Here’s How I “Watched” Star Wars Before VHS Was A Thing
I saw Star Wars in the theatre the summer before my 4th-grade year: 1977. It changed my life. I no longer wanted to be a professional football player when I grew up. I wanted to be a space smuggler with a cool alien co-pilot.
The main thing I wanted to do immediately after seeing Star Wars was…to see it again, which I did. I started showing something else about five times before my hometown theatre (it only HAD 2 screens).
Although the movie left town, my love of Star Wars remained. The sequel The Empire Strikes Back wouldn’t come out for another three years, and my family wouldn’t even own a VHS player for another seven years after THAT.
I needed a workaround, and for a 9-year-old kid, I think I was pretty resourceful. I was able to figure out a way to “watch” Star Wars as much as I wanted without it being in theaters or on TV. Here’s how I did it:
STEP ONE: Buy a Huge stack of Star Wars trading cards from Paul Gomez.
Star Wars Trading cards came out later in 1977. You could get them inside a pack of bubble gum that looked like this:
The cards themselves looked like this:
Yes, that’s a single Topps bubblegum card. Yes, they’re asking $50,000 for it on eBay.
Wonder Bread also had a run of Star Wars cards so I convinced my Mom to buy Wonder Bread (“But, we’re a Rainbow family!) Anytime I got any money, I would buy Topps Bubblegum.
Once fourth grade started a kid in my class, Paul Gomez had a HUGE stack of Star Wars Cards. There were probably around 60 or 70 cards…enough that the rubber band Paul used to keep them together was stretched nearly to the breaking point. Paul sold me the whole stack for $5. This might sound like the deal of a lifetime, especially considering that these cards are being sold today for thousands of dollars.
But, in 1977, 5 bucks represented my allowance for five weeks PLUS everything I had saved up from my paper route. I bought the cards, but I had to keep them hidden under my mattress, contraband style, because I knew my mom would hit the roof if she found out I spent FIVE WHOLE DOLLARS on a bunch of stupid bubblegum cards.
STEP TWO: Procure a vinyl record called “The Story of Star Wars”.
On the album, they had select scenes from the movie with the actual dialog and sound effects, and music cues. There was a narrator, as I recall.
A new vinyl album would cost something like 7 or 8 dollars in 1977. That was a little steep for a birthday present, but somehow I finagled it, possibly by doing extra chores.
STEP 3: Organize the Cards in the Order they Appeared in the Movie
At this point, I’d already memorized the entire movie. I knew which characters did what and what scene followed what scene.
STEP 4: Play the LP While Riffing Through the Cards
That was it. I must have done this process a hundred times or more over the next year. It was low-tech and sad but… worth it: happy May the Fourth, fellow dorks.