Archive for the ‘History’ Category

February 3, 1959 was the snowy night when Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens took off in a small plane from Clear Lake, Iowa, after playing a gig at the Surf Ballroom. They were headed to the next stop on their Winter Dance Party tour, and Holly, sick of the miserable experience on the tour bus, chartered a plane.

The plane crashed in a field about five miles from the airport due to poor weather conditions. In an interesting bit of trivia, Valens and Richardson weren’t even supposed to be on the plane. The plane was supposed to be for Holly and his bandmates, but Tommy Allsup flipped a coin with Valens for the last seat and Waylon Jennings gave up his seat to a flu-stricken Richardson.

Holly was only 22 years old at the time of the crash and left behind a pregnant widow, who suffered a miscarriage shortly after the crash. The Big Bopper was 28 and Ritchie Valens was only 17 years old.


         Constance Frances Ockleman AKA: Veronica Lake

 Veronica Lake was born Constance Frances Ockleman in Brooklyn, New York to a seaman father. He died in an explosion on an oil ship when Constance was five. Her mother remarried and the family was constantly on the move living in Canada, New York and Florida. She graduated from high school in Miami. The family moved to California and she was enrolled in the Bliss Hayden School of Acting in Hollywood.

 Bit parts came almost immediately with RKO Studios. Her trademark was a hairstyle, with one of her eyes always obscured by her blonde hair. The style was so popular with women that those working in defense plants during World War II were accident prone and officials asked her to change.

 Veronica Lake made films with Paramount during World War II. The studio requested a name change and she became Veronica Lake. Her most noted movies: ‘I Wanted Wings, Sullivan’s Travels, This Gun for Hire, The Glass Key, I married a Witch, So Proudly We Hail, Blue Dahilia and Stronghold.’ She flourished professionally until 1948 when she was dropped by Paramount and then was sued for support payments by her ambitious mother who had prodded her into a movie career starting in elementary school.

Divorced twice, she slowly declined as a movie star and her comeback films made in the 60’s were failures. Veronica made television appearances and even tried her hand on the stage which was ended by an injury suffered while appearing in a production. Some of her TV appearances: Lux Video Theatre, Goodyear Television Playhouse and Somerset Maugham TV Theatre. She was down on her luck with increasing personal problems. Relatively forgotten, she was found living in an old hotel in Manhattan working as a cocktail waitress and married to a fourth husband a commercial fisherman. She tried another return to movies ‘ Footsteps in the Snow,’ and appeared for the last time in an incredibly bad, low budget film in 1970 ‘Flesh Feast.’

 While visiting friends in Burlington, Vermont, she was stricken with hepatitis and taken to a hospital dying penniless at the age of 53. A small memorial service was held at a Manhattan mortuary arranged by a friend who had penned a tell-all autobiography as described by Veronica in 1969.

Cremated, her ashes sat on a mortuary shelf in Burlington for three years because of non-payment for services. Finally, her friends paid the bill and her ashes were shipped to Florida where in a brief ceremony, deposited the ashes in the water off Miami as she had requested.

With a red and white bandana in her hair and factory worker uniform sleeves rolled up to reveal her bulging biceps, Rosie the Riveter was painted on a World War II recruitment poster in 1942. But for four decades, the real Rosie the Riveter had no idea she was the woman who inspired it.

Perhaps it was because Geraldine Doyle left her factory job after two weeks – or because she didn’t actually have bulging biceps – that Doyle, who died at 86 years old on Sunday in Lansing, Mich., didn’t know for so long that she was the model for what would became a symbol of women’s empowerment.

Doyle was 17 in 1942 and had been hired as a metal presser at a factor close to her home in Inkster, Mich., to help the war effort, her daughter Stephanie Gregg told the New York Times. One day, a United Press International photographer came to the steelworks factory and took a picture of Doyle leaning over machinery, a red and white polka-dot bandana covering her hair (see the original photo here). Later that year, the government commissioned artist J. Howard Miller to produce morale-boosting posters that would motivate workers and recruit women to join the war workforce. The UPI photo of Doyle, a slender brunette that her daughter calls “a glamour girl,” caught his eye.

Meanwhile, Doyle – a cellist – learned that a worker had injured her hands at the factory, and decided to get a safer job at a soda fountain and bookshop in Ann Arbor.

In 1984, married to a dentist and a mother to five children, Doyle came across an article in former AARP publication Modern Maturity magazine that connected her photo with the wartime poster, which she hadn’t seen before.

“The arched eyebrows, the beautiful lips, the shape of the face – that’s her,” daughter Gregg told the Times. But, she said, “she didn’t have those big muscles. She was busy playing cello.”

Nonetheless, when she saw it, she said, “This is me!” Gregg told the Lansing State Journal.

Rosie the Riveter became a lasting emblem. In the early 1940s, Red Evans and John Jacob Loeb wrote a song named after her. In 1943, the Saturday Evening Post put a Norman Rockwell illustration of another female worker with the name “Rosie” painted on her lunch pail. n 1999, the U.S. Postal Service created a “We Can Do It!” stamp.

For years, Doyle signed Rosie the Riveter t-shirts, posters, and more. While many profited from her image, she never charged a penny to fans, her daughter said.

“She would say that she was the ‘We Can Do It!’ girl,” Gregg told the Lansing State Journal. “She never wanted to take anything away from the other Rosies.”

The brainchild of Henry Ford’s only child Edsel Ford, Mercury was introduced as a much needed mid-priced line to fill the gap between price-leader Ford and luxury class Lincoln. 

