Archive for the ‘Blasts from Our Collective Past’ Category

Commercials Grandma Taped



Hey! If you’re anywhere near my age (31), I think you’ll like this post.

I’ve been carrying a box full of VHS tapes with me for the past 10 years and 5 moves. Since 2015 has been the Year of Doing All These Project I Had Been Putting Off Since I Was On Dialysis, I thought it was time to finally digitize these, upload them to YouTube, and talk about them.


When I was a kid, I didn’t have cable television. We had an antenna, which basically meant that we got the basic networks: ABC (channel 2), NBC (channels 3 and 11), Fox (channel 5), CBS (channels 6 and 12), and PBS/GPTV (channel 8). In middle school, we got an antenna that you could point in different directions through use of a knob on a box. You’d turn the knob, and you’d the hear the antenna on the roof slowly rotating. If you found a good direction for a particular channel number, the device came with its own set of stickers that you could place around the knob’s circumference.

Suddenly, a whole new world of local stations was open to me! The Alabama PBS station on channel 7, which allowed me to watch 2 hours straight of Teletubbies on summer mornings! Things I can’t remember on 13 and 17! And whatever 36 was by then, sometimes I could get Simpsons reruns!


I was always told we couldn’t get cable because of how far off the road we lived. This was believable enough, given that our landline was staticky due to a buildup of water and spiders in some sort of box connected to the telephone pole. But we were only quarter mile off the highway, so I halfway-suspect now that this was a lie to cover the fact that we couldn’t afford it back then.

What this meant, especially when I was very little, was that outside of Saturday mornings and VHS copies of Betty Boop, Popeye vs. Sinbad, and whatever iteration of 50 Great Cartoon Classics was currently on the shelves at Big “B” Drugs, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of variety to provide me when it came to cartoons. But my grandmother had cable; and more to the point, she had TBS Superstation and WATL 36, Atlanta stations that would show cartoon reruns in the afternoons after schooltime. She also had a VCR, and she would record hours upon hours of what must have been my favorite shows then. Or, possibly, simply what I would sit still and watch; when you’re three years old, those are basically the same thing.


Tom & Jerry’s Funhouse. Dennis the Menace. Police Academy: the Series. DuckTales. The 1966 Batman show. The Real Ghostbusters. Filmation’s Ghostbusters. The Woody Woodpecker Show. God damn there’s a lot of Woody Woodpecker Show on these tapes.

I don’t remember watching many of these, except for the one with Police Academy and Ghostbusters on it. And I know for sure I never made it more than an hour or so into any of these when I would pop one in the VCR every few years to reminisce. There was a lot on these that I had no recollection of. Like, Dennis the Menace? Nutcracker Scoob? When did I ever watch these things?


But even getting to see these shows holds no strong appeal for me. Any one of these is bound to be available in some form now, either on DVD, YouTube, or through a torrent site. These days, what means the most to me are the commercials. Just like the Dumpster Vinyl I’ve been uploading (gee, I should get back to that), these commercials are tiny windows into the past, chock full of anthropological & historical wonders such as fashions, language, mores, even, to an extent, the racial makeup of Atlanta between 1987 and 1990 (more on that in a minute).


So when I digitized these tapes, I also decided to upload the commercials to YouTube. It was a pretty long process of cutting out the shows and leaving just the ads and show bumpers, but I really like the end result. Most of the YouTube videos ended up being about an hour and a half long. And that’s what I’m posting today to give to you, as sort of a late Christmas present. But one that will keep on giving, because, good grief, there’s like 19 of these videos here.


I’m going to admit, I sort of know what’s here, because I had to scan through these on my computer screen to strip out the TV shows. But I haven’t actually watched more than an hour, total, of all of this. I can tell you that there’s lots of ads for toys and cereal and snack foods. I can tell you that there’s some Disney Channel commercials (probably taped by my uncle, who had a satellite dish). I can tell you that there’s plenty of local Atlanta commercials (keep an eye out for the EZ Rental stuff). I can tell you that there may very well be a surprising amount of commercials featuring African Americans. (When I posted some of these on Reddit, some commenter was bitching about how everything was biased in favor of black people, “even back then”, and who refused to revise his statement in light of me pointing out to him that Atlanta’s population was 2/3 African American by the time of the 1990 census; the number of other redditors who downvoted his comment warms my heart).


Anyway, without further ado, here’s 23 hours and some change of commercials and station IDs from 1987 through 1990. Watch them all straight through, or just jump around until you find Bubba.