Thursday, November 19, 2020

More Stuff From The Box

It's time to delve back into that fabled cigar box full of priceless treasures and rare artifacts (some with magical properties, I hear tell). 

First up is this little badge from the Chicago Fair of 1950. Not a World's Fair... it was "...conceived and planned as an exposition to depict and dramatize achievements of agriculture, commerce, industry and science, which, under out pioneer heritage, promise new, ever higher standards in American living". The twisted building pictured on the badge was known as the "Spiramid". We'll learn more about this forgotten fair in future blog posts.

Next is a Sky King "Spy-Detecto Writer", from 1949. It is a chunky metal thing, aluminum and brass, given out as a premium by Derby Foods Inc. As you can see, the top side of the premium has a decoding wheel, plus a small magnifying glass. The bottom (brass) side has a magnificent bas-relief portrait of Sky King with his initials.

This end has a red wheel with raised letter and numbers, enabling you to write a message in several days rather than several minutes.

One edge shows Sky King's plane, "Flying Arrow", along with his fiery steed, "Yellow Fury". The other side has a handy ruler that might save your life!

This pin was given to me during my all-too-brief time working at the Walt Disney Studios. I just happened to be there during the celebration for Walt's 100th birthday. They set up a miniature train (much like Walt's own Carolwood Pacific RR) that people could ride, gave out wooden train whistles, bowls of chili, various pins, cake, and they had a photo-op with Goofy (if I can ever find that I will share a scan of it here). They also had one of Walt's automobiles on display.

I may have shared a photo of this little enameled charm before, but who remembers? One side is a fairly standard California souvenir, but the other side advertises the old Japanese Village and Deer Park, in Buena Park - not too far from Knott's and Disneyland. I went there a number of times as a child and have fond memories. There aren't a ton of souvenirs from this place.

Next is this nice brass button from one of the many uniforms worn by employees at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair ("A Century of Progress"). They really looked great against a Navy-blue blazer.

I wrestled about whether I should share this badge or not, because of the obvious negative connotations of the name "Sambo's", which used to be a popular chain of restaurants (over 1000 locations). I never want to insult or upset anyone! The name come from the combination of the names of the founders, Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett. There's only one Sambo's restaurant left (in Santa Barbara), but the name is slated to change this year, unsurprisingly. I used to go to one in Encino, California, and remember discovering how much I liked to dip Frech fries into A-1 Steak Sauce.

Back to the 1933 Chicago Fair, we have this small (.75") plastic (possibly Bakelite) pin. I've never seen another one like it.

And finally, here is my great grandfather's employee badge from Stephens-Adamson (his name was David Piersen). Unfortunately I don't have a lot of information about how long he worked at SA, or when he retired. Of course my grandmother would have been the best person to ask about him, but she's been gone for decades too. Still, I'm glad to have this artifact from his career.

Well, that's the last from that cigar box! But don't you worry, I've photographed more stuff from a second cigar box - over 100 items. And when that's done, I have about ten zillion more tchotchkes to photograph and share! I hope you're not busy.


"Lou and Sue" said...

Lots of Chicago/Illinois stuff today! Major, did you steal my cigar box, by chance?? Even Walt was from Chicago.

I can't decide on a favorite,'s either the Spy-Detecto Writer (LOVE your commentary on that, Major) or the "100 years" Walt Disney pin, or your grandfather's pin...I can't decide. Btw, I wonder why your grandfather was #10?

Thanks, Major - fun stuff!

TokyoMagic! said...

Wow! You have a SLEW of items in that cigar box!

I've heard of the "Atomium," "Unisphere," "Perisphere," "Trylon," and "Helicline," but not the "Spriamid." I'm looking forward to learning more about it, in future posts!

I never knew about how Sambo's restaurant got it's name. I remember that we would often go across the street to eat at Sambo's, after spending the day at Knott's Berry Farm. There is a Walgreen's in that spot, today.

I also have fond memories of Japanese Village. I loved those smaller park's, like J.V., almost as much as the bigger parks. I still miss Japanese Village, and think about it every time I drive by the old property. I like your enameled charm even with....or actually, especially because of, it's lack of spacing on the name, "JAPANESE VILLAGEANDDEER PARK."