Unlike many car makes which began as an independent and later was purchased by a parent company such as GM, Ford or Chrysler, Mercury was a brand new car line, a product of Ford Motor Company from the git-go. 

Tagged just a skoche above Pontiac and a smidgen below Oldsmobile, Mercury was just what FoMoCo needed to compete with the other two players in ‘the big three’.

Mercury began life with a modified version of Ford’s legendary flat-head (and later L-head) V-8.  Slightly over bored compared to its sister line, the Mercury version produced 95 horsepower through 1941 and in subsequent years began an uphill power campaign which started at 100 and crept up to 110 the 112 and eventually 125 by model year 1952.  A well-tuned Merc nearly always beat out a V-8 Ford and the brand soon earned a reputation for speed, consistently achieving a top end speed of 100 MPH.  I’m guessin’ Edsel had that in mind when he named the new car after the winged messenger god of Greek mythology.  The all-new, overhead valve V-8 introduced in 1954, took a giant leap in power, producing 161 BHP… a thirty percent increase over the 1953 model.

 The bright red hue, shown on our feature car, did not appear on the color chip chart for Mercury in 1954, but was a color borrowed from the Lincoln palette.   Lincoln and Mercury had a habit of crossing the line on colors during ‘the day’, regularly borrowing hues from one another.  Royal Red may have been borrowed from Lincoln, but it sure looked good on the Monterey ‘hardtop coupe’.  

Other 1954 Merc colors (besides Royal Red and Arctic White) were:

  • Atlantic Blue (a deep blue metallic);
  • Granby Gray (slate gray with a trace of blue);
  • Bloomfield Green (deep forest metallic);
  • Lakeland Blue (bright sky blue);
  • Columbia Blue (a lighter shade of Lakeland Blue);
  • Cadet Gray (charcoal gray metallic with a bluish tinge);
  • Glenoaks Green (metallic, medium green with definite blue cast);
  • Parklane Green (a sea foam green);
  • Country Club Tan (more of a gray-tan hue);
  • India Black (well, what can I say?  It was ‘black’.)

Mercury stylists took a sabbatical for the year, as the ‘54s were basically a face lift from the ‘53 model year. 

One noticeable improvement were the totally restyled, wrap-around taillights… a safety feature which is common (and taken for granted) on today’s automobiles.  The large lenses, trimmed out with a stack of extruded horizontal chevrons, fit in very nicely with the cascading shape of the trailing fender edges.  

Up front, this would be the third and final year for the broad, chrome-capped fake hood scoop introduced on the 1952 models… and last but not least, the previous year’s ‘dagmars’ would grow in size, becoming more prominent. 

Don’t know what the term ‘dagmar’ means?  Well, Wikipedia describes the term as, “slang for the artillery shell shaped styling elements found on the front bumper/grille assemblies on several makes of cars produced in the 1950s”.  Back when my friends and I were in our teens, we saw something else in those large, pointed, chrome ornaments, and it wasn’t artillery shells!

Only two Mercury series were offered for 1954.  The entry level ‘Custom’ series started at just $2,194.00 for a standard 2-door sedan.  Customs were available in just three body styles– 2 and 4-door sedans and a 2-door (pillarless) hardtop coupe.  

Far and away the more popular of the two ‘hardtop coupes’, the upscale Monterey handily outsold the Custom ‘Sport’ hardtop coupe by a four-to-one margin, despite being priced $258.00 higher.  That may not sound like much, but that number equals $2,084.00 in ‘2010 bucks. 

A unique Monterey coupe was also offered in 1954.  Called the ‘Sun Valley’, it had a front roof panel made of green tinted plexiglass and was, amazingly, priced at only $90.00 over the standard Monterey coupe.  Much larger than today’s familiar ‘sun roofs’, Sun Valley’s skylight went from the windshield header in the front, to just behind the front seat… and full width from side to side, offering a spectacular view of the sky above. 

The same roof treatment was available to Ford buyers in the form of the ‘Fairlane Victoria Skyliner’ (later Crown Victoria Skyliner). 

Interior temps were a definite ‘issue’, making for some very hot August afternoon commutes… and air-conditioning was not yet on the options list for Ford or Mercury automobiles.  A snap-on vinyl liner was made available, but offered little help in keeping interior temperatures in the comfort range.  

Not surprisingly, consumers were wary of the ‘hothouse’ effect and only 9,761 Sun Valley coupes found buyers, compared to 79,553 Monterey coupes.  That number puts our featured car of the week in the number one spot in terms of overall models, even outselling the generally first place four door sedan by nearly 15,00 units.

Seven thousand, two hundred and ninety-three 1954 Mercury buyers who wanted to cruise in top down fashion, chose the Monterey convertible with a base price of $2,610.00. 

The priciest of all body styles, however, was the 4-door, 6-passenger Monterey station wagon which started at $2,776.00 before options, shipping and dealer add-ons.

And, speaking of ‘add-ons’, factory options were few in 1954, limited basically to:

  • power steering;
  • power brakes;
  • four-way power seat;
  • radio;
  • heater;
  • whitewall tires
  • Solex (tinted) glass.

Fender skirts and chrome rocker panel trim was standard on Monterey, optional on Custom.  Dealer add-ons were beginning to grow as agency owners realized the profit potential of the aftermarket.  Until then, large aftermarket catalog companies like Warshawsky and J.C. Whitney in Chicago had pretty much been answering the call for dress up items as well as replacement parts. 

