Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Thirty-three years ago today I got this clown hand puppet that my grandma made.

She made a handful of the happy puppets to be given out as party favors for my birthday party. Most of my toys I got that day are long gone but this clown has survived.

He continues to make me smile just like he did the first time I saw him.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Here's to you mom on your special day!

Now, don't kill me for posting this classic 1970's photo of us. It's one of my favorite snaps!

There's just not enough words in Webster's to say how amazing our matching patchwork blazers are. It might be the coolest thing that we've ever worn!

You know - I kind of look like a ventriloquist dummy and you're ready to take the act on the road. We should've been on Carson! Hey, did I just call myself a dummy?

I wish I still had my Nerf airplane. Can you believe I stood that still for this photo. I'm sure I was only thinking about going outside to fly the Nerfly skies!

Enjoy your day. You deserve it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Did you know that mermaids once called the Lake of the Ozarks home?

Beginning in 1964, a group of lovely mermaids entertained tourists at the Lake of the Ozarks. No, these mermaids didn’t live in the actual lake and it's a good thing they didn’t or fishermen would have been fainting in their Jon boats.

These “Aquamaids” lived in a place called Aquarama located on Highway 54 in Osage Beach.

Aquarama was the brainchild of Wally and Nola Johl, who were inspired by the most famous of all mermaid shows, Florida’s very own Weeki Wachee. The underwater themed theater was a simple anodized aluminum building that housed an 85,000 gallon pool/tank.

They even brought in a mermaid from Weeki Wachee to perform and help the other Aquamaids learn how to be a proper mermaid. This Weeki mermaid, Barbara Hodgson can be seen in the postcard below.

Aquarama was a must visit when traveling to the Lake of the Ozarks and according to this brochure the show was crazy fun and full of excitement. C’mon, who would not want to see The Beatles perform underwater or hear a siren song from mermaids?

I’m still wondering what kind of monsters the Aqualads had to fight. There was even an underwater bullfight with the cutest lipstick wearing bull in Missouri.

The show lasted through the decade, eventually changing into The Cabaret Aquarama in 1969. This 1970 ad advertised that they served authentic Chinese cuisine, steak, prime rib and lobster. Glad to see that mermaid wasn't on the menu!

Aquarama gave up the ghost in 1973 and was eventually sold in 1976. The building is unrecognizable today, but it still has a fishy theme. It has been home to the Happy Fisherman restaurant for more than 30 years.

The overgrown fish bowl was also sold and left the lake area probably for another tourist destination. (I noticed that Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach has an 85,000 gallon tank. In 2008 Weeki Wachee mermaids made an appearance and swam in this tank. I wonder when they installed their tank and if it might be the Aquarama tank?)

Unfortunately, Aquarama didn’t produce many souvenirs and the postcards and brochure are the only vintage items that I've found. Thanks to the fine folks at Vintage Roadside, Aquarama can be remembered and celebrated in the form of a snazzy T-shirt.

While you’re ordering your Aquarama shirt be sure to check out Vintage Roadside’s history page about Aquarama. Also, on their blog you can read a swell interview with Janie, a real life Aquamaid. Catch Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Also, don’t forget to view their other retro cool line of roadside T-Shirts!

For more information about Aquarama, be sure to order Dwight Weaver’s book History & Geography of Lake of the Ozarks Volume Two. Dwight’s book has three pages devoted to Aquarama. You can visit Dwight's website to see his other Lake history books for sale.

Friday, June 12, 2009


We laughed, we cried and we stared at one another for many hours a day. Now old friend, I must say goodbye and remember the good times we shared.

You shared so many wonderful moments with me. Remember that time when Gilligan was able to pick up radio stations with his teeth and that other time when Fonzie beat the Mallachi Brothers in the Demolition Derby. How many hours of Saturday morning cartoons did we watch? Also, I appreciate all those times that you stayed up with me during countless late night monster movies.

Analog TV, you’ll be missed.

