Saturday, December 2, 2017

What Goes Best With a Hot Dog?

"What goes best with a HOT DOG? Right...Beer or ale the way you like those easy-to-open CAP-SEALED CANS!"

In the summer of 1940, a war was going on somewhere in Europe, and there was talk of some mad man taking over countries and slaughtering millions. But far away in the heartland of America, the main concern was rolling out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Those days of soda and pretzels and especially beer. And Continental Can Company wanted to convince people that their Cap-Sealed (cone top) beer can fit best with summertime activity.

The year before, six and a half million of the 30 million cases of canned beer sold had been consumed in July and August alone. With a recovering economy, all indications were that 1940 would be the biggest season yet, and the brewing and beer can industries were gearing up to meet the expected demand. For Continental and the 83 breweries using cone tops, it was a matter of convincing consumers that theirs was the superior package.

Continental embarked on an aggressive print advertising campaign, paid for through a cooperative arrangement with those brewers and beer distributors using their Cap-Sealed cans. Lively two-page spreads ran in popular magazines such as Life, Collier's and Liberty, featuring people having fun and discovering for themselves the advantages of the Cap-Sealed can.

There were nine spreads in all, pointing out the convenience of taking the can along for picnics, outings, cook-outs, parties and other occasions, stressing that no special opener was needed, unlike other types of beer cans that required a "church-key" opener ("opens just like a bottle"). You could drink from a "clean, cap-protected surface," and there were no empties to return. No environmental regulations, either.Once you consumed the contents, you could simply throw the can into the outhouse pit, sink it in the lake, toss it into the campfire or add it to a pile somewhere, where excited collectors could find it decades later. One of the ads depicted a young man, with his sweetheart, letting his empty float away in a stream.

Continental put a considerable amount of market research into the campaign. They sent their men out to beer distributors and beer drinkers across the country to get their views on the package and how to market it. When asked, 2,032 distributors said they preferred the Cap-Sealed can to the flat top can. Only 102 chose the flat top, and 232 had no opinion. With flat tops, distributors had to handle the special openers, thus making the cone top more desirable. In addition, in nearly every survey taken, two out of three beer drinkers said they preferred the cone top.

The distributors and brewers were enthusiastic about the summer ad campaign and the local sales promotion that was given to them in their own territories, and they told Continental that the combination helped build package sales and volume.

The campaign paid off handsomely. In the first eight months of 1940, the distributors were reporting sales overwhelmingly ahead of those in all of 1939. The year 1941 also saw banner sales (until the U. S. entrance in the war put canned beer on hold). After the war, the Cap-Sealed can was eventually phased out, ending up being regulated mostly to automotive additives, and even those eventually went to plastic bottles. You can't buy anything in cone tops anymore, unfortunately.

But imagine for just one moment that it's the summer of 1940 once again. A beautiful day, kind of humid, but there's a nice breeze. The women are setting out food and talking, the men are playing a friendly game of baseball, the children are running abound. You get yourself an ice-cold cone-top can of beer, grab the opener and pry off the cap. Shhhhlock. A little bit of foam rises. You bring the metal surface to your lips and swallow down the wonderful liquid refreshment. Ahhh!.

Meanwhile, a war rages on in the rest of the world.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mysterious 1960s Korean Pop LP

I found this unusual foreign gem in the $2 bin at a record collectors' show in Minneapolis a few years ago, and had to snatch it up, even though I couldn't read a word on it except for "Oasis Records," "Seoul, South Korea," "High Fidelity," "Side 1," and "Side 2." Fine print on the back cover also references RCA and "Telefunken U-47," a type of microphone that Frank Zappa referenced on one of his records with sexual innuendo. ("You'll love it.")
On the front cover, a color photo of an attractive young Asian woman singer looking rather Westernized, wearing a halter top, bracelet and necklace with a flower in her hair above her left ear, a lit cigarette in her right hand, while standing at a microphone caressed by her left hand. A cloud of exhaled tobacco smoke hovers over her. That in itself seemed unusual, as I have heard that South Korean culture is quite conservative, and even now, women who smoke publicly are looked down on. The Oasis Records logo appears in the lower left corner, and a Shin Films logo in the lower right, suggesting it might be a movie soundtrack.