Thanks for sharing more of your collectibles with us, Major!

"Lou and Sue" said...

Major, I just googled "Stephens-Adamson Mfg. Co." in Aurora, IL, and found this article. It even mentions your grandfather...

K. Martinez said...

The Sky King "Spy-Detecto Writer" is the coolest. It's quite a premium. What are the dimensions? I'm curious to the size of it.

The Japanese Village and Deer Park charm is pretty cool too.

Speaking of 100 Years of Magic I hear WDW is scaling back some of it's 50th anniversary events as attraction openings have been delayed and that the major event for Disney will now be in 2023 when The Walt Disney Company itself reaches its 100 year milestone.

Love your cigar box treasures. Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

Great items as usual! Like the others, my fav is the Detecto Writer, but there's plenty of crunchy goodness with the rest as well! Speaking of Sambos, as a kid I snuck out with one of my hoodlum friends who was spending the night and...went to Sambos and had pancakes. Yes, we were wild, I tell you, WILD! That Sambos is now a Boston Market. As a side note, I've always wondered at the offense at the Sambo story since Sambo was Indian, not African. Oh well. AT least they would never take traditional African stories out of an attraction and replace them with a European fairy tale...

Nanook said...

Chalk up another vote for that Detecto Writer. "Spiramid" is a new one on me, too. I always thought "Nonagon" was kinda strange - but what do I know-?

I had heard the color scheme of Sambo's - 'yellow, orange, pink, etc.' were chosen as they [supposedly] inspired salivation. That - as opposed to the food, itself... It may merely be an old wives' tale, but I'm sticking to it.

Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Lou and Sue, well I do like World’s Fairs, and that includes a couple from Chicago! And then there’s that oddball one from 1950. Stay tuned on that one! I assume my great-grandpa was #10 because he was the tenth employee hired - or something. One of the people there from the beginning.

TokyoMagic!, please don’t use cuss words like “Helicline” on this blog! I don’t want my readers to burn in heck. You understand. It’s strange how Sambo’s was, at one time, wildly popular, and then they just kind of vanished. Mismanaged? Was it the unfortunate name? I remember liking the food a lot when I was a kid. I loved those smaller parks too, even the smelly Alligator Farm and silly Movieland Wax Museum. I’m glad you liked this stuff!

Lou and Sue, yes, I actually grabbed that newspaper page from that very website and shared it on this blog back on August 13, 2018. It was quite a thing to suddenly see a photo of my great-grandfather on the Internet!

K. Martinez, I don’t have the decoder in front of me, but thanks to the handy ruler on the side, we know that it is 2.5 inches long, and perhaps an inch wide. Almost all metal too, so it’s a solid thing. Aw, I’m sorry to hear that the WDW 50th is being affected by the pandemic, it would be nice to see special parades, fireworks, merchandise, and special events for all the people who love the Florida park so much.

Stu29573, I am shocked to learn that you were the kind of teen who would sneak out to “do pancakes” at night. Pancakes are a gateway drug! Thank goodness you never wound up in prison. While the original “Little Black Sambo” story is about an Indian family, the name “Sambo” took on very negative connotations in the U.S. They even seemed to take pains to make it clear that the little boy was Indian, with a turban on his head, and his friend (or nemesis?) the tiger. It’s too bad they didn’t just change the name to “Sam’s” or something less problematic.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, oh boy, I'm going to have to look up "Nonegon"; I assume it's like an octagon only nonner. And hey, as I said to TokyoMagic!, I liked the food at Sambo's! Granted I was a kid with not much food experience. I'd never heard that fact about the colors being chosen to whet one's appetite, but it wouldn't surprise me.

DrGoat said...

