Akron's archive of TV memorabilia

Unobtrusive storefront on S. Main St is repository for stuff of seasons past
By STUART WARNER
PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

AKRON -- From the outside, only a few old television sets in the window give you a hint of what is to come when you walk into Grandmother's Video, a narrow, unobtrusive storefront on S. Main St. in downtown Akron.

As you step inside, you find walls and dusty shelves lined with thousands of re- minders of a time that seemed almost per- fect, when Perry Mason never lost a case and Marshal Dillon never lost a gunfight.

Welcome to the TV zone, a place that stimulates the reruns of your mind.

There's a Bobby Sherman lunch box. "Mork and Mindy" trading cards. A script from"The Lou Grant Show." Dobie Gillis pants. The "Leave It To Beaver" Rocket Ship to the Moon game. A Soupy Sales hand puppet. A Zorro mask and an "I Dream of Jeanie" Halloween costume."The Flying Nun" paper cut-outs. A Sonny Bono doll. Dog tags from "M*A*S*H." "Have Gun Will Travel" checkers. A Perry Como cottage cheese container. And a 1955 Sylvania Halo- light television, one of the first steps in manŐs never-ending quest for a bigger, better picture screen.

David Blewette began amassing his private collection in 1986, when he opened his video production business on S. Main St. With the advent of the online trading post eBay, where he buys and swaps items regu- larly, his once "inexpensive hobby" has expanded exponentially. He now has more than 5,000 artifacts representing some 1,000 shows -- almost all pre-1980, pre-cable, pre-Must See TV.

"What Dave has is unique," said William Bruegman, whose Akron company Toy Scouts Inc., is one of the nationŐs largest dealers of Baby Boom-era collectables. "Most collectors will specialize in one area, such as westerns, but he has items from hundreds and hundreds of shows ... things that you never knew they even made."

Blewette's collection includes:

  • More than 100 television sets, dating back to a 1947 RCA model with a 5-inch screen.
  • More than 400 board games and lunch boxes feturing TV characters.
  • More than 500 record albums from TV shows and their stars, including, "Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space" and an autographed copy of the LP "Gomer Pyle USMC." (Star Jim Nabors got lost outside of Blewette's store a few years ago when he was performing at the Carousel Dinner Theater.)

If that's not enough, you can browse through stacks of scripts, playing cards, comic books, novels based on the shows, action figures, coloring books, stuffed animals, press photos and publications on the history of television, dating back to a 1935 pamphlet that accurately predicts that TV will be available to every home in America.


'I'd rather not think of it as an altar but as an archive.'
DAVID BLEWETTE


    

There are, of course, items from the most popular shows of the generation such as "Bonanza" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." But obscure programs are also represented. He has a model car from "My Mother The Car." One of his board games follows "The Travels of Jamie McPheeters," which lasted only one season (1963-64) and featured a boy named Kurt Russell, who grew up to star in movies and father children with Goldie Hawn. She, by the way, can be found bikini-clad on Blewette's "Laugh-In" beach blanket.

Blewette said he would like to find a way to make the collection more accessible to the public. He said the city had talked to him about displaying his memorabilia for a charity event. He has been approached about group tours and even a themed restaurant, but nothing has materialized yet. In 1990, the Massillon Museum held an exhibition of his collection called "How Sweet It Is."

But for now, about the only people who see it are customers who come to pick up copies of their weddings or bar mitzvahs that Blewette has taped. "Some people will spend an hour looking at the stuff," he said.

For Baby Boomers such as Blewette -- he won't give his age, but dates himself by revealing that "The Addams Family" was his favorite TV show as a child -- the room is almost a religious experience.

"I'd rather not think of it as an altar," he said, "but as an archive. It's about lifestyle in our modern times."

There is little doubt that TV has changed the way we live -- even to the point of how we eat (he has a collection of TV trays) and ar- range our furniture. "It used to be that chairs faced each other so people can talk," Blewette said. "Now, they're placed so that everyone can see the TV."

Blewette said he didn't watch many of the new TV shows, although he did get hooked on "Seinfeld" after he watched the show's final episode and now folows it avidly in reruns. He remains partial to the shows from the earlier years of television.

"There's not enough division now between adult and childhood entertainment," he contended. "Kids have access to too many shows with adult themes. I personally don't think sex is that funny, but that's almost all you see anymore."

He acknowledges that the westerns of the 1950s and 1960s emphasized violence, but those were shoot-'em-ups set "in another place, another time," he said. "Today's shows are too real. When you see what is happening in schools such as Columbine... I think TV has played a part in that."

Still, not all was so innocent in the early days of TV.

Blewette's collection includes the "Gunsmoke" board game, which divides opponents into cowboys and Indians. If you were an Indian, you won the game by capturing all the cowboys. If you were a cowboy, you won the game by killing all the Indians.

He also has a puzzle of Dennis the Menace hog-tying his friend Tommy and pointing a gun at Tommy's head and a game where youngsters are urged to put a lit cigarette in the mouths of plastic Hanna-Barbera figures such as Yogi Bear and. Quick Draw McGraw "and watch them blow smoke rings."

And if you look closely at a Viewmaster slide from "Bonanza," you will see that the Cartwrights all have their middle fingers surreptitiously extended.

Perhaps, in the TV zone, that meant only that they were No. 1 in the ratings.

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