Screens The nostalgia is strong with this one

San Antonians reminisce about the first time they felt the force

Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor reprise their roles as Anakin and Obi-Wan.

It was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ... well 28 years, to be exact, at the Century South Theater, that I saw Star Wars for the first time. On my eighth birthday, October 31, 1977, I was allowed to take two friends to watch a new science-fiction film that, it seemed, everyone but me had seen. I'm not entirely sure I understood what was happening on-screen, but the film would stay with me for the rest of my life. I was already a big fan of sci-fi, and Star Wars was the icing on my birthday cake.

Star Wars touched the lives of many San Antonians that summer of '77. Attorney Norma Gonzales remembers the unprecedented long lines. "I used to work at the Century South theater (now Mayan Plaza) and I remember Star Wars was huge! It was great because we could get in free because we worked there. During my 15-minute popcorn breaks I'd always go in and watch it."

Grade-school teacher Debra Mentzer reminisces that "it reminded me of classic movies that transported you away with an epic feel to them. When they went into hyperspace we were like, 'Oh my God!' All those stars just coming at you. When it came out, my friends and I would go each weekend. I saw it 11 times I think."

Chris Sauter, a local artist who saw the film outdoors, recalls "loading up in the station wagon, wearing pajamas, carrying pillows, and sitting on the tailgate of the car at the Mission Drive-In and really having a good time."

In 1980, The Empire Strikes Back was just as thrilling, if not more so, than the original, but Return of the Jedi, released in 1983, was a serious letdown. Even so, from 1978 to 1983 my weekly $5 allowance was spent solely on buying an action figure. My father made an X-Wing fighter for me out of scrap wood. It looked funny and I hated that the girl next door had a real one, but I still played with it.

Parenting Program Coordinator Alexander Mesquiti remembers that "when we played as kids somebody always had to be Han Solo, someone had to be Luke, and someone had to be Chewbacca. We were too poor to have lightsabers so we used to fight with sticks. The important part was making the lightsaber sound, 'vhum-vhum.' If you made that sound everyone knew you were a Jedi. I always imagined I'd grow up to marry a princess, and that moment in Empire when Leia says 'I love you' and Solo says 'I know' was very romantic to me. My wife would get upset with me because when she said 'I love you,' I'd respond with 'I know.' When we finally saw the film together, she got it."

Not all memories of Star Wars are positive though. Hairstyling guru Bobbie Goff remembers a Star Wars moment after a trying experience in the hospital. "I was plugged into the morphine and I'd just had a double mastectomy. I had to use the restroom really badly! I leapt off the bed towards the door and was yanked backward by the I.V. machine. I grabbed it and said 'Oh, I'm sorry R2-D2. I'll never leave you again!' I turned around and the doctor was standing in the doorway. The next morning they had me evaluated for talking to a machine! I told them if they waited long enough they'd hear it beep, too!"

On May 19, Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith finishes the backstory of the series and although it plans to be the last Star Wars film ever, two television series are in production, one animated and the other live-action. For me, no matter how good or bad the prequels are, nothing can change that Halloween night when my friends and I walked out of the theater wide-eyed, making laser sounds and chanting "vhum-vhum," Little did we know that Star Wars was more than just a great movie and that, over time, it would become the mythos of a generation.

By J. Michael Owen

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