Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm not dead you guys

Yeah, it's been a while since I've added anything substantial here. Been on a little hiatus but I foresee getting back into it soon as I get the usual winter cabin fever. 

It's been fun reading all the comments people have been leaving! I like that this thing can be a little spot where people can come and share the memories.

I think I got a little upswing in views a bit ago when I was featured on the PBS show "Under The Radar Michigan."  The guys came and followed me around over a couple days and I did my best to live up to the "cool local hipster" that they came looking for! ;) 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Aladdin's Castle Shirts y'all!

So I thought it would be cool to make Aladdin's Castle shirts and make them available to all via my etsy. I just started the etsy thing, so the shirt is all I have. If etsy turns out to be cool, I'll do some more fun GR retro junk for sale.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bad Thrift Store Folk Art "Remixed"

Another neat idea that I'll probably start and not follow through on, lol.

Yeah, I actually sanded off the front, recreated the image "my way" and re-varnished it...

Sorry, Christians, don't get pissed, I'm just playin' ;)

And more....

Sunday, August 5, 2012

OK Cola

OK Cola. A carbonated "beverage." OK Cola was an expiremental soda concept produced by Coke in 1995. The cans and bottles had artwork from popular underground (oxymoron?) comic artists of the time like Daniel Clowes, Peter Bagge, Evan Dorkin, etc. It tasted kind of awful as I recall. Like mixing from all the spigots on a pop dispenser. I was a sucker for it though because I felt "cool" walking around with the stupid cans.  They did have some pretty entertaining and unusual radio ads that they used to play on WLAV during its "Underground Radio" era.  OK didn't last very long.  File it away with Zima, Crystal Pepsi and Josta.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Aw crap, another local business closes and gets replaced with a Family Dollar

I was trying to understand why I felt bummed when I passed Parkside Market on West Fulton and saw that it's closed and now appears to be turning into yet another dollar store...

Maybe a sign of the hard times. The businesses that seem to be flourishing are bars and dollar stores.
I don't really shop on this side of town but I'd been in this store a couple times. It had a certain charm to me. It was rather small, didn't have as big a selection of stuff and had the slow kind of checkout lanes (manned by humans)... I'd become spoiled by the self-scans at Meijer and it's huge selection and this place seemed like a step down. Still it felt sort of quaint or something because it reminded me of all the little grocery stores my parents and grandparents used to always take us to growing up.
Places like these little local grocery stores are part of the world I grew up in-- and it feels to me like a lot of that world is disappearing. I suppose that is some of my motivation for this blog.
It really is a bummer to see a place that has decades of history vanish and get replaced by something generic like a Family Dollar. The city loses another little piece of it's identity.
And I realize I am partly to blame because I make the choice where I go and spend my money. Nothing wrong with Meijer. They obviously are a big part of Grand Rapids too but I always hate to see the little guy lose.

I noticed the place hasn't even opened yet and has been all tagged up....

 One odd thing that caught my eye was that all the tags had some kind of flyer taped to them....

So I don't know who wrote these but they are kind of cool. Somebody decided to school this tagger. As someone who's had to clean up super lame graffiti, I appreciate some of what this person's saying. It also seems relevant with some of the more controversial street art that's popped up in GR recently.
I'll transcribe the flyer here for you. (again, making the assumption that there's people out there reading this blog o' mine).
Maybe a little preachy but it's just cool that somebody from the neighborhood cared to do it....

Wow, Kesh. [the tagger] Wow.

So you passed by an unoccupied building with a black can of Krylon and
paint pen, and put your tag on it. We're all super duper impressed.
What's this, 1980?

Hey, here's an idea. The next time you want to feel so badass, why don't
you take that can of Krylon and practice some real street art on some
cardboard until you get better? I'm just saying. Your tag sucks. It's sloppy
and lazy. Do some research into the origins of graffiti and street art - I'll let
you borrow a copy of my "Street Wars" DVD. There are also books
around that talk about the work of some really neat, original artists. Be
sure to check out Brazillian artists, too. They're really cool

Also, it doesn't have to be permanent. You know, 'cause your tag is pretty
embarassing. It screams "egomaniac with nothing better to do". There
are lots of things you can use: wheat paste, dry erase markers, sidewalk
chalk. the list goes on. The point is to express an idea. Who are you?
What are you about? You have the drive. You have the tools. You are
clearly just too scared to use them. Tell us. Tell us what we need to know.
Change the world instead of being just another asshole tagger.

