Popular Culture

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Retro finds room to grow

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Kayla Minniear said she’s had her eye on the storefront at 127 S. Main in downtown Bowling Green for a while. The space wasn’t available when she and her husband, Jon, opened Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Retro two years ago. So they settled into the former Mills Jewelry store a half block south on the other side of the street.  Now the shop has moved into those more spacious quarters across the street. “We had just outgrown that space,” Jon Minniear said. “We didn’t have enough space to put stuff out. We loved the old space, but this is bigger.” Now, he said, he’s not tripping over everything. Opening the store was something the couple discussed before they were married.  Back when they were dating, Kayla Minniear said, they started collecting Nintendo games, and that expanded to other vintage items. Having a storefront to sell the surplus seemed a natural development. Rock ’Em Sock ’Em sells video games dating to the Atari era, pop culture themed  items, action figures, vintage toys,  and some manga merchandise. They not only sell, but they also buy these items. “We have a little something for everybody,” he said. The storefront has a large vestibule that now has arcade games. That large entryway was one of the storefront’s appeals, Kayla Minniear said. One of the shop’s back rooms will be equipped for arcade game competition. Another, Jon Minniear said, will be used to display art by the Black Sheep Shack. The company run by Caroline Lippert, Kayla Minniear’s mother, also did the signage for the shop. The shop is doing well, John Minniear said. Because of Bowling Green State University, every year brings a new group of customers. Some customers who’d just discovered the shop this fall, even helped the couple move. “We’ve made a lot of great friends, customers who come in regularly,” he said. A year after Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Retro opened, Cameron’s Comics also opened on Main Street. Then in spring, at the encouragement of the Minniears, Joe Busch opened The Stacked Deck gaming shop across the alley from their original storefront. Reflecting on these developments, Jon Minniear said: “We’re bringing nerd culture back.” 

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The Stacked Deck offers gaming fans a new place to gather in downtown BG

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Joe Busch was in high school, playing Dungeons and Dragons had a “Cheetos in the basement” stigma attached to it, so he and his friends used the school chess as a cover. Now role playing games and the card game Magic are more popular and accepted. Busch is out in the open with his love for the games as the new owner of The Stacked Deck, a gaming shop in downtown Bowling Green. Busch said he first got into gaming in junior high. Like many others in his generation Pokémon served as the gateway game. He and his friends heard about Magic the Gathering, which was more complex with deeper back story, so they started playing that. Busch said he loved writing and telling stories, so in high school, he started his own Dungeon and Dragons campaign, conducted under the cover of the chess club, and continued through his college years. The New Jersey native, Busch attended Rowan University where he studied journalism. Summers he’d come home and muster his friends and resume the campaign. That’s the appeal of role playing games in the world of fast paced video play. Video games may have good stories, he said, but those tales are created by someone else. “Dungeons and Dragons moves with you,” he said. “It’s writing a story but with a group of five people all contributing. You can do whatever you want. You’re just having fun telling the story together.” Whether engaged in role playing, another board game, or a Magic, the social aspect of people gathering for fun and camaraderie is part of the attraction. From the beginning Busch knew he wanted to do more than sell games and cards, but wanted to have a place where people could play uninhibited without the questioning looks of people wondering what they were doing rolling those strange dice and talking about fireballs. “It’s not like you’re an outsider doing something like that here,” he said. The appeal is broad. “You can have anybody play with anybody.” Fathers bring in their kids to get their first starter deck of Magic cards. He had a man in his 70s stop by. He’d seen YouTube videos about Magic, and was thinking about taking the game up. When Busch went to the bank to set up his business account, the banker was excited because he played Magic. He introduced him to one of his co-workers who was also a fan of the game. This is the kind of place Busch missed when he first moved to town about four years ago to take an editing job. When the owner of that company cashed out, he took a job in the frame shop at Ben Franklin. He liked the job, but felt he was in a rut. Busch, 28, admired what his friends Jon and Kayla Minniear were doing with their shop Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Retro, and thought he’d like to do something similar. Then they told him a spot was open on the alley across from their store’s back door. Busch did some research into the gaming shops that have come and gone in town. Given the number of stores in Toledo, he was surprised none existed in Bowling Green, He discovered they didn’t close because…