Shortly after midnight I shot this video of the end of Analog TV for the transition to DTV. With little fanfare the TV just goes . . . well, just watch. You might need a tissue afterwards.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


A popular mid-century tourist attraction was the roadside zoo or animal park. The Lake of the Ozarks region in Missouri didn’t escape the “monkey see - monkey do” fad of ma and pa roadside zoos. The Lake area had its share of animal parks and one of the more popular and successful zoos was Max Allen’s Zoological Gardens.

Just a few miles south of Eldon - Max Allen’s Zoological Gardens was a very popular tourist attraction and was usually the first stop for most Highway 54 travelers that were spending their vacation at the Lake of the Ozarks. This herpetologist’s dream spot opened in 1951 as the Ozark Reptile Gardens in a large rock building.

The name would eventually be changed to Max Allen’s Zoological Gardens named after the owner’s son, Max Allen Nickerson. (Max grew up to become an accomplished herpetologist and author.)

The owners were the founders of Nickerson Farms. The popular chain of roadside restaurants with the familiar A-frame red roofed building.

A wide-eyed kid or a squeamish mom could view more than 300 different varieties of snakes and lizards. One of the main attractions was to see the Galapagos Turtles. Children were given the opportunity to ride these giant turtles and the most popular turtle was George. George was kind of the unofficial mascot of the zoo. Besides the reptiles, Max Allens also had seals, exotic birds, and monkeys.

Every month one lucky tourist got to take home the ultimate souvenir in the form of a friendly monkey. That’s right, there was a drawing every month for a monkey and here’s the proof on the back of this postcard.

I haven’t heard if this was a real monkey or if the winner was awarded a little monkey statue. I have a feeling it was a real monkey, since this was during the same time you could order live monkeys out of comic book ads.

Check out this old 1960's amateur film of a family’s trip to the Lake of the Ozarks. The beginning features Max Allens!

I’m not sure when Max Allen’s closed its doors, but I believe it might’ve been in the mid-1970's after they moved to a different location.

The rock building still exists, but nature is reclaiming the property. It looks more like a home for Sleestaks than a once popular roadside attraction. I just snapped these photos last week.

The sign that was originally on the front of the building has been reassembled as a makeshift wall.

At one time this building was full of life from the animal kingdom to the tourist kingdom and now it’s like something from the History Channel’s new TV show Life After People.

If you have any memories of this classic Lake of the Ozarks attraction, be sure to leave a comment.

Friday, June 05, 2009



I just picked up Mr. Sponge the other day. My guess Mr. Sponge is from the late 1950's or early 60's.

He's such a happy sponge!

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Whew, that was a close one, as I see that good old Lee Roy the mailman was very close to uploading his belly button lent collection. Looks like I showed up in the nick of time!

Really, I never left town. A crazy thing - I was working in the Neato Coolville archives where I accidently boxed myself in a corner with storage tubs. I was trapped for the whole month of May in my self-made prison of tubs filled with leftover junk from the 20th century. It was quite harrowing, but I managed to survive by eating stale Cap’n Crunch from 1979 and drinking some 1960's Mountain Dew. (Amazing, it still tickles your innards after all these years!)

Good thing I had my trusty Swiss Army Knife with the built in bottle opener or they might’ve found a cobwebbed skeleton with an unopened bottle clinched in its hand.

Really, I needed the break and I amused myself by reading old TV Guides and Jughead comics until I was rescued by Myrtle Mayfair, Neato Coolville’s very own busy body. Luckily, she wandered in the archives in search of Mr. Mippy, her pet hamster. She didn’t find Mr. Mippy, but she did find me! I think she was disappointed that I wasn’t Mr. Mippy.

Now that I’m back, you’ll be seeing some Neato blog posts starting tomorrow. Not sure if I’ll be doing the daily post grind, but new posts are just around the corner. Oh, if you see Mr. Mippy, tell him to come back home pronto. Myrtle is missing Mr. Mippy something fierce.