Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Master Charge

As I have often said, "Name changes don't happen for nothing." A credit card began in 1966 as a competitor for the BankAmericard. It was the official credit card for a group of banks known as the Interbank Card Association. The banks included:
Bank of California
Crocker National Bank
United California Bank
Wells Fargo Bank

All of these banks were in California. The credit card was Master Charge - - the Interbank Card. In 1974 banks from other parts of the country were added. The name was changed to Mastercard when the card became international in the 1990s.

Montgomery Ward

Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844-1913) published the world's first mail order catalog in 1872. Thirteen years after his death, the mail order business became a retail store. Although Sears Roebuck copied Ward's idea of a catalog in 1896, Ward's would struggle for the rest of it's existence as a sales business by its competition with Sears.

Ward's stores started in 1926. The company was very big with private brands (Skips sneakers, Airline electronics and musical instruments, Brent men's clothing, Hawthorne bicycles, etc.)

Ward's (later Wards) was the first retailer to use the expression:

----------------------Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

By 1883, Ward's catalog was known as the Wish Book. Sears would later copyright that term for that company's use.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the story and the song, were both written for Montgomery Ward promotions in 1939 (the song in 1948 by Johnny Marks).

The company had several owners from the 1960s on, including Mobil Oil and General Electric. It was General Electric which suggested liquidating the company in 1999 and putting the whole thing up for sale.

In 2004, five years after the original company went out of business, the Wards name was put onto an Internet business at

CBS Radio Mystery Theater

It started on New Year's Day 1974. The host was E.G. Marshall. CBS was the last network to have regular radio drama. The last shows CBS aired as part of the Golden Age of Radio were Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, in September 1962.

Himan Brown (born 1910), who had done many radio shows was in charge of its production. For most of its run, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater aired seven times a week.

As a soldier, I never got to listen to it when I was in basic training (we went to bed before 8:30 at night and never thought of anything like radio). I heard it when I wasn't busy at the School of Music (Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base) for my advanced training. My two roommates would always enjoy it. When the Army sent me to West Berlin, everyone listened to it. It came on at 6:00 on AFN (American Forces Network) Berlin. They also played other current programs such as the Bob and Ray show that was playing on NPR (National Public Radio) at the time. After all that, then we got to hear four hours of Old Time Radio. I treasured everything I heard.

Actually, my best recollections of the CBSRMT were when I was a high school student. We had two choices to listen to it: It first came on KNX (1070 kHz, Los Angeles) at 9:00, just before they had an hour of Old Time Radio. It also came on at 11:00 on KPRO (1440 kHz, Riverside... this wasn't the same KPRO station on the air today) just before it went off the air. The family usually opted for the later broadcast and the five of us had four radios (my parents shared one) and we all went to sleep as the Radio Mystery Theater gave us a bedtime story.

Family togetherness.

German Democratic Republic

I was stationed with the 298th Army Band of the Berlin Brigade from October 1979 to January 1982 as a tuba player. For an American soldier in his first assignment, it was a most unique one. We couldn't do our duties until we finished School of Standards classes. And those classes filled up quickly. My class wasn't scheduled until a week before Thanksgiving, so the only work I was allowed to do before that time was rake leaves or be a relief guard (charge of quarters) at night.

The band had gone to Moscow (Soviet Union) for a few days. There were only a few people who could work as charge of quarters. I raked leaves from about 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM. As soon as I raked a pile, the wind blew more down. It wasn't much of a job but it kept me busy. It was steady, predictable, and the weekends were free.

My first weekend, I bought a day ticket on Saturday that was good for all of the U-Bahn trains (subway). I picked up a system map and planned all the places I was going to see. I didn't have a guide book or anything. I've never been to scared to explore a new place. My plan was to get off at every station and get off, exploring the place thoroughly.

Everything went well until I got off at the Friedrichstra├če station. Things looked very strange. The police didn't look like West Berlin police. I saw uniforms I hadn't seen since I had ridden the American Duty Train from Frankfurt am Main. I was now in EAST BERLIN!

Now it wasn't forbidden for me as an American soldier to be in East Berlin. There were certain rules I had to follow: Either I could have a pass and wear my dress uniform (without a name tag) or I could be on leave with leave orders, a passport, and the proper visa and NOT be in a uniform. I didn't have either of those. I was wearing a blue Pendleton wool shirt, Levi's jeans, hiking boots, and a Greek seaman's cap. My identification was my Army ID card.

Shortly after I got to the station, I felt really bad and had to go to the toilet. I looked around and saw those beautiful letters: WC. Once finished, I heard a train going the other direction. I paid the washroom attendant the fee in West German marks (which was allowed) and headed back home.

Looking at the map when I got on the train, I saw the Berlin Wall was well marked but I was too stupid to know what it was. Rather than finish my "tour" I took a train to Kuf├╝rstendamm where I went to Burger King and ate two Whoppers.

Later, I would spend lots of time in East Berlin, but I never told anyone about my first trip until after I was discharged out of the Army, after 1986. I was so scared something would happen to me.

Now that I look back at it, I'm surprised I didn't get in trouble.

Victoria Guernsey

Here's a bit about my past:

When I was born, I was born in Riverside, California, but my parents lived in the neighboring community of Sunnymead (which is now part of the city of Moreno Valley... like many things in my life, much of where I lived isn't there anymore... which I personally find fascinating!)

My dad worked in migrant agriculture, working for the Davis Brothers Produce Company. He moved wherever the potato crop was going.