Wow Major. It just keeps getting better. Obviously to everyone, your Spy Detecto Writer is a gem. Love your commentary. Sky King was a pretty neat show. Remember it and another show called Whirlybirds.
Envy your working for Walt Disney Studios, even if it was a short time.
Of course Sambo's is blatantly negative, but it was there and part of our sometimes sordid history. There were 2 or 3 in Tucson back then. The last one closed quite a while ago and the buildings were re-purposed.
Lou & Sue, thanks for that link concerning the Major's ancestor. Very cool.
Stu, I think since the original story was Little Black Sambo, the connection was obvious to the undiscerning.
Thanks Major, your cigar boxes must have been fun to fill. You are truly fortunate.

zach said...

I worked at Sambo's in Reno in the Summer of 1966. (Three slot machines by the register, drop your change here!) There was a cook there named Sammy of indeterminate age who was somewhat volatile if crossed. I went back a couple of years later to say hello to whomever might still be there and heard that Sammy came over the counter with a butcher knife looking to carve a guest he took offense to. No one was hurt but Sammy's career was cut short.

It's always fun to see what's in the box. And I didn't know anyone remembered Sky King. I always watched it when it was on. I thought his plane was the Songbird?

Thanks, Major!


"Lou and Sue" said...

Major, thank you for mentioning that 2018 post - I just looked it up and read it. How cool, especially about your connection to the building of Disneyland! Now, you reminded me that I still have not read all of your posts, which I know is a requirement to be a Junior Gorilla. Last year, when I discovered GDB, I had started reading everything (comments and all) from the beginning, but stopped when Photobucket when down, late last year(?). I think I left off around 2015 - so I have some homework to do...

JC Shannon said...

Goat, I used to watch Sky King on Saturday mornings, and nobody remembers Whirleybirds except us. Sky King is one of the reasons I wanted to be a pilot. I really like your cigar box collection, Major. Just curious, do you have any Cubans in it? I am a fan of anything California with oranges on it, so that charm is my fav. Thanks for sharing your awesome collection.

K. Martinez said...


What can I say. I had a brain fart. Doh!

Omnispace said...

This is one huge cigar box, and I'm sure we haven't reached the secret compartment in the bottom! I've paid homage to the Atomium, Space Needle, and even the Sunsphere, but that Spiramid looks pretty far out there. I'm sure it was at least 50 stories tall.

The decoder device is "Super". I like the authentic touch of the stamped serial number. Lots of sharp edges on that thing!

Major, The Walt celebration sounds like it was very nice. At least you can say you have a pin to show for working at the company.

"Chubby" California is an interesting take on our state. TM, that run-together "Villageanddear" is exactly how Californians speak. I love the graphic on the 1933 pin, back when the Earth still had spiraling rings around it - way before my time though.

TM, That Sambo's at Crescent and Beach was packed the time I ate there back in the 70's! It was after an overnight drive from San Francisco so the bottomless coffee was a huge bonus. Needless to say we had a rough time at Disneyland that day.

Major, Thanks for including your great grandpa's employee badge. Stephens-Adamson manufactured the Speedramp so that's a very cool connection. And, you know exactly how tall he was when he worked there!

Anonymous said...

Major, you have the best stuff.

Oddly, I never watched Sky King, although I remember the show being on TV.

Sambo's was a family favorite. Dad always loved coffee shops and breakfast was his favorite meal.

The one in my home town closed when I was in high school I think. The building became another home-grown coffee shop type place and we continued to go there for as long as Mom and Dad lived.

We visited the deer park once. A deer chewed on my Mom's coat and we never went back. I liked the place, but never again per Mom.

Mom had a charm bracelet and collected many similar little charms similar to that one from different places we visited. The California side of that one looks really familiar, with the orange, I'm certain she had one like that, but maybe with a different back. I hope I still have the bracelet, but not sure where it might be now. It would be fun to see the itinerary, I wish I had Mom's commentary to explain it again.

Major, it is very cool that your great-grandfather is memorialized on the internet at his old workplace. He must have been quite a guy.

You were lucky to work for Disney just at the right moment to collect that pin.

Thanks for sharing these things, you inspire me to go find my equivalents.

Best to all today.


Alonzo P Hawk said...

Alas Major your reasons are valid (re:Sambo's) and in part the reason I haven't scanned and sent you the images of the 5 Sambo's postcards I have. I was not sure you would want to post them.

