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Gleaming, bouncing bombas to San Jose Fairgrounds

    Matt O’Brien

    SAN JOSE — There were elegant 1930s-style bombas with candy-colored paint, menacing rat rods, classic 1962 Chevy Impala convertibles of the lowriding golden age, and a car-hopping contest won by a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutless that pumped itself nearly 5 feet above the asphalt.

    Decades before Silicon Valley tech companies began developing self-driving cars, this was the region’s most enduring automotive innovation — stylish lowriders that bounced up and down as they cruised along Story and King roads in East San Jose on weekend nights.

    “Before the Internet, cruising was the thing to do, whether you had a lowrider or not,” said Jose Valle, 32, who calls himself “The Homeboy Mad.” “It’s bigger than San Jose history, bigger than Chicano history. It’s American history. It created an explosion of entrepreneurship.”

    An annual car show at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on Sunday was a tribute to one of those entrepreneurs: Sonny Madrid, the founder of Lowrider Magazine who died in June after a two-year battle with cancer.

    While most scholars have traced the roots of Mexican-American custom car culture to East Los Angeles in the mid-20th century, Madrid and his South Bay friends helped spark the global spread and commercialization of the scene while also connecting it with the political activism of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement when they published their first edition in 1977. Body shops devoted to the slow-and-low driving trend opened up across the South Bay, as did businesses that sold hydraulic kits worldwide.



    “Sonny was our Yoda, our Obi Wan Kenobi of lowriding,” said Isaac Ramirez of San Jose-based StreetLow Magazine, which hosted Sunday’s event.

    Early editions of Lowrider had stories about police discrimination, social justice and indigenous culture, but the magazine grew more popular — and controversial — when it began draping its cars with bikini-clad women in 1979, a tradition that continues to this day — though not at Sunday’s event.

    Hundreds of souped-up vintage cars — some sizzling in the hot Labor Day weekend sun, others in warehouse showrooms — were on display at the family-oriented festival.

    Crowds gathered around a gated pen to watch two hydraulically powered cars battle against each other in a hopping contest. When he was a kid, 53-year-old Pauly Cardenas remembers using yardsticks or beer bottles to measure how high a car could jump. On Sunday, he was an official judge with a special custom-made “hopstick” to decide the winner.

    Some car owners prize their vehicles too much to let them bounce around. Mike Solorzano, 53, brought his glittery golden 1939 Oldsmobile on a trailer. Worth about $70,000, the car — known as a bomba, or bomb, for its rounded shape — usually stays in his Oakley garage.

    “It’s all about the work, and showing it,” he said.

    The music was eclectic, but loud — an elder DJ from the Impalas Club of Salinas Valley playing electro-funk on one side of the fairgrounds, as a younger DJ spun rap on the other. Families and car clubbers huddled under tents near their vehicles, eating street tacos or barbecue food. A handful dressed in the pressed-and-polished formal style of an earlier Latino era, with vests or pompadours. Most, however, wore T-shirts and shorts to beat the heat.

    Longtime enthusiasts who have been lowriding since their teenage years brought grandkids to the show.

    “It’s about family, kickin’ back,” said Rambo Soto, 51, of Salinas, who was setting up a picnic as he showed off a ’64 Impala with hydraulic lifts — one of several in his collection.

    Margarita Mejia, 31, of Fremont dressed in a retro “chola style” for the occasion, wearing creased-up Levi’s with baby cuffs, heavy eyeliner, wristbands that resemble a spider’s web, and a coiffed or “feathered” hairstyle.

    A collector of soul and funk music, she said the event was as much about carrying on a social and artistic tradition as it was about hydraulics and chrome undercarriages. She and Valle help run the 5-year-old Soulero’s Ball Revue, hosting social events that celebrate lowrider culture and art.

    “We call it carnalismo, which is brotherhood,” she said. “This is the cruising capital of the world, Story and King.”

    Police over the years have suppressed the cruising tradition using a 1950s-era California law that bans low-hanging cars, relegating hobbyists to their garages, body shops and fairgrounds. But judging by all the kids and baby strollers at Sunday’s event, lowriding is not going away.

    “I think they’ll carry it on,” said Sylvia Bonilla, 53, who began cruising in lowriders when she was a teenager in San Jose. “My grandkids, my nieces and nephews, they all really like it.”