Bravo! is a love fest for Eva Marie Saint & the arts at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Eva Marie Saint’s Falcon spirit does has its limits. President Rodney Rogers found this out before he left for Bravo! BGSU on Saturday. Saint, the Oscar-winning actress and 1946 graduate of Bowling Green State University, was staying in the president’s house with her son and daughter, during their visit back to campus. The visit was capped off by her receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the university. (Click for related  story.) Standing at the podium to deliver the award, Rogers said he’d started to leave the house wearing an orange bowtie. “Lose the orange tie,” Saint told him. “Black is classic.” When Eva Marie Saint tells you to do something, he said, you do it. So the president of BGSU appeared at Bravo! BGSU with nary a patch of orange. The awarding of the Lifetime honor to someone Rogers called “our most celebrated” graduate, capped off an evening celebrating the arts are BGSU. Bravo! BGSU now in its fourth year raises money for scholarships for arts students. This year 340 tickets at $125 were sold, more than last year when $75,000 was raised, according to Lisa Mattiace, the president’s chief of staff. Another $9,000 came in  from the silent auction. Students who benefited from those scholarships were evident throughout the night. Performances and art demonstrations were staged through the Wolfe Center for the Arts. Students screened their films and read their poetry. They sang musical theater tunes and art songs. A jazz group jammed and the Combustible Ensemble improvised music for dancers. One of those Bravo! Scholars, Kimberly Tumblin, was painting in a hallway.  She appreciated the scholarship. “It just helps out my family a lot.” She also saw it as “a validation” of her work. Tumblin, who is from Coshocton, came to BGSU on the recommendation of her high school art teacher, who is a graduate of the university. Tumblin intended to study digital arts, but really loved painting. She was intimidated by the medium’s long tradition, especially given she was interested in more traditional styles. But at BGSU she got the encouragement she needed, and switched to painting, studying with Brandon Briggs. The figure painting she was working on was inspired by the art of the Italian Baroque. This was the first time she’d worked in such a public setting, and was surprised how much work she was getting done. In another hallway one of her fellow Bravo! Scholars, Emily Avaritt painting a figure in a more contemporary style.  She came to BGSU from the Toledo School for the Arts, which is sponsored by the university. Given that relationship and her familiarity with BGSU, the Toledo resident felt this was her best option for college. Christine Hansen was standing nearby admiring Avaritt’s art. “I’m watching this picture come to life in a matter of minutes.” Hansen came to Bowling Green six months ago from Wayne State in Detroit to become assistant vice president for major giving. “Everywhere I stop, I’m struck,” she said. “You can’t imagine what you see. The passion and talent not only that the students have but the faculty who are teaching them.” She said she wishes her stepson, who is an artist with Disney, was here to see the work. Hansen said before coming to BGSU she was unaware of…


Nemeth to leave historical museum for new challenge

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Five years ago, Dana Nemeth came home to the Wood County Historical Museum – the former county infirmary that she frequently visited as a child. As director of the museum, she was at the helm as the site was transformed into an ADA accessible facility – no simple feat for the rambling building more than a century old. And she led the staff as they created a World War I exhibit that filled the sprawling site and drew the largest crowds ever at the museum. But now, Nemeth is leaving for another challenge – also one close to her heart. On April 2, she will move into the new position of reference archivist at the Bowling Green State University popular culture library. “It’s bittersweet,” Nemeth said about her departure from the museum and arrival at the library. “I love the museum and what I do there,” she said. “I grew up going to that museum. It’s had a special place in my heart – always has, always will.” Nemeth’s dad, Dorsey Sergent served as the pharmacist for residents at the county infirmary, then later volunteered his time to turn the closed site into a county historical museum. “I remember as a little girl going over there with my sister,” Nemeth said of the historical center which is about a quarter-mile from her childhood home. But Nemeth also has history with her new home at BGSU. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Master of Arts in Popular Culture, and previously served as a library associate at BGSU’s Jerome Library’s Center for Archival Collections. As a student, she worked in the pop culture library. Her new position is in administration, and will entail supervising student employees and helping with research requests. BGSU was looking for someone with a library science degree and popular culture expertise. “It just seemed like a really good fit for me,” Nemeth said. “It seemed like the right thing to do.” She previously worked at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, N.Y.; the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.; and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. During her years as director at the county historical museum, the overarching goal was to make the site more accessible. With the help of state funding, support from the county commissioners, and volunteer fundraising efforts, the museum was transformed and now has an elevator so people of all abilities can see all the exhibits. “Accessibility is the thing I’m most proud of,” Nemeth said. “That was something we wanted for 40-plus years.” The museum also took a big chance by switching from its traditional exhibits, and turning the entire building into an examination of World War I and Wood County’s role in the war. “I’m really proud of all the staff has accomplished,” Nemeth said. As director, Nemeth said she benefitted from the support of the county commissioners. “I really enjoyed working for the county.” And she appreciated working with the museum’s board of trustees. “I made a lot of lifelong friends.” The move to BGSU is also bittersweet now that the heavy-duty work making the museum accessible is done. The new director will be able to build on that – and Nemeth is looking forward to seeing how…


