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Thursday, September 29, 2011

When I was in fifth or sixth grade (circa 1975-76), my pal Mark Usher and I formed a short-lived Star Trek "club." There were four of us in all, as I remember, and once a week, we'd all go over to Mark's house after school and basically play Star Trek all afternoon. He lived on an old farm, and his parents cleaned out an old outbuilding for us to use as a clubhouse - or, in our case, "starship." His father even made a sign that said "U.S.S. Enterprise" and placed it over the door. (I vaguely recall that he misspelled it somehow, but I could be misremembering.)

His mother was an artsy-craftsy sort, and she wanted to make sure that we weren't getting into trouble, so she actually created Trek-themed projects for us to do. We made plywood "control panels" for our "ship" - including a "transporter console" with sliding levers (wide beads on strings) - which Mark's father mounted on the walls of the shack. We made uniforms out of appropriately colored tee-shirts, which his mother helped us draw insignias on with fabric paints, and we made papier-mâché planets, which we suspended from the ceiling of our clubhouse/starship with fishing line.

But mostly, we role-played being crew members of the Enterprise, and explored the alien cornfields and woods on the Usher property. We kept in touch with the Mego Star Trek Communicators, which were - as the advertising proudly exclaimed, "real, working walkie-talkies!" But unlike the other walkie-talkies we had as kids, these had flip-up lids, just like the ones on TV. Of course, they were considerably larger than their television counterparts, colored blue, and had telescoping antennae - but they worked.

If you didn't wander too far apart, anyway.

Mark also had the "Command Communications Console," which was a nicely Trek-styled base set tuned to the same CB frequency, and the only actually working piece of equipment in our ramshackle starship. It didn't get used much, as I recall, because no one wanted to be the Communications Officer and stay behind "on the ship" while the rest went exploring.

For those keeping score, the coolest 70s toy ever was the Mattel Space: 1999 Eagle Transporter. The second-coolest toy of the Space: 1970 era was Kenner's 18" Alien. And the third was Kenner's Bionic Bigfoot from The Six Million Dollar Man.

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