I was 9 years old that summer and not at all familiar with the Star Wars movies; my parents didn't take us to the original in 1977. Around about that time, however, we went to "The Bad News Bears", but my father, not liking the crude language, walked us out and then talked to the manager about the lack of movies suitable for young children.
It was thanks to a fellow Jehovah's Witness that I would up being witness to one of the most transformative movies of my life. His name was Jim Dembraski and one evening, he was visiting with my dad and the conversation turned to a movie that had quite impressed him. He believed that I, and my father, for that matter, would very much enjoy going to the film. As he described the movie, I looked at my dad and said that it sounded like something worth checking out.
By this time, "Empire" was in about its 7th week of release; back then, movies played much longer than they typically do now. It felt great to be going to a movie with just my mom and dad; keep in mind that I was the oldest of five. My mother sat on my left, my dad on my right.
I don't need to tell you that the movie floored me, millions of others experienced the same that summer. Visions of other worlds (a snow planet, a city in the clouds), Yoda philosophizing on a jungle planet, heroes (Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2, 3PO) that were out of this world, an inspiring operatic music score, the evil Darth Vader who had no qualms about killing his own men, the fight against an oppressive empire, not to mention brilliant (for their time) special effects. It really was totally unlike anything I had ever seen before.
I can remember at one point when Luke was being trained by Yoda, I asked my father what the time was. The light came on on his watch and it showed 8:20. I was a bit surprised that the movie didn't have a clear-cut ending, that it ended in a cliffhanger, but that didn't take away the joy I experienced during those two hours.
I sought to collect everything I could that would remind me of the movie. JCPenney had packs of Empire trading cards for 25 cents. I bought a few packs with my allowance and watched my collection grow. One evening, just before going to bed, knowing that my mom was going to Penneys that night, I gave her 50 cents and asked her to get me two packs. One of the happiest memories of my childhood was waking up the next morning and seeing 4 packs next to my bed;
My mom said that was all that was left in the box at the store and in case they didn't have any more boxes, she wanted me to have the last 4 packs. A number of years ago, I bought 4 unopened packs of the series from eBay and have one displayed on the wall next to our entertainment center. When gazing up at it, I can't help but feel some of the childhood joy I was so fortunately privy to back then.
Some of you might get a chuckle out of this audio recording from 1983: it's me quizzing one of my brothers about the Star Wars saga.