Remember the clear plastic seat covers your mom and dad (or grandma and grandpa) put on their new car to protect the fabric from wear?  They were sold under the brand name of ‘Fingerhut’.  Early examples were made of a heavy, clear plastic which was quite uncomfortable, particularly in warmer months when you were wearing shorts and tried to scoot in across the seat.  Ouch!  An improved version eventually was intoduced with waffle-like embossing which greatly improved the comfort factor.

To harness the power produced by that all-new, 256 cubic inch V-8, Mercury engineers offered overdrive (for the three-speed manual transmission) and the ‘Merc-O-Matic’… a worry-free automatic shifter which was definitely my aunt Dorothy’s preference.

Custom and Monterey models shared the same chassis, riding a wheelbase of 118 inches and stretching 206.2 inches from front to back.  Narrow tires were still the rule and the Mercury’s for ‘54 rode on 7.1 x 15 donuts, except for wagons and convertibles which were shoed in 7.60 x 15 size.

Despite the all-new V-8, sales took a better than 10% drop for model year 1954.  A happier year was ahead for Mercury, however, as 1955, a generally good year across the board, saw sales tick up by a solid twenty-seven percent.

The coming year would also see a total restyling for Mercury, although the resemblance to 1954 models was unmistakeable.  The primary changes in styling were adaptation of the industry-wide trend to lower, longer and wider bodies, plus introduction of the wrap-around windshield and hooded headlight housings.

MERCURY promotional material,
circa 1954…


Here’s a classy ad from 1954 that makes a simple statement.

Check out this vintage 1954 Mercury ad.

Here’s a sample of the color chart of 1954 Mercury exterior colors.  Note, some of the available colors were found on the color chart for Lincoln.

Johnny Cash Martin Guitar
Johnny Cash struttin’ his stuff, jammin’ on his Martin guitar, CA. 1959.

Now Johnny Cash’s life wasn’t exactly a cakewalk back in the day.  Cash was touring like a banshee —  the marriage was crumbling — they (he and first wife Vivian) had 4 baby girls to take care of — he was partying like a fiend — he and his badass buddies, like Waylon Jennings, were taking every pill there was — he gets busted in El Paso for possession — you get the picture, the guy lived hard.  Yet, looking at these pictures, he looks simply amazing.  Cash’s style during this time, with his tight, slicked back hair and crisp, clean tailoring look unbelievable compared to the 1970s ‘bigger is better’ looks that were to follow. I will say though that once you get to 1965-66 — well, you can see that the effects are definitely starting to show on Johnny’s face.  All in all though, he had an amazing run even with all the crap going on, until it eventually caught up with him — and it always does.  

Johnny Cash Johnny
Cash backstage and his awesome custom Gibson with his name inlayed in the fingerboard.

 Johnny Cash

Johnny cash with his custom “Johnny Cash” Gibson guitar, Memphis, TN, ca. 1960.

johnny cash
Johnny Cash holding a to guitar, sitting with daughters Rosanne, Cathy and Tara in 1960.
Johnny Cash
Country singer Johnny Cash smokes a cigarette in his hotel room in White Plains, New York, ca. 1959

Johnny Cash Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash Johnny
Cash rehearses with his wife Vivian Liberto for his upcoming appearance on the television show


Johnny Cash Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash tunes his guitar backstage in White Plains, New York, ca. 1959.
Johnny Cash tunes his guitar backstage in White Plains, New York, ca. 1959.


Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash Jerry
Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, ca. 1956. The Quartet was really an impromptu jam (and publicity photo op, no doubt) between four famous musicians that was recorded by Sam Phillips at his Sun Studios.


Johnny Cash
The Man in Black — Johnny Cash, taken in Memphis, TN, ca. 1957.

 Johnny Cash

The Man in Black — Johnny Cash, taken in Memphis, TN, ca. 1957.

Johnny Cash and electric guitarist Luther Perkins perform on stage in White Plains, New York. Cash's hair flies up in the air crazily as he jams to the music, ca. 1959.
Johnny Cash and electric guitarist Luther Perkins perform on stage in White Plains, New York. Cash’s hair flies up in the air crazily as he jams to the music, ca. 1959.


Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash in the recording studio looking reflective.


Johnny Cash El Paso 1965 Johnny Cash gets busted in El Paso International Airport for drug possession, 1965.


Johnny Cash busted in El Paso

October 5th, 1965 – JOHNNY CASH MAKES BOND – Country and Western star Johnny Cash, center, is flanked by a bondsman and a U.S. Marshall as he was transferred from El Paso County Jail to the Federal Courthouse Tuesday. Cash was arrested at International Airport Monday and charged with importing and concealing over 1,000 pep pills and tranquilizers. Bond was $1,500.

Johnny Cash and wife Vivian

December 29th, 1965 – JOHNNY CASH PLEADS GUILTY – Country and Western music singer and recording star Johnny Cash entered a plea of guilty before U.S. District Judge D.W. Suttle Tuesday at his arraignment on charges of possessing 668 Dexadrin and 475 Equanil tablets when arrested Oct 4 at El Paso International Airport. Cash, left, leaves the Federal Courthouse with his wife, Vivian, and attorney Woodrow W. Bean after Judge Suttle deferred sentence on the misdemeanor charge that carried a possible penalty up to $1,000 fine and one year in prison.

Johnny Cash El Paso 1966

March 9th, 1966 – SINGER RELAXES – Johnny Cash, right, Country and Western music star talks to friends in a local restaurant after receiving a $1,000 fine and a 30-day suspended sentence Tuesday in U.S. District Court for possession of illegal drugs. With Cash, second from left, are the Rev. Floyd Bressett, minister of the non-denominational Avenue Community Church, of Ventura, Calif.; El Paso attorney Woodrow W. Bean, who Cash said gave him “strength during my ordeal,” and Johnny Thompson, a friend and former radio announcer.