    Contact Matt O’Brien at 408-920-5011. Follow him at

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    Posted by on February 19, 2018 in nostalgic







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    America and Ballpark Food

    America and Ballpark Food

    The History of Ballpark Food

    These days, it’s hardly surprising to find upscale fare such as sushi and lobst\ner rolls at ballparks across the United States. But that doesn’t mean traditional snacks have lost their appeal. When they’re rooting for the home team, baseball fans still like their peanuts and Cracker Jack. In ballparks and beyond, Americans consume more than 20 billion hot dogs and 600 million pounds of peanuts a year. And Cracker Jack—now sold in bags instead of boxes—is still available at all 30 Major League parks

    Hot Dogs
    The world’s first sausage may have been made as far back as 64 A.D., when Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar’s cook, Gaius, stuffed pig intestines with ground meat in a flash of culinary inspiration. After eating the sausage, the emperor is said to have declared, “I have discovered something of great importance.” If your favorite ballpark treat is a fresh hot dog overflowing with ketchup, mustard and sauerkraut, you just might concur.

    In the 15th century, the city of Frankfurt spawned the “frankfurter,” a spiced and smoked sausage with a slightly curved shape. The “wiener,” a sausage made of pork and beef, originated in Vienna, known in German as Wien, in 1805. Throughout the 19th century, the snack that would soon become the hot dog gained a following America, thanks to immigrants from Europe.

    So what distinguishes a hot dog from a frankfurter or wiener? That’s where the bun comes in—and its exact origins are up for debate. Many hot dog historians credit Antonoine Feuchtwanger, a St. Louis peddler who offered his customers white gloves along with their piping hot sausages to keep them from burning their hands. The problem was that many people walked off with the gloves rather than returning them, and Feuchtwanger’s profits suffered. Around 1883, the cash-strapped concessionaire’s wife came up with an ingenious solution: long, soft rolls that perfectly fit the sausages. Feuchtwanger dubbed the meat-bread combo “red hots.”

    Others point to Charles Feltman, a German butcher who in 1867 began selling hot sausages on rolls out of the pie wagon he hauled up and down the sand dunes of Brooklyn’s Coney Island. Within a few years, he expanded his business from one lowly pushcart into a hot dog empire with an immense restaurant, a beer garden and multiple stands. Business was booming until Nathan Handwerker, a bread slicer at Feltman’s, broke away to open his own stand in 1916. He undercut his former boss, charging half the price per dog: five cents instead of 10. Today, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs are sold in more than 20,000 food service and retail outlets across the United States. Since 1916, the original Coney Island location has held an annual hot dog eating contest on July 4; the current record stands at 68 dogs in 10 minutes.

    Did You Know?

    • Babe Ruth once devoured a dozen hot dogs and eight bottles of soda between games of a doubleheader.
    • Americans put away 7 billion hot dogs during peak season (between Memorial Day and Labor Day).
    • 10 percent of annual retail hot dog sales occur during July, also known as National Hot Dog Month.
    • In 2008, Los Angeles and New York spent more on hot dogs than any other cities in the United States ($90,473,016 and $108,250,224, respectively).
    • A regular hot dog has 250 calories, including the bun (but not ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut or any other common toppings).

    Raw or roasted, shelled or unshelled, peanuts have been a classic ballpark snack since the earliest days of baseball, but their history goes back much further. Spanish conquistadors exploring the New World were first introduced to peanuts in South America, most likely in Brazil and Peru. They took the plant back home to Europe, and it quickly spread to Africa and Asia. In the 1700s, slave traders brought the peanut back across the Atlantic, using it as a cheap food source for African captives.

    A handful of commercial farms in the southern United States started growing peanuts in the 1800s, mainly for oil and livestock fodder; as a food, it was regarded as something only poor people ate. That all changed during the Civil War, when soldiers on both sides recognized the peanut’s value as a tasty, convenient and inexpensive snack. After the war, demand increased rapidly as vendors began selling freshly roasted peanuts on street corners, at circuses and, of course, at baseball games.

    In the early 1900s, George Washington Carver, a renowned botanist who was the son of a slave, began researching peanuts, hoping to find an alternative cash crop that could lessen the South’s dependence on cotton. His work led to widespread peanut cultivation across the country, especially in the South, and earned him a reputation as the father of the American peanut industry.

    Did You Know?

    • Peanuts aren’t really nuts at all—they’re actually part of the legume family. That means they’re more closely related to peas and lentils than cashews and pecans.
    • Peanut butter was invented in 1890 by a St. Louis doctor, who prescribed it for patients with digestive problems.
    • Americans eat more than 600 million pounds of peanuts and about 700 million pounds of peanut butter each year, according to the National Peanut Board.
    • Some Major League parks now designate special “peanut-free” games to accommodate fans with severe peanut allergies, who may have reactions to peanut dust in the air.
    • March is National Peanut Month.

