Monthly Archives: May 2014

Digital dee Digital dum how about a Nice Transogram

There on the back of the comic book was the projector, $19.95 and all the money in the world.  I’m sure it was a tiny silent 8 mm but on the illustration a crowd watched and listened attentively, smiles all around.  The closest I even had gotten to one of these crowd pleasers was at a bingo game with my mom.  One number away from the projector prize when a grumpy lady a few tables over flatly announced bingo.

Hopes crushed I remained with my View-Master projector.  At the end of our hall was a small white cardboard screen, and scenes played out over seven clicks of the lever.  Nearly wore out the Snoopy and the Red Baron reel set.


I still have that set up and thought I would travel back and put on a show for my kids.  I must admin they were a kind audience, but the hazy images, barely visible light level, and limited plot no doubt only demonstrated for us all how far home entertainment’s come.  How amazing now is it that we can take a coded file, use that information in conjunction with a whole heck of a lot of changing micro mirrors, and project out all those images onto a screen.  Of course, with sound.  Hands down smashes the View-master projector.

However, there once was another option.                                                                                                                  Now that I’m a collector of Drive In memorabilia, I found a cool little set up called the….


Walt Disney’s Character Drive In Movie..  if only I had discovered this when I was a kid, I most certainly could have pestered my parents into a nice Christmas present.  This thing has it all, films, projector, sound, a car, and a screen.

I see no recommended age group on the box, but this baby seems pretty intrinsic for it’s intended users.  The best place to start is with the instructions, just like every good DIY does.


Ok,  I think we can deal with the first warnings that are taped to the top of the unit.

Ah the good stuff..




Pretty cool huh!  And all for the 10 and under crowd.  I can’t imagine if I could have handled this or not, but what a way to start a Drive In.  Let’s take a look at the actual equipment.





I love it, it’s all there.  A closer look at where our image and sound comes from reveals an amusing but not implausible combination.

DSC_0075A film cartridge that consist of a double feature, and a two sided record for a soundtrack.  The timing’s up to the projectionist and the pressure’s on.

A further look at our equipment..

First up the film~DSC_0052

In the top photo, the red platform shows where our film cartridge, or should I say canister, snaps into place.  That shot is actually missing the drive sprocket which you see in the second photo.                                                                                                                                                                             The second photo, with the yellow platform, has the film cartridge in place.  Although the box cover says no threading needed, there is still a minimal amount to be done.  Here the film guide cover was removed, and the film thread over the top of the sprocket.  Out on top the loop comes just before the gate, ( no shutter but you can’t have it all) then out to the bottom loop, on back past the sprocket, replace the film guide cover, and into the cartridge again.  I can’t help but get geeked to how close this would have been to actually owning a projector.  Our lamp is also clearly seen and runs off 2 D size batteries.

The film is driven by the turn of ole Donald’s steering wheel …

DSC_0041hooked to all these nice drive gears that end up meshing with the sprocket which feeds the film.


On the right of the above photo the lamp on and off switch is imaginatively activated with the turn of dashboard ignition key.                                                                                                                             By the way, the vertical position of the platform is another step on your way to putting on the show.

And now let’s have a look at our sound equipment ~

First, we use a plastic record and turntable driven by a DC motor drawing from a separate D battery.



And here’s our sound reproducer ~



It’s probably hard to tell from the picture but that’s a sound drum, similar to some of the old hand crank phonographs, dropping it’s  needle onto the record. A few more pictures of the sound drum follow, but before leaving this picture, there are a couple of features to notice.  One is near the center bottom of the above photo, you will see two pieces of tin not making contact.  This is actually the shut off switch.  A lever which moves the drum to the edge of the record has pushed open the contacts and the power is off.  Next item of interest is on the bottom right which is the speed control.  The flexible wire acts as a resistor and the thicker heavier piece bends out and runs  to a knob on the front of the dashboard.  Turn it and wala, you can set the speed of the record exactly to the speed in which you are hand-cranking your film.  Only ten and you’re a pro!  Try finding this sort of detail on a Walmart toy today.


Just like a real Drive In our removable lenses focus, and they come in Flat or Scope….

OK, just kidding on the formats but they do come in different colored plastic.

We even for no reason other than dress up have an antenna on the fender.  Not just little whip of plastic, but with a bezel, a spring which will flex and not break, and a ball at the top with the Transogram trademark.


Somewhere we lost this sort of Quality added thinking, and that is missed.

So folks, let’s ride along to check out what’s playing on the screen at Walt Disney s Character Drive In Theater.


The show is about to start and Mickey has just parked his new Transogram.  Hope you have fun and don’t mind the little liberty I took in the presentation.



