Just Your Type – Typewriters find second life as beloved antiques

Just Your Type – Typewriters find second life as beloved antiques

(Image courtesy of Patti Klinge)

Apr 2023

Cover Story

​Just Your Type

Typewriters find second life as beloved antiques

by Corbin Crable

Hear that clickety-clack as the keys pound away. Feel the smooth keys under your fingers as they fly across the keyboard. Marvel at another line of text created.

From offices to homes, they revolutionized how we work, document, tell stories and communicate. Without them, we wouldn’t have computers and other technologies. And they can easily be found for sale in antique stores. One beloved celebrity even has an extensive collection of them. The typewriter – an invention we all use and likely take for granted.

Have a ball

The precursor to the modern typewriter looked like a pincushion. Called a “writing ball” and invented in 1865, it featured 52 keys arranged atop a large brass cylinder (later, a hemisphere), according to Xavier University. Though initially popular in Europe, it wasn’t exactly universally loved – German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche received a writing ball for his birthday and “hated it,” according to Richard Polt, author of “The Typewriter Revolution” and creator of The Classic Typewriter Page, a blog on the history of typewriters (Felt’s blog also includes articles on the parts, care, and collecting of antique typewriters).

Keyboarding classes were offered at most public school

Keyboarding classes were offered at most public schools

Keyboarding classes were offered at most public schools in the U.S. throughout the mid-20th century. (Image courtesy of Vintage News Daily)

Malling-Hansen writing ball

Malling-Hansen writing ball

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche typed an estimated 60 documents on his Malling-Hansen writing ball. (Image courtesy of Pinterest)

For the next decade, the writing ball went through some renovations, and the typewriter as we know it today was released for sale to the public in 1874; the QWERTY keyboard layout was invented specifically for typewriters as well. The layout, a reference to the first six keys on the top-left row of the keyboard, was developed by a Wisconsin newspaper editor, Christopher Sholes. The layout was sold to E. Remington & Sons (yes, the gun manufacturer), which manufactured the Sholes & Glidden, first commercial typewriter.

“The Sholes & Glidden, like many early typewriters, is an understroke or “blind” writer: the typebars are arranged in a circular basket under the platen (the printing surface) and type on the bottom of the platen,” Polt explains. “This means that the typist (confusingly called a “typewriter” herself in the early days) has to lift up the carriage to see her work. Another example of an understroke typebar machine is the Caligraph of 1880, the second typewriter to appear on the American market.”

A Crandall New Model typewriter from 1887

A Crandall New Model typewriter from 1887

A Crandall New Model typewriter from 1887. “This three-bank machine with straight keyboard and a type cylinder located directly in front of the platen, with six rows of letters, is supposed to have been produced in fairly large quantities,” typewriter historian and collector Richard Polt writes. (Image courtesy of The National Museum of American History)

The 1895 Remington Standard Typewriter No. 6

The 1895 Remington Standard Typewriter No. 6

The 1895 Remington Standard Typewriter No. 6, “is lovely, helpful, and exudes vintage typewriter-style wherever it goes. In addition, it serves as a symbol of progress,” according to jacquelinestallone.com.
(Image courtesy of Pinterest)

Say hello to the Underwood

One of the more common typewriters that collectors may find in antique stores is the Underwood, Polt says.

“With the Underwood of 1895, this style of typewriter began to gain ascendancy. The most popular model of early Underwoods, the #5, was produced by the millions,” according to Polt. “By the 1920s, virtually all typewriters were ‘look-alikes’: frontstroke, QWERTY, typebar machines printing through a ribbon, using one shift key and four banks of keys. (Some diehards lingered on. The huge Burroughs Moon-Hopkins typewriter and accounting machine was a blind writer that was manufactured, amazingly enough, until the late 1940s).”

Most mass-produced typewriter models at that time sold for about $100, or much more than the value of a 21st-century computer, when adjusted for inflation.

Another early kind of typewriter – though not nearly as popular as the Sholes & Glidden – was the index typewriter, which entered the market in the early 1880s, just a few years after the Sholes & Glidden. Using a pointer or stylus to choose a letter from an index, then printed by pressing down on a lever, the index typewriter was only popular among those who only occasionally needed to produce typed correspondence. They were cost-effective, too, sold for 1/40th the cost of a Remington. But as keyboard typewriters became more popular, the index typewriter faded into obscurity.


Corona #3

Corona #3

Corona #3 typewriter Ernest Hemingway received as a gift on his 22nd birthday in 1921. (Image courtesy of salsaworldtraver.com)

Royal standard typewriter

Royal standard typewriter

A 1956 print ad for the Royal standard typewriter, which was released in a variety of colors. (Image courtesy of Pinterest)

That’s how they roll

By the early 20th century, the standard design of the typewriter’s platen, or roller, was mounted horizontally on a carriage that moved to the left after the operator typed each character. On the left was the carriage-return lever, pressed to the right to bring the carriage back to its starting position. The platen would then rotate and the paper would advance. While typing, the typebars would strike upward against the paper, according to author Martin Lyons and Rita Marquilhaus’ 2017 book “Approaches to the History of Written Culture: A Word Inscribed.”

Generations after Thomas Edison’s invention of the Universal Stock Ticker, the precursor to the electric typewriter that remotely printed letters on a thin stream of paper based on a typewriter at the other end of a telegraph line, a Kansas City man invented the first power-operated typewriter in 1914. The man, James Field Smathers, turned over his invention to the Northeast Electric Co. to refine it. When Northeast Electric was purchased by Delco Electronics Corp. in the late 1920s, the resulting company was then bought by IBM, which launched its own electric typewriter, building on Smathers’ invention over the next three decades.

