Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 26, 1977

As I sit here watching a movie for what may be the thousandth time, memories come back to the FIRST time I saw the movie...

I was sitting in my fifth grade classroom (Mrs. Pressman, not her team teacher, Mrs. Kerner) when the intercom buzzes. "Please send Suzie (yep, I was Suzie back then) down to the office, her dad is her to pick her up for her dentist appointment." I'd been "brace faced" the month before, but I was confused. I didn't have an appointment that I could recall, it wasn't for another week-after school.

Down to the main office (Mr. Goldstein) and I find my dad AND Kathi there. So she's got a dentist appointment, too? We get out dad's car, his gray 1968 Skylark and head north on Merrick Avenue, away from the dentist and orthodontist's office. "Dad? The dentist is in the other direction." "I know" was his reply, with a smile. This was back when dad had a normal speakng voice. Unfortunately, I don't remember what it sounded like. This was two years before cancer claimed his thyroid and four years before cancer returned to steal almost all of his voice box.

He drives us up to Hicksville*, land of the huge Sears and the mall with the Gertz that we never went to (Mid Island Plaza). Mom was a big fan of Sears, so we made the occasional trip up there. In front of Mid Island Plaza was a Nathan's, and we drove into the parking lot and inside we went for lunch. Hot dogs, crinkle fries and sodas. We got a couple of quarters and played a few games until dad said it was time to go. We still did not know the purpose of the trip-he had been tight lipped on the 20 minute ride there....

Back in the car. We thought that maybe it was just a lunch date out, not that he'd ever done that before. School was always very important to Dad, to be taken out had to be a big reason. He'd NEVER taken us out for anything. Why today? Across the parking lot we drove to one of the few movie theatres in Nassau County that we'd not set foot in.

A little history here:my dad was a big time movie buff. Voriacious reader, too, with 4 or 5 books going at all times. When he and mom split, Kathi and I got to share in this passion. For a couple of years, I kept track: we saw fifty movies per year in those days(and Dad, probably another 30 to 50 that we didn't). Had anyone played movie trivia with dad, they would have been creamed. We had a tradition of seeing movies on Christmas Eve, then opening presents (the Right Stuff was the only movie to ruin the opening of presents on Christmas Eve part, as it was 3.5 hours long!). Movies were 'our thing'.

Back to the day. It was May 26, 1977. It's 2 in the afternoon, a Wednesday, and we were NOT in school. We were in the lobby of the Mid Island North and we were going to see some movie called "Star Wars". No clue what this was about, hadn't heard of it and I knew we weren't seeing the other movie because 1. It started at 3:15 and 2. It was R rated and there was no way he was taking his 10 year old and 7 year old daughters to THAT.

Popcorn, sodas and the requisite Junior Mints in hand, we find seats in the theatre. Dad always had to have an aisle seat, but he wasn't extremely picky about his seats, as long as this criteria was met. This time, he was a little more concerned about where we sat, but this was a 500 seat theatre and maybe 50-60 people were there. It would not be a problem. I remember the huge speakers at the back of the theatre, and we sat pretty close to them. Later, I recalled seeing the "Dolby" designation in the ads for the movie, indicating which screens had this feature. Mid Island North was one of those, our local theatre, the Merrick, was not. Star Wars would be the movie to put "Dolby" on the theatrical map. At that time, less than a dozen Long Island theatres carried the "Dolby" designation.

We still didn't know what the deal was about "Star Wars" that Dad would allow us to miss school to see. The lights dimmed and the screen started crawling with text. I was able to keep up, in fact, found it a little slow-I can't answer for Kathi on this one. The only thing strange was "Episode IV". Guess 1 through 3 were before my time(little did I know). I still wasn't sure why we were here.

Then, the movie REALLY started. For two hours, we were in a galaxy far, far away and thought Luke was very brave, Obi Wan was very wise, Han was very bossy, Leia was very pretty and Darth was very mean. It was exciting, it was engaging and it was over far too quick. Star Wars was one of those movies that you walk out of the theatre and need a few minutes to 'get back' into the real world. The movie was so well made that you believed that you were there.

May 26, 1977. Dad had just seen this movie for the SECOND time, having been to opening night at the very same theatre. The advantage to having a dad who was a voracious reader and a movie buff-he'd known it was coming and seen all of Lucas's other movies. He knew odds were great that he'd like this one, too, so off to opening night he went. He saw and knew odds were great that both daughters would love it, too.

You know what? I have no clue what lessons we were doing in school that day or that month. I can give you a vague idea of the year's lessons (I won the 5 grade spelling bee and went camping with the Girl Scouts), but exactly what we were doing that day? Not a chance.

Thanks, Dad. I hope someday my two boys will remember something we did out of the norm thirty years later and have a great story and smile remembering a day that was different from all the others.



*Hicksville. Town on Long Island that is the origin for the word "Hick". If you got off the Long Island Railroad when this was the terminal stop on the line, and had to travel to points further east on LI, you were termed a "Hick". The term now means any country bumpkin.

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