Welcome Back To Our Special Feature


Tonight’s special is not a long skip from the last, it’s to KMPC of Los Angeles with an album produced for  Pacific Drive In Theaters.



Discussed in an early post is that in essence the company Pacific Drive in Theaters is still around and known as Pacific Theaters, with a reported 300 screens in California.   Today it is predominately an indoor venue, with only one Drive In located in Los Angeles County, and another Drive In at Auburn, Washington.



KMPC  “The Station of the Stars” started out in 1927 with the call letters KRLO.  It bounced around in name and dial location arriving at 710 kHz and KMPC in 1929 /1930.  The station seems to have a storied history of various owners from  corporations, to personality investors such as  Bing Crosby, Paul Whiteman, Freeman Gosden and Charles Corelland, Harold Lloyd, to Gene Autry’s Golden West Broadcasting Network.


A very good historical link with airchecks & videos is:   


KMPC Christmas Party 1961   KMPC History Page

KMPC Christmas Party 1961                KMPC History Page

KMPC had many famous air personalities over the years, some that are still quite well known and iconic.

710 AM is now KSPN (ESPN RADIO), and the KMPC call letters belong to Sporting News Radio and is now located at 1540 AM also with a sports format.


Tonights host from KMPC is John McShane,  an all-night DJ from 1954 to 1959. He eventually went into politics serving on the city council of Downey, CA.   Big John helped get the American Basketball Association off the ground. His catch phrase for it was  “The Lively League.” John passed away in the 1970s.


This record, a heavy translucent red disc of vinyl, is from 1955.  John refers to Ann Richards as a cute little 18 year old at the introduction of “Freddy”, which in case would date it at 1953. John didn’t start till 54′ so this wouldn’t be possible.  The Pacific Drive In album label says June 8 to 21 but without a year.   Freddy was released (not from Folsom either) in 1955, but this intermission record still could have been from early 56′.  The clincher comes after a Glenn Miller song, when he tells us that one was from a air check from 15 years ago, June 2nd 1940.

Roll em Eddie~



Popcorn Magic

In Mexico a fourth century funeral urn was found depicting a corn god with symbols of popcorn in his headdress.  Perhaps an emblem of life represented as a spent kernel.


Then a 1,000 year old popped chunk was found in a dry cave in Utah.                                                   That one tasted terrible.

cave flor


So although popcorn has been around a long time, it’s not been till the modern era that it’s become associated with the tasty treats of entertainment and the movies.

As usual, popcorn was introduced to Europeans by the people of the Americas.  In 1519 Hernando Cortes recorded that the Aztecs used it as decorations on their statues.  One story says when popcorn was heated up the spirit inside got pissed off and exploded.  I work with someone like that.

Still not content in 1612 some Frenchmen went out looking for fur, maybe popcorn, finding the Iroquois popping corn in pottery filled with sand placed over a campfire.  Processed it was consumed as a form of corn beer and the show started in even less than five minutes.

Early settlers dowdily used it as a sort of breakfast gruel likely because they couldn’t figure out how the Iroquois managed to brew it.                                                                                                             A latter form of alchemy consisting of lard, popcorn and molasses came about in the 1700s and served as a suitable substitute.  This was christened kettle corn.

 The murky recorded history of popcorn seems to end in the mid 1800s where two main types emerge, snowflake and mushroom.  Snowflake which is soft and fluffy came out a shining star, while the hard working mushroom variety was usually left in the dark to be covered by caramel.  By the 1870s popcorn could be bought at the general store, or enjoyed pre-popped at circuses and fairs.


Then along came the Chicago inventor by the name of Charles Creators.

Experimenting with his steam powered peanut roaster he created the first commercial popcorn machine in 1885.  Later in 1893 he introduced his invention on the midway of the Chicago World’s Fair, or officially the World Columbian Exposition.



From here on out popcorn, oil and salt went on to become a very popular combination.

Throughout the land it was enjoyed wherever crowds gathered.   Another location for Mr. Creators four wheeled invention came about with the arrival of moving pictures.   Patrons overwhelmingly embraced the idea of popcorn with a movie show and went outside the bijou to purchase the treat before during and after.


At first this caused some problems, but  theater owners who were already cleaning up the mess decided they might as well add it to their own bottom line by selling it in the first place.  By 1945 nearly half the popcorn eaten in the United States was at a movie theater, the other half was probably being made into breakfast gruel.

Oddly popcorn or any other concession was not present at the birth of the Drive In Theater.  Quickly however those sales became the buoyant raft that kept Drive Ins afloat.