IBM’s Selectric Typewriter, which made its debut in 1961, introduced a small metal “typeball” with reverse-image letters that, thanks to a motor and intricate system of pulleys and latches, rotated the ball into position and struck it against the ribbon and platen, according to the 2020 article “A Different Type of Dance Move” on the IBM website’s official blog. Many of the electronic typewriters of later decades replaced the typeball with a daisy wheel made of metal or plastic.

Electronic typewriters flooded offices and clerical staff members’ desks until the early 1990s. In 1991, the year the Soviet Union fell, so too did IBM’s typewriter division, sold off to Lexmark.

And, here in the 21st century, though the typewriter is more commonly found in antique stores, some of its components – most notably, the keyboard and its layout – remain a critical part of the devices we now use, from computers to cell phones.

IBM’s Selecric electric typewriter in 1961

IBM’s Selecric electric typewriter in 1961

The introduction of IBM’s Selecric electric typewriter in 1961 changed the industry forever. (Image courtesy of Twitter)

typewriter collection of Tom Hanks

Typewriter Collection of Tom Hanks

Actor Tom Hanks poses with a few of the hundreds of the typewriters in his collection. (Image courtesy of Getty)

Engineered to take a beating

Those who appreciate and collect typewriters are numerous, and they even include celebrities like singer and actress Lady Gaga; she wrote her 2016 song “Perfect Illusion” on an Olivetti Littera 32, the first of which was introduced in 1963.

The most prominent celebrity typewriter collector, however, is actor Tom Hanks. The first typewriter in his now-expansive collection was a Hermes 2000. Hanks has been collecting typewriters since the age of 19.

Hanks, in a 2013 column published in The New York Times, sang the praises of the typewriter, both a tool of beauty and a carefully crafted machine designed to outlast the technologies that replaced it in the world’s offices, homes, and studies.

“There is no reason to own hundreds of old typewriters other than the sin of misguided avarice (guilty!). Most can be had for 50 bucks unless, say, Hemingway or Woody Allen typed on them,” Hanks writes. “Just one will last generations — if it is cleaned and oiled every once in a while. The ribbons are easy to find on eBay. Even some typewriters made as late as the 1970s can be passed on to your grandkids or encased in the garage until the next millennium when an archaeologist could dig them up, hose them down and dip them in oil. A ribbon can be re-inked in the year 3013 and a typed letter could be sent off that very day, provided the typewriter hasn’t outlived the production of paper.”

Hanks’ sweeping, exquisitely-written love letter to typewriters makes no secret of his affinity for those communication tools of yesteryear as lions of longevity.

“The machine, too, may last as long as the rocks of Stonehenge. Typewriters are dense things made of steel and were engineered to take a beating, which they do,” Hanks continues. “My dad’s Underwood, bought used just after the war for his single year at U.S.C., had some keys so worn out by his punishing fingers that they were misshapen and blank. The S key was a mere nib. I sent it to a shop for what was meant to be only a cleaning, but it came back with all the keys replaced. So long, Dad, and curse you, industrious typewriter serviceperson.”

Walk Like An Egyptian, Egyptomania Resurrects Country’s Magic, Mysticism

Walk Like An Egyptian, Egyptomania Resurrects Country’s Magic, Mysticism

(Image courtesy of Classic Media)

Mar 2023

Cover Story

Walk Like An Egyptian

Egyptomania Resurrects Country’s Magic, Mysticism

by Corbin Crable

Though fascination with all things Egyptian has endured since the ancient world, it wasn’t until the last 200 years or so that the craze we know as “Egyptomania” really took off.

According to Kent Weeks, an American Egyptologist, Egyptomania can best be described as two things.

“First, it’s the interest in ancient Egypt in popular culture—National Geographic television specials, films like ‘The Mummy’ —things that appeal to the ordinary person on the street,” Weeks says in an article published by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

“Second is the enthusiasm with which modern people take bits and pieces of ancient Egyptian culture and insert them into contemporary culture in things like architecture, design, or objects.”

Long-lost jewelry from King Tut

Long-lost jewelry from King Tut

Long-lost jewelry from King Tut’s tomb rediscovered a century later. (image courtesy of aeluc.dynu.net)

Late 18th century

In the late 18th century, interest in Egypt was revived when French General Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the country.

Bonaparte commissioned a team of nearly 200 scientists and scholars to study the art and culture of the country. One of the team’s most significant findings was the coveted Rosetta Stone, which unlocked the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphics to future generations of historians and anthropologists.

In the century following, the Victorian era became inexorably linked with Egyptomania. In fact, throughout the late 19th century, wealthy Victorians didn’t need museum artifacts to entertain themselves – the richest ones traveled to Egypt themselves and excavated tombs, robbing them of both riches and bodies. These Victorians would even host parties at which mummies would be unwrapped for entertainment.

Unearthing the Boy King

But the most recent resurgence of Egyptomania came in the early 20th century when archaeologists accompanied wealthy patrons to Egypt, where they excavated tombs in the hopes of unearthing treasures they could not only donate to museums but also add to their own personal collections.

