Thunderbirds are go! - Ken Bailey

OIL GEEK MEMORY MOMENT, Dateline, Christmas 1968!

The noon bell rang. Principal George Tookey threw open the doors at Rangely Middle School, and school was officially DISMISSED FOR CHRISTMAS BREAK! A thousand screaming kids (well, would you believe two hundred screaming kids) burst forth from the school and ran! HOWEVER, we were NOT running home! We were running to the CAMPUS THEATER on Main Street, where Bernard Yeager had also thrown open the doors! We grabbed our popcorn and soda and Junior Mints (TM), and took our seats. The theater darkened, a white-hot light shot out of the projection booth, and the familiar click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click of the 16MM film threading through the reel-to-reel projector coming down from above indicated the adventure had begun!

It was Gerry Anderson Studio's feature film, "THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!"

Gerry Anderson Studios (Google It) was a man and wife and a team of super-creative people who did TV shows and entire movies using detailed models and marionettes (like puppets, but full figures maniuplated with strings, wires, and sticks -- as opposed to half-figures with somebody's hand inside them).

In this pre-Star-Wars era, we thrilled to a team of space heroes and their rocket ship adventures. In the end, an out-of-control ship came down through the atmosphere and wiped out an entire model city in slow motion (safely completely evacuated first, of course!) But the badguys were thwarted, the handsome leading man -- er, marionette -- got the girl, the movie ended with the obligatory joke and characters chuckling, and we rushed out of the theater, only to find --

SANTA CLAUS!

RANCH SANTA CLAUS!!

Ranch Santa Claus in a pickup truck with the bed loaded to the gills with bags of candy -- one to a kid as they left the theater!

In this modern era of DVDs, I have the film, "Thunderbirds are Go," in my collection. I played it the other evening for the first time in a while.

And there, sitting in my chair with my sixty-year-old body aching from the day, the walls and ceiling of my house slipped away, and I was a kid again, sitting in the Campus Theater in Rangely Colorado, and it was once again the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!

Whoever was responsible for making this day happen, way back in 1968, I am still grateful!

Ken BaileyComment