Listening to the record, the style was kind of early 1960s nightclub Asian jazz-pop, full orchestration, with kind of torch singer vocals, sung in Korean, sounding sweet and melodic. Not really a throaty smoker's voice.

After posting an image of the album cover on Flickr, someone commented, tipping me off that the singer's name is Jaeran Park (or Park Jae-ran), and the album title translated into "My Darling Has Passed Away, but His Song Still Remains." Upon further research, I found that she was born in 1938, and that this album came out in 1964, so she would have been about 26 years old at the time. She is actually well known in South Korea, putting out albums from the late 1950s until at least the early 1980s, and making numerous appearances on Korean television, some of which can be found on YouTube. The musical genre is called "K-Pop" in the trade, or Korean Popular. Apparently she also did some acting, which might help explain the Shin Pictures logo (wonder if the cover picture is from a movie). She looks a lot more conservative/traditional in most of the other images I have been able to find of her. The label, Oasis Records, in now an EMI subsidiary.

The other mystery would be, how did this copy end up in the United States, and ultimately in a $2 bin at a record collectors' show in Minneapolis?

A track from the album can be found here:
Another track from the album can be found here:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Facts About Fallout

With recent talk about nations expanding nuclear capabilities and a renewed arms race, we take a look at a booklet issued by the Federal Civil Defense Administration, issued in 1957 and directed at average Americans, called "Facts About Fallout."

Going back to 1945 with the end of the Second World War via the atomic bomb, there was always a looming threat that another nation with more sinister intent might turn the tables back on the United States.

The Soviet Union, although a U.S. ally during the war, soon figured out how to make its own atomic bomb, threatening the United States and democracies around the world, thus triggering what came to be known as the Cold War. With the Soviet threat, and U.S. troops battling communists in Korea in the early 1950s, there was serious worry that the Cold War could turn red hot and that U.S. cities could be the target of nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. With the lives of millions of U.S. civilians at risk, legislation creating the Federal Civil Defense Administration was signed by President Harry S. Truman and enacted on January 12, 1951.

The government wanted Americans, who had lived through two world wars without ever seeing a direct attack on the homeland, to know that this threat was damn serious. Air and missile bases would be likely targets of an atomic bomb, as would major cities. The blast, heat and radiation would kill millions of Americans at or near ground zero of such an attack. Millions more would be injured or killed by radioactive dust — fallout — kicked up by the blast and blown to all parts of the land by wind, so no one was safe. A plan needed to be put in place, and a citizenry needed to be informed on how to handle such a dire situation.

Through the Civil Defense Administration, regional offices were set up, civil defense directors were appointed in communities across the land, informational booklets and posters were published, films were produced, and civil defense experts appeared on radio and television programs, to let John Q. Public, his wife and his children know how serious the threat was and what they can do to protect themselves.
"Facts About Fallout" (1957) describes what fallout is and how citizens can protect themselves, in layman's terms. Click the images to enlarge.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Squirt Soft Drink Subjective Color Acid Test

On July 25, 1967, television viewers with black-and-white TV sets were startled to see flashes of color on their monochrome screens for about ten seconds during a 60-second soda-pop commercial. A letter to a columnist in the September 14, 1967 Detroit Free Press asked, "Before I see an eye doctor, let me ask Action Line: Is it possible to pick up color TV on a black and white set? I SWEAR I saw a Squirt soft-drink commercial in color. Not pink elephants Green Squirt!" The image was described in the newspaper column as a red, green and blue sign that had flashed on the screen.

A viewer in Chicago told Popular Photography magazine (July 1968), "I saw pink! It knocked me for a loop...the letters S-Q-U-I-R-T looked greenish or light turquoise...and it kept up for maybe 10 seconds." (Meanwhile a viewer in San Francisco claimed he didn't see anything colorful.)
It was the national debut of an experimental television commercial using a special production process that would give the optical illusion of color. The commercial first aired a few months earlier locally on KNXT, the CBS-owned television station in Los Angeles, and viewers there were just as stunned. Squirt and its advertising partner Color-Tel Corporation of Los Angeles, at the time decided to make no prior announcement of this experimental commercial, preferring to see just how viewers would respond. And respond they did. Within hours, thousands of viewers were asking if they really saw what they thought they did, color on their black-and-white TV screens, according to Popular Electronics magazine (October 1968).