The most important tomb excavation in modern history occurred in 1922 when archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of ancient Egypt’s King Tutankhamun, which Getty calls a “universally celebrated symbol of ancient Egypt,” featuring “a trove of funerary objects—furniture, jewelry, clothing, and elaborate wall paintings among them—(which) captured the popular imagination in unprecedented ways.”


mummy of King Tutankhamun.

Mummy of King Tutankhamun.

Archaeologist Howard Carter studies the mummy of King Tutankhamun.
Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb in February 1922. (Image courtesy of

Often called “the Boy King,” Tutankhamun rose to power as a child at age nine, with his reign lasting a decade (1333 B.C.-1323 B.C.); the circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery, with theories tossed about that include murder, disease, and an unfortunate accident involving being thrown from his chariot and subsequently run over.

Carter’s discovery in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings was vast – works of art, statues, jewelry, clothing, a chariot, golden shrines, weapons, and, laying within an elaborately decorated sarcophagus, the mummified body of King Tut himself.

“The public devoured every crumb of information as King Tut’s tomb was painstakingly explored by British Egyptologist Howard Carter and his colleagues.  The media was eager to fill the desire for information,” according to the Washington State Department of Archaeology. “Motion picture newsreels, magazines, and newspapers all featured the latest developments of the excavation.  Two years after the discovery, in 1924, the New York Times Pictorial Magazine carried the first color photos shown in the United States of the treasures from Tut’s tomb.  Articles about Tutankhamun carried well into the 1930s as archaeologists took 10 years to completely clear the tomb.”

With Carter’s discovery, an American obsession with all things Egyptian had begun, finding its way into architecture, fashion, art, and beyond.

evening gown

Evening Gown

This evening gown, made by Callot Soeurs in 1925, was produced at the height of 1920s Egyptomania. Image courtesy of The Goldstein Museum of Design


Examples of Egyptomania in textiles can be readily found, with the most stunning examples on display in museums worldwide.

“The designs, colors, and materials of unearthed Egyptian antiquities significantly impacted art and design for decades, especially via the 1920s and 1930s design movement now called ‘Art Deco,’” according to the Goldstein Museum of Design in St. Paul, MN. “Egyptian design elements thus found expression in architecture, interiors, graphic design, textiles, and fashion.”

A green silk dress in the museum’s collection was made by the Paris couture design house Callout Soeurs in 1925. A “masterful merger of design elements borrowed from ancient Egypt with 1920s fashion,” the dress features beading at the neck, center front, hipline, and hem, all off-white with a green border of beading around the bottom, according to the museum’s website. The color of the dress is especially interesting, since author Isabella Campagnol, in her 2022 book “Style From the Nile: Egyptomania in Fashion from the 19th Century to Today,” notes that in the earlier days of Egyptomania, “fabric colors named after Egypt were introduced in shades of green, blue-green, and umber.” Indeed, the beading and necklines of the flapper dresses of the 1920s found their inspiration from Ancient Egypt.

Campagnol also observes that accessories, too, of the 1920s were heavily influenced by Egyptian culture, with sphinxes, gods, heads of pharaohs, scarabs, and hieroglyphs featured heavily. Late last year, auction house Sotheby’s put on display a selection of valuable antique Egyptian-themed jewelry to mark the 100th anniversary of Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

1963 epic “Cleopatra,”

1963 epic “Cleopatra,”

Theatrical poster for the 1963 epic “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor. (Image courtesy of the Internet Movie Database)

Popular Culture

Perhaps no greater single example of Egyptomania in mid-20th century media exists than the film epic “Cleopatra” (1963). Starring the biggest film star of her day, Elizabeth Taylor, in the title role, “Cleopatra” was the most expensive film ever made until that point, with production costs topping $31 million. The film was a true treat for the eyes, with ancient Egypt brought to life in dazzling color.

“Cleopatra,” though, like so many other films, was plagued by scandal, even in the pre-production phase – rumors of an extramarital affair between Taylor and her co-star Richard Burton lived on the lips of the Hollywood elite and were reproduced in gossip magazines of the day. Despite those rumors (or maybe because of them), moviegoers eagerly flocked to theaters to enjoy the grandeur of the ancient world.

Though “Cleopatra” was a box office success, ticket sales were far from enough to cover the production costs, leaving many to believe the film itself to be a flop, despite being one of the highest-grossing films of the entire decade of the 1960s. Not exactly so, says filmmaker Kevin Burns.

“The film was not a bad film. It was not a flop. It was too expensive,” Burns told The L.A. Times in a 2001 article. “It was a financial mess, but it made $24 million in its initial release. It was one of the top 10-grossing films of the ‘60s. It was by no means a failure on any level. It is one of the most beautiful films ever shot. It has some incredible performances. It is very intelligently written and deserves to be seen.”

More than 30 years after the release of that epic, “The Mummy” film trilogy starring Brendan Fraser proved that, even as we faced the dawn of a new century, Egyptomania in media remained alive and well.

Egyptian Revival center table

Egyptian Revival center table

This Egyptian Revival center table features the likenesses of pharaohs and hieroglyphics – not to mention the marble top. It was likely
manufactured by the Victorian-era Pottier and Stymus Manufacturing Co. of New York. (Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Luxor

The Luxor

The Luxor’s sky beam, often called the brightest light in the world, is brighter than 42,000 lighthouses combined, according to MGM Resorts. It’s powered by 39 Xenon lights with 7,000-watt bulbs. (Image courtesy of Vegas Means Business)

Architecture and interior design

The Egyptian Revival style of architecture mimicked the motifs and symbols – as well as the grandiose temples and palaces — of the ancient civilization. This was present not only in the buildings of the post-Napoleonic world but in funerary monuments, which made particular use of the obelisk and geometric renderings of palm fronds on grave markers and mausoleums in American cemeteries. Visit any cemetery today and you’ll see such features prominently included.

