By Dean M. Laux
I never wanted to be Superman when I was a kid. Okay, the plot line was catchy: A young baby from the planet Krypton, possessing superpowers that no earthly person has, had been rocketed into our midst and, as he grew up, used his superpowers to save the citizens of “Metropolis,” read NYC.
But I had no way to relate to him. He was from another planet. He could fly. On his own, without a plane. He had X-ray vision. He could move so fast that he somehow reversed the direction of the earth’s rotation. Huh? There was no way I could aspire to do any of those things.
On the other hand, Superman could completely hide his identity and become Clark Kent by merely donning a pair of glasses. Just who can believe that? I know I never fooled anyone by putting my thick spectacles on or taking them off. And changing his clothes in a public telephone booth? Puhleez! Couldn’t he do better than that?
No, Lamont Cranston was more my speed. When 5 p.m. Sunday came around, we kids gathered around our RCA radio that was the centerpiece of our small living room and tuned in to “The Shadow.” The announcer confided to us that, “while traveling in the Orient, Lamont Cranston learned the power to cloud men’s minds. Only his friend and companion, Margo Lane, knew his secret.” That was much more believable to my young mind. And I loved the hollow laugh that accompanied those great catch-phrases that echoed in my ears: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows … hmmmmnnhhaaaa,” and “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit … hmmmmnnhhaaaa!”
I remember sitting in my bed one evening, my brother Jerry sprawled out on his twin bed next to mine, reading a Buck Rogers Big Little Book. “How do you think Lamont Cranston is able to cloud men’s minds?” I asked. At 10 years of age, Jerry was vastly more knowledgeable and experienced than I was, three years his junior. Jerry looked up from his Big Little Book. “He just really concentrated on clouding people’s minds, so that he became invisible,” he said, parroting the announcer’s commentary. He went back to his reading.
I thought about this for a few minutes. “Do you think I could become invisible?” I queried. “Maybe,” Jerry replied, “if you really concentrated hard for a long time.”
I spent the next several minutes concentrating very hard on becoming invisible. Then I piped up again.
“How long do I have to concentrate?”
Jerry sat up, looking around anxiously. “Dean! Where are you?”
“I’m right here on the bed!”
“Where? I can’t see you,” he said, getting out of his bed.
I crept out of my bed, onto the floor. “Can you see me now?” I asked.
“No,” he reiterated, swiveling his head left and right. “Are you still in this room?”
I crawled a little closer as Jerry laid back down and picked up his Big Little Book, and I asked, “How about now?”
“Nope,” he said, beginning to tire of this line of discourse. I thought, “Gosh, am I really invisible?” I decided to test my new state further, so I crawled on all fours out the bedroom door, across the hall and through the heavy curtains that served to partition the living room from the hallway. Just then Gram happened to be heading toward our bedroom, and she said to me, “Dean! What on earth are you doing crawling around on the floor?” My mom poked her head around from the kitchen, where she was drying the dishes. “Dean,” she said, “get up or you’ll get yourself all dirty.”
I learned then and there that my older brother could not be trusted to tell me the truth and nothing but the truth all the time. Sheepishly, I got up. I would have liked to make myself invisible right then, but I guess I needed to travel to the Orient for that. Do you have a story, anecdote or remembrance from your early days, or a comment that you’d like to share with our readers? If so, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll publish the most interesting ones when space permits.