By the mid-20th century sales of popcorn became closely knit to the changing tides of the entertainment industry.  As movie attendance fell, overall sales dropped.  Once people started viewing their TV at home while eating popcorn sales again increased.  When movie attendance increased, sales spiked again.

Popcorn was a guinea pig for early microwave experiments.  It’s fitting that with the proliferation of the microwave oven another jump in sales arrived.  Prepackaged and ready to eat, the scalding steam bag of convenience is lurking in almost every home.  Today reactionary connoisseurs prepare and flavor popcorn in every way imaginable and the face of popcorn evolves.


As for popcorn magic, that has never left us.

Abracadabra Zea Mays Everta !

Proof of the Big Bang  from Twentyonewords

Proof of the Big Bang
from Twentyonewords

Add New Post (or else)

Ok Ok here’s a new post.  Not only do we love Drive Ins but also have a drive to own one.  Years go by, a mortgage comes along, a blessing of kids, and the Drive In is yet to happen.  There is one thing we have though, the train ride.  Something for our kids, it’s worked out very well for their Halloween parties.  At dusk we’ve shown 16mm Donald Duck staring in Trick or Treat, then the party kids go for a haunted train ride.  This posted video was made the next morning.  Someday when we own a Drive In we’ll have the biggest double feature Halloween party , with of course a haunted train ride.  Till then….


Mind Blower Speakers

That there title was a litmus test of age and audio.  But the point of this post is not about obscure 1970’s rear window shelf bass at all; it’s about a fantastic collection of Drive In theater movie speakers.  I became aware of the collection from the avid enthusiast who goes by the handle Airking, and made this collection public by posting the following video on YouTube.

The collection of speakers, junction boxes, heaters, and more was created by Mr. Rob Giles, before untimely passing away at the young age of 46.  Reportedly he was “an independent auto-parts dealer who for a quarter-century sported a ponytail and was often found in a flannel shirt and jeans” and “his dream was to have an Airstream trailer as a traveling museum”.    Those that knew him say he was instrumental in the early collecting and categorizing of Drive In collectables.   It’s not hard to visualize Rob excitably finding some piece of memorabilia, followed by a serious description of function, and then mix in a joke with a loud healthy laugh.  Although I had never met him,  the description would fit so many sincere and fun loving enthusiasts.

Thank you Airking for generously sharing  knowledge, enthusiasm, and the collection pioneered by Mr. Giles.



Still pictures of the collection may be found at these links also provided by Airking.

Craziest Drive In Story


Now here is an easy one…  what’s the most outrageous Drive In story you heard or that had happened to you.  I heard mine many years ago when I started work at a stamping factory.  I got to know a person who had gone to the drive in regularly back in the late 1950s.  He was a flat head Ford man and continued to affordably build and trade in that field before the moniker rat rods was invented.  Now that he has also passed on, years ago, I would say it’s safe to share this story he swore was true and swore me to secrecy.

It was a Dusk to Dawn horror marathon in which he and his friends had planned in advance to torment one of their own.  It all sounded good, doesn’t anything when you’re a teenager?  You see, this target had abandoned the group in order to attend the marathon with a girl from school, a most definite no no at that age.

Now kids today would have no idea that Halloween props available to the public at that time were not even close to being realistic, and with the shift in culture and law enforcement today would be rightly aghast to the scheme they came up with to make up the difference.

They knew of an old abandoned graveyard in the middle of nowhere where a corpse could be dug up and snuck in the trunk into the Drive In.  When the time was right, they would place the corpse in the back seat of the couples car so they would have a good scare and then everyone would be laughing all around.  That was the plan.

That night they went to the cemetery, and chose the grave of a lady who had died at an older age.  The body still in a fancy dress went in the trunk and on to the drive in as planned.

They waited till late in the evening when the time was right and both targeted occupants left the vehicle.  A group of them situated the elderly lady in the back seat so she lay peacefully unnoticed.  To this point everything had gone well enough, even the couple reentering the car did not see the new occupant. From a distance the culprits watched the car in the back row.  Finally, when their friend took his date over the seat to get, ahem more comfortable, she landed on the hitchhiking ghost. A shriek of terror emitted from the car as the friend and his date shot out like cannon balls.

Unlike what could have been a scene from Porky’s, there was no laughter or revelry.  The police were called and an investigation ensued for weeks.  The date was emotionally distraught by the events for a long time.  He said that it was so serious that the group was able to keep the secret, all of them.

Am I condoning this?  No way. Can it be true?  Phil was a sober straight shooter, not proud of the act and he was very insistent on it being kept a secret while he was still around.