The moving got to be too hectic for him, so after my sister was born in December 1958, he was given a job that would keep him in one spot, the Victoria Guernsey Dairy in San Bernardino. There were actually two dairies. One was on Base Line Street in Highland. The other was at the corner of Ninth Street and Waterman Avenue. He worked at the latter and they let us park our trailer house there. As a toddler, I spent a lot of time on the fence behind my house, watching calves get born. My dad often took me with him on trips he made in a huge International Harvester combine truck, which was used for everything from feeding the cows, to picking up orange juice at the Vita-Pakt plant in Covina, to taking cows that wouldn't produce milk to the slaughterhouse. Yes, I did get to see the cows get killed. I still remember what I saw. And, no, I'm not a vegetarian.

Dad got tired at being at the beck and call of the dairy. When a job for experienced workers were called for the Santa Fe Railroad in 1961, the first thing he did was go to the hardware store and bought every tool the job announcement said he was supposed to have, plus a toolbox. Then he left the tools out in the rain one night to get some "patina." The next morning, he carefully dried them, but they didn't look new anymore. He went to the interview with his toolbox and was one of the first men hired.

At first, we moved to Corona (which neighbors Riverside) and he lived during the week in an outfit car (an old passenger coach turned into a rooming house) in San Diego. Later, we moved to San Diego, where my brother was born in 1962. (We lived there from late 1961 to August 1962... then we moved up the road to Oceanside...)

So now you know more about my past...

Victoria Guernsey quit producing milk in the early 1970s. The place where my family used to live became a Kmart store in about 1973. Then it went out of business and many businesses have occupied that spot since that time...

Phone Booths

Do you remember phone booths? I was probably the last person on the face of the earth to get a cell phone, which actually coincided with my ex-wife suing me for divorce. I can remember how difficult it was to look for a working pay phone...

When I lived in Indonesia, there were two kinds of phone booths... the kind that took coins and the kind that took phone cards. The card type were always easier to use because you never knew how long your 5,000 rupiahs was going to last for a call.

Living in California, having a cell phone made sense. When my Volvo broke down in the middle of the desert, for example, I didn't have to get out of the car and walk a 30 mile round-trip to the nearest Shell station to get a tow. No, all I had to do was get my cell phone and my Automobile Club card. I could get back home, refreshed and not exhausted.

I don't know why I didn't get a cell phone earlier.

Phooey on phone booths.

7up Gold

I'm probably the only guy that liked this stuff. It came out in 1988. It was called "spice soda." When I lived in Berlin, Germany, it was my tee-totaller days (yeah, I know... bummer living in Germany and not being able to drink beer!) But I loved the German soda pops! They had something called Kreutzer, which had a very unsweet flavor. (For those of you know don't know, except for cola and some chocolate, I'm not too fond of sweet things, except pretty young women! I prefer savory.) This stuff was great.

Some 7 Up purists didn't like the fact that this stuff had caffeine (more than Coca-Cola) and you couldn't see through it.

When word came out late that year, I tried to buy up as much of the stuff as I could afford. Alas, when it was over I went back to drinking my Coke.

Pay TV

This was a precursor to such services as HBO and Cinemax. It worked like this: You wanted to watch uncut movies at home. And this was long before low priced videocassettes had been introduced. You called up one of the Pay TV providers. The Los Angeles area had three...
  • Z-Channel (began in 1974, used a low power channel... not available outside Los Angeles)
  • ON-TV (began in 1977, used facilities of KBSC-TV, channel 52, in Glendale)
  • SelecTV (began in 1978, used facilities of KWHY-TV, channel 22, in Los Angeles... in 1984 it merged with ON-TV and broadcast on channel 22)

Charges were $19-25 a month (more if hard core pornography was desired). At first, channels 52 and 22 showed their regular programming and at 7:00, the picture would become scrambled, prompting subscribers to turn them on and watch movies until the next broadcast day began at 6:00 AM. In the wee hours, there would be another scrambling of the picture, for the porn subscribers.

In the movie. American Pie (1999), one of the characters is seen trying to watch scrambled movies. It was pornography on over-the-air pay television. Now you know.

Pay TV ended in 1991, when everyone started getting cable.


Started in Santa Barbara, California by Sam Battistone and Newell "Bo" Bohnett, it was named "SamBo's" after themselves. Soon it became tied up with the story of a dark skinned boy who liked to play with tigers. Pictures depicting this story were placed all over the restaurant.

Other Sambo's began to appear all over the country. At their height, in 1979, the chain had 1,200 restaurants in 47 states.

But some groups viewed the Sambo name as being pejorative. New stores couldn't be built because the local governments wouldn't let a racist name like that be used in their community. The company began losing money fast. They tried a couple of name changes for new outlets: The Jolly Tiger and Sam's. But nothing worked. Bankruptcy happened very quickly.

By 1982, only one Sambo's was left... the original one at 216 W. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara. And it remains open today.

For those who didn't know, while the chain went out of business, the restaurant itself never shut down!

Earp House, Colton, California

Virgil W. Earp and his wife, Alvira ("Allie"), lived in his parents' house (Nicholas P. Earp and his step-mother) at what is now 528 West H Street in Colton, California, not far from the campus of Colton High School. The house is still used (by a different family). Nicholas was Justice of the Peace and Virgil ran a small private detective agency. His brother, Morgan S. Earp, who was killed in the Gunfight at the OK Corral, is buried at Hermosa Municipal Cemetery at the corner of Meridian Avenue and C Street. Virgil was the first marshal of the City of Colton when it became incorporated in 1887. The house was one of the first with electric lights. The family would move on but the house still exists. And functions.