to be told that it he was not stopping a suicide but responding to a super responsible way of getting someone's attention.  So who is this clown?

Now this is where things get interesting.  The clown identifies himself as Zoo Keeper/Radio Personality "Uncle Leo" and of course the Captain recognizes a fellow broadcaster...but I didn't.  Not until I did a little research and discovered that Uncle Leo was a real guy:

(From "Images of America Oklahoma City Zoo: 1902 - 1959," Arcadia Publishing)

I assume there was some kind of cross-promotion going on at the time with radio stations and Fawcett Comics but I haven't found any confirmation yet.

But I did find some exposition a few panels later as Leo explains that a gorilla named Colossus has escaped from the Lincoln Park Zoo (now known as the Oklahoma City Zoo).  There's also apparently an "armed posse" out to get the gorilla because that's the kind of thing that happens I guess.  So it's up to the super strong and near invulnerable Captain Marvel to safely bring the great ape in.

So the search is on...

...starting with the Civic Auditorium (now known as the Civic Center Music Hall)...

...and then the Skirvin Tower (now the Skirvin Hilton Hotel)...

...Union Station (now known as Oklahoma City Union Depot)...

...the Lincoln Park Amphitheatre (now known as the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheatre)...and culminating in an exciting King Kong-style denouement atop an oil derrick at...

...the State Capitol building.  Captain Marvel used the Wisdom of Solomon to outsmart the beast and, in doing so, procured himself an attaboy from the Mayor:

It all worked out with a minimum of shenanigans and with Colossus heading back to the zoo with visions of candy canes dancing in his head.  Is it okay to give candy to gorillas?  The clown zookeeper DJ seems to think so.  And that's good enough for me.

The last panel features young Billy saying they have an adventure planned in Indianapolis next month so this must be in a series highlighting various American cities (not unlike Sad Sack visiting select U.S. states).  But that's a job for the guy who does the Indiana Pop Culture blog.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Top 5 Things For Sale at Antiques Etc.


Small-ish towns typically try to broker their small-ish nature with the goal of increasing tourist interest (and tourist dollars).  One of the more common ways to do this is with Ye Olde Antique Shop™ (or Shoppes, preferably).  And it's with this unnecessary factoid that we begin yet another "Top 5 Things For Sale at..." entry.  Today we visit Antiques Etc. in Ardmore.  Let's go...

5.  Ardmore Matchbook & Postcard

I tell ya, man, ya gotta get into ephemera if you want to start picking up souvenirs.  It's cheaper that collectible spoons or shot glasses and takes up much less space.  There was tons of this stuff in the store but I picked these two due to the local connection (and because they were right next to each other...what?  I'm not being lazy...YOU'RE being lazy!!)

4.  Famous Oklahoma Indian Glasses

Forget your Burger King Return of the Jedi glasses, these are older and rarer.  From the late 50's, the "Famous Oklahoma Indian" glass set was designed by Native American artist Blue Eagle.  The store didn't have a complete set but there were several options available to start your Oklahoma themed promo glasses collection.

3.  Dick Tracy Whitman Big Little Book

Big Little Books were all the rage for decades and featured popular characters of the day including Mickey Mouse, Batman and Dick Tracy, who was created by Pawnee Oklahoma native Chester Gould.  This one is from 1967 and has the hard boiled detective facing "Facey."

2.  Chicken in the Rough Postcard

What did I tell you about ephemera?  It's the best!  Chicken in the Rough was a chain of chicken joints founded in Oklahoma City.  (And apparently there are three of them left.)  There's a lot going on with this postcard, from the brag(?) that they serve a half a fried chicken "unjointed" and with no silverware, to the little chick that is "gladly" offering himself up to be fried.  I'm not sure he's thought that through.

1.  Oklahoma Souvenir Plate

The mother of all old school keepsakes was the souvenir plate.  They used to be offered everywhere that might be considered a destination (or on a way to a destination) and celebrated things like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and everything in between.  The Oklahoma plate celebrates the Land Run, Will Rogers and a few other Okie milestones.

Now that the antiquing is done we'll just hit the local tea room for a Cobb Salad, find a restroom and then pile back into the RV to head to the next small town... 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Where the Red Fern Grew


If you went to grade school at a certain point in the 80's then wheeling in the projector for "movie day" meant a pull from only a handful of movies.  It seemed like one of the ones that was in the heaviest rotation was 1974's "Where the Red Fern Grows," based on the book by the same name.

The Depression era story is a coming of age tale about a boy growing up in the Ozarks with his two beloved hounds and his quest to hunt raccoons for some reason.  It's a "dog movie" for kids so, of course, the dogs die at the end.  Spoilers, I guess.  Despite the downer of an ending, the film does take advantage of some great Oklahoma scenery for its locations.

Natural Falls State Park in the eastern part of the state, near the Arkansas border, was the filming location for many shots in the film.  Formerly known as Dripping Springs, the park has a 77 foot waterfall that the filmmakers used as a backdrop for a few scenes in the movie.  Here's the view of it from the park's observation platform:

Here's a look at it in the film (it's around the 31 minute mark):

Some other scenes were shot in the nearby town of Tahlequah.  But with a period piece it's always hard to try to match up locations since filmmakers try to stay away from big buildings that might create any anachronisms.  Occasionally some signage will leak through the Hollywood magic though:

So the next time you're in that area maybe stop by the falls to take in some famous scenery.  According to the park's website pets are welcome too so bring the dogs.  Just try not to tree any raccoons.