First viewing of Star Wars, 1977

It’s almost summer and we are downtown at the Eric 5 movie theatre standing outside waiting to get in. I am six years old, first grade going on second. We see a girl from school I’ve got a crush on, Zoe Bassett and her sister Hannah. I find out later Hannah became a stripper and got tangled up in drugs but for right now it’s 1977 and everything is just fine. In fact the days are getting longer and the sky is turning pink as we enter the theatre with the blue carpeting and the old men in vests who take our tickets.

Mom and dad let me sit down front with Zoe’s family and I can see her freckles in the dark when the screen flashes on her face. It is 1977 and I am six, we are at the Eric 5 which means they show five movies here a day. We are underground in this dark cool space, and when the movie starts everything goes black and the music comes up and a million stars twinkle on the screen.

No one knows who Mark Hamill is but he’s Luke Skywalker and his parents just got killed, and they’re burning his town. Luke looks out across the desert landscape as the sun goes down and everything turns pink. You can tell he’s about to cry as he gets on his Landspeeder and takes off. It’s really Tunisia but looks like another planet.

Luke and all the rebels wear earth tone garb while the Empire uses more of a Nazi color palette. They are the bureaucrats who represent big business and crush independent stores. Princess Leia is played by Carrie Fisher and she gets tangled up in drugs too. Harrison Ford was just a carpenter in real life before he became Han Solo. Darth Vader’s voice is done by James Earl Jones who’s black and when they take his helmet off you can tell why he always wore it, his head is melted.

I am sitting next to Zoe Bassett and it’s like we’re in a dream. She could be wearing a white sheet with her hair tied in buns and me swinging a light saber, using the Force. She has red-brown hair and dark brown eyes and once on the playground I could smell her shampoo, we got so close. We will always be in the Eric 5 together watching Star Wars for the first time. The carpeting is blue with blocky designs like the video game Qbert. The men who take our tickets are old with vests and bow ties and probably smoke. The sign out front glows green-blue. It is still light when we empty the theater and time for the men with vests to sweep the floors. It is 1977 and summer hasn’t started yet and by November I’ll be seven. Zoe is wearing a white sheet and looks like an angel turning in the sun. She is six and 9/11 hasn’t happened yet or the pandemic from 2020 that’s named after the nineteenth strain, COVID. I am standing on the corner of 4th and Hamilton where the Eric 5 used to be but now it’s been gutted by a construction project and you can see the insides of the earth, the different textures in the strata where the soil composition changes. They are using machines with metal teeth and long necks to dig it out. The movie theater is gone.

I am in our garage looking for a tool when I spot the Darth Vader action figure case. It opens in half and you can fit about 50 Star Wars figures inside. I rarely open it because why would you? I’m never going to sell them or give them away. Our girls weren’t interested and now they’re grown up. The case looks down at me quiet, the big eyes empty. It’s 44 years now since that movie came out, that magical night at the Eric 5. Why do I keep the Darth Vader case? Because it’s one thing they can’t tear down. That or what bits of that place I remember. A time that seems apart from time, forever.

Categories: Memoir, writing

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22 replies

  1. Past and present are all mixed up.
    Hi, Bill. I’ve been remiss.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You paint a fine picture here Bill and I enjoyed this piece, so nicely written.
    When I think about my inner six year old’s love, Jeannie, I think of stinging nettles, amongst many other things. That love, often lived in and under trees and around grasses and flowers, was getting dry, neglected, dusty. So thanks Bill for dusting it so carefully today; for restoring its splendour with your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the nicest comment after David! I so value your kind words and thoughtful sharing, glad we connected. Here’s to dusting off old, fine memories. Be well! Enjoy your Sunday.


      • Thank you, Bill. The lightening strike of words is not a surgical cut like a laser. In my case, its jagged cut to Jeannie was via Star Wars, of course, then thinking about a client whose memorabilia collection is out of control and whom I will help to restore order tomorrow.

        Be well Bill and enjoy the night as I enjoy the day.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t have the Star Wars bug. Maybe I was too old and already jaded when it came out. I didn’t grow up with it like everyone after me. In my mind the movie that set the modern movie vibe in motion is raiders of the lost ark.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A delightful read! You’ve got me scratching my head, trying to recall where I saw Star Wars … You’ve also got me scratching my head about 6-yr-old crushes. I don’t think I had any that early! I do remember being scared to death of a classmate that walked the same path home from school that I did – a read-headed tease.
    (Maybe he had a crush on me?)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Enjoyed the structural playfulness very much, Bill. The short sentences, the repetition. And then you drew us back to a present redolent with memories and a breeze whispering loss. Lovely stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I don’t recall the theater, but I do remember my dad telling me beforehand that “they fight with laser swords.” What could excite a six year old (in 1977) more than the concept of fights with laser swords? Nothing, that’s what. He sold me on it before I ever saw it. Looking back, I figure that’s why he was so successful in advertising. As for crushes, I don’t think I had one until at least 4th grade. So I respect your early-onset manliness, there.

    When we moved back to here, we had my daughter’s 7th birthday party at the same roller rink I had mine at. And I would swear they hadn’t changed a thing. It was like walking through a portal to 1977. Quite surreal, that. They’ve updated it since, a little. Cleaned it up but it still feels 70s. It will get torn down one day, it’s just a question of when.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a roller rink memory of first hearing Dirty Deeds and how that song, his voice and the words, blew my little mind. It felt like smoking a cigarette or something completely taboo for a youngster. As they were. Yeah we were lucky to grow up with that franchise. Couldn’t have come at a better time. He sure upped his game after American Graffiti.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d been wondering all this time, how you chose your avatar here on WP. I was not around of course in 1977, but at six I was into castles & knights, and when I encountered the Jedi Order, it meshed perfectly into my fantasy world. Wonderful reminiscence, Obi-Wan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My avatar was the outcome of afternoon wine with a friend, pure nonsense. Probably should retire that or donate it but I think I’m stuck with it now. You weren’t around in ‘77? Man those were funny times. We had a red VW bug, straight out of the former decade I think. And those sweatbands around the wrists like tennis players wore. Woo boy…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I like the connection between your younger and older self. This was very engaging and kept me interested in what I was reading. Great account of your first time seeing Star Wars!

    Liked by 1 person

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