Johnny Cash
Give ’em Hell, Johnny!

White Castle  

Year Opened: 1921  

First Location: Wichita, KS  

Bite of History: The very first White Castle opened its doors on just $700. Founder Billy Ingram sold his slider-style burgers at the bargain price of five cents per patty and, over the years, the chain prided itself on offering affordable food. By 1941, White Castle had sold more than 50 million burgers, and it wasn’t until 1950 that the price made it past the 10-cent mark. In 2011, the famous drive-in known for its five-hole burger — which the company maintains cooks the patties “faster and more evenly” — will celebrate its 90th anniversary.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of White Castle  


Year Opened: 1927  

First Location: Dallas, TX  

Bite of History: Long before we were cooling down with Big Gulps and Slurpees, 7-Eleven, first known as the Southland Ice Company, was an outpost for Dallas folks to stock up on solid ice. In May of 1927, Jefferson “Uncle Johnny” Green expanded his shop to offer not only ice but also basic provisions like bread, milk, and eggs. The store, unlike most markets, was open seven days a week, 16 hours a day. The model proved successful, and soon others followed with speedy service and more offerings — all in convenient locations. Today 7-Eleven operates more than 7,100 stores in the U.S. and Canada and over 31,000 affiliated branches from Singapore to Sweden. Oh, thank heaven for 7-Eleven!  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of 7-Eleven  

Kentucky Fried Chicken  

Year Opened: 1930  

First Location: Corbin, KY  

Bite of History: Harland Sanders’s first outpost of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sanders Court and Café, was located in the front room of a local gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. Word spread quickly that Sanders’s special recipe for fried chicken cooked in an iron skillet was finger-lickin’ good. The only issue: The more popular the restaurant, the harder it was to meet the demand. Not wanting to compromise quality, Sanders sought out a way to cut time without sacrificing flavor. After seeing a demo for the latest gadget — the pressure cooker — Sanders tweaked his process, and to this day, KFC’s Original Recipe is always fried under pressure.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of YUM! Brands, Inc.  


Year Opened:1940  

First Location: San Bernardino, CA  

Bite of History: Dick and Mac McDonald started McDonald’s as a very different concept. Instead of hamburgers, the brothers created a drive-in restaurant with a full barbecue menu. Eight years later, they scrapped the BBQ in favor of a slim, nine-item menu: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, soft drinks, milk, coffee, potato chips, pie, French fries, and milkshakes. By 1952, word of their success (and a cover story in Restaurant magazine) traveled as far as Arizona, where the McDonalds licensed Neil Fox to launch a carbon copy of their restaurant, featuring the signature golden arches. Three years later, Ray Kroc, a Multimixer milkshake machine salesman, took the reins as their national franchising agent. On April 15, 1955, the first franchise opened in Des Plaines, IL, selling fries for 10 cents and burgers for 15 cents, which they encouraged customers to “buy by the bag.”  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of McDonald’s Corporation  


Year Opened: 1948  

First Location: Baldwin Park, CA  

Bite of History: In 1948, founders Harry and Esther Snyder set out to change the California burger-stand experience. Before In-N-Out opened, customers were serviced by carhops, with doorside delivery to each car. Harry thought an innovative two-way drive-thru speaker would be a better system. It was thus that the first drive-thru in California was born. Sixty-two years later, the West Coast chain, known for its secret menu items like the “animal style” burger (made with mustard-cooked beef), still maintains its mom-and-pop-shop identity.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of In-N-Out  

Dunkin’ Donuts  

Year Opened: 1950  

First Location: Quincy, MA  

Bite of History: With only an eighth-grade education but a keen business sense, William “Bill” Rosenberg opened his first Dunkin’ Donuts shop. The individual sweet cakes in flavors like maple frosted and apple ‘n spice cost just five cents each, and a cup ‘o joe just a dime. By 1955, Rosenberg had five locations under his belt and soon licensed the brand, launching the Dunkin’ empire we know and love. Sixty years later, the company services over 3 million people per day with more than 8,000 shops in over 30 countries.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts  

SONIC Drive-In  

Year Opened:1953  

First Location: Shawnee, OK  

Bite of History: After a stint as a milkman, Troy Smith opened a small root beer stand named Top Hat Drive-In. The little stand was very profitable, and Smith decided to expand the offerings and install a carhop system, where drivers received individual service without having to leave their car. The concept proved successful and in 1956, Smith partnered with Charles Pappe to open a second location in nearby Woodward. Unfortunately, in 1959 Smith was forced to change the name due to trademark issues. Top Hat was renamed SONIC Drive-In, as its motto was “service at the speed of sound.” Today, the franchise is one of the few drive-ins to offer the carhop system, and some even showcase roller-skating servers!  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of SONIC Drive-In  

Burger King  

Year Opened: 1954 (as Insta-Burger King)  

First Location: Jacksonville, FL  

Bite of History: While the first official location of Burger King is unknown, this location is certainly the birthplace of the famous Whopper. In Miami, FL, on March 4, 1957, founders David Edgerton and James McLamore conceived their perfect burger using their signature preparation: flame-broiled beef. That burger — a quarter-pounder with ripe, juicy tomatoes, crispy lettuce, mayo, ketchup, onions, and briny pickles — appeared on the Burger King menu a week later for a mere 37 cents and forever became a whopping success.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Burger King Corporation  