In the late 19th century, inside the homes of the living, meanwhile, Egyptian Revival-style furniture could be easily found.

“The Egyptian Revival took imagery and art from ancient Egypt and used them in a different light for western tastes,” according to UK-based Nicholas Wells Antiques. “The Egyptian Revival decorative art and architecture inspired artists from all over the world. The people of France, in particular, became very interested in Egyptian Revival decorative art and incorporated everything from lotuses, winged lions, and sphinxes on furniture and architecture. Some of the most famous Egyptian decorative revival furniture included ornamented armchairs with goat feet and pharaoh’s heads, elegant and overstuffed sofas with designs of lotus blossoms, and palmiform columns. These exotic designs added high fashion to the upper-class homes of France.”

Here in the United States, particularly in the Midwest, Egyptian Revival in architecture lives on in establishments such as the Cairo Supper Club in Chicago. Designed in 1920, the one-story building’s exterior “is adorned with glazed polychromatic terra-cotta, lotus-capped columns, and a winged-scarab medallion in the cornice,” according to the Art Institute of Chicago. “The Egyptian-themed façade combined with the Art Deco-inflected neon lights and large plate-glass windows seems to provide a vivid marriage of two different but equally influential cultures.”

In the nation’s capital, the Washington Monument pierces the skyline. Completed in 1884, the structure was “built in the shape of an Egyptian obelisk, evoking the timelessness of ancient civilizations … The Washington Monument embodies the awe, respect, and gratitude the nation felt for its most essential Founding Father,” according to the National Parks Service. “When completed, the Washington Monument was the tallest building in the world at 555 feet, 5-1/8 inches.”

And on the other side of the country, in Las Vegas, stands the Luxor Hotel and Casino, perhaps the most recent example of Egyptomania in architecture. The Luxor opened in 1993, and the pyramid-shaped resort, named after the Egyptian city, features two ziggurat towers; the resort’s pyramid is flanked by an obelisk and a replica of the Great Sphinx of Giza as well. When it originally opened, the hotel included a replica of King Tut’s tomb; that feature has since closed.

south wall of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun

South Wall of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun

A section of the south wall of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun. The images show the fashion of the day, including an animal headdress. (image courtesy of History.com)

Capturing our imagination

Given all of these examples of Egyptomania, ultimately, why does it endure? Scholar Tyler Vuillemot has the simplest theory.

“One of the main reasons is that accounts of life in Ancient Egypt conjure up grand images in our minds: wealthy and powerful kings and queens, enormous breathtaking buildings, endless piles of gold, and mystical gods,” writes Vuillemot of Michigan State University’s Department of Anthropology on MSU’s website. “These things are the essence of all the adventure tales and fantasies that we have heard our entire lives.  Romanticized tales of that sort capture our imagination when they are fiction, but the fact that these things actually existed in history adds to the appeal.”

dazzling collection of Egyptian-inspired jewelry

Dazzling collection of Egyptian-inspired jewelry

Late last year, auction house Sotheby’s put a dazzling collection of Egyptian-inspired jewelry on display to mark the 100th anniversary of Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s tomb. (Image courtesy of Forbes)

It’s a date! Celebrate your love with these old-fashioned date ideas

It’s a date! Celebrate your love with these old-fashioned date ideas

(Image courtesy of Classic Media)

Jan/Feb 2023

Cover Story

It’s a date!

Celebrate your love with these old-fashioned date ideas

by Corbin Crable

With the arrival of Valentine’s Day comes a certain anxiety, whether you’re heading out for a first date with a new love interest or you’re planning a day of romance with your beloved, longtime spouse. How do you craft the perfect date? How do you keep it fresh and avoid the same ol’, same ol’?

According to the National Restaurant Association, Valentine’s Day is the second busiest day of the year for the restaurant industry – behind only Mother’s Day. This year, the organization estimates that a quarter of all Americans will celebrate Valentine’s Day sitting in a restaurant.

You and your date don’t have to be among that number. In fact, cliché date destinations and activities can best be avoided by thinking of the types of dates that your parents and grandparents might have enjoyed. These ideas are among many that will allow for more creative, old-fashioned celebrations of the day of love, or just a regular date night…


Catch a Flick at the Drive-In

happy Valentine's Day

Catch a flick at a local drive-in movie theater

Though their numbers have dwindled in recent years, drive-in theaters are still a draw for those who want to enjoy a movie on the big screen in comfort. According to U.S. News and World Report, there are just a little more than 300 drive-ins left in the United States. Regionally, Illinois boasts the most drive-in theaters with 11 still operating. Missouri has nine, Oklahoma has six, Kansas has five, Iowa has four, and Arkansas and Nebraska both have three.

Most drive-ins are currently in the process of preparing for the opening of their 2023 season (most drive-in theater seasons take place in early spring and last throughout mid-fall. Though they won’t be open quite yet for Valentine’s Day, you can plan now to visit locations such as the Boulevard Drive-In in Kansas City, KS, or the Sunset Drive-In in Aurora, MO.

