The Parking Lot Carnival
5/8/2013 6:00:00 AM
Beginning in late spring and through the fall, you can usually find a worthwhile event to enjoy on a given weekend. Some four decades ago, all you had were a small festival or two, county fairs, company picnics, fun fairs and maybe an ice cream social. The rest of the time, you were making your own fun.
Sometimes via word of mouth across the neighborhood party line, news that a cousin of a friend was driving by a store and a bunch of carnival rides were being set up. Car pools were then formed and kids arrived with their allowance in hand.
The last parking lot carnival I remember was set up in front of Montgomery Wards. A carnie told me that they were between fairs and needed a place to hang out. Every ride that you would see at the fair was set up, so were the games and ...
The Waffle Stomper
4/24/2013 6:01:00 AM
At some point in the ‘70s, perhaps when John Denver appeared, it was cool to get back to nature. Or maybe, like grunge, it was fashionable to look earthy. Flannel shirts were flying off shelves at jean stores faster than you could say Mother Earth News. Even if you were a city boy, you wanted to look like you regularly hiked theRockies. No wonder Mork and Mindy lived inBoulder,Colorado.
The Waffle Stomper was (and is today) a hiking boot with a thick rubber tread that would make waffle-like indentations on the terrain. They were a bit on the heavy side and most were covered in golden suede. The spray used to waterproof that material would knock you out, or at least stick to your hard contacts. The ankles were padded and the synthetic lining was very conducive to foot odor. Oh, and red laces were a must!
When I see ...
One Pant Leg Rolled Up
4/10/2013 11:17:00 AM
It was a mystery fad of the ‘90s made famous in Rap videos from artists like LL Cool J. When I first saw a kid sporting the look at Machesney Park Mall, I thought maybe he had a fresh tattoo and needed to air his leg out. Then I saw other young lads that were tattoo-less. The myth was busted. I must admit it was more flattering than the “pants-halfway-down” look.
Some have said the choice of exposed leg showed gang affiliation. Perhaps it was designation of East or West Coast. Maybe it was an extension of the “which side the earring is on” rule.
Here’s my theory: Some guy was riding his bicycle and rolled up his pant leg to avoid chain grease on his dungarees. He forgot about it as he walked around very popular places for a few hours with his calf exposed. There you have it, ...
St. James Envoy
3/20/2013 3:45:00 PM
During a brief moment in Rockford culinary history, our best restaurant was at, of all places, the airport. Not a lot of cities could claim more than having a good Sbarro in their terminal food court. Of course this was the ‘90s, before beefed up security and having to go up the escalator to catch a plane.
If Jimmy Vitale runs a joint, you know it has to be full of expensive antiques, and it was. Just sitting at the bar allowed you to peel and eat shrimp, enjoy a premium draft and watch the American Eagle puddle jumpers take off. I imagine it was a fly-in destination for those affluent enough to do that sort of thing.
I remember the food seemed to be the next evolution of Jungle Jims and the wait staff was attentive, yet not bothersome. They had a crazy Sunday brunch and the food served ...
3/6/2013 6:00:00 AM
If you wanted to be an instant non-conformist, you’d have these in your Six-Million-Dollar Man lunch box instead of the more popular brand. They had two chocolate cookies sandwiching a creamy white filling. Sounds like a popular combination, but these were no Oreos.
You could still dunk them in milk or un-sandwich them and lick the filling first. They did have a different taste that I liked better. It’s hard to describe why, but it’s in the same way I preferred Toastettes over Pop Tarts. Mom liked them because they were cheaper.
Many are still mourning the loss of the Hostess sweets, but they’ll be back under new ownerships. After Keebler bought Sunshine Biscuit Company, the creators of Hydrox, they tried to reintroduce the Hydrox cookie, all to a complete fail. That’s because they tried to reach out to us nonconformists that don’t really want to be reached out to ...