Pizza Hut  

Year Opened: 1958  

First Location: Wichita, KS  

Bite of History: On May 31, 1958, with just $600, Frank and Dan Carney opened the doors of their first pizzeria on a busy corner in Wichita, Kansas. Because of the small structure, their sign could only accommodate a name nine letters long. The brothers wanted to use “pizza,” but a family member pointed out that the building looked much like a hut — and the first Pizza Hut was born. The menu consisted of only 10-inch and 13-inch thin-crust pies plus the usual toppings. It wasn’t until 1980 that the thicker-crust “pan pizza” was introduced. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, Pizza Hut has expanded its menu over the years to include buffalo wings, cheesy bites, and the latest: pastas.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Yum! Brands  

Taco Bell  

Year Opened: 1961  

First Location: Downey, CA  

Bite of History: In 1954, Taco Bell founder Glen Bell opened Bell’s Drive-In in San Bernardino, California. Seeing the fast-food industry’s growth, Bell expanded to open the first Taco Bell in 1961 at 7126 Firestone Boulevard in Downey, California. It wasn’t long before the restaurant was franchised, and in 1978, PepsiCo, Inc., purchased the chain through an exchange of stock. Taco Bell thrived under PepsiCo, creating such memorable ad campaigns as “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” Today, over 2 billion tacos and 1 billion burritos are served in Taco Bell each year, but you won’t find them at Bell’s first location. Though no longer a Taco Bell, the original building still stands today.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Taco Bell Corp.  


Year Opened: 1965  

First Location: Bridgeport, CT  

Bite of History: The first Subway opened as Pete’s Super Submarines on September 28, 1965, named after co-founder, physicist, and family friend Dr. Peter Buck, who lent 17-year-old Fred DeLuca $1,000 to start the sandwich business. The hope was that the shop would finance DeLuca’s college education. The original menu consisted of seven cold sandwiches with 11 ingredients: meat, bread, onions, tomatoes, green pepper, olives, oil, and seasonings, plus cheese. The concept became a wild success, and one year later the two partnered on a second location. The only issue: The name Pete’s Submarines sounded like “pizza marines,” which prompted several customers to order pizza. The founders decided to drop the “Pete’s” and soon settled on Subway to convey the sandwich that made them popular.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Subway  


Year Opened: 1969  

First Location: Columbus, OH  

Bite of History: In the late 1950s, Dave Thomas and business partner Phil Clauss had the good fortune of working with the legendary founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colonel Harland Sanders. In 1962, Thomas was charged with turning around four underperforming KFC restaurants. If he succeeded, the high school dropout would become a millionaire. Six years later, he fulfilled his obligation and was hired as a regional director. A year later, Thomas left KFC to pursue his own restaurant concept. On November 15, 1969, inside an old car dealership, Thomas opened Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers (named after his 8-year-old daughter, Melinda Lou, nicknamed “Wendy” by her siblings), selling made-to-order burgers for just 55 cents. Today, there are more than 6,000 Wendy’s worldwide.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Wendy’s International  


By Bruce Lewis
Bondage queen. Sex goddess. Pin-up icon. All of these words could be used to describe Bettie Page, and all would be good choices, for she was all of those things. But she was much more, besides: a scholar, a Christian missionary, and the inspiration for a character in Star Wars. She was smart. She was notorious. She was scorching hot.

And she was 85 years of age when she slipped from this world on December 11, 2008, at Los Angeles’ Kindred Hospital.

Bettie Page was without doubt the face of American beauty during the second half of the 20th Century. Yes, there were others — Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn — but these were mostly movie stars, known worldwide from the films in which they appeared. Bettie Page didn’t need Hollywood to make her a goddess. All she needed were some black-and-white still photographs — more than 20,000 individual images, by some accounts — and a few crude film loops to make her a star. And while the Silver Screen starlets’ fame was pure product, cranked out in job lots by the global Hollywood hype machine, Bettie Page became famous with nothing but her charm, her will, and a few tiny advertisements in the back pages of a cheap magazine.

“We were lucky to get an orange in our Christmas stocking.”

It is 1933, and Bettie Page is walking barefoot to school. She is walking barefoot because her father has run away again — this time for good — leaving her mother to feed, clothe, and care for her and her five brothers and sisters. Bettie and one sister live in an orphanage now, but despite the cold and the lack of shoes and the bright pain of abandonment she feels every night, Bettie keeps walking, keeps putting one bare foot in front of the other, because she has made up her mind to graduate at the top of her class and go on to Vanderbilt. I’m not going to be barefoot forever, she says to herself. I’m going to college, and I’m going to get a job, and I’m going to be somebody.

Betty Mae Page was born into a family of eight in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 22, 1923. Her parents, Walter Roy Page and Edna Mae Pirtle, never could get it together. Walter Roy Page molested her when she was 13; after he went to jail for stealing a car, Edna Mae Page took two jobs and sent Betty and two sisters to an orphanage. There, the young Betty Page taught herself to sew and do makeup. Her natural intelligence began to emerge during her years at Hume-Fogg High School in Nashville, where she was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by her classmates and graduated salutatorian of her class in June 1940, earning a scholarship to George Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University). She gradated from Peabody four years later.

That’s right — Bettie Page had a degree: Bachelor of Arts, 1944. She also had a husband when she graduated, an old school flame named Billy Neal. But there was a war on, and Billy Neal found himself drafted into the Navy, so Betty Mae ended up following him around for a while, eventually landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which at the time was still a more-or-less civilized country. She loved the island, but couldn’t stay. Nor could she stay married to Billy Neal. They divorced in November 1947.

