|"food and the future of it"
Dogpiling, Candles, and how it all made sense
Sitting here in my cubicle I'm reminded somehow of one of the most memorable eras of my life, and I'm amazed to this day that it hasn't been documented in any way. In 1985 I was a teenager living in Saginaw, Michigan and like most others in the area I was bored. I remember hearing rumors of a dogpiling movement going on in Flint and I knew at that moment that I wanted in. Dogpiling- it's when a group of people spontaneously decide to form a pile of human bodies. The "winner" is the one on top of the pile. The kids over in Flint wanted to celebrate once they were on top of the pile, and they started doing that by lighting candles when they were on top. Every teen in flint was carrying candles by the end of 1986. During those two years there was a whole scene built around it- different candle makers, bands, posters, and by the end of it even the biggest corporation in the tri-cities, Dow Chemical, got into it. This is the story of how it started and where it went. I'm not sure if the kids that I used to know want to be associated with this anymore, so I've tried to de-identify the pictures a bit and I've changed the names- slightly.
Terry Adams was the person that at least I'm crediting with the start of the movement. He was more or less a loner but found popularity when he started to dogpile. No one knows who lit the first candle on top of a dogpile, but it was Terry that was the first to market the candles. He started the group "Greater Flint Area Dogpiling association" and sold his candles for a buck. The one in the picture below I picked up at a garage sale last year for 12 bucks. Not sure why anyone would sell it, but I was overjoyed to find it. Terry sold a long candle on a blue backed piece of cardboard with some plastic wrap over it. These are really rare especially in the package. It should be added that NO ONE in the scene called the candles candles. Terry had called them "Waxy Fire Rods" and that's what everyone else called them.
In the first month, Terry had made close to $200 and that caught the eye of a group of kids from Saginaw who started calling themselves the "Proud Teenage Businessmen", although they were also known as the AV club in their school. The PTB were the inventors of the short torch, a shortened candle that fit in the pocket better and didn't break when you were at the BOTTOM of a dogpile, something that happened very often. They were also the first people to sell a single match with the short torches. The fact that they drew attention to the notion that they were teens was a huge theme in the dogpiling scene. It was a way for them to say 'Look, we started this, we understand this, and hey we're teens making money and having fun'.
Below are images of their trademark green papered baggies holding a short torch and a match.
Now during this time in Mid Michigan, there were a lot of latchkey kids- kids that would come home to an empty house. To help combat the loneliness and boredom, these kids really got into the dogpiling scene. Of all the teenage candle makers, the Latchkey Teens were the only ones selling them in a box. Fronk Jennings and Eli Mason were the founding members of the group and also made up the band "The Milk Duds", which I'll get into later. The only thing I can say right now is that at first they didn't have drums or a drum machine, so what they did is plug some speakers in, lick their fingers, and hit the end of the output plug to make a sound like a drum-that's the attitude of dogpiling, in my opinion.
The brown box was the original 1985 version- the blue box came out later in '86. The Latchkey Teens were the first to call the candles "Waxed Flame Sticks"
For most of '85, it was the big three making the candles: The Association, Proud Teenage Businessmen, and the Latchkey Teens. This was only in Flint and Saginaw. Towards the end of the year dogpiling spread to Bay City and Midland and I guess you could say that this was the golden period. More candles, music, and bands popped up here than any other time. Kids started selling the candles at intersections to teens AND adults. Everyone was dogpiling, everyone was having fun, and there was a lot of money to go around.
At first, girls didn't want in on dogpiling, but got in on the fun eventually. This was sparked by the first group of girls to make and sell candles. Jenny Jenny as a group actually didn't have anyone in it named Jenny. They took advantage of dogpiler's slang- all girls were called Jenny and all boys were called Joes. There aren't many examples of the candles that Jenny Jenny made because they sold them on a piece of paper that usually got thrown out or just got destroyed over the years. Their image of a cycloptic Madonna (the singer born in Flint) was hugely popular and made its way on to T-Shirts and spray painted stencils that found their place in schools and streets in Mid Michigan. They were also a band- probably the best band of the scene, and again I'll get to that later I swear. Jenny Jenny also were the first to sell their "pocket lanterns" for under a buck- they priced out at 75 cents.
Above: the three Jennys
The yellow print is extremely rare- only about 10 were made.
Matt Bunderman, originally a member of the Proud Teenage Businessmen, broke off and formed his own group at around the same time Jenny Jenny was rising in popularity. He called his group "Dogpiling Adolescents" and was actually the only member of the group. He was in a band with one of the girls from Jenny Jenny and they called themselves the "Kazoo Two". His orange packaging is actually my favorite in my collection. He sold his candles for two dollars.
Below is something that is a mystery to me. "Rebel" started selling "Flame Wands" at Kazoo Two concerts during intermissions. He (or She) would get younger kids to hand them out for a dime. They were very short, shorter than a short torch, and wrapped in tin foil. They were popular, rare, and featured the logo of a scorpion with a sort of ball and chain mace as its tail. The girls liked them because they sort of looked like some lipstick. No idea on who Rebel is- if you're reading this and you have a tip please please please let me know!
See part II for the rest of the story...it gets both better and worse.
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