Real artists worked so, so hard to fight for people's right to occupy space
with their paint. They can now make a living at it, too! They saw the
potential for an amazing medium to challenge social norms. They wanted
to stop the idea that kids like you were degenerate losers that wanted to
deal drugs and rape women - they knew you had more in you to grow as
a person and explore art. these artists developed ideas that spoke from
their experiences, culture, and soul. You put up an empty tag that is
gonna terrify people because they associate it with degenerate black
youth. It's not fair, but it's true. Good work on fighting the stigma and
making the rest of us look bad.

I hope you feel dumb now. but that's OK. Try again next time. Apply your
mind. Be original. And stop reminding us of your wasted potential.

Your neighbor


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fat Boy. The spoon's less greasy

Cool that they restored the long-dead neon on the sign.
Fat Boy has been in GR since 1952. It closed in 2008, was bought and reopened back in 2009.  I only just now got to check it out since they've reopened.
I used to hang out at Fat Boy's back in the 90s when I had a couple friends working there. I love the look of the building and it's old sign.
They've given it a pretty extensive makeover...

I have mixed feelings about renovating these old establishments. I kind of enjoy the grungey vibe of a vintage place that's remained untouched for decades, like say the Choo-Choo Grill or of course The Clock. As long as you don't feel unsafe eating the food of course.
If the choice is to either update or disappear though, then obviously go for it.
It seems like the new owners had respect for the place's history; their decor definitely has a vintage style to it.
The breakfast I had was really good and not expensive. I'd place it above New Beginnings but not quite on the same level as The Westsider Cafe. I'll have to come try a burger some time.
Fat Boy is pretty awesome and vintagey. Check it out sometime if you're over on Plainfield.
So yeah, I'm not so great at writing "reviews" I admit. Reviews of things that a person REALLY loves or REALLY hates seem to be the most interesting but most things tend to be in that area of "it's pretty good, you should check it out."
At any rate, I think it's cool that this is a GR historical place that has managed to keep going, instead of being turned into another dollar store or something.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mr. Fables shirts. Get one!

Sometimes when money's tight, I have to resort to hustling arts n' crafts.
Usually stuff maybe 5 people might care about.

I suppose I could just sell the Pinto but that'll happen only after I've sold off my organs.

Anyway, I taught myself screen printing and these shirts turned out pretty sweet...

I'll make you one for $15.
White on red like the Fables colors, or white on black-- or whatever. I'll print it green on purple or something if you want.

I don't imagine there to be a huge demand for this sort of thing so it doesn't seem worth it to set up an online store or anything. Basically, if you want one, just contact me and we'll work out the details.

So yeah, email me.  I don't have kid sizes yet but if there's enough interest I'll do some.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

GR-Retro updates via Twitter, dudes.

You can now get notifications on Twitter when something new is added to GR-Retro. Follow me @jleppard !  Thanks, reader who suggested this !

Friday, June 8, 2012

Interview: Danny Czekalinsk (Danny Douglas), host of Pepsi Dance Trax 1989

Pepsi Dance Trax aired on channel 17 in Grand Rapids in 1989.  Our local version of the dance-party shows that were popular at the time. The whole program was seriously just shots of teens dancing to the latest club music, interspersed with the host, Danny Douglas, chatting with the kids and setting up occasional dance-offs.I have been able to track down some bootleg episodes and they make for some entertaining viewing. The hair, fashions, music and dance moves seem from a different universe now. As somebody who lived through that, I can remember thinking we were pretty f-ing cool at the time!
I posted about the show before back when I first started this blog and was surprised at how many others there were around Grand Rapids who remember it.
It got me curious whatever became of Danny Douglas. I wanted to imagine him somewhere still with super-feathered hair and Sagebrush sweaters.
I found that he was last heard doing a morning show on a West Palm Beach station and he's no longer Danny Douglas but Danny Czekalinsk.
Honestly, I was expecting he'd rather leave the 80s cheesiness behind and not want to talk to me but was pleasantly surprised to find he's pretty cool and totally willing to chat about Pepsi Dance Trax...

