« Random Coolness (part 7) | Main | Humble Beginnings: The Omnipotent Breezy-G! »

July 16, 2008


Pat Curley

I'm going to guess that the solid fuel is Sterno. And since we've got Sterno and hot air balloons, I'll tell my story. Back in the early 1980s I was a volunteer with Big Brothers. My little brother and I did a scientific experiment one time that we saw on the Nickelodeon program "Mr Wizard's World" to make a hot air balloon.

The balloon itself was one of those plastic bags you get back from the dry cleaners, taped to cover the hanger hole at the top. We propped open the bottom with drinking straws and tape, then used fine wire to tie the straws to a small piece of aluminum foil underneath the opening. Then we put a small amount of sterno on the foil, and lit it on fire.

Well, we had lots of problems with the bags catching on fire, but finally I managed to get my balloon to hover for a few seconds. And then (as the air heated and the weight of the Sterno declined from burning), the balloon took off into the atmosphere. It was easily hundreds of feet in the air and with the wind was probably a half mile from us when it disappeared from our view.

Unfortunately we didn't think about sending a small animal along for the ride. ;)


My brother actually ordered one of those "10 foot hot air balloons" from, IIRC, the Edmund Scientific Company. It came as a series of strips of tissue paper, some red and some white, and a wire ring. You glued the tissue paper together, glued the ring to the bottom and voila!

He kept a couple of pieces of the tissue paper on the wall of his bedroom for a few years as a reminder not to believe everything you read.

Ralph C.

I would love to see an article or something where people who ordered this stuff in their youth told us what they actually got. I used to see these things in the comics but never really thought of buying any of it. If there is a website or a blog that has this type of info, I'd like to know.

As for my $4.23, if I had that money in the summer of 1967 and was not an infant(I was born that summer-- yes, I am a Love Child, free and wild!), I would buy more comic books!!


Ralph, I'd love to see something like that too. What'd be neat would be some site that's set up like the reviews at amazon.com, but only for ancient, defunct products.

Mark Engblom

I think that would be a great idea for some kind of BOOK...showing the ad, then the piece of crap they were actually selling.

Hey, I *do* remember coming across a website that featured many of the actual novelties and other items, but for the life of me, I just can't conjure it up on Google. I remember it being an entertaining website, and being amused at just how chintzy and lousy much of the merchandise was.

Pat Curley

There is a discussion of the comic ad "Grog Grows Own Tail" and the reality here:


A fair number of the products advertised were ripoffs, especially the "novelty" items--x-ray specs, for example. You'd be amazed at how many of these items pop up in Google searches; lots of nostalgia out there. Most of the bodybuilding pamphlets have been scanned and posted on the web, for example.

Some of the products were pretty good, however. Check out the Digi Comp 1, the first digital computer for kids; there's actually a Yahoo Group for devotees of that 40+ year old product.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Visit My Shop:

Blog powered by Typepad