“From the first time I posed nude, I wasn’t embarrassed.”

It’s 1950, and Betty Mae Page is walking along the strand at Coney Island. She’s been all over and done a lot since her divorce: a little modeling of furs here, a little secretarial work in San Francisco there, even a screen test at Fox (which went nowhere due to her refusal to spend casting couch time with an older executive).

Bill Neal had come home, and they’d tried to make it work, but after the miscarriage they had parted for good. Betty is working as a secretary now, typing all day in an office, spending her free time walking on the beach. Jerry Tibbs, a police officer and amateur photographer, is there, too. He raises his camera to capture the winsome 27-year-old’s image, and with a click of a shutter, the career of Betty Page ends, and the legendary Bettie Page is born.

“You ought to be a model”, he says, handing her his card. “I could make a portfolio for you.”

Bettie Page began her career as a glamour photography model, posing in lingerie for the various “camera clubs” that thrived in New York at the time. These clubs were less about f-stops and exposure timing and more about generating “pin-ups” — erotic but non-pornographic images of pretty girls in titillating garments and poses that were de rigueur among young, healthy male Americans in those pre-Playboy days. Bettie (as she was now known) was a pin-up natural, her combination of girl-next-door approachability and curvaceous sensuality tailor-made for the eyes of a worldly-wise but still essentially small-town male America.

By 1951, Bettie’s image graced the pages of men’s magazines everywhere; by 1952 she was the best-known pin-up in the world, thanks in large part to her partnership with bookstore owner and pin-up photographer Irving Klaw. Klaw specialized in cheesecake — saucy but essentially harmless turn-on photography featuring smiling cutie-pies in skimpy outfits, images of a type common in men’s magazines (and even in some mainstream press) of the day. Klaw’s photos and “specialty” films often showed Bettie and other women clad in kinky outfits, pretending to participate in bondage, spanking, and other acts of outlaw sexuality — yet, all were curiously chaste by modern standards. Irving Klaw catered to his clients’ tastes, but he was not a pornographer; his all-female films and stills might have been designed to thrill, but they never depicted nudity or contained explicit sexual content. Bettie would not have consented to appear nude or engaging in sexual activity in any case; beneath the curves and the silk dominatrix gear she remained the same small-town Tennessee girl she’d always been.

But she was becoming so much more. In 1953, Page resumed her dream of becoming an actress, taking classes at the renowned Herbert Berghoff Studios and making her first stage and television appearances, including some off-Broadway work and a memorable one-shot on the top-rated Jackie Gleason Show. Her first speaking part in a feature-length film came in the burlesque Striporama (the only time Page is known to have spoken on camera); two burlesque films by Irving Klaw (Teaserama and Varietease, followed. It is from these latter two films that Page is best known by her later generations of fans.

In 1954 Page met photographer and former fashion model Bunny Yeager.  Yeager’s subsequent photographs of Bettie in a home-made jungle girl getup — the now-famous “Jungle Bettie” set — catapulted Page to the big leagues. Based on these images, Hugh Hefner himself picked Page to be Playmate of the Month for January 1955. The photo shows a beautiful and buxom Bettie Page, kneeling topless in front of a small Christmas tree, a wink beneath her bangs and Santa hat. She was 31 years old, and at the pinnacle of her career.

“All of a sudden I felt a hand in mine, leading me across the street to a small church…”

It is Christmas 1957, and Bettie Page is sitting in a southbound train car, headed for Florida. Her career as a pin-up model is over. Irving Klaw has been destroyed, dragged before the Congressional obscenity hearings convened by crusading Senator Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.) in the Senator’s crusade to smash the pin-up business as he had the comic book industry several years before. Klaw is still around, of course (he won’t die for another ten years yet), but the business he created has been reduced to a mere shadow of its former glory, and Klaw has fed the negatives of Bettie’s catalog of images into the fire.

And Bettie has gotten the message as well. The FBI boys were never rude or threatening, of course — Mr. Hoover would never have permitted such unprofessional behavior from his men — but the subpoena with her name on it, and the 16 hours she’d spent in claustrophobic room in the Capitol of the United States waiting to testify, were clear enough. She’d never been called before the committee, as it turned out, but Bettie Page was no fool. She got out. Her career as a pin-up idol is over.

Two years pass, and Bettie walks into a small church in Key West. Soon after, she severs all contact with her prior life, and disappears.

“I wish I could erase the years from 1979 to 1992…”

It is June, 1982, and Bettie Page is sitting in a California courtroom. She has 22 years, three marriages, and one trial for assault with a deadly weapon (1980, not guilty by reason of acute schizophrenia) behind her. Now, Bettie is on trial once again, this time for attempted murder. The victim, Leonie Haddad, is an elderly woman. Bettie had been her tenant when, for no reason anyone could see, Bettie had attacked her with a knife, severing Haddad’s finger. The judge is speaking now: “This court finds the defendant to be not guilty by reason of insanity. Due to the danger she poses to others, she is hereby sentenced to ten years at Patton State Hospital, sentence to begin forthwith.”

The gavel bangs. Chairs honk against the waxed floor as the Court stands adjourned. Bettie Page is carried away kicking and screaming to her second stint in the nuthouse.

But this is not the end of the Bettie Page story, because time, therapy, and a very good God smiled on her. Ten years later, Bettie emerged from Patton State well and healthy, her insanity in remission thanks to conscientious care, her own iron will, and many hours of prayer. At 70, she moved into a Los Angeles group home to live out her remaining years in obscurity — “penniless and infamous,” as she put it.