    Cracker Jack
    Native Americans first started popping corn thousands of years ago. By 1893, popcorn makers Frederick and Louis Rueckheim were determined to give the puffed kernels a new twist. The two brothers threw molasses and peanuts into the mix, and unveiled the sweet and salty treat at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. A few years later, they developed a special formula to keep the ingredients from sticking together that remains a secret to this day. A satisfied taster pronounced the new and improved snack “crackerjack,” using a slang term of the era that roughly translates to “awesome.” The Rueckheims trademarked the expression, and a decade later Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer immortalized it in the classic song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Amazingly, it would be years before the two songwriters saw an actual game of baseball.

    Did You Know?

    • In 2009, Boston’s Fenway Park sold roughly 1,000 bags of Cracker Jack per game.
    • During World War II, the Cracker Jack company produced thousands of non-perishable, ready-to-eat meals known as K-rations that troops could easily carry and store. High-calorie foods were crammed into wax paper containers about the size of a regular Cracker Jack box.
    • The first Cracker Jack box with a “toy surprise” inside appeared in 1912. Since then, more than 23 billion trinkets, cards and other prizes have been given out.
    • Some vintage Cracker Jack prizes are valued at more than $7,000.
    • July 5 is Cracker Jack day.



    Posted by on February 19, 2018 in culture, nostalgic



    “Vintage 1962 Bosco Chocolate Drink Mix Commercial”

    “Vintage 1962 Bosco Chocolate Drink Mix Commercial”

    Featured image:

    Is Bosco Chocolate Soda a Thing of the Past?


    Robert Sietsema attempts to delve into the history of Bosco Chocolate Syrup and comes up rather empty-handed. Strangely, he ignores the matter of one of life’s long-standing but endangered pleasures, Bosco chocolate soda from the fountain. You can still get the stuff at 2nd Avenue Deli, but now that Gramercy’s Burger Joint has closed, where else can you find it? 67 Burger tells us it stopped serving Bosco a few months ago because it wasn’t popular, which just boggles our mind. Nobody likes a carbonated chocolate beverage? Really? Anyone know a random slice joint or somesuch that’s keeping the flame alive?


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    Posted by on February 19, 2018 in nostalgic





    The History Corner –
    Bare Facts of Streaking

    Originally posted on:

    Streakers on the run! A scene on the Main Mall in the spring of 1974.(The author has censored images to avoid unnecessary controversy.)

    Famed journalist (and UT alumnus) Walter Cronkite labeled it “a grand spring adventure,” while Tonight Show host Johnny Carson declared it offered a whole new meaning to the term “big man on campus.” In the tradition of student shenanigans, it was worthy of its predecessors: night shirt parades, phone booth pile-ups, car-stuffings, and panty raids. For college students in the spring of 1974, the fad of the moment was streaking.

    The University’s first documented “streaker” was seen dashing across the South Mall on the unusually warm afternoon of February of 5th. Wearing nothing more than a grin, a photo of the event was published on the front page of The Daily Texan, which claimed any photographs were “taken by curious onlookers who felt the run might have historical significance.” At a time well before smart phones with cameras were available, just how the bystanders knew to be on the mall at the right time with their cameras loaded and ready remains a mystery. But once begun, the streaking craze quickly became, well, fashionable.

    For the next several months, evening “streak-ins” were a regular feature on the campus, most common on the street between Moore-Hill and Jester Center residence halls, or at the corner of 21st and Speedway Streets, in front of the business school. At times, hundreds of spectators gathered and chanted “Streak! Streak!” as daring exhibitionists obliged. Most streakers appeared in small groups of two or three, though occasionally twenty to fifty at a time were reported. Some rode bicycles – or motorcycles – and a few carried bags of candy to toss to the appreciative crowd.

    Above: Hundreds of spectators gather on Speedway, between the business school and Gregory Gym, to watch an upcoming “streak-in.” Below: Later the same evening, a streaker with cowboy hat and boots. Only in Austin.

    Those more daring streaked in daylight, some from the Main Building, along the West Mall, to Guadalupe Street, but more common was the post-lunch “One O’clock Streak” down the South Mall. Professors who taught in classrooms that faced the mall often had to wait a few minutes before the lecture began, as students were peering out of the windows instead of waiting in their seats.

    One notable incident occurred March 1st, in Dr. Michael Spiegler’s psychology class in the main lecture hall of the Business-Economics Building. (It’s now the Kozmetsky Business Center, though the auditorium disappeared after a 1990 renovation.) A lone streaker entered the classroom, ran across the stage behind Dr. Spiegler, then darted up the center aisle and made his getaway. The streaker wore a white mask and was described only as having blond hair and tan lines.

