Friday, March 11, 2011

One thing about the internet. It really shows me how any good idea I've ever had, somebody else has already thought of and done it way better a long time ago.
Case in point, this awesome G.R. historic blog "F*** Yeah Grand Rapids"

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mr. Fables sign found...

WYCE station manager Kevin Murphy spotted this Mr. Fables sign in the window of RHD Tire on Grandville Ave.
Thanks for sending the picture. Or as Kevin points out, "thanks to the person who is responsible for the sheet metal screw in my tire for my seeing the sign and taking the photo." 

Betamax Theatre Presents...

I'm well known around town for "being into weird old shit."
A while back somebody gifted me with a working Betamax VCR, I'm guessing from the late 70s. It is gigantic and covered with simulated wood grain but it's in excellent shape and works great.
Along with the deck they also gave me 3 shopping bags full of tapes. These tapes contain home-recorded TV broadcasts from the late 70s, early 80s from the G.R. area!
As I get the time, I'll be going through them, looking for interesting clips and posting them.

Here is a short promo clip from News 8's exciting new innovation, the News Van!
"Someday all stations will have one.... "

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Clock

The Clock sure did have a sweet vintage sign, with a working clock.  Did they reset it for daylight savings time?
Did somebody have to get up on a ladder to reset that thing or was it remotely controlled from inside?
I guess we will never know.
The Clock was a 24 hour greasy-spoon diner on Alpine Avenue.
It opened in 1974 as part of a chain headquartered in Southfield, Michigan and was one of three Clocks in the area. The franchise ended and the Alpine Clock continued on independently.
The place had diverse clientele including regulars, truckers and usually a good share of kids, being one of the few places youth could gather late at night.
The Clock had table-top juke boxes that for $0.25 would play Neil Diamond, Elvis, Journey or Madonna tunes. There was even some Barney The Dinosaur on there which some friends and I would sometimes play specifically to mess with people. :)
The plaza area behind it was steadily being transformed into national chains with The Clock being the last old-school holdout. 
Unfortunately, The Clock caught fire June 16, 2005 and was demolished in early 2006 to be replaced by a Q'doba. 
Nowadays, The Grand Coney on Michigan Ave. seems to fill the late night after bar greasy-spoon niche.

So this entry's pretty short, I don't have a wealth of info or memories to share about The Clock but please post some of your own. That's what this thing is for!

North Kent Mall

I used to go to North Kent almost exclusively to hang out at Aladdin's Castle, one of the last great old-school video game arcades. I'd usually ride the bus up there, listening to my "cassette walkman," most likely a cassingle of De La Soul or something.
Another thing I remember is for a while, NK was the home to the only of the old-style photo booths. Not the sort that are around today where you can be superimposed in front of backgrounds and such but the type where it fires off 4 takes and you get a strip of (black & white!) photos at the end. There was also a small movie theater to the side, "Movies at North Kent."

Aladdin's Castle was awesome. I never knew it was actually a chain. Apparently there are still a few alive today, scattered around the country.

Mostly dead interior, 1998.
North Kent opened in 1971, anchored by Montgomery Ward and Wurzberg's, with a Turnstyle on an outlot. Wurzberg's closed in 1974, and was replaced by Kmart. The Turnstyle building was used by Meijer for a while as a clearance center and offices, but now sits vacant. The mall went into a slow decline and by 2000 was nearly dead. The last remaining stores were Waldenbooks, JoAnn Fabrics, Bargain Books, Radio Shack, Zales Jewelery, and GNC. In 1999 there were displays posted about plans to renovate the mall, and add a third unnamed anchor, but those never came to pass. In October 2000, it was announced that the mall would be demolished for a Lowe's. Both anchors (Kmart and Wards) would remain. The mall closed in March 2001 and Wards closed a week later in bankrupcy. The Wards building has been divided into Dunhams, Dollar Tree, and Family Farm & Home.

The old Movies at North Kent sign, no longer there.
It seemed like NKM was a pretty bustling teen hang-out on the weekends during it's peak.
Do kids even do that these days? Just go and "hang out at the mall"?  The malls sure seemed to be social meccas in the 80s and 90s from what I remember. For area young'uns with no car, it was probably the place to go and meet boys/girls. I bet you were "cool" if you had a boy/girlfriend was from a different school. Ah, youth.

This is one of 2 statues that were inside. I have discovered both of the statues are now in a small park outside a Salvation Army office building on LaGrave St. Photo: Alaine Poelstra

Not much remains online of the old place. I did find one very odd newspaper article though (click to enlarge) ....

This guy regains sight in his blind eye by bumping into a pole while powerwalking in North Kent Mall.
Truly a Christmas miracle!
There is an "I Hung Out At North Kent Mall" facebook group with over 1,500 members!

Here are a couple shots of the interior from a 2-page ad the mall took out in a yearbook from Northview highscool, 1975, courtesy Larry Bennett with Photoshop cleanup by Randy Tate...

Here is another artifact kindly donated by Christopher Gielda, who was a manager at Record Town.
A North Kent Mall brochure featuring a map and a store directory!  See if it jogs your memory of the different stores that were there. Click on the pics for super-large versions that are readable...

Map brochure outside. Click to enlarge

Map brochure inside. See store listing below!  Click to enlarge
Store listing for the map!  Click to enlarge

Please feel free to share your own North Kent Mall memories in the comments below!
Thanks everyone who has posted. It's fun reading everyone's recollections...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Retro Podcast #2

I got some good feedback on my first outing so here's another kooky retro podcast.
Hope you guys enjoy it. Program listing below.

RDL podcast #2 by jefleppard

As before, the little arrow on the widget allows you to download the whole MP3 if you want a copy....

And case you missed it, Retro Podcast #1

Retro #2 info:

Theme, "Hunter"
70s music countdown clip
Giorgio Moroder "Battlestar Galactica" (disco version)
commercial clip, "Freedom Rock" *
Theme, "Kidd Video"
Video game music "Battle Squadron" **
Trailer, "Xanadu"
1981 Buck Rogers clip "Andromeda"
Johnny Harris - "Odyssey part 1) 1980 ***
Commercial, Bill Cosby "Jello Pudding Pops"
Mr. T "Treat Your Mother Right"
Commercial "Thundercats preview"
Theme "Street Hawk"
Theme "Thundaar The barbarian"
"Battle Theme" Flash Gordon soundtrack, Queen
Commercial, "The Clapper"
Theme "Darkplace"
1979 TV sign-off
Closing Theme, "Little House On The Prairie"

* During the 80s and early 90s, you couldn't seem to watch TV without seeing the "Freedom Rock" commercials. Some trivia, one of the "hippies" was played by WLAV radio DJ who went by Red Noise. Red passes away I believe from a heart attack in the mid-90s.

** A favorite game of mine on the Commodore Amiga computer from 1989. During it's all-too-brief existence, Amiga computers had superior sound and graphics to any other home computer or game platform. Commodore went bankrupt in 1994.

*** From an episode of the 80s Buck Rogers show that stands out in my memory. It featured a wacky futuristic band with instruments that involved waving hands over glowing crystals and the like. All these years later I found out the actual artist who performed the music for that episode is Johnny Harris.