Penniless she was — although not for much longer; infamous she most definitely was not. For during her 30 years of divorce and despair, madness and mystery, Bettie Page’s images — the very images that had made her a pariah so long before — had transformed her into a superstar. And she had no idea.

When TV host Robin Leach came calling in 1993 to interview her for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Page was utterly unaware of the resurgence of her popularity. Entertainment Tonight arrived next to shoot a segment. When it aired, Page watched dumbfounded from her chair at the group home. It was only then that Page superfan Greg Theakston, whose fanzine The Betty Pages had kickstarted the Bettie craze of the 1980s, became aware that his longtime idol was yet alive. With glee, Theakston introduced a stunned Bettie Page to the universe of comic books, illustration portfolios, fine art prints, and film characters based upon her image.

And happy days were here again for Bettie Page. Newfound fame, fortune and fans followed as Bettie emerged from three decades of obscurity. The money began to flow to Bettie again, courtesy of a professional public relations firm whose owner was a longtime Bettie fan with a genuine concern for her welfare. An authorized biography was published in the late 1990s; two films about her life came next. Even the Klaw family and Bunny Yeager came to benefit from Bettiemania.

And she is not ashamed. “I never thought it was shameful,” she told “The Playboy Interview” in 1998.  I felt normal. It’s just that it [modeling] was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous.”

At last, Bettie Page’s childhood dream had come true. The barefoot Tennessee schoolgirl had come a long way, but she’d made it. At last, Betty Mae Page was the one, the only, Bettie Page: Queen of the Pin-ups, icon, goddess. She was, as she had promised herself so long ago, somebody.


It is 2003. Bettie Page is 80 years old — and here she is again, posing for the August 2003 edition of Playboy. This time, however, there are no whips, no gags, no silky lingerie. Bettie will no more stand for such things now than she would have stood for full nudity in 1953.

Today, she wears a simple plaid shirt and ordinary street dress. She is, in many ways, a very ordinary elderly woman. Yet make no mistake: Bettie Page is far from ordinary, even in her golden years. She remains eminently photographable. The beauty is still there — the same bangs, the same pageboy (now silver gray), the same naughty eyes, and the same heart-melting smile. Hef does not make mistakes in this area; his onetime Playmate of the Month is still very much a scorching hot babe — the kind of older woman that earns sheepish second glances from the teenage boys at the mall. Yes, she’s put on some weight. Yes, it’s hard for her to get up and down these days. But, Bettie Page is still the Queen of the Pin-Ups.

And it is the Queen of the Pin-Ups that the world mourns today, 85 years and eight months after Betty Mae Page came into this world. She leaves us as she came to us: forever smart, forever notorious, forever scorching hot — forever the incomparable, unforgettable Bettie Page.

Bruce Lewis is an American voice actor, writer, artist, and author. He has worked in the U.S. manga and anime industry since 1993, and his book Draw Manga: How To Draw Manga In Your Own Unique Style, is an Bestseller.

Pabst Blue Ribbon, also known as PBR, is the most famous product of the Pabst Brewing Company, and incidentally, my favorite beer. Known by a few different names (Pabst Best Select and Pabst Select), before its current PBR moniker, PBR has been around since 1882. A while back I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever seen, watched, or heard a PBR advertisement though. I know the brand had experienced a cult renaissance during the last decade or so, and that my grandfather used to drink it when he was my age, but that was about it. A friend of mine showed me a vintage Pabst ad from the forties and, because it was so seemingly ridiculous, it made me wonder how these advertisements (and alcohol marketing as a whole) had evolved over the years. I’ve included some advertisements from the last century, as well as my commentary on what I believe the marketing approach was at that time so that we all can enjoy the evolution of this beloved brand.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1900

Pabst 1900

Taken from the era when ‘drugs and alcohol’ were marketed as elixirs, extracts and tonics. This advert purports the idea that Pabst is perfect for someone who struggles with anxiety, or indigestion — beer was a cure-all remedy really. Perhaps this marketing approach was a reflection of the sentiment of the times, as America was on its way to the unsucccessful Prohibition era. I assume that having a bunch of rip-roaring, fun-loving drunk guys and/or attractive women in bathing suits as part of the advertisements would probably have not worked at this time.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1913

This advert shows that the company had then moved away from their original marketing approach and were now focusing on their beer for its intrinsic quality. The fact that these men are wearing suits suggest that the beer is a luxury product. Note the half-pint sized glassses, which suggests that this high quality beer ought be sipped, and enjoyed like a fine wine. Pabst aimed to get the messagee across that Pabst Blue Ribbon was the choice of Gentlemen.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1936

The portability of the non-refillable can! At the time, these Keglined TapaCans were quite the innovation, and Pabst wasn’t afraid to admit it. This ad definitely plays on the past angle of Pabst being a high quality beer, but now it comes – “hermetically sealed” – in a portable can, that is stackable. It’s safe to say that this ad is tailored to the effect that, “you’d be stupid not to drink Pabst.” Always a good angle, because you feel good about yourself after having bought the advertised product!

