I recently tried an exercise over at the IGrewUpStarWars Facebook page; can you remember when and where you acquired your various Star Wars toys as a kid? I had put together my own list of memories as part of asking the question, and I did pretty well with a few blanks here and there I’ll never fully recall. Many people who responded had one or two recollections but most people admitted they could no longer remember.
Every toy carries a personal story, and 99% of those stories are lost to time and fading memory. But sometimes a toy that otherwise wasn’t your favorite is bonded to your memory more than the others because it was in the right place at the right time.
So, to begin this story, it’s only fitting that we have to travel back to 1985.
I don’t remember the time of year. It might have been spring or summer. Who knows. I think I was wearing shorts that day. It was a special event when my Mom took me to Toys ‘R Us. It was even more special on the rare occasions my younger brother wasn’t around. I might have been seven years old, or almost seven, give or take a few months, and all I know is I wasn’t in school, my brother was somewhere else that day, and my Mom was taking me to Toys ‘R Us.
Toys ‘R Us was a special trip in the early-1980s. Originally because it was so far away from our house and they didn’t build a closer one until the mid-80s. As a rule, we usually picked up toys at Target, Hills, K-Mart and Zayre’s, and occasionally Circus World in the mall if the prices weren’t astronomical.
The trips to Toys ‘R Us were so infrequent I can tell you pretty much everything I picked out there.
On one occasion, I bought the Gabriel Lone Ranger & Silver two-pack. Another visit had me walking away with the Micro Bespin Control Room. On another I bought my yellow The Force Lightsaber. A third trip was just to look, while my Mom snuck the Millennium Falcon into the underside of the shopping cart. Another trip scored me the Micro Bespin Freeze Chamber on clearance. Aside from the lightsaber, which survived battered, but was thrown away in 1990, I still have all of these toys.
But on this particular day in 1985, I had a doctor’s visit later in the afternoon. I had allergies to grass, pollen, cats and whatnot, so we were going to see someone called “an allergist.” First, we were taking a trip to Toys ‘R Us.
When we entered the store, I made my way to the Star Wars aisle. It’s a sight I’ll never forget, because it was a rather melancholy one. It was the last time I saw the Star Wars aisle at Toys ‘R Us. What greeted me when I turned the corner was a glorious floor-to-ceiling edifice of boxed Kenner vehicles and figures, most of them sporting Return of the Jedi logos. A small strip in the center of the aisle contained Droids and Ewoks figures, as well as some of the new Power of the Force figures. The shelving to the far right was stacked with the new A-Wings and Tatooine Skiffs. To this day I can remember seeing the skiff box art for the first time.
What I also vividly remember were the big red tags all over the Return of the Jedi vehicle boxes. “CLEARANCE” abounded on that aisle that day. They had all the vehicles in the Jedi line in large numbers. When my Mom saw the prices, she said, “Oh, these are on sale. You can get a ship.”
I could get a ship?! I could get a ship!!!!
You didn’t get vehicles outside of birthdays and Christmas (or maybe a trip to the hospital, but no kid wanted to go that far.) This was a huge deal!
Let me remind you: I was out of school, my brother wasn’t around, I was at Toys ‘R Us, and I was allowed to buy a ship!!!! This was the day of days!
I didn’t see the ship I loved most. The Rebel Snowspeeder eluded my grasp throughout childhood. Today was no different. So, onward and upward as they say. I had the X-Wing and the Y-Wing, and the Scout Walker and Speeder Bike. I saw the TIE Fighter, but I just wasn’t that into the bad guys. The A-Wing was an option…but it was in a Droids box so I couldn’t be sure about it. I knew the Return of the Jedi logo well, I didn’t know anything about that Droids logo.
What do I pick? There’s too many of them!
But there was the B-Wing fighter waiting to greet me, streaking away from a galactic explosion on the box, with opening wings and cannons, a fighter in the Rebel Alliance I did not yet have. Yes, this was the one to get. Plus, I already had the B-Wing Pilot figure at home! Win-win!
My Mom bought the fighter and we took it home. She helped me with the stickers and found some batteries and I was off to that galaxy far, far away with my B-Wing pilot now finding new relevance.
I carried it with me that afternoon to the allergist. As we sat in the treatment room, the doctor entered and commented that I’d brought quite the hardware with me. My Mom made some statement about me never going anywhere without something Star Wars, or something about it giving me courage. It’s hard to recall the specific phrasing.
The doctor leaves and comes back into the room with an assistant and a metal tackle box. He says he has to test me to see everything I’m allergic to. He opens up the tackle box and inside is a massive pile of syringes.
Shots!!! There's too many of them!
Fifteen to 20 of these shots PER ARM are going into each of my arms within the next few seconds. Before I can panic, my Mom holds me close and whispers something to me about going to get a milkshake or see a movie or something. I really only remember she said something to distract me. By this point, I’ve got one hand on B-Wing and the other arm is outstretched while the allergist, like a man possessed, is injecting my arm with 20 syringes at lightning speed. He’s throwing them over his shoulder as the assistant passes him the next one, while my Mom does everything to keep me from looking. A wet paper towel is draped across the punctures.
Then it was time for the other arm.
When it was over, syringes were all over the floor. A couple had actually found themselves stuck in the curtains of the window at the far wall of the room. My arms were sore and dots of blood, in two perfect rows, were welling through the paper towels on each arm.
I don’t think I cried at all. The adults did their job to keep me from completely freaking out.
I walked out of that doctor’s office clutching my new B-Wing fighter. I’ll never forget that day.
Years later, while in high school around 1994, my kid cousins James and Nathan came to visit from Florida. My room was decorated with my childhood Star Wars toys and collectibles and I gave my mom and aunt explicit instructions that the kids weren’t to go into my room without me being there. The doors were firmly closed.
The morning came when they were leaving. I had been downstairs eating breakfast. Their minivan drove away back to Orlando. I go upstairs to my room and the B-Wing is sitting on my dresser, and one of the wings looks very, very wonky.
I pick the B-Wing up and the upper wing falls off onto the floor. Someone had attempted to make it look like the ship was intact by setting the pulled-off wing loosely on top of the ship! Quite luckily, the B-Wing was undamaged and I was able to reset the wing. Had it been broken, there was no Ebay to source a replacement part.
To this day, James denies he went into my room without permission, almost broke my ship, and tried to hide it while he literally made his getaway. I’d be shocked if it was his younger brother Nathan. That’s just not Nathan’s personality.
I know it was you, James. I know it was you…