Jef: So do you have people reference that show to you very often?

Danny: LOL....yes...its very strange but I remember that time very with those goofball shirts and spaghetti hair.

Jef: It's pretty easy to mock on the 80s now, with how much the times have changed. How'd you line up that sweet sponsorship with Sagebrush??

Danny: Oh geez...that was done by one of the sales guy's at KLQ...Bill Bode.
The show was actually the idea of Bill Simonson who was spinning records (yes records) at Electric Avenue and Club Eastbrook. He has his own sports show called the Huge Show now. I actually returned the favor and got Bill into radio.

Jef:  So you were quite a staple on GR radio during the 80s. How long were you with KLQ? I gather you've moved to Florida and stopped going by Danny Douglas at some point.

Danny: I was at KLQ for 4 1/2 years...went to OKC and KJ-103 to do mornings in May of 1990. Then off to Mix 93.3 in Kansas City in January of 1995. Home to Cleveland at WMMS for mornings in November of 1997. Crossed the street to Q-104 in Cleveland for mornings in July of 1999 then came to West Palm Beach in 2004 to do mornings and decided to leave the station in January of 2011.
I've been chilling since that time looking for the right gig. I don't believe in more music morning shows so when the right opportunity happens...I'll get back to work. I'm very bored right now.

Jef: So Bill Simonson thought of the show... there are still some people kicking around GR who remember Electric Avenue, btw. I think there's an Aldi in that spot now haha.
So how was Pepsi involved? Did they sponsor other shows like this in other cities?

Danny: No we went to Fox and pitched the show and Pepsi stepped up with the cash. As far as I know that was the only type of dance show Pepsi got involved in.
Electric Avenue is an Aldi? God...some of the things that happened in that parking lot....

Jef: Haha indeed. Did all the kids get free Pepsi when they showed up?

Danny: I'm pretty sure they did. We taped EARLY on a Saturday morning. Knocked out four shows in a day about once a month.

Jef: Was anything scripted or did you just make it up on the spot? I suppose there isn't a whole lot of scripting to be done on a dance party show...

Danny: Well it was TV so it had to be timed out. Bill picked out all the music and I put it all together at the radio station on REEL TO REEL. All the songs were exactly 3 minutes and there were bumpers on both ends of the song and that's where I'd jump in and do whatever it was I exactly did. The commercials were added back at the TV station.

Jef: Was there any sort of screening as far as picking out the kids who got on the show or could anybody just show up? The place looked packed from what I could remember. How many kids did you have at these tapings?

Danny: We probably had 130 kids in there. The problem was Club Eastbrook was HUGE. We had to do a lot of tight shots sometimes. Pretty much anyone could be on the show. Nowadays you would have to have waivers signed and probably a metal detector...and that's just for me and Bill.

Jef: Haha Okay a couple questions off the facebook group (yes, there is one) ... "Would you ever do a reunion show?" and "do you feel the show helped reduce youth violence in our time."

Danny: Good God YES I'd do a reunion show. Simonson HAS to agree to it and I know he will. As far as reducing youth much of that was happening early on a Saturday morning?

Jef: Wow, I never even thought it'd be something you'd consider. I actually think the idea could fly. The building is now the Orbit Room but still a venue with the same capacity. Hmm...
Aside from that, there's been a few people asking if you or anybody has a connection as far as getting archives of the show released so people could see them again.

Danny: Really???? They wanna see it again? I only have one copy of the show somewhere in a box on VHS. The Fox affiliate would be the one to ask about that. With "Rock of Ages" coming out it would be perfecting timing to do it this summer. You CAN go back in time.

Jef: Hm. I may start talking the idea around town and see if it gets momentum. I've noticed that nostalgia's running pretty deep these days. I think it would be awesome. Sounds like you're in between gigs right now so maybe good timing for you as well...