Glide into Valentine’s Day at a roller skating or ice skating rink

Enjoy the last vestiges of the winter season for Valentine’s Day – ice skating rinks will still be open for you and your date.

In the Kansas City metro area, at least two locations can be found amid plenty of shopping options – Park Place in Leawood and the Crown Center Ice Terrace on the Missouri side of the state line, now celebrating its 50th year of operations.

If you’d rather stay inside and shake your groove thing to some vintage tunes, roller skating might be more your speed.

“Once considered an old-fashioned activity, roller skating is having a moment,” according to an August 2020 article published in The Huffington Post. “There’s something inherently cool about roller skating: the knee-high socks, the dangerously short shorts, the retro vibe that harkens back to diners and disco.”

The pastime, once declining in popularity, has seen a renaissance in recent years for “kids” of all ages.

“It’s the closest feeling to flying,” one California-based skater said in the article. “It’s really great to just tune out the world and it’s good for your mental and physical health.”

Roller skates

A roller rink

A roller rink is a great place to get any date started on the right foot. (Image of AL.com)

Taking your date ice skating

Taking your date ice skating

Taking your date ice skating is the perfect date activity for a unique Valentine’s Day, but be sure to hold on tight if you’re a newbie. (Image courtesy of 101 Creative Dates)

Going on a bowling

Going on a bowling

Going on a bowling date offers friendly competition and a little exercise, all in one fun activity. (Image courtesy of Crushpixel)

Gutterball! Give bowling a try

Maybe you remember going with your parents on their weekly bowling league meets. Maybe you want to impress your date by masterfully taking down a 7-10 split. Perhaps a little from column A, a little from column B.

Whatever your reason, bowling isn’t just an exercise in friendly competition; it’s a way to bond with your date as you get moving during a low-impact activity. Don’t forget the beer and nachos – and bring your quarters for the vintage arcade games at the bowling alley, too. If you want to add some friends to your date night, bring another like-minded couple along for a fun, cost-effective couples date.

Sharing a milkshake

Sharing a milkshake

Sharing a milkshake is always fun, even for the older crowd! Discover Vintage America publisher Patti Klinge and her now-husband Brian Pollmiller enjoy sharing a date night treat at Winsteads, a retro diner in Kansas City, MO. (Image courtesy of Patti Klinge)

Two straws, please

It might sound corny, but forgoing the ice cream sundae and buying a milkshake at your favorite ice cream shop to enjoy with your date is a classic symbol of love. If you can, be sure to skip the big-box ice creameries like Baskin-Robbins and opt instead for a smaller mom-and-pop stop.

One place in Parkville, MO, even allows you to shop while you sip – Old Town Sweets and Antiques serves up big scoops of every ice cream flavor imaginable, nestled within a store where you can browse shelves of vintage items and collectibles. Think of it as a two-for-one date that is sure to be a big hit.

And Oklahomans and Kansans alike are known to frequent Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Store in Emporia. Family-owned since 1968, the first location was opened in Oklahoma City; the Braum family opened their Emporia, KS, store in 1994, with a second location that opened its doors in 2010.

ordered the burger and fries

Ordered the burger and fries

You may have ordered the burger and fries, but you’re getting the snark for free at Ed Debevic’s in Chicago. (Image courtesy of Eater Chicago)

…Or grab a bite at a themed diner

Remember when I said to avoid restaurants on Valentine’s Day? Well, if you do decide to take your chances, keep themed diners in mind. Nostalgia for the 1950s – that era of jukeboxes, neon lights and poodle skirts – is big business in restaurants, and one of the most well-known is Ed Debevic’s in Chicago. Take your date here only if he or she shares your love of snark – the staff at the retro-themed diner are known for their snide comments and rude behavior to patrons. Don’t take it personally; it’s all part of the act. If you don’t want your burger and fries with a side order of sass, you can chow down at Dove’s Luncheonette (also in Chicago).

“Inspired by mid-century diners, Dove’s in Chicago’s Wicker Park shows retro design and contemporary cuisine are a perfect marriage,” according to a post titled “The Best Retro Diner in Every State” on the blog LoveFood.com. “The wood paneling, brown tile floor, counter stools and soundtrack of Chicago soul and blues conjure a distinctly vintage vibe, while the menu is modern Tex-Mex and diner food. Expect fried chicken and mac and cheese alongside pozole rojo (a Mexican pork stew), tacos, chile relleno (battered, stuffed peppers) and mezcal cocktails that pack a punch.”

shared interest in vintage collectibles

Shared interest in vintage collectibles

If you and your date have a shared interest in vintage collectibles, find your nearest antique store and get to shopping. (Image courtesy of Astoria River Walk)

When all else fails, just “go parking”

Ready to take your date to the next level? Drive your car up to a nice, secluded spot in town with a beautiful view of the city and just talk (or lock lips, if you’re both so inclined).

“Basically, all you have to do is find a nice secluded spot on a hill or overlooking the water, and then make-out after parking your car there,” Thought Catalog’s Holly Riordan writes. “It’s what your ancestors did.” Well, no arguing there!

These ideas from days gone by will ensure your Valentine’s Day won’t be a snore, and they’re sure to bring you and your romantic partner closer together and get those sparks flying. Let Cupid take things from there.

watching the “submarine races”

Watching the “submarine races”

What’s more fun than watching the “submarine races” (wink-wink)? (Image courtesy of PxHere)

Our favorite Christmas characters  Yuletide TV specials continue to draw nostalgic audiences

Our favorite Christmas characters Yuletide TV specials continue to draw nostalgic audiences

(Image courtesy of Classic Media)

December 2022

Cover Story

Our favorite Christmas characters

Yuletide TV specials continue to draw nostalgic audiences

by Corbin Crable

The holiday season is a time for nostalgia, savoring warm memories created with friends and family – and often, red-nosed reindeer, abominable snowmen, and an elf here or there.

