Saturday, May 26, 2007

May 25, 1977

It is a phenomenon of the human mind that we remember incredible details surrounding important or tragic events.

I was in Mrs. Cadle's first grade class when a strange bell rang.. "Class", she said, "this is a signal for an emergency or special announcement" as she quickly left us to destroy the classroom. She returned shortly, tears in her eyes to announce that someone had killed President Kennedy. November 22, 1963.

As a 12 year old, I came down the short set of stairs leading from my bedroom, late in the evening to stand next to the couch with my parents watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. July 20, 1969.

I was at my desk at the Missouri Department of Mental Health Personnel Office (as we called it then) when Dr Ed Bode announced that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded. January 28, 1986.

May 25, 1977, 30 years ago, I remember another more pleasant event. Steve and Val his girlfriend, John and Sara and Lori Anne and I stood in a huge line for 3 hours at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL to get tickets to see the movie that was hyped to the gills, Star Wars.

Damn what a show. The huge audience gasped at the sight of the text crawl at the beginning, forever etching the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" into our lexicon, floating almost 3-D across the screen. Ooohs and ahhs from the mostly college kid crowd greeted the huge life like and almost life size space ships. From those of us who were reared on the obviously wobbly model of the Starship Enterprise, it looked real. The life like, believable aliens, the stirring music, the incredible, deafening Dolby sound, the action, the lovable droids.. we were in a fabulous new world.

It was billed as the first of set of films and true to his word, George Lucas finished 6 Star Wars features, the last in 2005. The first 3, actually the last 3 of the sextet, were finished in quick order "A New Hope" 1977, "The Empire Strikes Back" 1980 and "Return of the Jedi" 1983. It took 16 years for the first of the pre-quel episodes "The Phantom Menace" 1999 to appear. The last, "Revenge of the Stith" actually # 3, premiered just two years ago.

Basically Episodes I, II, and III chronicle the downfall of the Old Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire. It is also the story of Anakin Skywalker, rising as a gifted young Jedi and eventually transforming into Darth Vader via the Dark Side of the Force.

Episodes IV, V and VI chronicle the Galactic Civil War, a lengthy conflict in which the Galactic Empire falls to the Rebel Alliance. These films follow the story of Luke Skywalker, the son of Anakin Skywalker (now Darth Vader), and his rise in the rebellion against the Empire.

No doubt the movie changed the world of entertainment for two generations. I took my kids to see the original when it was re-released to the big screen a few years ago. Still exciting and fresh, but years of technology advances had taken the edge off the complex special effects. For my kids, it was nothing new, so last year. I am not sure if they captured the same feeling I did almost 20 years before, but to me everyone who love the stories and cinematography must see them on the big silver screen.

Maybe a grade suffered, a class or two skipped (it was a Wednesday), money lost from not working, or I missed out on finding a million dollars under some tree, but I am glad I spent 3 hours waiting in line that May afternoon. It was worth the memory.

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