Star Wars 30th Anniversary

The family got the new stamps at the Post Office. If I got to pick I’d probably make the Millennium Falcon stamp the one they put on coils, but I understand why Yoda will probably win. After that would be Darth Vader (shrunken to an appropriate size) and then the clone troopers. Everything else is a dud, even Han and Chewie.

So… What was I doing 30 years ago?

Not a clue. Star Wars didn’t come to my out-of-the-way burg until August or even September. We were ready for it by then, because it was the phenom of the summer.

The lousy radio station was playing the score. (Got it for my 16th birthday, I did. Beautiful double-album artwork. I wish I still had it.) Symphonic music on the radio, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Plus — remember, this was the 1970’s, and thank the Maker they’re behind us forever — we got Meco’s “Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk” as well.

The news about Star Wars traveled much faster than the theater bookings did, in those long-gone days before the ultra-wide opening. Today, 30 years later, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is opening, and everywhere includes the mall mega-plex.

Let’s see.

I would have been just beginning a summer vacation. We had a “Mid High” school with grades 9-10 and a “Senior High” school with grades 11-12. I’d completed 10th grade so I was probably filled with dread about becoming a freshman again. (Every other year you were either on top or bottom. I believe that nowadays they have 4-year high schools like everywhere else, but I could very well be wrong.)

I’d spent ten thousand years the previous summer helping out in my brother’s gas station for a few weeks. I hated it so much I resolved to do better in school, so I could get into a college and get a job not in a gas station. (My 9th-grade GPA was 1.6/4.0. It took me three more years to get it up into the 3.0-range: 3.03 or something like that — I used to know, back when it mattered. My advice to youngsters is to slack off later in school, and not so much. That way your mistakes are camouflaged among the A’s and B’s.) During the summer I probably mostly hung out, re-read my Heinlein collection, and — when the need for cash became acute — mowed someone’s lawn.

Earlier that spring, I took driver’s ed along with my new-leaf academic-oriented classes. On Thursday, January 20, I had to make a U-turn on Highway 54 just south of Tularosa right as Jimmy Carter was being sworn in as president. (Why on earth would a driver’s ed teacher have the radio on? To distract him from what the student was doing?)

The school year had begun again by the time Star Wars came to town, because I remember Jesse Crow asking me in Biology class if I would be going to see it. (The class was an oddity because it was taught by Coach Bryant … yet it had academic pretensions. Half the students were members of the football team, and they actually had to learn things. What Bryant was doing there, instead of in the history department with the other coaches, I never knew.)

In those days there were only two theaters in town: the Sands and the Sierra. The Sierra was nicer, and I’m happy to see it has a new lease on life, but it must have been closed at the time because both theaters were never in business at the same time.

The Sands’ box office was located at the corner of 11th and New York. The line for Star Wars stretched all along New York street, turned the corner onto 10th, and almost all the way to White Sands. Nobody had ever seen anything like it.

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