Happy Birthday Star Wars. 42 years ago today movie history was created. I was lucky enough (and old enough) to remember the phenomenon that changed my life. I was five years old and from the moment I left the cinema I've craved Star Wars. Thank you George Lucas for giving the world Star Wars and for letting us play in your galaxy.
I was either five or six being either 1977 or 1978 when Star Wars first hit our cinemas here in South Wales. In those days, there always seemed to be a huge gap between US releases and the rest of the world. Anyway I had never heard of Star Wars and out of the blue my brother, who is sadly no longer with us asked if I would like to go and see this space film. Any trip to the cinema back then was like someone taking you to a magical land. Of course I said yes.
The cinema was a small two screen affair. No multi screens in those days, well at least not around our way. One screen was showing Star Wars and the other screen some other movie that no one seemed to care about. I vividly remember the queue being huge! It was like a modern-day comic con queue. It stretched right around the building. We joined the back and waited for what seemed hours. It probably was! Eventually we made it inside and Star Wars entered my life. Now I don’t actually have any memories of the first time watching Star Wars. As Mike Booth mentions in his “Collect All 21!” book the reason could be I’ve seen Star Wars so many times that the memory of those two hours or so may have been overwritten.
What I do remember is coming out of the cinema and being so excited. It was like someone had shown me this new universe for the first time and its all there for me to play in. On the way home we sat on the upper level of a double-decker bus and the entire journey home consisted of me nagging my brother to hum the theme tune to Star Wars or asking him to recall a particular scene in the movie.
From that point on it was my mission to get all things Star Wars. My family didn’t have a huge amount of disposable income but they made sure I had Star Wars figures. They were perfect for a family on a low income. The first lot that came out were around the one pound mark. So my first figure was of course Vader himself followed by Luke. Just with these two figures I was able to imagine a story line and what I thought at the time was a complex one.
My weekly pocket money (which was around 50 pence) usually went on the Star Wars trading cards. Many times I would get told off by my parents for spending all my money on these cards especially when they found out that they were all doubles too. “What a waste of money” my mum would say. Of course it didn’t stop me. I was determined to at least finish the montage image of the classic poster artwork on the back of the cards. The gum was an added bonus and even now smelling original flavoured bubble gum instantly takes me back to my Topps Star Wars collecting days.
The school playground was the Ebay of the day. The sound of kids saying “got, got, got, need, got, need” was all that could be heard. There was always one kid in the playground who had the most cards and the hardest to get him to part with the cards you needed. The deal usually consisted of me giving away five of my cards to get just the one I was missing. Probably the reason why he had so many.
Needless to say I never managed to get a full set of any of the cards. Be it Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back or the Return of the Jedi stickers. Well not until I had my own disposable income and the ease of the internet many years later.
That’s how it was for the next few years. Spending my money on all things Star Wars. The odd comic, poster and nagging my parents for that breakfast cereal which came with those transfers you would rub on the back of the box with a pencil depicting a scene from the movie. I could never get them quite right. Sometimes only half would stick and then I would spend ages trying to line up the other half.
Eventually I got my first ship, an X-Wing fighter. My collection of figures was growing and I filled in the missing characters with other figures. I may have had Maximillian from Disney’s The Black Hole. Naturally he was a baddie who did Vader’s bidding. Then one day I had the best present a kid in the 70’s or early 80’s could get. The Millennium Falcon. It was amazing. This huge ship with hidden compartments, a ramp and with two size C batteries you could get it to play a buzzing sound. It was incredible and my made up stories centred around the Falcon. It was the good guys base while the Empire had to settle for my Big Trak. Many times the Empire tried to acquire the Falcon, ultimately failing every time.
Being a kid I always wanted more and my friend from school who lived across the road had an At-At from Empire Strikes Back. It was the biggest toy I had ever seen and I wanted one. I never got one. I remember it was one of the most expensive toys and even today I still don’t have one.
I loved my Kenner Star Wars collection and trading cards as a kid. They were my Star Wars fix. Imagine my horror one day when I found some of my figures had been stolen. I had foolishly left them in my garden while I went in for my dinner. When I returned they were gone! A neighbour’s kid had stolen them, I could see him playing with them in his garden. When I confronted him, he claimed they were his. He had even taken the cape of my Vader and replaced it with some black fabric to make it look like it was his. Eventually, parents talked to parents and I got them back. I could hear the kid crying in his house as his father told him off. The good guys won in the end.
Years went by and I, along with all the other kids were growing up. Most grew out of Star Wars but not me. When I went to the big school I was still a Star Wars fan. I still played with my figures. I would get teased at school for still being a kid even though we still were. Being called a geek back in those days didn’t have the cool attachment it has associated with it these days. I found it hard but I never walked away from Star Wars. It made me a stronger person sticking up for the things I liked. In fact, thanks to Star Wars I became a Sci-fi fan in general. Anything space was my thing. Star Trek, Battlestar, Buck Rogers, even Battle Beyond The Stars was on my list.
When I look back on my childhood the first thing that I remember is that day I watched Star Wars for the first time with my sorely missed brother. Little did I know that day would mould the person I am today.
Thank you Star Wars.
Happy Birthday Star Wars.
The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Williams and a whole lot more.