The burst of color was not "living color" (as NBC frequently touted in the 1960s), but something called "subjective color." The process was developed by James F. Butterfield of Color-Tel, a corporation founded in Los Angeles in early 1966. It gave the illusion of color by pulsating white light in a particular sequence for each color with a rotating device attached to a regular black and white TV camera lens. Butterfield had found in his many years of research that the human brain perceives colors through complex electronic codes. Butterfield was able to figure out the individual codes for the colors red, green and blue, and by pulsating white light in predetermined patterns with the device on the camera lens, could induce the brain of the television viewer to perceive color. Beyond that, ordinary monochrome equipment could be used in filming or taping, broadcasting and viewing.

There were a few drawbacks. The images were nothing at all like true color TV. It didn't have the intensity or range of colors. As the technology currently stood, the effect could only be used on still images. The "subjective color" could only be seen in about one-fourth of the TV screen area, and, because it relied on flickering light, there was a lot of flickering. It was also found that some people could not perceive the colors at all, yet some people diagnosed as color-blind could see the colors.

Nonetheless, Popular Science, in its August 1968 issue, saw many possibilities for the technology, particularly for special effects. "Color will appear in cartoons, commercials and special presentations. Polka-dots on a clown's suit will be seen as red flashing dots. You'll see the designs and lettering on a cereal box in pulsating green and blue. A girl will plant a kiss on a boy's cheek--and a red lipstick print will appear on your screen."

Popular Electronics (October 1968) went on to report, "Right now, Color-Tel engineers are checking into the possibility of using electronic color for such things as color radar displays, color computer readouts, and perhaps even color sonar pictures. It may be true that, in its present stage of development, Butterfield's process is nothing but a scientific curiosity — however, 25 years ago, so was television."

Popular Science predicted, "You can expect color on your black-and-white TV by this fall [1968]." But there was one giant flaw in that rosy prediction. By 1968, black-and-white TV was well on the way out. The vast majority of programming (outside of old movies and TV shows) were being broadcast in "living" color by then, and while most U.S. households still had black-and-white TV sets (color sets were big, bulky and expensive in those days), more and more homes were purchasing color television sets every year. Had James F. Butterfield perfected the process ten or fifteen years earlier, in the 1950s when 90 percent of television broadcasts were black and white, it might have had more of a serious impact.

Although James F. Butterfield had many patents to his credit before his death in 2013, it appears this experiment didn't go as far as the press of the time might have suggested it could. Color-Tel last renewed as a corporation in 1972, and we can not find any evidence of other "subjective color" broadcasts beyond the Squirt commercial.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Reader review for "Terror Alert:1970" e-book

Fellow blogger Erin Brew offers this review of my newly published e-book, "Terror Alert: 1970." Find out more at

Terror Alert: 1970 offers a well-articulated introduction into a time many of us could not (or can not) grasp understanding of. It's one of those micro topics you might only briefly cover if you take a history class on the 1960s, as I did in college. One immediately makes comparisons to the nature of today's terror attacks vs. the year 1970 upon reading. And as far as Minnesota goes, well, personally I never heard of a string of such bombings! How is it that I missed that about my own home state's history?

The text transitions very nicely from introducing a specific terror threat at a Twins baseball game and linking it with one of the many summers of unrest due to the Vietnam war protests. But are such unexplained bombings linked to Vietnam? Further reading seems to prove confusion of the motives.

When you think of today's terrorists, you think of an outside enemy with fundamentally different ideals invoking fear and disrupting the daily lives of western citizens. We know who they are and why they want to harm our society. But in the case of domestic terrorists, no one seemed to know who or why. What were they hoping to accomplish?

Also puzzling is why certain companies were targeted that had nothing to do with what was happening in the news about war overseas. With an astonishing 400 bomb threats made in just part of the year, how did the public react? Today, we would think of the many violent gun crimes and hear people rally to do something to stop criminals from getting them. But what do you do about bombs? You certainly can't ban something someone will make at home and use to cause serious damage. That isn't rational.

