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Once Upon A Time In Albuquerque

FOR THE RECORD: The spelling of Dr. George Fischbeck’s name has been corrected int his story.

The best restaurant in Albuquerque, from a kid’s perspective, was near Winrock during the early 1970s, an old-timey place with barbershop quartet music, skimmer hats, hot dogs as thick as a toddler’s arm and globs of ice cream, heaped in a firefighter’s helmet shimmering with sparklers and hauled around the dining room as a siren wailed for maximum humiliation.

We loved that.

That restaurant is long gone, but the memory remains just as sweet as that sizable sundae.

Over the years, I’ve tried to remember the name of that restaurant. I’ve had other brain freezes like that, and maybe you’ve had a few of your own: Where did that drive-in movie theater used to be? What year was that Jefferson Starship concert at Tingley Coliseum? Who was Kathleen McVicker? What was a Royal Fork?

And then came a Facebook page called “Remember in Albuquerque when …” and the answers came rushing back as bright as the smile on weatherman Howard Morgan’s face.

The page, with a membership of more than 15,000 “friends” since its inception just two weeks ago, is a virtual walk down memory lane in Albuquerque.

Through the nearly 40,000 posts added so far, we’ve traveled back to those days of Toys by Roy and Uncle Roy, days when families flocked Downtown to Fedway to ride that newfangled moving stair contraption called the escalator, when high school girls wore blue-bagged gym jumpers (a particularly horrendous memory), when Avenida César Chávez was still just Stadium Boulevard.

We’ve recalled how Dr. George Fischbeck closed his KNME science show by wriggling his brushy Groucho Marx mustache and saying “Adios, muchachos, muchachas. See you again, real soon!”

We’ve remembered riding banana-seat bikes to the A&W near Aspen and Constitution NE to fill up thick glass jugs with frosty root beer.

We’ve reminisced about sitting in the Peanut Gallery for the taping of Captain Billy’s Clubhouse – a nautical version of Captain Kangaroo filmed at what was then the KGGM studios.

And we’ve gasped anew at the way the old captain met his fate, shot in the KGGM lobby by a confused and jealous husband.

Most of the memories we’ve shared have been far sunnier than that one.

Many have involved the places we used to eat and drink: Mr. Swiss, Heidi’s Pies, Hungry Bear, Shakey’s Pizza, Soda Straw, Spaghetti Machine, Roxy, Rectry.

And, yes! Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor, the ice cream dream of my past.

Brain. Unfrozen.

You can thank Las Cruces scientist Steve Reynolds for this online time machine.

It was a simple idea, he said. Reynolds’ wife, Laura, was perusing Facebook and came across a site called “Remember in Fort Worth when …,” which as its name implies is a site for Texans like Laura to swap memories of their old hometown.

“She suggested that maybe I ought to start one of those for Albuquerque, where I used to live back in the 1960s and ’70s, and so I did,” Reynolds, 54, said. “I just set it up and let it run.”

On Aug. 5, he invited 30 of his Facebook friends to join his new page.

By that evening, the membership had grown to 1,000.

“People started inviting other friends,” he said. “And then people I didn’t know who saw our posts asked to join.”

Todd Clark, CEO of New Mexico Apartment Advisors in Albuquerque and a social network guru, joined early on and began tracking the numbers.

By the second night, he said, the membership had doubled to 2,000. By the third day, 4,500 were on board. In four days, the membership surpassed more than 10,000.

“This has been a perfect case study of how to do social networking right in a way that adds value to the participants and doesn’t feel like push advertising,” Clark said.

For Reynolds, it’s been a perfectly great escape back to a city he still remembers fondly.

“In today’s society where things are controversial or bad, when the news is not always good, when life seems a little more controlled and full of rules, we need to those memories. We need to have more fun,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with having fun.”

Nothing wrong with remembering when with a bunch of friends, new and old.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline Gutierrez Krueger at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal


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