    As might be expected, the Dean of Students office took a dim view of college scholars traversing the campus in nothing but good intentions. It promptly outlawed the practice and announced that disciplinary action would be levied against any student caught streaking. At first, UT Police officers set out to simply catch, arrest, and fine individuals for public nudity, but streakers weren’t likely to have their University IDs on hand. Besides, students learned to avoid capture by recruiting several fully-clothed friends to run with them as a moving barricade. Wanting to avoid physical force, the police turned to cameras and photographed faces for later identification.

    Fines for streaking were usually $50, but could amount to as much as $200. In response, the Association of Streaking Students – or A.S.S. – was organized and accepted donations to help their fellow streakers financially.

    Stores on the Drag weren’t about to be left out of the hijinks, and soon students were sporting t-shirts which announced themselves as “Streaker Peepers,” or members of the “Longhorn Streaking Team.” Weekend Streaker Sales touted prices reduced to the bare minimum.

    The fad wasn’t just popular in Austin. Other member schools of what was then the Southwest Athletic Conference eagerly participated. Streakers were reported at Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and in the more conservative hallways of Baylor. Streak-ins became such a regular occurrence at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, onlookers brought dates. The SMU Mustang band sometimes serenaded the crowd with music from “The Stripper,” and, of course, campus security always attended.

    By mid-March, streaking had become so common in the United States, the National Safety Council reportedly released a list of safety tips. The council urged everyone to wear sneakers for protection and better traction “for that all important speed.” Wearing reflector tape was also advised for nighttime streaking. Where to place the tape was not specified, though the council’s report mentioned “tail lights.”

    In April, students at Texas Tech goaded their fellow Southwest Conference schools to see which could get a streaker to safely cross their own campus first. This was a daunting task to those in Lubbock, as the Tech grounds were quite expansive. The gauntlet, though, was taken up by those in Austin. Less than a week after the challenge had been issued, an unidentified UT student, clad only in his Longhorn spirit, hopped out of a car parked in front of the Littlefield Fountain at 2 a.m. and quickly made his way north to the Kinsolving Dormitory. Verified by witnesses, students at the University of Texas claimed the first and only Southwest Conference Streaking Title.

    Unfortunately, the University administration opted not to honor the victory with a floodlit orange Tower.

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    Posted by on February 19, 2018 in American Issues, culture, suspense



    “Little Caesar & The Romans – Those Oldies But Goodies”


    Little Caesar & the Romans

    were an American musical group from Los Angeles active briefly in the 1960s.

    The Romans minus Little Caesar began recording in 1959 as The Cubans, but changed their name to The Upfronts after the Bay of Pigs Invasion. They had three hits: the first and biggest was the nostalgic tune “Those Oldies but Goodies (Reminds {sic} Me of You)”, a #9 Pop and #28 R&B hit in 1961.[1] “Those Oldies But Goodies” was written by Paul Politi. Charles Wright, the famous leader of Charles Wright and his Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, at the time was A&R Director for Del-Fi Records. Wright played both piano and bass on the original “Hit” recording of “Those Oldies But Goodies” (Reminds Me of You). The follow-up, “Hully Gully Again”, hit #54,[1] and subsequent release “Memories of those Oldies but Goodies” Bubbled Under at #101.[2] They also released a full-length album on Del-Fi Records.

    David Johnson served a lengthy prison term beginning shortly after Hully Gully Again, and when he was released from prison, he reformed a group using the name Little Caesar and the Romans. They worked briefly in the mid seventies, performing at Art Laboe’s Club on the Sunset Strip. Singer Rickie Lee Jones was a back up singer for that show. ” The group’s live act sometimes included wearing togas on stage and on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” television show. They broke up in 1962, at least partly due to an argument between lead singer Carl (Little Caesar) Burnett and member David Johnson (who performed the spoken-word portion of “Those Oldies but Goodies”) as to which of them should be called Little Caesar.[2] In 1975, Johnson put together a new Little Caesar And The Romans and recorded a single called “Disco Hully Gully”. For a while they toured as Marvin Gaye’s opening act.



    “JOE TURNER Shake, Rattle and Roll 1954” includes BILL HALEY’S AND THE COMETS VERSION

    “JOE TURNER Shake, Rattle and Roll 1954”  includes BILL HALEY’S AND THE COMETS VERSION


    Joseph Vernon “Joe” Turner, Jr. (May 18, 1911 – November 24, 1985),[1] best known as Big Joe Turner, was an American blues shouter from Kansas City, Missouri, United States. According to the songwriter Doc Pomus, “Rock and roll would have never happened without him.”While he had his greatest fame during the 1950s with his rock and roll recordings, particularly “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, Turner’s career as a performer endured from the 1920s into the 1980s.[2] Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, with the Hall lauding him as “the brawny voiced ‘Boss of the Blues'”.


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