Surfing Netflix and Amazon Prime a few nights ago, I was surprised how many movies feature superheroes. Sure, the two originals are there, Superman and Batman, but then there are at least a dozen others. Did I sleep through some cultural entertainment shift?
The original Superman television series premiered in 1952, and by 1953-54 every kid in my neighborhood pretended to fly while fighting for truth-justice-and the American way. The girls wanted to be Super Girls, but the boys wouldn’t allow it. Superman was a man’s man, so they had to settle for Lois Lane.
The family that possessed the largest television screen was the meeting point where the gang gathered to watch our hero. My Father purchased the largest black and white television available, 15 inches, so our den was the destination.
There he stood in his padded super suit, cape flapping in the wind, a steely look on his all-American face. What a man! Only years later did we notice the slight paunch, the double chin, and the bad teeth.
At Leonard Brothers department store in Fort Worth, you could purchase a genuine Superman cape for $4.00 or for $20.00, a kid could have the full suit, which included blue stretch top and tights, a red speedo, and super boots. The kids in our neighborhood couldn’t afford the suit, so they settled for whatever fabric they could find for a cape.
I was the lucky one. My Aunt Norma, a seamstress extraordinaire made me a custom fit Superman suit. It was a beauty; dark blue stretchy top with little super muscles sewn in, blue tights with a red swimsuit, gold fabric covers to over my PF Flyer tennis shoes and the bright red cape with the super “S.” I was in super heaven and the envy of all my pals. We immediately planned a flying demonstration, and I was the vehicle. Our home, the only two-story house on the block was the designated launch point.
After gathering in my den for our afternoon viewing of Superman, the gang rushed to our backyard, awaiting the flight. I sneaked upstairs, squeezed into my super suit and slipped through a window onto the roof.
The usual gang of six had suddenly swelled to thirty or so kids of all ages. “How can I fly in front of strangers? What if the suit doesn’t work?” I was getting a severe case of “cold feet.”
The roof grew higher with every breath as I inched my way to the peak. Looking down to the yard, it may as well be the grand canyon. I was shaking like a wet dog, and a dribble of pee leaked down my leg. A kid in the crowd yelled, ” What’s wrong kid…chicken.” That did it. I was by-golly flying today.
I crossed myself and ran down the slope of the roof. A millisecond before launch, my Mother yells from the window, “don’t you dare do that.” It was too late. My six-year-old super legs launched me into thin air. I hear theme music, feel the air under my cape and below, my pals, a look of wonderment on their faces, cheer me on to super glory.
Instead of gaining height and accelerating to supersonic speed, I made it twenty feet or so then dropped straight down, landing in the midst of the admiring crowd. Our thick lawn saved me from certain paralysis.
My Mother was on me like a duck on a Junebug. Jerking me up by my super cape, she proceeds to whip my little butt with a flyswatter; the only weapon she could find. I was mortified; young Superman receiving a whooping from his super Mom. The crowd dispersed, leaving me sitting in the grass in my super shame.
The next morning; miraculously recovered, I am sent out to play with my pals. Walking through the back gate, I noticed a bit of my super cape hanging from under the garbage can lid. My super days are over.