Major Pepperidge said...

DrGoat, I’m glad that people are enjoying looking at all this silly stuff! But it all tells a story, evokes a time and/or a place, and hints at what life was like for people 40, 50, or 60 years ago. Working at the Studio was great, I was very disappointed that I couldn’t move onto a new project when the one I was on ended. I tried! Like I said earlier, I don’t understand why Sambo’s didn’t change their name decades ago, to something more acceptable. Maybe they’d still be around, like Denny’s or IHOP.

zach, I am in the middle of reading Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”, and your story about the knife-wielding cook makes me think of that book. It takes a certain kind of person to make it in that crazy world! I only know Sky King from the collectible, to be honest, I never saw the program.

Lou and Sue, Photobucket has now added their big ugly watermark to my thumbnails, so I am still mad at them. But at least you can click on them to see the full-size image. It is not required for Junior Gorillas to go back and read all 5000+ posts! But some people like to do it, just for fun. I hope you remember where you left off!

Jonathan, nope, no actual cigars are in the box. My dad smoked the occasional cigar, but I am a non-smoker. I have one or two vintage California items with oranges on them, I love that stuff too.

K. Martinez, it’s OK!

Omnispace, it’s actually a small-ish cigar box, but most of those items are small as well, and with a little care, you can cram quite a lot into them. I made dividers out of foam core so that I could organize stuff a bit better, and so everything didn’t just slide around into one big mess. The “Spiramid” was kind of a dud, actually, but… more on that in the future! Yes, in retrospect I was lucky to work at the Studio at all. Like I said, I will post two photos that were taken there, if I can find them. I think I know which box they are in. I do miss Sambo’s just as a place, it had a nice warm mid-century coffee shop vibe. Somewhere I have a menu or two and a few matchbooks from there! Good point about knowing how tall my great-grandpa was… shorter than I would have expected!

JG, I honestly don’t ever remember Sky King being an option on any of the local TV stations where I lived (and I moved a lot back in the day). Maybe it was on but I just had some other favorite show, such as “Gilligan’s Island”. I’ve seen some great photos, obviously professionally taken, of Sambo’s restaurants, and they really are beautiful examples of mid-century restaurants. Not sure if they qualify as “Googie” style, but they are in the ballpark. Did your mom have something to eat in her pocket? I can’t imagine why a deer would chew on her coat! I’ve seen California charms that look very much like the one that I shared here, but most of them don’t have another design on the reverse. Of course this one, having the “Japanese VIllage” design, was something I had to have! I wish I knew my great-grandpa, from all accounts he really was a wonderful guy.

Alonzo, yeah, I have more Sambo’s items (as I said to Omnispace, matchbooks and at least one menu, and some pinback buttons), but I’ve been wary of posting them. Maybe if I figured out a way to clearly state that I am merely sharing some historical items, and have no desire to offend or upset anyone? I’ll figure it out. Thank you for even thinking of sending scans of your postcards, really!

Nanook said...

Sambo's is nothing compared to the Coon Chicken Inn. (Just the name alone-!)
Google that one if'n you're unfamiliar with that small chain.

@ zach-
Yes, Sky King's twin-engine Cessna was indeed called The Songbird. That show started on radio in 1946 [thru 1954] and ended up on TV around 1951, apparently on NBC, then to ABC - airing on weekends, eventually making its way to prime time for the 1953-1954 season, on ABC. Evidently, there was a total of 72 episodes shot, that would air on Saturday afternoons all the way up 'til 1966, airing on CBS. (You could have fooled me).

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I also remember Sambo's being very popular and at one time, it seemed to me that there were just as many locations around as there were Denny's restaurants. There was one of each located along the 5 fwy, on the way to Disneyland. They were only one freeway off-ramp apart, and both had huge towering signs. There was also a Sambo's across the street from Disneyland.

Many of the old Sambo's locations became Baker's Square restaurants, including that one across the street from Knott's. For some reason, I never ate at a Baker's Square. I remember their TV commercials with the catchphrase, "Come for the food, stay for the pie!" It appears that Baker's Square closed all of it's California locations, but still exists elsewhere in the country.