“All Hands on Deck” brings a sense of purpose to its celebration of WWII generation

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Jody Madaras, the song and dance man from Pemberville, created the musical “The All Hands on Deck Show” as a celebration of the World War II generation. The show brings together more than 40 hits from the era, tied together by a plot about a USO troupe. The show has found a home in Branson, Missouri, when it is not touring the country. As the members of that generation pass from the scene though, Madaras said he’s finding fans from an unexpected cohort. “We’re seeing a lot of Vietnam veterans,” he said. “The whole show is about unity. The Vietnam veterans I’ve spoken to and gotten to know have a yearning for unity.” The country was not a unified when they were sent to war, he said. Now they see this show about their parents’ generation as providing a sense of what they miss and long for. “All Hands on Deck” will return to the Valentine Theatre in Toledo Sunday, March 4, for a 2 p.m. matinee. Click here for tickets. https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/7156800/all-hands-on-deck-toledo-valentine-theatre “In six years I’ve personally learned a lot about our country just meeting these people,” said Madaras.  “One of thing I’ve learned that I didn’t know early on is that in 1942 every American had a purpose. Every citizen had a purpose. Every citizen felt like they could contribute to the country. “That could be the key to our future,” he said. It’s something his generation – he just turned 47 – could learn from and emulate. “That idea of every American having a purpose, I don’t think we have that kind of mindset.” That comes through in the songs, he said, especially the Rosie the Riveter. The famous image of the bicep flexing worker flashes on the screen. “These are women with a purpose; that’s powerful.” Madaras hopes the show, which he co-created, “in some small way” reminds people of the need for unity and a sense of “contributing to something greater than our own specific interests.” That may be a lesson for some of the show’s younger listeners. He said he’s seeing young families attend with their children. The parents want the kids to know these songs, and hear them performed live with a real orchestra. The show continues to evolve, Madaras said. He’s added another level of media. Photos are projected as a back drop behind the songs. So a photo of James Cagney pops up as the cast sings “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” There’s even an image of a Maxwell House coffee can as they sing the company’s jingle. “They howl at that,” Madaras said. The images add historical context and a sense of the times, he said. A new service theme has been added to the score. When the cast was doing a teaser set, an older man approached Madaras and said he’d seen the show. He liked it, but noted in the section when all the military themes are performed, the Merchant Marine was left out. The Merchant Marine played a key role in the war effort, ferrying supplies and troops, across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the veteran mariner told him. Madaras said he had looked and could not find the Merchant Marine theme. Not long afterward he had a communication from a lawyer, and enclosed…


