It was 1964. President Kennedy had been assassinated just a few months earlier. The U.S. -- as well as the rest of the world – would soon enough be feeling the Cold War getting a little chillier. Viet Nam, on the other hand, was just starting to heat up. Atomic bomb “drop drills” were the order of the day in schools around the nation. The Surgeon General said for the first time that smoking was bad for your health. Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston in Miami. The first Ford Mustang rolled off a Detroit assembly line. The Beatles’ Love Me Do topped the U.S. charts for a whole week. And, most important of all -- to a certain 9-year old anyway -- the monster craze was just about to explode.
You see, I was hopelessly hooked. Ever since watching Bela Lugosi’s Dracula on late night TV (on a rare occasion that I was allowed to), monsters endlessly thrilled and fascinated me. My parents begrudgingly continued to let me watch “those monster movies” that played during Saturday and Sunday afternoons on network shows like L.A.’s Weird, Weird World, Science Fiction Theatre, and Chiller. My neighbor Jeff seemed to always have enough pocket change to buy the latest Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine or the newest Mad Monsters or Horror Monsters. I wasn’t allowed to buy such “trash”. As a result, I spent a lot of time at Jeff’s house!
In 1964, I was still living in the town of my birth, Torrance, California. For fun on the weekends, I’d take my allowance just down the hill to the Southwood Shopping Center, and spend my hard-earned sheckles at either Southwood Drugs on candy and baseball cards, P.B. Carroll’s Five or Dime on toys, or, best of all, models and HO cars at Gilbert’s Hobby Shop, which was across the street, just a few doors down from the oh-so heavenly Angelo Revels Bakery.
Now, one fine weekend day, this tow-headed Monster Kid spotted a banner poster in the window of Gilbert’s that exclaimed something to the effect of “Monster Model Customizing Contest!” I knew from the magazines that monster model kits existed, but I hadn’t summoned the nerve to ask for one yet. As a result, up until then I had only assembled models like the Aurora Knights line. Matter of fact, if I remember right, the very first model I ever put together was Aurora’s Red Knight of Vienna. Anyway, helpfully spurred on by my older sister’s own zeal for the lure of the contest, we were suddenly – and amazingly, through pleading and cajoling with our parents – allowed to spend the 98 cents on our choice of models to build. My sister chose The Wolf Man and I decided on The Mummy. Remember, now, this is the era of the original Aurora kits, and when model glue was still sold off the shelf and not from behind the counter!
|Monster Model Contest Official Entry Blank|
|Image from Amazon.com|
I remembered it was supposed to be a customizing contest, so I racked my fevered brain for something to do with the kit. Finally, it came to me. So, this was an ancient mummy, complete with rotting bandages. Why not bandage the bandages? In other words, put fabric bandages over the plastic ones that were a part of the kit? Fortunately, there were plenty of old, white T-Shirts around to be used for rags, so I grabbed one of those and starting tearing them into small strips. In an attempt to make the bandages look old I tried dipping the strips into the jar that held the dirty mineral spirits and water mix that we used to clean our paint brushes. By the way, in our house, Testor’s was the model paint brand of choice. We avoided Pactra, the other top brand of the time. It seemed to me the only reason for this was that it might have been a nickel more per jar or something like that.
|Image from Amazon.com|
Amazingly, the glued on wrapping ended up looking just great! I also rubbed some of the dirty brush cleaning goop on the Egyptian pillar which was part of the base. A little green paint on the cobra wrapped around Kharis’ leg, some more on his head (what was I thinking, that it would look . . . customized?), and, voila! my Aurora Monsters Mummy Plastic Model Kit was completed in record time on our kitchen table . . .
. . . Only to find that we had missed the contest deadline! What disappointment befell my little Monster Kid heart I cannot completely convey in words here. Suffice to say, neither my sister nor I had been aware of the fact that the model contest deadline had been the weekend before!
|The "one that got away"|
But, hey, like any kid, I got over it in a hurry and was soon on to building my own Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein kits, forgetting all about lost opportunity and always on the look out for the next sixties pop culture fad that presented itself.
Now, years later, every one of those shops in Southwood Shopping Center that I mentioned have closed, remaining now only as memories to share for times such as this. And, what about my Mummy model and the rest, you ask? Well, I held on to every single one of them all the way through high school. But when we sold our house to travel, everything had to go. My beloved monster models were among the rest of my most prized possessions sold rather unceremoniously in a yard sale.
The rest, they say, is history. Like I told you, I was hooked and I’ve stayed hooked all these years, pretty much more on than off. Now I’ve got a blog, MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD, where I’m share these glorious times and memories with whoever wants to log on and read about them. In closing, I’d have to say that those few years in the mid-sixties were like lightning in a bottle – dazzling, special, and never to be forgotten.
|Image from Amazon.com|