I think these events happening in the year 1970 tells us something. That there was an alarming shift in our culture. It wasn't the nice, complacent 1950s anymore. Any sense of peace and unity seemed scarce with the ever growing “new left” political atmosphere at the end of the 1960s decade. What it comes down to is, who is to blame for these events? Individual actions? Or outside events that drove them to it? In the end, you, the reader must decide for yourself.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Rise and Fall of the 40 ft. Inflatable Hamm's Bear--a photo essay

On July 9, 2016 in Cloquet, MN, a town just outside of Duluth, the historic Northeastern Hotel and Saloon hosted a brewery collectibles show called the Nordlager Show, named after an old local brew. Hotel and Saloon owner Bert Whittington took out of storage a massive inflatable Hamm's Bear, manufactured around 1980 for the Olympia Brewing Company, the makers of Hamm's beer at the time. Connected to two electric-powered air compressors, the huge vinyl blob lying on the ground came to life, and the familiar cartoon character Hamm's Bear stood tall and proud, greeting passersby for a triumphant but brief moment...until he started to lose air.

1. He came to life from a big blob of vinyl on the ground. Owner Bert Whittington helps him up as he fills with air.
2. "Hello, Folks!" The Bear stands triumphantly, greeting passersby with an awkward left arm.
3. Pete and Bert celebrate with a cool, refreshing Hamm's beer.
Note how much smaller the real can (in Bert's hand) is.
4. People came from all over to look at the thing.
5. Standing tall and proud, 40 feet high.
6. Uh-oh! He's sprung a leak!
7. Looking like he's about to hurl after consuming the contents of the giant beer can.
8. Another view of the sick, deflating bear, the beer can looking dented and forelorn.
9. Oh well. Better luck next year.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Terror Alert:1970

The summer of 1970 was a pretty intense time in my home turf of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, the Twin Cities. After a spring filled with anti-Vietnam War protests and student strikes that were for the most part fairly low-key compared to other places, the late summer and early fall brought on a whole slew of bomb threats on pretty much a daily basis and lasting for months, that had people perplexed, uptight and at the same time bemused. This is the topic of my new e-book, "Terror Alert:1970, the Strange Summer of Bomb Threats in Minnesota," available for $2.99 on
Official e-book cover.

On August 17, 1970, a dynamite blast in the overnight hours at a downtown Minneapolis federal building, where a Selective Service office among other things was located, caused an estimated $500,000 worth of damage, hurled chunks of granite weighing up to 300 pounds into the street and injured a nighttime security guard, the building's only occupant. Five days later, a two-pound stick of dynamite exploded in a wastebasket in the women's rest room at the St. Paul Dayton's department store, seriously injuring one woman. A second, much larger bomb with a timing device was found in a nearby location in the store, and was, thankfully, defused.

Then over the next several weeks, residents, area businesses and the police were kept on their toes with phoned-in bomb threats on a daily basis, forcing many evacuations. In some instances, bombs were found, but more often, the threats turned out to be false alarms. One such threat forced the evacuation of a Minnesota Twins baseball game at Metropolitan Stadium on August 25, 1970. About 3,000 of the nearly 17,700 fans actually went out on to the field, against the wishes of law enforcement and team officials, and mingled with the players. Beer and hot dog vendors followed them out there and did brisk business. No bomb was found and the game resumed after a 45 minute delay. It was obviously an entirely different world then.

A couple days later, a woman was quoted in the Minneapolis Star newspaper, "Imagine. Come to Minneapolis and live dangerously. Who would have thought it?"

The bomb scares continued in the Twin Cities. Area hotels, TV stations, and all kinds of businesses had to deal with bomb threats. Actual bombs were found, and quickly removed, from two Minneapolis restaurants. And a young man was literally blown to bits while carrying plastic explosives during a late night thunderstorm and was apparently struck by lightning, damaging a home and a car, but killing only himself in the process. The big mystery was, why was this happening? There was a lot of speculation, but no clear answers.

My e-book "Terror Alert:1970" documents the incidents and events based on newspaper accounts from the time without speculating myself or throwing in any contemporary political commentary. Take a look. A 20% free sample is available at, and it can be downloaded to any device, including your desktop computer.

Published through Studio Z-7 Publishing.