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It just had to exist. After all, everybody was shooting 8mm film in those days, so there had to be some footage of George Reeves at a personal appearance. A few years ago, when I learned George had appeared in Reading, Pennsylvania, not fifteen miles from by boyhood home, I wrote letters and scoured the countryside trying to find someone with even a few b&w frames. I came up empty handed. Then, as is often the case, from out of the blue, I received an e-mail message from "Ed from New Jersey." He had seen my web site and asked if I'd like another story for the Close Encounters section.
We exchanged a couple messages, and Ed was soon busy writing his story. "Oh, by the way, Jim, I think my dad took film of the happenings that day. If I find it, would you like to see it? It was shot from a distance and lasts only a few seconds, but it's fun to look at.
Ed turned out to be a real fan of George Reeves, and we've had some interesting conversations in the past couple weeks. But best of all, With Ed's narrative and some video captures from his film, we have another thrilling episode in The Adventures Continue.
Ed from New Jersey Meets George Reeves
Remembering what television was like in the 50s immediately conjures up a mood. No matter where you grew up, it was the same for all of us. And if we close our eyes we can see it still. A box in the living room, sparking to life following the requisite one minute warm-up; out-of-focus voices a little before the picture came on....hopefully. Certainly no one you knew was ever on television -- just the faces of familiar strangers, some of whom became very very important over time.
By far the earliest, and most important to me was Mr. George Reeves. His gentle strength, his kind face, his humor, all came across the screen in black and white into our living rooms and made him a hero to a generation and beyond.
Imagine if you will, how exciting it must have been for a child of almost seven to have a hero leap from that small box into his life . . . in person . . . in color . . . in costume . . . right in front of him. It's an experience that I am very fortunate to have had, and one that I have never taken for granted since that wonderful summer in 1957.
Yes it's Superman! I couldn't believe I was going to see him. I didn't even know where Palisades Amusement Park was. All I knew was that Dad was driving, and our whole family was going! I couldn't wait! I wondered if I'd see him. I wondered if he'd look the same as he did on television. I wondered what he'd do. I couldn't wait. I was scared.
I had no idea how long it was from the time I knew I was going until I actually went, but I remember being in the car thinking it odd that Superman and I were going to be at the same place at the same time. Maybe something would happen and I'd become part of one of his adventures. The ride seemed endless.
I remember entering a huge parking lot filled with cars and buses. Looking back, I can now appreciate the draw he must have had everywhere he went. It was not a typical day at the park.
My mom read the marquee. All I remember are the words "Superman"and "today." I wondered if I could ever see him with all of these other people here. My knee-high vantage point didn't help.
Far, far in the distance inside the park
was a huge amphitheater and stage setup. There were more chairs
than I had ever seen in one place. We were standing behind the
area where the chairs were. It was somewhat of an open space,
around which were rides, games, and food stands. I remember a
Then, out of nowhere, I saw the dust from an approaching car rising above the huge crowd which began parting to make way. I was only a few feet away from where the car was going, and I remember being held close to my parents as the car stopped almost right in front of me. Another car pulled up behind and stopped. People started getting out of the first car as I watched. They were just "people".
Suddenly, from a sea of strange grownup faces and a frenzied buzz of activity emerged one very very familiar face. It was him! He was wearing a business-type suit that immediately made him Clark Kent. There he was . . . Clark Kent, with the hat, glasses, and smile . . . and boy was he big. Even if others around him were the same size, he was still big. It was so strange. I felt a combination of exhilaration and awkwardness. Either he should have had a TV-like square border around him, or somehow I had wound up in his world, a world where people were watching us. The jump from black and white television to "in person" was simply too much to comprehend.
He was lead right past me. The other men began organizing a lineup of children who wanted to meet him. Then Mr. Reeves walked onstage from the left, and the crowd went absolutely wild. He looked left, then right. Then he tore off his glasses with that classic urgency and ran offstage. He was gone for only a moment, and then with a jump, he reappeared as Superman. He stood with his fists on his hips and smiled at the crowd. The response was unlike anything I have seen since. The applause, the cheering, the screams of approval -- it was deafening.
And scary. Not me. No way. I'm not going near him. He's Superman. I'll just watch from here. But somehow I wound up in line. Perhaps the fact that my folks had taken a great deal of time, effort, and expense to get me there had something to do with it. But as always, they knew what was ultimately best for me, and boy were they ever right.
I was fine though -- I was far enough back in line that it seemed all right. But it was growing more and more intriguing to be able to look up and see him standing there. I had never seen the real costume before except for the comic books. The colors were so vivid, so contrasting, so familiar. I was getting close. I was close enough to see his features, and I couldn't stop staring. Then I could hear his voice. It added a dimension that was intensely personal. There was no volume control, no banter with Lois, Jimmy, Mr. White, or Insp. Henderson -- just his voice. It was no longer scary. Instead, it was overwhelming. Three or four kids in front of me to go. Then two. I watched his eyes. He looked at each child as he spoke.
When the last child in front of me walked away, there was nothing between us but two feet of air. He looked straight into my eyes and I was frozen by the moment. It was clearly the most potent element of my encounter. Accustomed as he must have been to this, he held out his hand and thanked me for coming. We shook hands, and I scrambled to remember what I learned about that. I have no idea how I did. All I recall is that his hand wrapped all the way around mine, but it was gentle . . . as was his smile and voice. He asked me if I'd like a picture to remember the day. He reached down into a big box and came up with one of his promotional photos. He handed it to me. Superman handed me a picture of himself! I was told I said "Thank You," and walked back to my smiling parents who were standing nearby. Through the years, never once did meeting Superman in person ever lose its appeal in its reliving or retellling.
That was it. I remember nothing else, not leaving, no discussions in the car . . .nothing.
In those days, my dad always took along his 8 mm camera to capture family moments. A few years ago, just after my dad passed away, I collected all his reels of film to have them transferred video. Imagine my surprise when the film of that day in Palisades Amusement Park came on -- the day George Reeves appeared on stage and was embraced by each and every individual in the crowd -- not because of anything he did, but simply for who he was and still is -- George Reeves -- a personal hero and legend to us. Unfortunately the film is only a few seconds long, but long enough to validate the moment. It seems that even dad couldn't concentrate on anything else but the 'Man of Steel."
And I still have the picture he gave to me that day. When people ask me, "Hey, where did you get that?" I just smile and say, "He handed it to me in 1956."
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"