Friday, August 1, 2008

Jim Hall - 1966

Jim Hall - While this one isn't strictly 100% comic book material, with Batmania once again running high, I thought it might be appropriate.

The year is 1966. I'm all of 5 years old, and my younger brother John is a strapping lad of three. My best friend Larry, who lives across the street, is one of the fortunate few in the neighborhood who lives in a home with that miracle of the age--a color television.

Like all young men of the day, we were glued to our TV set in the living room, in early January. The dial had been carefully turned to Channel 13--our local ABC affiliate. At 7:30 it came on--Batman. And there, a banner unfurled on the bottom of the screen--"IN COLOR" it screamed at us.

Our father was a fine provider, and a truly great man in his own right. He worked hard and provided everything that we needed. And he sat in his big chair, with us on his lap, and painstakingly read to us each word that appeared on the screen--BIFF, POW, KZZAPP! But it was not enough for my brother and I.

For unlike Larry across the street, we were stuck watching this glorious action in boring old black and white.

Oh, the indignity! It clearly stated in every Bat-promo and at the start of every Bat-episode that this action was gloriously presented in COLOR, but not in our house.

So utilizing every resource at our young command, John and I began a campaign of excessive whining and begging. We simply had to have a color TV, because Batman was in color. We begged, we pleaded, we cajoled, we even offered to do extra chores. It was all for naught. As I mentioned, Dad provided us with everything we needed, but his sensibilities and ours differed on this key point. Dad simply did not understand that it was imperative that we see Batman in all of its full color glory.

But Dad was indeed a fine provider. As the next week approached, Dad promised us that he would provide a solution. We could tell that our campaign had worked! Dad finally understood that Batman simply demanded color.

And when he came home from work that fateful evening, he promised us that he had in his briefcase the solution to all of our troubles. We could hardly contain our enthusiasm as we wolfed down the evening's repast of tuna casserole washed down with glasses of milk. How could Dad have the solution in his briefcase? There was no way that a color television could possibly fit in his briefcase.

Then my genius little brother hit on the solution--the briefcase must hold the paperwork for the brand new color TV that Dad had hidden out in the back of his Ford Falcon station wagon that he bought second had from Larry's father's AMC dealership. That must be it!

We flew through our evening rituals with a speed that no superhero of the day could have possibly matched. John fed the dog, while I helped Mom dry the dishes. Then we raced off to put our pajamas on and brush our teeth. We actually squealed with glee, warmed by the knowledge that Mr. Friefeldt, our neighbor who owned the local Zenith store, must be in the living room at this very moment!

He would be helping Dad set the brand new color TV up in the living room, getting it warmed up, and connecting it to the aerial. The pressure was on now. Surely a color TV would take more time to warm up than our boring black & white model! Would the new TV require the painful readjustment of the antennae in order to pull in Channel 13? Oh, the terror! What if we missed the opening segment?

We dashed out of the bathroom, the nasty taste of toothpaste still foaming in our mouths. Much to our dismay there was no Mr. Friefeldt. There was no brand new color TV. There was simply Mom in her chair, and Dad in his. Dad said to us "hurry up, you’ll want time to read this before your program comes on." And he presented us with a Batman comic book (actually Detective Comics #352--which I still have in terrible, ratty condition). "Now," he said "you will know what color everything in Gotham City is and you won't even need a color TV."

sgCertainly we were deeply crestfallen. But the joys of watching Batman on Dad's lap as he dutifully read each POW, ZAP, BIFF, and BAM to us surely overcome our disappointment. And Dad's gift of that comic book, fresh from the spinner rack at DeWitt's Market started us on a lifelong addiction to four-color heroes that has not yet abated.

I hope that we thanked Dad properly for that gift, and for the wonderful childhood tale that we took from it. In the end, Dad's love, and his spirited reading of sound effect captions, was worth far more than any old color TV could have possibly been.


Arkonbey said...

I have to know: did your dad read the 'BAMs' etc. straight or did he ham it up?

That is a very sweet story, btw. My dad and I never had that kind of fun ritual (but, he did take me to see Star Wars in the theater on the back of his motorcycle back in '77)

Anonymous said...

Dad read them straight up! Dad was an English professor, who's speciality was Shakespeare. He had (and for that matter still has) that great booming dramatic voice. You could feel the impact of the punch when Dad read the sound effect.

After I showed him this blog, we got out the DVD of the (REAL) Batman movie for a little nostalgia night at the old homestead. Dad did offer to read the sound effects to me, but drew the line at having me on his lap for some strange reason. It was a great flashback moment when he read that first POW! Unfortunately he fell asleep before the movie finished. But then again, he is 76 years old now!

Thanks for the kind words.

rob! said...

it is a really charming story. its such a perfect Dad Logic story.

re: arkonbay--"(but, he did take me to see Star Wars in the theater on the back of his motorcycle back in '77)"

--that's a Hey Kids! story if i ever heard one!