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Friday, June 13, 2008

Early Father's Day!


When I was 9 years old, a little movie called Star Wars made it's debut and, to steal a phrase, it was a time when Star Wars ruled the world. I like many my age immediately fell in love with this movie , it's characters, and all the strange adventures that unfolded on the big screen. The one character that stood out, at least to me, was Darth Vader. So what does Star Wars and Darth Vader have to do with Father's Day?

It seems that at a local mall that is long gone now, J.C. Penny's was having a special visitor one Saturday. Now being 9 years old and knowing so much about the world and Star Wars in particular, you would think I would be begging my parents to take me to see this dignitary from a different world. Fact is I didn't even know this event was going down. My dad however, always the wiser to the schemes of the Empire, not only knew about, he had made plans to confront the Dark Lord of the Sith himself.

I remember loading into the Vega that warm Saturday morning to make the trip to the mall. The Vega was my dad's work transportation at the time, it had his usual mess of carbon copy gas receipts and spilt coffee in the drink holder, I still can remember the smell. A hatch back, that thing was a tank, I used to climb all over that car when it was parked in the drive way. We made our way through the back roads to Walzem Road, home of Windsor Park Mall, for what seemed like hours upon hours. The trip actually takes about 30 minutes the back way, 15 by highway. By this time I was let in on the plan of the assault. That's right we were going to see Darth Vader! My dad calls him Dark Vader and often confuses Star Wars with Star Trek, I think just to get me going.

I was beyond excited as we pulled up into the parking lot, we had to park on the lower end of the mall, by the J.C. Penny's entrance, which happens to be a straight shot to the center of the store, where the Empire had deposited it's Dark Lord. Now I'm thinking walk in, have a few choice words with Mr. Vader, maybe a photo op or two, get him to sign an autograph, maybe even get away with his or a Stormtrooper's helmet. that was far from the case, the store had set up a little stage, Darth Vader was about 2 feet off the ground with two store employees helping him line up his marker with a black and white glossy that he would pass out, or rather hold out for the mob to grab at. This was truly the first and only time I have ever been in a Beetles type mob, with people pushing and shoving to get an autograph.

Being nine I was also a lot smaller than most of the teenagers and parents that were there, so I made my way as fast as I could to the front, my dad trying to keep up. I am not exaggerating when I say it was a mob. I stood right under the imposing figure of Darth Vader as he whipped out an autograph and practically handed me the photo. I reached for a corner, I didn't know if it was trap or not, that dude was big, and before I could pull back with my prize a man grabbed the photo and tore it. Not wanting a torn photo the man discarded the little corner he ended up with on the floor and went for another photo. I didn't know what to do, by this time my dad had seen what happened and dove down into the crowd, risking life and limb, to get the rest of the picture. He secured the missing piece and we made our way out of the fray.

We talked all the way home about how cool it was to see Darth Vader and the crowd. The thrill of getting a piece of history and the such. I think my dad just humored me while I spoke of these things.

Upon returning home the two pieces were joined back together, like two pieces of a treasure map, with a piece of tape. All the care in the world was taken to make sure all lined up just right. To this day this photo hangs in my studio at home, same piece of tape, not only my most cherished of Star Wars collectables, but memories. I think back on that moment in my life when my dad went out of his way to make his son happy, over a movie and a piece of paper, and know that, that is what it means to be a dad. I have tried to model my father hood on that idea and keep the Vader as a reminder... okay that and it's a cool autographed photo of Darth Vader.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

9 comments:

Bubbashelby said...

Beautiful memory. Thanks for sharing it.

I remember my Dad reading the scrolling text to me when I was too young to read it myself. He always added that "flair" to his reading, like a newscaster announcing some high drama event.


"So what does Star Wars and Darth Vader have to do with Father's Day?"

Vader has A LOT to do with father's day...he is Luke's Father after all ;)

S Smisek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Smis said...

LOL.. made me really smile to read this. I too was standing out in front of the J.C. Penny store at Windsor Park Mall that same Saturday to see Darth Vader.
I too remember how massive he was. How imposing. I still have the autographed photo-minus the tear. My father could not have given less about Star Wars as he did of my happiness.., so I trudged from Windcrest across a vacant lot and Walzem Road to meet Vader. I used to also stand inside JC Penny's at the Video/Camera booth and watch over and over and over a little 5 min. reel to reel scene they used to play as a demo of the Millenium Falcon/Tie Fighter battle from the movie. I must have driven those salesmen mad.. as I would never leave.., except to sneak out for an orange julius and a chick-fil-a.. then back after lunch.

Cheers,

S.

chunky B said...

Hi A Smis,

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Windsor Park seemed like a magical place when I was a kid. Do you remember the big box toy store that sat accross Walzem from Windsor Park? I can't for the life of me remember the name, but remember going there way before Toys R Us was built behind the mall.

Or the Dungeon Comic Shop, tucked back in the shops accross from the mall?

BG Webmaster said...

I do remember the Toy Store.., it was HUGE.., about a block north of the mall itself. There is now a giant Home Depot on the other side of the lot.. I think the building used to house the toy store is still there.., but like you I can not remember the name. I remember seeing Pet Rocks there. Love that store. I went to the the comic shop many, many times as well.

chunky B said...

I believe the Toy Store became an Office Depot or Office Max after sitting vacant for awhile. My last trip there I remember seeing Marvel Megos there.

I was sad to see the Dungeon Comic shop go, I picked up practically the entire run of Usagi Yojimbo there and would make it a point to hit the 50% off sale every January, good times.

BG Webmaster said...

Finally found my copy of the signed Darth Vader head shot.

I was one of the first kids in line. I waited there for what seemed like hours.
He signed yours Vader'.., mine says 'Darth Vader'. LOL
I guess by the time you got yours he was tired of signing his full name! HAH'

Cheers

Jason Geyer said...

The toy store was a Lionel Playworld. I still have some Star Wars figure cards with the price stickers on them. Then it did become that Office Max eventually (bought my first inkjet printer there!)

The Dungeon went down to the intersection of Walzem and Austin Highway, with Comic Quest on the other side of Austin Highway.

Jason Geyer said...

The toy store was a Lionel Playworld. I still have some Star Wars figure cards with the price stickers on them. Then it did become that Office Max eventually (bought my first inkjet printer there!)

The Dungeon went down to the intersection of Walzem and Austin Highway, with Comic Quest on the other side of Austin Highway.