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That Time I Saw Star Wars: A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Before the Hype

My mother sewed that sweet Han Solo outfit for me. No way it wasn't going to be worn on picture day, 1978

My mother sewed that sweet Han Solo outfit for me. No way it wasn’t going to be worn on picture day, 1978

It’s kind of ironic that I am returning to my blog and posting a piece on Star Wars just before I drop out from the social media sites I use to push off my ramblings. The thing is, it’s the best and only chance I have avoid the reviews, rants, spoilers, and meme’s before I see the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. Just like everyone else, I have already been inundated with Star Wars hype and fervor, but I want to remove myself from any more of it until I see the movie myself. Don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty as the next guy. Well, I haven’t updated my Facebook profile with that lightsaber image, so maybe I am a hold out. The point being, until I see the movie, I don’t want 1.734 million little sound bites tractor beaming inside my noggin. I want to go in as open and naive as I can.

I am 44 years old, though there are times it’s been argued that I haven’t progressed much past 12 or 13. I am o.k. with that and have to admit there have been some fair points made regarding the previous accusation. Still I don’t think about age much, except for when my hip hurts or I strain really hard to understand what’s going on with radio. I will say this however, there are two times when I think about age and what experiences it has given me. One is the joyous, over-stimulating time that was the arcade boom that began in the late 70’s and lasted through the early 80’s. My brain has to hold my fingers back from going off topic, spending multiple paragraphs expounding on the experience and telling you about the time I inadvertently spent my Christmas money at Aladdin’s Castle (they just switched from quarters to tokens and apparently there was no reverse currency exchange), but that is for another post. The second was seeing Star Wars in the theater when it first came out.

Millions of people have their own story about seeing Star Wars. That’s partly the reason for the level of enthusiasm about the release of the new movie. I don’t want to completely bore you with mine, even though it did help shape and form who I was and have become. What my memory paints as so grand is how it took everyone by surprise. There was no hype. No toys. No Star Wars themed Coffee Creamer (no shit. It’s real.). There was a goofy little kid from Nixa, Missouri who was waiting as patiently as he could for one of his parents to take him to see this movie everyone was talking about. Hell, there were goofy little kids all over the land waiting for the same thing; wondering what it was going to be like, taking bits of information from – and holding in very high esteem – the kids who had already seen the move.

Tower TheaterFor whatever reason, one of the snapshot memories was a hot summer day, probably June, spent talking with a couple friends after baseball practice about wanting to see the movie. It was one of the few practices I didn’t get hit in the head, so I remember it well and believe the memory to be true. We talked about the lines of people waiting to see the movie and how crazy that was. We also agreed the lines were used as the main stall tactic by most parents. Those lines made the news, man, and they were huge. Star Wars was playing at the Tower Theatre in Springfield, which only had one screen (not uncommon in those days) and no advance ticket sales. It wasn’t like the lines of today, where it’s more for show, to participate in the hype, and maybe grab your 15-minutes of fame since you can buy tickets way in advance. Back then, if you wanted to see a movie, you went to the theater and bought a ticket. If none were available, you bought one for the next show. The thing is, people were waiting for several showings, sometimes all day, just to have a turn at getting a ticket and taking the ride. 

No one got to peek behind the curtain before the movie came out, No one even saw it coming. There weren’t shelves of toys to take your dollar and steal your imagination before you saw the film, nor were there toys to buy after. Kenner didn’t even have them ready for the holiday season, offering an empty box in the form of an Early Bird Certificate Package that you could purchase just to send in a certificate, trusting in the US Postal Service and a toy companies word, receiving your figures once they finally produced them. Amazing.

The point being, it was all very new. It’s hard to imagine life before Star Wars, but I was there and old enough (barely) to remember it. For the record, my dad did take me and my brother. Twice. Bad ass move dad, and thank you. Star Wars was the seed for thousands of play time hours, figures and planets dug out of dirt piles and made from cardboard tubes. My best friend at the time and I would walk a couple of miles down to a stream, catch crawdads, and take them back for our aquariums. Not before we gave those crawdads plenty of exercise holding blasters and light sabers in their claws, crawling around his millennium falcon in some sort of crustacean space opera. We had a blast, they seemed to enjoy it, and we put them back in the water with plenty of time before they dried out.

I know I can never go back and I am not going to try, but I do want this experience to be as innocent and unadulterated as I can make it. With a bit of luck, I hope to capture a bit of the same magic I latched onto in 1977. And when I’m done with the movie, I will catch up with the world. I might even put a little C3PO in my afternoon coffee.

Roll well. Groove on.

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