Christmas TV specials are as old as the medium of TV itself, and everyone has his or her favorite.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Many of the specials that Baby Boomers and older members of Generation X will remember from their childhood were produced by Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment, who cornered the market in stop motion animation. Think Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, The Year Without a Santa Claus – well, you get the idea. In stop motion animation, inanimate objects are moved slightly between photographed frames in order to give the object an appearance of motion. Rankin/Bass TV specials gave us some of our most beloved Christmas characters come to life, all thanks to this effect, which the company called, “Animagic.”

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is among the earliest televised Christmas specials, having been telecast every year since 1964. Telling the well-known story of Rudolph’s embracing of his glowing red nose after being labeled an outcast by his peers, Rudolph was voiced by Canadian voice actress Billie Mae Richards, while American musician and actor Burl Ives lent his voice to the narrator of the special (the doll crafted for the character was made specifically to resemble Ives).

While Rudolph’s story had a happy ending, most of the original puppets used in the 1964 production did not. Most of the original puppets were not properly stored and deteriorated as the years passed; of the surviving puppets, two – one Rudolph and one Santa – were taken onto the TV program Antiques Roadshow and were appraised at a value of between $8,000 and $10,000. According to the Associated Press, in 2020, the pieces sold at auction for $368,000, and later donated to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta.

Cementing its place in pop culture history, in 2014, the U.S. Postal Service commissioned a postage stamp of Rudolph.

Landmark mall shopping Mall

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

When the special finally aired in 1964, it became such a hit that it has been rebroadcast every year since, making it the longest-running Christmas special in history. courtesy of Wikipedia

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Commissioned and sponsored by the Coca-Cola Co., A Charlie Brown Christmas was special for many reasons – chief among them, it was the first Peanuts TV special to feature Charles M. Schulz’s beloved characters, who had delighted readers on the comics page of their local newspaper since 1950.

The TV special was also unique in that non-actor children voiced Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and their pals, with the youngest, only 6 years old and unable to read, having to been fed her lines one sentence at a time (shockingly enough, the voice recordings were completed in just one day). A California-based children’s choir lent their voices to “Christmas Time is Here” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” at the beginning and end of the program, respectively.

The program’s jazz soundtrack, composed by Vince Guaraldi, has sold millions of copies worldwide. A Charlie Brown Christmas has since become synonymous with appreciating one’s blessings during an increasingly commercialized holiday season, with no better symbol than the small sapling tree he finds in a Christmas tree lot.

Against the expectations of the show’s producers, the program was an instant hit, airing on CBS on Dec. 9, 1965, to an estimated 14.5 million viewers. The next year, it would win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has remained one of the most popular family programs of the holiday season for more than 50 years; one of the animators, said it was the best special he’ll ever make – This show is going to run for a hundred years,” marveled Ed Levitt upon its release and glowing reception. In 2012, the program was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2012 as a “culturally, historically”: important sound recording.

Mr Bulky Candy store

A Charlie Brown Christmas

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, the program’s title character learns the true meaning of Christmas.
(Image courtesy of Getty Images)

Mr Bulky Candy store

Small Christmas tree Charlie Brown Christmas

Unlike his friends, Charlie Brown sees big potential in a small Christmas tree. The tree portrayed in A Charlie Brown Christmas
has been sold as a novelty decoration. (Image courtesy of Getty Images)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Children’s author Dr. Seuss and veteran animator Chuck Jones of Looney Tunes fame paired up in the mid-1960s to transform Seuss’ classic book How the Grinch Stole Christmas into a short TV Christmas special.

For the animated special, according to Toonopedia, animators spent more than a year penning thousands of cells, background drawings, and character drawings. Jones himself said he animated the diminutive, soft-spoken Cindy Lou Who (voiced by June Foray, best known as the voice of Rocky the squirrel in Rocky and Bullwinkle) to somewhat resemble the Grinch, while Max, the Grinch’s perpetually suffering canine henchman, was designed with Porky Pig’s character in the Duck Dodgers cartoons in mind.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas made its debut on Dec. 18, 1966, amid a spate of other animated holiday specials, following on the heels of other animated Christmas specials released during the mid-1960s (and, not coincidentally, the birth of color television).

Continuing the tradition of the inclusion of employing big names with big voices, Boris Karloff headlined the small list of voice actors, with Karloff pulling double duty as both the Grinch and the Narrator. Audiences from the previous generation would remember Karloff in his iconic role as Frankenstein’s Monster in the 1931 horror classic Frankenstein. Many viewers mistakenly believe that Karloff also sang the special’s “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch,” but that designation goes to vocalist Thurl Ravenscroft. If Ravenscroft’s deep bass voice sounds familiar, that’s because audiences knew him as the voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal. Ravenscroft voiced Tony for an entire five decades.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas consistently remains in the top 10s of Best Family Holiday TV Specials.


Orange Julius

Grinch and Cindy Lou Who

He’s a mean one, and the Grinch may have fooled darling little Cindy Lou Who….

