On May 17, 1977, a new pizza place opened in San Jose, California: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre.
Before we go any further, we need to point out that the E stands for “Entertainment,” so the mouse’s full name is Charles Entertainment Cheese.
This was the idea of Nolan Bushnell, the founder of iconic video game maker Atari.
His company was already selling arcade machines, but he saw there was money to be made on the other end, the places where video game fans put all those quarters into the machines.
Rather than build another arcade, he proposed a kid-frendly pizza restaurant.
With pizza, customers had to wait for the food, and that meant a built-in window for video games.
Bushnell chose Gene Landrum, who worked in Atari marketing, to head up the project.
Landrum got the idea for the animatronic characters after a trip to Disneyland.
He also later said “And Nolan had a rat costume in his office, so it worked out” (!)
Early on Chuck E. Cheese and the other characters lived in kind of picture frames on the walls; they wouldn’t end up on stage until later.
The concept certainly got plenty of attention, and a competitor in Showbiz Pizza, which had the animatronic musical stylings of The Rockafire Explosion.
The companies eventually merged into one giant franchise that has both enthralled and freaked out its guests; animatronics are not everyone’s thing, I guess.
Which is why a few years back the company started having a costumed Chuck E. Cheese hold dance parties each hour with guests instead of the robot version.
Still, in any form, Chuck is the only mouse anyone ever wanted to see inside a pizza place.
It was this week in 1905 the past ran into the future.
In Brooklyn, New York, a massive military funeral procession for Hiram Cronk, who, at age 105, had been the last known surviving veteran of the War of 1812.
A film camera was there to document the whole thing, so the emerging world of movies was there to see the passing of a man who’d helped make history almost a century before.
History is funny that way, isn’t it?
An Oral History Of Those Creepy-Ass Chuck E. Cheese Robots (Mel Magazine)
Funeral of Hiram Cronk (Library of Congress)