Vintage Valentines celebrate the sweet & sour sides of the holiday

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Most of the origin stories about Valentine’s Day are not true. There really is no link to any one of the five Valentines who share Feb. 14 as their saint days. And the connection to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia seems tenuous at best. That celebration involved sacrificing dogs and goats, and whipping young women and crops with whips made of the goat’ hides to ensure fertility in the coming year. The more modern belief that Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark holiday,” cooked up by the card company to boost sales is also not true – people were exchanging Valentine’s Day greetings for more than a century before the company was founded in 1910. “Most of what we know is probably wrong,” said Steve Ammidown, manuscripts and outreach archivist for the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University. Ammidown visited the Wood County District Public Library to share a selection of vintage Valentine’s Day cards. The first reference to St. Valentine’s Day being associated with lovers comes in Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century poem “Parlement of Foules (The Parliament of Fowls).” By the 16th century the tradition of exchanging romantic notes on Valentine’s Day took hold, especially in England and Germany. Exchanging cards began early in the Victorian Era. True to the times, Ammidown said, “complicated and fragile” was the way to go. It was a female entrepreneur, Esther Howland, who founded the first Valentine card manufacturer in America in the 1840s. The Worcester, Massachusetts, businesswoman had a staff to create her line of cards, which “were very ornate, very overwrought.” Ammidown showed a Howland card from the archive’s collection with its intricate patterns and fine, lace-like cut paper. It was meant to display, and its excellent condition indicates it was treasured. The Valentine card business proved attractive enough that competitors sprang up. The most prominent, George Whitney, eventually purchased Howland’s business. “He became the biggest name in Valentine’s cards,” Ammidown said. The business flourished at the turn of the 20th century as the post office became more reliable and postcards became more popular, the archivist said. Though they may have flowery, sentimental sayings on them, sometimes what was written on the back was more pedestrian. The inscription on the front of one declared: “My heart’s a posy blooming for you.” On the back is written: “Your boss said you have to come to work on Monday. He told me this morning. Your mother.” In the 1920s, students started exchanging cards in school. That gave rise to simpler cards with more age appropriate messages. Ammidown said that the library’s collection has grown through donations. Many of the cards come from the Armitage family. While the library may be willing to look at collections, Valentine or other, he said, “we’re not really interested taking huge mounds” of them. The nature of cards changed with the times. There were vinegar Valentines, he said. They were a reaction to the “sickly sweet sentiments” of traditional cards. One has a woman declaring “I dream of you every night” on the front. Inside it reads: “Wot nightmares!” In the 1970s, the cards grew racier. Ammidown showed a pair. One depicted a devil declaring: “We’ll have a hot time.” Another pictures a monster: “You bring out the beast…


Americans squeeze in leisure time between WWI & WWII

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Americans were ready for a break after World War I. Unaware of the impending Great Depression and then World War II, Americans were ready for leisure when their boys came home from “the war to end all wars.” They were ready to have some fun. During the decade after WWI, the first Miss America Pageant was held, the Little Orphan Annie comic strip came out, Kraft created a new version of Velveeta cheese, and the first loaf of pre-sliced bread was sold as “Sliced Kleen Maid Bread.” Life was good. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade started using giant balloons, 7-Up was invented, and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was played at Carnegie Hall. This era of leisure is the focus of a new exhibit opening today at the Wood County Historical Center. The exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI with “The Return to Normalcy: A Life of Leisure in Wood County, 1920 to 1939.” The exhibit will run concurrently with the museum’s look at Wood County’s role in WWI. The WWI exhibit opened in 2017 to honor the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I, and both exhibits will remain on display until Dec. 1. The new exhibit was inspired by Warren G. Harding’s 1920 presidential campaign platform “The Return to Normalcy.” Visitors are welcomed to the exhibit by a recording of Harding reading his famous speech that was credited for helping him win the presidency. Holly Hartlerode, museum curator, is hoping visitors can relate to the images and sounds of those years. Old radios play hits from that era, like “Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Callaway, “Shim, Sham Shimmy” by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra,” and “Red Lips, Kiss My Blues Away.” Radios became the family entertainment center in that era, playing programs like the “Jack Benny Show,” the “Lone Ranger,” and “The Shadow” featuring Orson Welles. Those programs kept families glued to the radio listening for the next adventure. The radio programs playing at the museum exhibit include those type of shows, plus a Wheaties cereal jingle and a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. “There’s no television yet, so people are still reading,” Hartlerode said. But for the first time, radios united families for home entertainment. “They brought stories into the living room. This was an event in somebody’s home.” The museum exhibit is linked with a timeline stretching around one room, and features signs in each area reminiscent of the old red Burma Shave road signs. Companies were offering vacations for the first time, and car payments could be spread over years. “That allows for more leisure time,” Hartlerode said. The leisure exhibit focuses on the game of bridge, which was all the rage for a while. Americans had time to play croquet, drink beer and ride bicycles – as shown in old black and white photos – many of them taken in Wood County, Hartlerode said. The “driving culture” also began and for the first time, people could travel on their own. “Now that you have a car, you have the ability to go beyond where you live,” she said. Old maps line the walls, showing the growth of the roadway systems in Ohio. “Driving changes…