Monday, April 12, 2010

Three Decades Ago

This week, the cover story in Entertainment Weekly is about the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back", the second tale in the Star Wars saga.

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.


Extra Ordinary Me said...

Oh, that is so sweet. I hope my own kids have some good memories like that... :-)

Narkissos said...

aww good ol' star wars tomsy...remeber going crazy with trading cards collection.....i woz a hard core fan of star wars....
that is why my friends used to call me fay(my pet name)jedi knight.....
thanx for the walk down the memory lane.....ah.....:)

Dave said...

I remember watching the first Star Wars film back in the day... I loved it like most people, but some of the shine was taken off it because it said Chapter 4 at the beginning. I spent the whole film wondering what the hell had happened in the first 3 chapters.

I still don't know why they decided to make them out of order!?!?!?

Small Footprints said...

Thank you for sharing that wonderful memory with us. It sounds like your parents were great ... and what a lovely gift from your Mom!

Small Footprints

Thomas said...

Extra, Narkissos, & Small, so glad to hear that my account warmed your hearts. :)

Dave, that is a very good question. The answer can be found here:

Timothy Smith said...

My mother and I were talking about kids toys today and she mentioned Star Wars figures as part of the "big three" Star Wars, Legos and the Atari 2600. Those were always the most used for money invested.

We were rather poor at the time so we did not have all the cool stuff but I had a friend growing up that had it all. The AT-AT, the Falcon and even the Slave-1. We could act out the whole movie in his basement.

Yeah, reading your blog brought back a whole lot of Star Wars memories.

Thomas said...

Tim, we also didn't have a lot of moolah, so I mostly collected the action figures as opposed to all the vehicles.

I remember the jealousy I felt going over to Chad Gilman's house (in Rollingstone) and seeing the mighty AT-AT. It cost $50 30 years ago. Quite an expensive toy.

I got to indulge one evening at JCPenney, however, when my grandma gave me twenty bucks. I bought the Dagobah playset and a Tauntaun.