Omnispace, that sounds like a very long night and day, with no sleep and just Sambo's coffee to keep you going, for your day at Disneyland!

DBenson said...

I remember when it seemed most little plastic trinkets were "charms" -- that is, they had a little loop you could run a string through. I never saw anybody string them or wear them. Myself, I'd try to break the loops off the plastic ones because they struck me as girly, and compromised their validity as Toys.

Remember "Sky King" on TV and his airplane being a cereal premium, but don't remember watching it for any length of time. There was an episode on a DVD collection titled "Hey, Kids!", but it was pretty slow stuff for restless kids.

Cigar boxes -- Somehow they were the go-to container for odd stuff everywhere, even in places you were pretty sure nobody ever lit a stogie. I have an undersized one, big enough for just three or four El Ropos, with a Disneyland logo on it. My grandfather used it for postage stamps and now I do. Not sure where he got it. Doesn't look like a souvenir item; maybe it was functional packaging at the old Main Street tobacconist. Now you see "school boxes" with the same general construction as old cigar boxes, but with nicotine-free artwork. There was a clear need after cigars stopped being required male accessories.

Anonymous said...

@DBenson, I have an old White Owl cigar box filled with my uncle's odds and ends. Major P resurrected some amazing photos found in it that filled in some blanks in his WWII career.

I had several nice cigar boxes from my misspent youth, and my son got one for his treasures. My daughter decided she needed one, and liked it so well that she then went to order more empty ones from an online cigar vendor. She still gets a cigar catalog every year and never smoked ever.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, oh I am familiar with the Coon Chicken Inn; if it’s hard to believe that it was a real place. I found a matchbook from it at the Glendale All American Collector’s show, but will never share it here. I couldn’t tell you anything about Sky King’s plane, but the decoder calls a plane “Flying Arrow”. Maybe he upgraded to The Songbird?

TokyoMagic!, it seems so strange that a restaurant chain that was so popular could slowly die the way Sambo’s did; maybe it was a change in the way people wanted to dine. Or the problematic name. Or it was not managed well. Or a combination of all three? The one I remember the best was in Encino near my grandparent’s house on Ventura Boulevard. My grandpa seemed to like it, though I don’t remember what he ate there. I think I ate at a Baker’s Square once and was not impressed.

DBenson, those little plastic trinkets/charms bring back lots of memories for me; at Marineland, we bought what looked like a plastic milk bottle, full of scores of plastic charms. Tiny pianos, hot dogs, four-leaf clovers, cups of soda, skulls, and all sorts of things. Periodically I’d dump them out and look at them all, and then they’d go right back into the plastic bottle until the next time I had the urge to look at them. We sure didn’t ever put them on a string for a necklace or bracelet! My mom still has the bottle with most of the charms, though some have gone missing and she has put other small items in with the original contents. I used to really love old cigar boxes, and even new ones; when I did more outdoor oil painting, I made a couple of “pochade” paint boxes out of cigar boxes, and they worked surprisingly well. Better cigar shops had really nice quality examples too, though occasionally they’d expect you to pay a lot for an empty box!

Chuck said...

Cool stuff, Major.

Bought a really nice wooden cigar box in the late '90s at a cigar store to store my military keepsake coins in. There was some sort of chemical something in the wood that corroded several of the coins in less than a year. Have never trusted cigar boxes since.

Have a long story about a practical joke played on one of my dad's AFROTC instructors years before my dad met him involving the use of the call sign SKY KING, but won`t bore you with it. I think of it every time I hear about the Sky King program. That and my parents telling me how they misspelled "Laredo" - where my dad was going through pilot training at the time - on the TV show.

Loved Sambo's as a kid, too (kinda partial to pancakes). Years ago, I took my wife to my old home between San Francisco and Sacramento to see the scenes of my early childhood after 20 years absence. We were driving down North Texas Street looking for a place to eat - almost none of it looking familiar to me - and decided to try this Baker's Square place we'd never heard of. When we pulled into the parking lot in back and I got out of the car it suddenly hit me that it was the old Sambo's. Now I know why the change occurred.