Danny: It would be great to see everyone. I always loved Grand Rapids. I still have many friends there and would love to come back.

Jef: It seems a little short notice for summer, as far as having time to promote, etc. but I feel like it's the sort of thing the local press might grab onto and it could take right off. That's awesome you'd be into it! I will do some contacting people and I may get back to you about it!

Well I won't take too much more time here. Thanks so much for chatting! I will give you a link when I have the article all together and I'll let you know if a reunion's brewing.

Danny: Anytime. It was fun!!

Danny invites any old friends from Grand Rapids or Pepsi Dance Trax to get ahold of him any time!

twitter: @dannyczek

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grand Rapids before and afters...

Some historic photos around the Grand Rapids area matched with ones from modern day...

(click photos to enlarge)

Michigan Ave. 1936 vs. today

Immanuel St. James church on the left is the only building in common. I believe it is a protected historic landmark or I suppose it would've been bought out by Spectrum's expansion long ago.

One of my facebook friends, Chris Cole actually had some interesting memories of it...

"They tried to buy up the property back when I was in 6th grade-ish... I remember before that huge building went in it was the residency slums for the hospital...  Steam heated was that whole building... and it would sound like someone was beating the crap out of the pipes in the basement every time they fired up... Then come summer we all baked like potatoes in the class rooms..."

Also, if you magnify the picture and look closely on the left side, a Red Lion restaurant is visible. Had no idea they were around so long! 

1950s vs today

 A little gas station which is now a car dealership on 28th st, just West of the 28th exit on 131. Gas 24 cents, cigarettes 26! All the old signs sure had neat typography.
The "Red Barn" there is no relation to the porno theater that once existed on the SE side of 28th, although a strange coincidence.

 More time travel

 Burton Heights area. Division near Burton, 1952ish.. 

And here is downtown, Michigan and Monroe, 1958.

If any trend is visible here, I'd say it's that things seem to have become more boring-looking. But I suppose that's coming from the POV of somebody that prefers old-timey stuff.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Vintage GR sign replicas

I've been into making replicas of vintage GR signage lately. I dunno, seems like a respectable old-guy hobby. This one will be a working wall-clock when it's done. Mainly, I hope somebody might wanna buy this shit one day.

I'm also working on an LED lighted "Reptile House" one. After that I'm going to try and do a Studio 28 with all the blinky-lights and all.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Some stuff in my retro laboratory... The giant wood-grain box is what used to be required to play and record video in the late 70s on a format known as Betamax. The giant beige box is an 80s "computer" aka Commodore Amiga 2000. 

The Betamax VCR was a gift and it came with several tapes of local TV recordings. The original owner helpfully inserted TV guide pages in the tape cases to show what's on them. Right now I'm checking out "Night of 100 Stars" ...

It's actually pretty amazing. 3 hours of various celebrities of the time do little 3-5 minute bits onstage then the next comes out. So far I've seen some Robin Williams stand-up and Christopher Cross singing the Arthur theme with Dudley Moore playing piano. I doubt I'll be able to watch it all but there's some pretty great Youtube material here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Old photos, GO

Corner of Wealthy and Fuller. Late 70s? Early 80s?  Sweet Camaro!

TWO pay phones.

Click to enbiggen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ann St. Auto

Test update from my phone...

Nice Ranchero at Ann St. Auto.  They have some sweet older vehicles in their back lot!

No thanks

So back when I first started this blog I suggested a "Most Ghetto Party Store In Grand Rapids Contest."
Well, that didn't really pan out. There were just too many to choose from and I couldn't come up with any real criteria to choose a "winner."  At any rate, it was fun to see the commentary on here and facebook about the subject.

I thought about it again last night when I was at a party store on Richmond and Alpine... I want to say it was called "Danny's" ?

Anyway, who the hell eats the food floating in murky liquid in huge jars by the registers... ??

Remember in Return of the Jedi when Jabba the Hutt grabs some critter out of a big jar and swallows it whole?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Grand Rapids History Pinterest

If you are interested in Grand Rapids history, check out the Grand Rapids History Pinterest!
A treasure trove of photos of things you haven't thought of in a long time or never new existed.

