Monday, November 20, 2017

Memory Bank: WWOR TV and Thanksgiving Monsters




When I was growing up in the New Jersey burbs during the seventies and early eighties there was a great Thanksgiving Day tradition that I’d like to share with you today, on the eve of the holiday in 2015. 

Every year, WOR Channel 9 would broadcast King Kong (1933), Son of Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949) on Turkey Day.

Then, on Friday, the same station would host a Godzilla marathon consisting of such films as King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (1971) and many others. Some years, if memory serves, War of the Gargantuas (1968) also played.

I remember showering and dressing early on those Thanksgiving Days, so I could be lodged near the TV when the Kong movies started.  

Meanwhile, my Mom and Dad would be busy in the kitchen preparing a great meal of turkey, stuffing, baked carrots with cinnamon, and home-made biscuits. The house would fill with the delectable aromas of the feast, and even downstairs -- while glued to WOR-TV -- I could feel my appetite for dinner building.

Our guests, usually my grandparents and aunts and uncles, would arrive sometime in the early afternoon, around 1:00 pm and I would socialize with them, and then sneak back to the family room for more King Kong.  Sometimes my uncle Larry, a horror fan after a fashion, would join me.

Then the meal and dessert -- a chocolate cream pie and a pumpkin pie -- would be served, and we’d all enjoy each other’s company over the delicious food.  After an appropriate interval of visiting and socializing, I’d high-tail it once more back down the stairs to watch more of the movies.

I’m certain my description of Thanksgiving makes it sound weird and anti-social, but you must remember that in the seventies, there were no VCRs (let alone DVRs or movie streaming), which meant that if you wanted to see a movie like King Kong, you had to seize your moment, or else wait for another year.

I believe it took me the better part of four Thanksgivings to see all of King Kong, and then not even in chronological order.  I actually saw the entirety of Son of Kong first, perhaps because it was often scheduled between our early afternoon dinner and dessert course.

This tradition of King Kong Thanksgiving and Godzilla Black Friday continued over a long period at my house -- the better part of a decade -- so much so that I still irrevocably associate the Holiday season with WOR Channel 9 and its monster movie broadcasts.  

I still remember, a bit guiltily, forcing my parents to watch the seventies Godzilla movies on Fridays, while we ate Thanksgiving leftovers in the family room.  My folks liked the King Kong movies, but when it came to Japanese monster movies, they weren’t exactly big fans..

Anyway, if you decide to spend the holiday with giant monsters, make sure to bring the pumpkin pie...and Happy Thanksgiving.


6 comments:

  1. Include me with the many for whom Kong is a cherished Thanksgiving memory.

    The tradition was started by my dear friend, the late Chris Steinbrunner, who was the program director at WOR. (He invented the Million Dollar Movie.) I used to tell him that he was responsible for legions of film buffs....

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  2. John,
    Thank you for this blast from the past! (And thank you, Mr. Abbott--and the late Mr. Steinbrunner--for making a movie buff; where would I be now without WOR?)
    Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
    Ivan

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  3. Growing up on Long Island in that same golden age, I would always trek into NYC for the Creation Thanksgiving comic conventions that weekend, so missed seeing these classic films. Hmm, I though WABC/7 had the rights to the Godzilla movies since I recall they made the rounds on The 4:30 Movie.

    And as James Abbott noted, I am among the movie buffs created and nurtured by WOR/9, WPIX/11, and WNEW/5. Halcyon days!

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  4. Hi John,

    Wow, you tapped into a real childhood memory cap! Kong watching on Thanksgiving Day and Godzilla watching on Friday are some of my fondest childhood memories. While my dad preferred to watch football, he always let my sister and I watch our monster movies. There was something special about no school (and no nuns!), a special meal, family and monsters. I remember being really disappointed when WOR stopped this tradition (I guess it was the early 1980s?) so I tried to recreate it by playing the movies on my VCR. Thanks for tapping into one of my primal childhood pleasures!

    Phil

    PS" Do you remember a WOR movie show called "Supernatural Theater" that ran on Saturday evenings in the early 1960s? The intro featured clips from "The Crawling Eye", "Forbidden Planet" and "Frankenstein 1970"? The show used the intro section of "The Martian Hop" by the Ran Dells. Ah, another great memory cap. Thanks again John!

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    1. Yes Phil, I remember Supernatural Theater on Channel 9. The memory stayed with me, so when I started my blog on weird, almost lost, or obscure movies, I used that name. Now readership from 138 countries. People love strange 60's & 70's flicks. New York TV way back then was the greatest! Cheers!!!! Ken, the 16mm Film Collector at Supernatural Theater.

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  5. Very similar memories here. As Gary said above, WOR/9, WPIX/11, and WNEW/5 got me through a lot back in the day.

    Was it the Million Dollar Movie that used the Gone With the Wind main music as its theme song? I was blown away when I first watched GWTW in the late 80s, and realized where that classic music came from!

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