Orange Julius


….but he doesn’t fool the viewer. (Images courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Tall Cascading Fountain

Frosty the Snowman

Coming off the success of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman led the way for Christmas TV programming
in 1969. (Image courtesy of Rankin/Bass)

Frosty the Snowman (1969)

Another Rankin/Bass production, Frosty again told the story of a beloved character made popular in a Christmas song, and, like Rudolph before it, employed the voice of another famous actor, Jimmy Durante, as the narrator of the story. June Foray, best known as the voice of Rocky the squirrel in Rocky and Bullwinkle, voiced the human protagonist and Frosty’s companion, Karen. Unlike Rudolph, Frosty was done in traditional, 2D animation.

Durante was no stranger to the Frosty mythos, having recorded the song in 1950. The animated tale about the snowman come to life was an instant hit, giving rise to multiple sequels, including Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976), Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979), Frosty Returns (1992), and the straight-to-video The Legend of Frosty the Snowman (2005).


Glamour Shots

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Like the Dickens original story, Mickey’s Christmas Carol redeems Scrooge at the end – a Christmas
miracle. (Image courtesy of CBS)

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Those younger Generation Xers likely will recall one of Disney’s best-loved contributions to the animated half-hourlong Christmas specials, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, an adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens tale as told by Mickey Mouse and pals. With Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge McDuck appropriately enough, as Ebenezer Scrooge; and Goofy as Jacob Marley, the special was the first original Mickey Mouse theatrical cartoon in three decades (Mickey hadn’t been featured on the silver screen in an original production since 1953). The only original voice actor in the film was Clarence Nash, who lent his voice to Fred (Scrooge’s nephew), portrayed by Donald Duck.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol received mostly positive reviews upon its release on Dec. 16, 1983, showing in theaters directly before a re-release of the full-length 1977 Disney animated film The Rescuers. Those naysayers who gave the program negative reviews were soon put to rest, however, when it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film the following year.

Although your family likely had one or perhaps all of these Christmas specials in your home video library, they can also be viewed on most streaming services as well. So pop some popcorn and get your TV ready for a journey back to the Christmases of your childhood.

Hey, wanna go to the mall?  Shopping malls exist as snapshot of America during one moment in time

Hey, wanna go to the mall? Shopping malls exist as snapshot of America during one moment in time

(Photo by Patti Klinge)
November 2022

Cover Story

Hey, wanna go to the mall?

Shopping malls exist as snapshot of America during one moment in time

by Corbin Crable

“All right, I’ll pick you up at the food court entrance 3 p.m. Have fun and be safe!”

The words – or something like them – are familiar to anyone who grew up in America’s suburbs during the late 20th century, when going to a shopping mall with your friends (and without parents in tow) was a rite of passage for young teens and tweens.

Shopping Mall

The shopping mall, that ubiquitous symbol of American culture, consumerism, and, if you were of a certain age, unbridled freedom, is older than you might think. According to a 2018 article by Ian Bogost in The Atlantic, the first enclosed shopping mall opened in 1956 in Edina, MN, designed by Austrian architect Victor Gruen. It was an invention that heralded the peak of the Baby Boomer generation – soldiers returning home from fighting overseas in 1945 settled into what would become known as suburbs, got married and started a family. The purchase of items such as television sets and electric washers and dryers showed us that these weren’t merely conveniences of the modern era – they were indeed status symbols. And where else would these new families, whose numbers exploded in the 1950s, spend their money than in the shopping mall – that logical next step in the evolution of commercialism and post-war America? After all, more shoppers meant more retail spaces and department stores were needed.

“Gruen wanted to import the pedestrian experience of modernist, European cities like Vienna and Paris into America, where the automobile was king,” Bogost wrote. “By creating places for community in the deserts of suburbia, he hoped to lure people from their cars and into contact with one another. The malls would be for shopping, yes, but also offer food, relaxation, and green space. … (It was) A place to gather, a place to shop, a place to relax, a place to live.”

Landmark mall shopping Mall

Landmark Shopping Center

In its day, Landmark Shopping Center was the epicenter of retail industry in Alexandria, VA. More recently, it was featured in the filmimg of “Wonder Woman 2:1984” (image courtesy of nostalgicvirginian.com)
Younger Baby Boomers and Generation Xers well remember the mall as all of these things and more, the experiences invariably tied to the names of stores that still exist both inside and outside its concrete walls, as well as those that have long since disappeared from our lexicon.

The mall was a world unto itself, a place where one could purchase goods and services in real-time and, more importantly to younger people, a place where they could put their finger on the proverbial pulse of what was hot and popular, a place where friendships began, blossomed and eventually died.

The decades that made up the second half of the 20th century saw the number of malls in American cities grow quickly; in fact, more than 16,000 were constructed in the 1980s alone, according to Business Insider. Those years gave rise, of course, to products, names and brands that populated these malls, as well as interior design and fashion trends that wouldn’t be seen again. Chances are, you recognize a few of these features, products and merchants from the shopping malls of yesteryear.

Mr Bulky Candy store

Mr. Bulky candy store

Along with the food court and the arcade, Mr. Bulky candy store was a popular hangout for the kids. (image courtesy of yelp.com)

Pop-star appearances

Between the 1970s and the 1990s, it was common to enjoy mall concerts by young up-and-coming musical stars – none as memorable as 1980s pop sensation Tiffany, queen of the mall tour. Her performances at American malls throughout the ‘80s launched Tiffany to stardom (and her smash hit “I Think We’re Alone Now” could be found in teens’ cassette players throughout the country).


