Old Time Radio at OTRCat!

Monday, March 01, 2004

This was originally posted to the "Black_Rock_1" e-group dedicated to fans of the marionette series "SUPERCAR". Maybe it will be helpful to you to suss out where I come from. If it matters!

Hi, gang.

I am not of the bent where I bare my soul at the drop of a hat, as is the wont of American popular culture nowadays. However, as this is specifically ‘Supercar’ related, I believe that it will add to the discussion, perhaps renewing the human element of our fandom, besides the fun technobabble of which we are so fond.

The time: The *early* 60s. I grew up in a black and white world. I remember falling down out of my crib, trying to climb out and pad into the living room to sneak a chance to watch "The Millionaire". Well, falling out of my crib enabled me to see at least *some* of "The Millionaire" on my Momma's lap! I lived with my mother, who was divorced. ! was the eldest of one.

Another early TV memory was of a series called "The Man and the Challenge" starring George Nader. (If anyone else remembers this series, please speak up!) B & W "Bat Masterson" episodes are amongst my memories, as well as the first SF and fantasy movies that I recall: "It Came From Beneath the Sea" (that *is* the Harryhausen flick with the giant octopus, right?), and "The 5000 Fingers of Dr T", written by Dr. Seuss himself (Most memorable was the combining of various household liquids and things found in a kid's pocket to enable their escape.).

Long about this time, something wondrous came into my life. You might even say "marvel-ous". I discovered ‘Supercar’ on early Saturday morning TV. So intense and immediate was my devotion to this strange little show that I would wake up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning and endure 30-60 minutes worth of farm reports, and Porter Waggoner and his Chuck-Wagon Gang so as not to miss the beginning of ‘Supercar’.

I was completely taken by ‘Supercar’! At Playschool, there was a little yellow plastic spaceship amongst the toys that I would lay claim to as soon as I got there, so that I could play 'Supercar' with it. My mother had an alarm clock which broke, and which had a roll-top face cover. That became the Black Rock lab and its sliding roof doors.

Mindful of the lessons learnt from the Dr. T movie, I would mix cologne, water, dishwashing liquid and other benign household liquids into a 'potion' which I would take outside and pour on the ground in the rough shape of ‘Supercar’, whereupon I would invoke, with all the spiritual zeal a little boy could muster, a miracle, so that when I went outside the next day, there would be a full-sized ‘Supercar’ materialized upon the grass. Apparently, I didn't use enough mustard.

One of my most miserable memories as a child was having been sick with a fever and being very much on the mend Friday night. I asked my mother, who had enforced bedrest upon me, "May I get up and watch 'Supercar' in the morning?" She answered in the negative, but I woke up at my customary time anyway, and lay in bed, whimpering with a combination of frustration and fear. Frustration in that I felt absolutely fine, and fear because even though I felt fine enough to get up, I knew that I would not feel entirely fine if I did so in disobedience to Momma.

No longer a single-parent family: my mother, who had been divorced, married a wonderful man who wrote ripping good children's poetry, alas, none published, and most destroyed in a house fire. For a series of months, perhaps a year or two, (time is not reckoned the same by the young) we had a virtually idyllic life, and of course, there was ‘Supercar’, a fixture of my week.

Well, one day, mother didn't get out of bed. She was crying, and very obviously in pain, and was taken to hospital. Things like that happen, and my stepfather and I 'bached it' until Friday night, when I was invited over to a friend's house to stay the night, and Saturday. To this day, I cannot recall the friend's name. Saturday morning came, and we played with my friend's Bat Masterson cane - it fired caps, and lo, I managed to have a close encounter with a mud puddle, and was an extremely messy little boy. So, his mother took me back to my house to get a change of clothes. Wow! There were cars everywhere, and I thought, "Neat! Momma's come home, and they're having a party!" So, with all being right in the world, I sat on the lap of an apparently familiar lady who was sitting in my customary chair, and I turned on, what else? ‘Supercar’!

Supercar was over, and my stepdad invited me back to the inner sanctum of his and Momma's room, where I learned that there was no party, that in fact, my mother had died, and this was the 'apres funeral' get-together. (I do not share this to instigate discussion and critique over the rightness or wrongness of how they handled dealing with me about my mother's death, and frankly would appreciate absence of commentary on this point. All parties have made their peace, and were going by the best light that they had.)

The Earth continued to turn, but within a week, it turned topsy-turvy, for you see, my stepfather had not legally adopted me yet. Who would think to rush such a thing? He and Momma and I had a lifetime together to look forward to. In swept my "bio" father and his parents. Through legal finaglings, I went to live with them. So in essence, I lost my entire family in the space of a week.

But you know what? Saturday came, and I turned on the television, and there was ‘Supercar’. Not to sound maudlin or to place too much importance to a kiddie puppet show, but in the middle of a life completely turned over in a brief time, I found ‘Supercar’ to be a steady influence, a constant in an overwhelmed little life. Nor do I wish to speak of a TV show in the hushed fervor with which many speak of their relationship with Christ, but I do know that God often uses the weak things, the small things, the childlike things, to help in time of need. I would attribute to ‘Supercar’ the title of a 'tool' which helped a sad, confused and confounded little boy find a bit of stability. (The writings of Anderson, Fennell, and the Brothers Woodhouse are quite good, but I do not think of them as apostolic! :^) )

I also discovered a bounty! Channel 13 ran an episode at one time, and when that was over, I could change to Channel 10 and catch a (usually) different episode there!

This is the 'why' of the place that ‘Supercar’ has held in my life for 40+ years. Stripping away the emotional attachment, I find still that it is my favorite of the Anderson sagas. The writing is mature, witty, and does not condescend. The technical aspects of the series are fresh, and while improvements were made over the ensuing years, well, it seems as though the team had "lost its first love", and what had been an act of creation itself became, over time, a job. But these are subjective critiques.

While the Supermarionation works are not perfect (my kids and I all get the giggles upon seeing the cable that yanks Supercar out of the water, or seeing the shadow of the smoke against the "sky" background in the Fireball XL5 openings), they are done with excellence.

This is my story. It is not meant to depress, but to show how even seemingly trivial things can add up to give life meaning and worth...or at least decorate it a bit. This story is yours. I still love ‘Supercar’, and am thankful for it.

Perhaps some of you have stories...

Full boost!


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