Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Early Bird Round One!

If you are at all familiar with Star Wars toys from 1977, you know that there were none. Not until 1978 did we see Star Wars toys, and they just kept coming after that. Okay they took a little break after Return of the Jedi. You also know about a little thing called the Early Bird Kit. Where you got your parents to buy an empty box that promised delivery of the first four Star Wars figures when they would be produced in 78'. This was a way for Kenner to get some of that 1977 Christmas cash. Your empty box would include a display that had illustrations of each of the first twelve figures, some stickers, a Fan club card; some little pictures from the movie, and most importantly the certificate to send in for your four figures.

The first four were Luke Skywalker - soon to be Jedi Knight and hero of the rebellion, Princess Leia - the damsel in distress and rebel leader, that fur ball co pilot of the “bestest” space ship around, Chewbacca, and the feisty little know it all droid R2-D2. You would also get pegs to insert in the display to hold your figures in place. I will go on record right here and now that I wanted this set of toys bad, I did not get said set of toys, and this was probably the only time I was truly jealous of another kids toys. I know kids get jealous and envy other kids stuff all the time, but this is the one time I remember being in that state of mind as a kid. Sure I wished I had stuff, but I coveted this set of figures! Funny thing is I didn't even know the kid all that well, he was a new kid on our bus, and he wasn't even at our school that long. For sake of the story we'll call him Tommy.

Vader or Vadar?

Tommy didn't show up on our bus until after the Christmas break, being new no one really wanted anything to do with him (aren't kids great!), it was towards the end of the week that Tommy tried to join in the rest of the kids discussions on our respective Christmas hauls. I had talked with a couple of friends earlier in the week about my knock off Star Wars 12" figures and MASH die cast toys. Other friends received various Superheroes, Bionic men, comics, you name it. We all wanted Star Wars toys though, we were rabid for them! Tommy spoke up from somewhere near the back of the bus and said he had the first four Star Wars figures, other kids called him a liar or made fun of him, wanting proof. He said he didn't have them yet that he was waiting for them. I remember reserving judgment and just sat listening quietly. Could he be talking about the Early Birds? I went home knowing that this is what he must be talking about. I remember it was all I could think about.

This guy will always be a Death Squad Commander to me

Months past and it started to warm up, it was a sunny Friday afternoon when Tommy waited till the bus was just about empty, it only had a few more stops left. That's when he spoke up and said, "Remember when I told you I had Star Wars figures?" I happened to be sitting in front of him that day, and with out missing a beat I whirled around just as he was taking a white box out of his backpack. Other kids clawed their way to where he sat, over other kids to see what he was doing. I held my position as if I where a damn holding back a river. Our bus driver yelled at every one to sit down, but we all ignored him. Then as if in slow motion a plastic tray was pulled from the box and our four heroes wrapped in plastic were resting in little compartments in the tray. I distinctly remember the greenish bow caster of Chewbacca, the straight arm of Luke's light saber hand, the little cylinder look of R2-D2, and the white cape of the Princess.

obviously not the 77'-78' version, but close

Kids immediately begged for him to pass it around and take them out, Tommy held firm as he reminded the crowd he was called a liar months before. I remember I sat silent as before, just soaking in the details. I didn't beg or plead to see them, just watched as he held them and then packed them up. I also heard him explain his mom told him that he could take them, but not to unpack them as he might loose something. I thought smart move, bring mom into this, no one would say another word about holding them. Just as Tommy packed up his figures we came to my stop. I hopped off thinking about those figures. I retold the experience to my parents, as if I had seen Christ walking with Mr. Spock and Santa Claus on the way home from school that day. They dismissed the notion of my suggestion of seeing if it was too late to get this kit and send for figures and we sat down for dinner.

again the back of the newer version

Not too long after that Tommy's family moved on and I thought I would never see a Star Wars figure in my life. What had George Lucas done to me, where were my Star Wars toys? My birthday came and too my surprise so did the Star Wars toys, probably like every kid in America at the time. I ended up with Vader, Luke, a Stormtrooper, C3-P0, R2, a Landspeeder, X-wing and a TIE fighter. My parents did not know what they had created. I never did get the Early Bird kit, by that time it was useless. I don't regret not getting it, and understood why now my parents waited, but I often thought of it and what it would be like to get those first four figures in the mail.

... the saga continues


Bubbashelby said...

Awesome story!

Jay Amabile said...

when i was a kid i had a similar situation happen to me. I was obsessed with getting the original millenium falcon although my parents refused saying it was too expensive. They got me a cheapter knock off spaceship and my dad told me I had to use that as the falcon. There was no substitute for how cool that toy falcon was. There was never anything like it! I wanted it so bad but never got it. I always thought I'd get it for xmas one year but never did. I wound up buying it for myself around '97 when the power of the force figures were released. It was cool to have but years later it wasn't the same.

chunky B said...

I scored an original falcon around Empire Strikes Back, I'll never forget that trip into town, I also much later picked up the '97 version, but you're right it wasn't the same.

I hope to throw my falcon collection up here before the years end, I have to collect my thoughts and unpack the boxes!

rob! said...

wow! a heck of a tale.

i always wondered why the Death Star Commander was one of the original 12 figures...