Strolling through your local mall with a thick cloud of smoke swirling in the air above your head used to be the norm in malls, as were ashtrays stationed next to benches and rest areas inside the mall. But public opinion began to change in the early 1990s as more malls began to ban smoking in food courts, inside stores and restrooms.

Orange Julius

Those mouth-watering, thick, creamy drinks were synonymous with malls. The beverage – a mixture of ice, sweetener, orange juice, milk and powdered egg whites – has been made and sold since the 1920s at stands across the U.S. Orange Julius is still made and sold by Dairy Queen, which has owned the rights to the drink since the late 1980s.

Orange Julius

Orange Julius

Orange Julius was a mall staple in the 1980s, with its uniquely flavored smoothies on tap. (image courtesy of Pinterest)
Tall Cascading Fountain

Tall cascading fountain

This tall, cascading fountain was the talk of shoppers at Metcalf South Mall in Overland Park, KS. The mall was demolished several years ago. (image courtesy of Facebook)

Sharper Image

Did anyone actually ever buy anything from Sharper Image? I only remember going into the store to try out every cool gadget – especially the massaging chair. Sharper Image, that gift store for the rich guy who seemingly has everything, went bankrupt in 2008 after a little more than 30 years in business; it has since relaunched, and its expensive luxury items are now mostly sold via catalog and third-party retailers.

B. Dalton Booksellers

Much like the very first enclosed mall, the first B. Dalton bookstore opened in Edina, MN, in 1966. The chain, which sold hardcover new-release books alongside paperbacks, was specifically designed to cater to customers living in suburbs. By 1986, at the business’ peak, B. Dalton had 798 locations open in the U.S. The B. Dalton name was sold to Barnes & Noble in the late 1990s, and the last location closed in 2013.

K.B. Toys

Named for the Kauffman Brothers – that’s Harry and Joseph – the company was originally a candy seller but entered into the toy industry in 1946, more than 20 years after its founding. It focused solely on its shopping mall locations for the remainder of its existence until the company went bankrupt and liquidated in early 2009. But let’s face it: what you remember most about K.B. Toys were those adorable electronic pig and dog plushies that barked, oinked and walked on a little platform outside the store.


These water features were everywhere you turned when you went to the mall, whether they were gurgling and babbling lightly or shooting jets of water into the air, illuminated by colored lights below. As a child, you might have plunged your hands into the water or tossed a coin or two into the fountain to make a wish.

Glamour Shots

Glamour Shots

Tease up that hair and pick out the classiest gold lamé outfit you can find, because it’s time to look 1980s gorgeous at Glamour Shots. (image courtesy of Reddit)

Suncoast Motion Picture Co.

As more movie and TV viewers opt for the digital experience in relaxing with a good show or film, this retailer that sold physical media such as DVDs and vinyl records (and even printed reproductions of movie scripts) seems almost quaint by comparison. Owned by the same parent company that owned music retailer Sam Goody (remember putting on a set of bid headphones at Sam Goody to listen to cassettes and vinyls?), today only three Suncoast stores remain open – one of them in Omaha, NE.


If you needed a quiet place to talk to your crush for a dime (or, later, a quarter), you likely just looked to the bank of payphones next to the restrooms, down a separate hallway and away from the hustle and bustle of shoppers. Payphones can still be found, of course, and, according to Slate.com, there are still more payphones in the U.S. than McDonald’s locations or public libraries.


Going to the mall with a pocket full of quarters could mean only one thing – a day of playing games like Pac-Man or Space Invaders with your friends at your mall’s video game arcade. Throw in a cup of delicious Orange Julius and you’ve got the perfect Saturday afternoon as a kid in the 1970s.

Free samples from Hickory Farms

Did you spend all that money at the arcade and now have none for the food court? Not to worry; there was always a Hickory Farms store somewhere in the mall, where a teenager stood at the entrance armed with free samples of smoked sausages and cheeses. Bring a trenchcoat and fake mustache along in order to disguise yourself when going back for seconds!

Glamour Shots

The photography studio that transformed awkward teenage girls and housewives into awkward wanna-be models in sequins and jean jackets peaked in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, but fear not, lovers of teased hair; as of two years ago, five Glamour Shots studios were still open in the U.S. and offering the makeover of your dreams (or nightmares). You know what they say – the higher the hair, the closer to God.


Movie theaters

Movie theaters began popping up in malls in the 1970s and offered something different to do with your friends. Just be on the lookout for that pesky usher as you sneak into “Nightmare on Elm Street,” you rebel, you.


Out of the way, young people! The teenagers might rule the mall during its operating hours, but before the stores open for the day, the halls belong to the older folks who get their exercise by joining a group of like-minded fitness enthusiasts and doing laps around all levels of the mall before things get busy for the day. You could usually find them clad in sneakers and track suits. Just don’t get in their path, and be sure to wave if you happen to see them.

Do you still frequent the shopping mall where you live? What do you remember from its heyday? What are the sights, sounds and tastes that you miss? Write to us and let us know! You might be featured in a future column by the editor.

Movie Theater

Movie Theater in Mall

Customers check out the offerings at a movie theater inside a Houston mall in the 1970s. (image courtesy of Facebook)
Mall Arcade

Mall Arcade

Leave the shopping to Mom and Dad – you had levels and villains to conquer at your local mall’s arcade. (image courtesy of Totally Rad Times)