Start of school year ’65 ’66 and the beginning of a generation Lost in Space

I would like to preface this post with some thoughts on who I thought was my hero. I had a few hero’s in my youth. Some would come to no surprise. Superman. Batman and the usual comic book hero’s. However. The hero that has stood the test of time is Will Robinson of Lost in Space played by Bill Mumy. His attitude and bravery remains a benchmark to this day on how a person should conduct themselves. I am forever grateful for this.

In May of 1965 I became a double digit person. I had been laying down hints in my parents path that I wanted some kind of motorized vehicle as my friend Greg had one and Carlos was going to get one too. I had high hopes. But alas. My birthday came and I received a badminton set. I was devastated! However I did not let my disappointment show. I tried to cover my fallen Crest and even played a few games with my mom and Greg.

The summer of 1965 was filled with the usual fun and games. And soon it was September and time for school. And so 5th grade began. Class was held in the eight room brick building that once stood on the Wattles Park Elementary property. Mr. Buckinburger was my teacher. He was a cheerful man but took no nonsense from his class. He made learning fun. Especially science. I loved learning about weather under his tutelage. He had a way of connecting with his young students and setting them at ease.

There is a television show that has steered me towards technology and the love of all things space. Lost in Space. It aired September 15 1965 with the episode The Reluctant Stowaway. Here is a short synopsis of the episode from lostinspace.fandom.com

On October 16, 1997 the Robinson family and Major Don West are about to launch aboard the Jupiter 2 and begin their mission to establish a colony on a planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. Despite high hopes for the mission, it is undertaken in an atmosphere of international tension resulting from the effects of overpopulation and rapidly depleting natural resources all over the planet.

Dr. Smith, the staff physician, boards to the ship to sabotage the mission. He reprograms the Jupiter 2’s environmental control robot to destroy critical systems aboard the ship eight hours after launch. Shortly before lift off, Smith realizes that a technician has removed the Robot’s power pack, thereby foiling his sabotage. At the last moment, he manages to reinstall the power pack unseen, but when he rushes to leave the ship, the hatch seals and he is trapped aboard. Because of Smith’s additional weight aboard, the Jupiter 2 veers off course into a swarm of meteoroids.

As the meteoroids pummel the ship, a fear-stricken Smith revives Major West from suspended animation. West saves the damaged ship by steering it out of the meteoroid swarm. The Robinsons are revived from suspended animation and John Robinson and Don West attempt to repair their damaged guidance system. This necessitates deactivating the spaceship’s artificial gravity. Will and Penny, delighted, do somersaults while weightless. Meanwhile, Dr. Smith floats helplessly on the lower deck, his attempt to deactivate the robot before he is destroyed along with the Robinsons thwarted.

When the artificial gravity is restored, Smith crashes to the floor as the fatal launch plus eight hour mark arrives. Despite Dr. Smith’s command to abort, the robot goes on its pre-programmed rampage. It destroys control systems and sends the Jupiter 2 into hyperspace, traveling faster than the speed of light. Don eventually manages to pull out the robot’s power pack before it can destroy the cabin pressurization system. The Robinsons stare out the main view port of their spaceship and John realizes that he can’t recognize a single constellation. The Jupiter 2 is lost in space.

A spacewalk is needed to repair damaged navigational equipment. Although Don is trained in extra-vehicular activity, as mission commander, John Robinson insists on making the spacewalk himself. He feels that Don, as pilot, is too important to risk. John has some difficulty because of his inexperience, firing a rocket gun which causes him to collide with the Jupiter 2, and he loses his tools. At that point, his tether snaps and he begins to float away.

The word in school is that it would be good and it should be watched.

It was Wendsday September the 15th. Mom and I were having dinner at Bill Knapps alone as dad was attending night school for bookkeeping. I especially liked Bill Knapps au gratin potatoes. I was enjoying them and I reminded mom that Lost in Space started at 7 PM. She assured me that we would be back in time.

Mom paid the check and we drove the 3 miles to home. The check came to $3.85 for both of us! Things cost much less back in the day. But you see it is all relative. Dad made around 4 dollars per hour and mom a little bit less. So almost a full hour of work for that meal. But anyway, mom was right. We made it back home with 10 minutes to spare. We pulled into the garage and I helped mom in with some packages and turned on the old Zenith black and white television to get it warmed up and set the channel to channel 3 the local Battle Creek CBS channel. I watched the show in slack jaw amazement! I looked with pleasure at the technology and listened to the technobable. The show instilled in me a desire of all things space. Also a desire for technical functional inside spaces. All the switches and displays fascinated me. The shows producer Erwin Alan did a great job of stimulating young minds in things of outer space.

I loved the show and still do to this day! Some of the kids in my class loved it too! When the the bell for recess rang we would gather on the back yard back of the brick schoolhouse and reenact episodes from the show. Each of us would assume a role of one of the actors. Maybe one of us would strap on an imaginary jetpack and zoom around the yard and look for Penney. Or perhaps setting up the drilling rig to mine dutronium. Or maybe to rescue Judy from a pit where she was chased into by a hideous monster. Or maybe all of us would stand with our backs to the wall of the school building at attention, pretending to be in a state of suspended animation in the freezing tubes as the Jupiter 2 careened from the sky for a crash landing on some foreboding planet.

We played out the episodes with great joy and abandonment. We all waited anxiously for the next weeks episode came out so we could practice our acting skills in the playground. Lost in Space was and still is one of my favorite television shows!

 

 

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