Grateful Dead poster from a concert at Fountain St. Church 1968 ! (2 dollars!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Remember when the amphitheater looked like this?

Downtown amphitheater 1980s. Weatherball in the background!
This image is from a postcard at the GRPL

Actually in this same spot in the photo, I have a memory from the 80s, sitting with some people on the curb late one night and noticing a guy precariously walking across that arch. He looked like he'd been drinking as he was rather wobbly and I remember thinking "this guy is going to fall any minute" and on cue, he did (shit! did I psychically cause it??) He hit the pavement and went unconscious. Some people helped him until the ambulance came. Never found out what happened or if he ended up being okay.
A few yards away from the amphitheater was a little white gazebo with payphones...

Gazebo, across from Flanagan's 1981.
The area around the amphitheater's changed so much...

And also, I wonder if anybody even sees this blog of mine? I get very infrequent comments... Is it just boring and stupid? I'm beginning to feel like giving up on it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Great Daryl Nathan For President stickers!

By suggestions from the Daryl Nathan facebook group, 
"2012" dropped to make it more "timeless" and printed on snazzy red.

These are vinyl stickers measuring 3x10 inches. 
$3.00 each + postage

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kmart's receipts still say "North Kent Mall"

Also, Kmart still exists. Well, sort of. Barely, I guess.

I don't know if Kmart was the huge presence in Grand Rapids in the 70s as it was where I grew up in Spokane, Washington.  When I was a kid, a trip to Kmart was a BIG DEAL.  

To this day, I occasionally have dreams that take place in the Kmart of my childhood. With everything looking all 70s and freakishly big. The toy aisle is still full of GI Joe, Micronauts, Six Million Dollar Man, Space: 1999 toys...

So... where was I going with this? I don't know. Basically, it's kind of sad and nostalgic for me to visit Kmart, see what it is now and think of how cool it used to be. I suppose Wal-Mart and Target pretty much filled their niche.

Wish they wouldn't have messed around with their logo.
As a teen in the late 80s, I lived ... well, around. But for a while I was staying in a neighborhood just North of the North Kent Mall. I used to hang out at that mall quite a bit and actually enjoyed eating at the Kmart cafeteria. I dunno, something about a cup of finger-jello wrapped in cellophane seemed appealing at the time.

Out of morbid nostalgia, I visited the last existing GR Kmart a couple days ago. It felt like visiting an old friend who'd fallen on hard times. Kind of depressing actually.

For some reason, this weird apparatus above the door really took up too much of my attention...

Security laser? What is that??
What was this once used for? It's like a blue flashy light connected to a spotlight. I know Kmart used to make a big deal out of "Blue Light Specials" Was this somehow part of that? I'm way too intrigued by it.

So basically, shopping at Kmart felt like... wishing I was at Meijer. They just had less selection and no groceries. Prices were low, and that's cool, but I couldn't find most things I'd be looking for. It's maybe just a little better than shopping at a Walgreens.

It wasn't really worth taking a picture but I found the corner that was once the cafeteria. It now looks like it's the private employee break area/offices. Nearby is a wall that was once the entryway to North Kent Mall.

Pretty much, in 2012 I would shop at Kmart if I had no other choice. Like if I lived in the area without a car and had to walk there to get stuff. Or just didn't feel like going a little farther down Plainfield to Meijer.

So sad. I miss the days when Kmart was awesome. Pretty sure those days are gone for good.

Without fail, around Christmas time, I can hear the "Kmart is your saving store" Christmas commercials...

Anybody have any fond memories of Kmart to share? ....

Monday, February 13, 2012

Grand Rapids Song Book

I know very little of the band Loop De Loop but they have made an album called Grand Rapids Song Book.
Songs inspired by the Weather Ball, Studio 28, Festival '87, Richmond Pond, Top Of The Rock (as noted in my previous post) and other nostalgic GR subjects. Even better, the songs are fee to enjoy and download here.  Very cool.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Top of the Rock song

If you remember Top Of The Rock, you might enjoy this song by the band Loop D Loop.
Thanks "Steve d" ...

Top Of The Rock