I was going to save this blog post for the summer — I remember trading Topps’ “Return of the Jedi” cards and stickers with my best friend Shawn Degnan at the end of my driveway on hot July afternoons in 1983. (It was also where we traded baseball cards, stickers, and … even rocks, when we were both tots. We were both quite the childhood collectors.) I’m running this today, of course, following Carrie Fisher’s passing.
“Return of the Jedi” cards were huge. I was 10 when they went on sale at the local family “drugstore” — which was a couple of miles away; seriously, a lot of New York is quite rural. I seem to remember a couple of “Star Wars” cards floating around at the bottom of my childhood toybox, too — but those were released when I was a tot, and too young to collect anything in an organized fashion.
These came in bright red wrappers, with a hard, occasionally brittle stick of truly cheap pink gum. (I am a little confused by a Google image search that shows yellow packaging.) The dust from the gum would sometimes pepper the cards and make them smell like the gum. I relished that scent as a kid — it meant the cards were new. There was also one sticker per pack, but you never peeled it off, as then you could not trade it. I think I had all the cards pictured below.
The Holy Grail of these cards was one that Shawn had and I did not — it had an image of Han Solo being unfrozen from carbonite in Jabba the Hutt’s palace during his rescue by Princess Leia. (I’m confused again by the fact that I can’t seem to locate an image of that card.
I figure this is probably a very obscure Throwback Thursday post, even for my niche demographic of weirdo 40ish horror-sci-fi nerds. Believe it or not, I actually can remember receiving a pack of these “King Kong” trading cards in 1976 or 1977 or so.
I mentioned the 1976 “King Kong” remake here at the blog not too long ago. Wikipedia tells me that it was a huge commercial success despite its campy approach compared to the 1933 classic. I can only imagine that the film would strike a strange emotional chord today; in this version, the title monster climbs not the Empire State Building, but the World Trade Center. I actually hadn’t seen the movie by the time I’d gotten the trading cards — these would have been made available in 1976 or a year later, I think … I only saw this version of King Kong when it hit broadcast television years later. I remember watching it with my older sister and being frustrated by it … it seemed to take a very long time to get to the giant gorilla.
I would have been four or five years old, I guess, but I remember riding in the back of my Dad’s car on a hot summer’s day while my pal David Darling and I eagerly thumbed through the pack my father had bought for each of us.
David was my best friend at the time; he lived in the house on the corner. His family had an incredibly cool housekeeper who gave us fruit, without exception, every time we asked for it. I tasted a pear for the first time after she handed them to us through the side screen door of that corner house. She’d been in a hurry; Jan rushed around a lot … she seemed to have a lot of responsibilities. I didn’t know what a pear was, having never seen one. It looked … wrong to me, like a maybe a defective apple. David talked me into taking a bite, chomping down into his first and reassuring me that it was good. I followed suit and I loved it.
Anyway, I don’t know where David was going that day with me and my father … that wasn’t something that happened a lot. (Had he come to church with us? Or the beach?)
I can’t remember. I’m impressed with myself that I can even vaguely recall an afternoon when I was four. Those King Kong cards made a big impression on me.