Geneva Lakes Kennel Club
2/20/2013 6:00:00 AM
In 2013 it’s pretty easy to gamble. Video machines that pay out (or take your money) are now at most local watering holes. A decade ago you could go to one or two OTBs or drive to a boat, some of which were required to leave the dock. Then there was the Greyhound track, just up I-43.
Geneva Lakes was one of almost 50 dog tracks in the US (now around 20). The building is still quite grand looking and reminds me that the Delavan exit is coming up. From 1990-2005 it was a cool place to “do something different”. Upon entering you would quickly spot the diehards, many of which were supposed on a sales appointment. Most would possess a stern and focused look. Even if they hit the trifecta, they would approach the window without expression while collecting their winnings or putting down more of Junior’s college ...
2/6/2013 6:30:00 AM
Sometimes I liked to go places with Uncle Ron and sometimes I didn’t have a choice. During our excursions, he did teach me a lot. Sometimes I learned what not to do. Keeping five girlfriends at the same time, who didn’t know about each other: Bad idea. But that’s another Bob Remembers.
Once a week he’d venture towards Domino Liquors for a case (or two) of Meister Brau. When I was around, he’d ask me to tag along. I would get to ride in the front seat of his New Yorker and would crack the window so as not to choke from the heavy smoke of non-filtered Lucky Strikes.
After a few stops, we’d reach our destination. Although I would have rather had a bag of those pink Wintergreen Lozenges, he always pointed next to the candy cigarettes where the ultimate adult-starter kit sit in several little bins. I liked ...
1/23/2013 6:00:00 AM
I was watching a band at Sidekicks on Argus Drive in the early ‘90s when I first heard about it. In between sets, the guy running sound put on a cassette of Mother Love Bone. Two stools down, two partially inebriated dudes launched a discussion on the merits of the Seattle Scene, Soundgarden, and flannel. Somewhere during the conversation, I heard the term “Grunge”.
“Grunge” was originally just a term to describe the musical movement in the Starbuck’s City which started around 1985. Bands influenced by Alternative, Punk and Heavy Rock created their own blend that ran counter to the very popular pretty-boy Hairbands. Along came Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, along with Alice in Chains and some more Soundgarden and MTV had a trend to embrace.
I’m hoping that thrift stores and Janesville-based Farm and Fleet had an increase in flannel sales before Madison Avenue took over and flaunted ...
The Branding Iron
1/9/2013 6:00:00 AM
Ask any life-long Rockfordian about this eatery and they’ll most likely reply with, “Peanuts on the floor”. Yes, there was a heaping basket of the roasted legumes at every table and a barrel full o more, even take-out bags. There was no profit on peanuts. The allergy police of today would be on this one right away. I remember the crunch of shells under my sneakers and wondered how often, if ever they swept up the place. Was it really necessary?
One time at the B.I., on a dare from Uncle Ron, Dad downed the biggest draft beer I had ever seen. My ten year old eyes recall the glass being six feet tall. Calibrating memories to today’s brain, he guzzled down one of their famous “yards”.
This was the place to go celebrate something with something grilled, something brewed and something roasted and salted. I was on the picture ...
My Krazy Kar
12/19/2012 5:00:00 AM
Most kids wanted a Big Wheel. I must’ve been a non-conformist. While the BW would go into a nice skid, leaving some of the plastic wheel on the drive-way, my Krazy Kar could simulate the dizzying effect of a Tilt-A-Whirl. If you drove the thing enough, you could have the upper body of GI Joe.
Once I got used to using the handles attached to the huge wheels for moving foreword, backward and steering, you could maneuver corners like one of those fancy zero-turn mowers you see the pros use. There was also a “low-rider” thing going on, which meant you had to me careful not to get stuck when bottoming out.
It sounds as though I had vast experience in this vehicle’s operation, but, truth be told, I was only able to drive it around for about a month and a half. The memory of the Krazy Kar’s demise ...