The first time I saw Star Wars was at a drive-in movie theater somewhere in New Jersey in the spring of 1977. I was five years old. I saw it again, sometime later, in a regular movie theater. I don’t remember too much about either occasion, but I must have been impressed by the movie. I wanted a lightsaber1.
I didn’t want to be a Jedi. I just wanted a lightsaber. The blasters they used in Star Wars were cool, but the lightsaber was something I had never seen before. I liked the sound it made. It was a comforting sound.
I was a naive child at five. At some point, the question of obtaining a lightsaber came up in conversation with my father.
“Radio Shack sells them,” he assured me.
“Can we get one?” I asked.
“Oh no, they are far too expensive. I think the cheapest model is about $10,000.”
If Radio Shack sold lightsabers for $10,000 today, you can bet that quite a few people would own one, but $10,000 in 1977 was a lot of money—the equivalent of nearly $40,000 today.
I had no reason to believe my dad was just having good time with me. I went to school assuring all of my friends that a lightsaber could be had at Radio Shack for a mere $10K. In my own defense, it was a reasonable thing to believe. If my dad had said that you could buy a lightsaber at Toys R Us, I might have been skeptical. I knew Toys R Us told toys, and I was smart enough to know that a lightsaber was no toy. After all, didn’t Obi Wan cut off the arm of some creature in the Creature Cantina with a lightsaber? But he chose Radio Shack, and that was the perfect choice for 1977. Back then, the store was full of all kinds of electronic miscellany. It was the perfect place to purchase a lightsaber.
There were other things that I seemed perfectly willing to believe as a five or six-year-old. Once, when I asked my mom if she could cut my hair instead of the barber at UFO Salon, she told me that she couldn’t. “You need a license to cut someone’s hair, and I don’t have one,” she told me. I imagined that if she had tried to cut my hair without a license, a policeman would show up at our front door after the first snip.
Another time, I asked her how she happened to know all of the answers to the questions on the game shows that she watched on the television.
“I took a course in game show trivia in college,” she told me.
Both of these answers stayed with me for a long time, and I repeated them to many friends before realizing that maybe, just maybe, my mom was having a little fun with me.
I told the story of the lightsaber to the Little Man—who is six-and-a-half—when we were driving to his swimming lessons the other day. “Isn’t it silly,” I said, “that I thought you could get a lightsaber at Radio Shack?”
“Yes, it is, Dad,” he replied. He paused thoughtfully, and then asked, “But if you can’t get one at Radio Shack, where can you buy one?”
“Home Depot,” I said, without missing a beat.