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1938

The obvious elephant in the room is that this advert is culturally insensitive. At the time, this depiction of African-American stereotypes was quite commonplace. Racially-affected vernacular aside, Pabst was attempting to convey the message that Pabst was the brand of beer that people on the up-and-up would order. Not only would ordering this beer put you in favor of the bartender, but it would also impress the people who served you your delicious beverage. The aim would be to make them think, “Hey this guy drinks Pabst, so he must have some class!” It was sort of like ordering bottle service at a club these days, just because.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1940

This is about the time that color began to be used in print adverts. Similar to the previous two marketing angles, this advert is angled at proving that Pabst is a quality product. This one takes it a bit further by saying that this beer is distinct and its qualities are unique. So much so that, while drinking Pabst blindfolded you could make the distinction between PBR and its competitors.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1942

This is the beginning of Pabst’s campaigning on the fact that its beer is a blend of 33 different brews that are aggregated into one ultra brew. It is also a marked change in advertisements, going from marketing PBR as a luxury or high-end product to one that is now inclusive of the everyman. Rather than saying, “drink our beer and be classy’, they were saying, “this beer is good for you just how you are.” Or rather than this beer being advertised as a class symbol, it is now a sign of light-hearted fun and amusement.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1943

Again Pabst has taken the angle that its beer should be the drink of choice for everyone in the community. This ad, taken from a larger consistent campaign, ran for several years and was set in a fictional ‘Ribbon-ville’, wherein all the residents were ribbon-human hybrids. Each ad focused on a different member of the community to show that, no matter who you are or what you do, Pabst is the beer that is just for you!

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1945

By 1945, Pabst was now striving to promote the fact that PBR is made as a blend of 33 brews. This became the theme of the 1945 ad campaign, and I think it is very interesting to be on the offensive with the fact that the beer is an amalgamation of a bunch of beers. Because, with Scotch Whiskey, distilleries are always very sly about mentioning that their product is a blend. Very interesting approach, and the pictures are pretty amusing. Perhaps also it was the begining of clever beer advertising?

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1948

This is the earliest example I could find of a PBR celebrity endorsement, and frankly I’m quite impressed. It is a departure from the quirkiness of the ads which immediately preceeded it. Basically this ad is saying, “Bob Hope drinks Pabst, so should you”. Instant credibility, elite product status – an advertising home run. A bit of a revisit to advertising PBR as a status symbol, but now with a face that America recognized. You don’t see ads like this very often anymore, especially for beer.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1950

And next we have the pro athlete endorsement. Tommy “Old Reliable” Henrich (5x AllStar, 4x World Champion) became the face of Pabst for a brief stint. The not-so-subliminal message here is that Pabst is the beer for champions, or if you drink Pabst you’ll be a little bit like this world class athlete. Recently there has been a lot of backlash by advocacy groups about why athletes should not endorse alcohol related products because kids are known to emulate their idols, which in many cases are pro athletes. I think this ad is classily done, in that Henrich is picture at home, relaxing with a friend and not on the field with a bottle in his back glove pocket. I mean, shouldn’t a guy be able to enjoy a beer or two at home? Interesting side note: Henrich is the last surviving member of the 1938 World Champion New York Yankees – maybe Pabst does have some nutritional qualities? (see the 1900 advert above)

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1954

By 1954, the post-war, happy homemaker era had arrived. Wives were having kids, planning dinner parties and preparing meals. But most of all, women were doing the shopping. So, what better way to sell more beer than to appeal to the person who bought beer for the family? This ad is great because it aims to show that Pabst is not only a beer to be enjoyed for its taste and relaxing effects, but that it is a great compliment to a dinner party. It is interesting that, at the end of the ad, it is suggested that Pabst is perfect as a thirst- quencher at bedtime. I guess to each his own.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1958

Following the trend of the 1958 advertisement, this ad included both a male and a female. America was changing, feminism was now gaining momentum. So, while previously it was advertised that men should drink this beer after a hard day’s work or during a fishing trip with the boys, or couples during a dinner party – now Pabst was saying that any person of any gender can enjoy the drink just because.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Ad – 1963

The abolition of segregation in America was just enforced, The Civil Rights Act was just around the corner and the political and civil tides in the US were changing dramatically. Pabst was seemingly quick to understand this and published what I believe is one of the first interracial beer advertisements. It is interesting to see the angle that is taken on this ad, especially when compared to that of 1938. This is effective advertising, in that the company for the first time was appealing to a much larger demogrphic – the entire country, as opposed to just the white population.

The brand went was basically underground during the 80’s and 90’s, as the business struggled in competition with major breweries like Miller and Coors, and somehow, they re-emerged through no effort of their own, around 2002. An unlikely demographic, urban hipsters had latched on to the iconic old style cans and the low price. Beginning in Portland, OR, “PBR” became a regular fixture on tap at bars for $2 per pint. This resurgence has continued, and Pabst is enjoying some of the greatest popularity of its rich company history. Interestingly, Pabst has rejected an ad campaign pandering to this new market, as they believe that embracing this tongue-in-cheek popularity will illegitimize the old school authenticity that brought it on. Hopefully this decision to stay true to its origins will ensure that Pabst remains a classic beer that can be enjoyed by fishermen and scenesters alike for years to come.

Now enjoy a beautifully relevant scene from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet that has played no small part in the cult following that the beer now enjoys:

Linda Vaughn, the lovely, leggy, legend of the auto racing scene from the 60′s through the early 80′s was better known as– Miss Hurst Golden Shifter. She was a trophy queen whose voluptuous looks and charm often stole the show at auto racing events she attended– SCCA, NASCAR, Indy & Formula One, among others. Linda has been knocked by many for setting Women’s Lib back with her busty displays, but her passion for the sport ran deep and she had a major impact– not just in promoting the sponsors, but also in advancing women’s racing. Vaughn earned her SCCA competition license at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving and then got behind the wheel and raced.