Have you felt the awakening yet? Have you fallen for the hysteria of the brand new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens that will be hitting theaters very soon? I for one am extremely excited and have been ever since they first announced it. Once that first trailer hit the web and I saw the Millennium Falcon streak across my screen I was speechless and overtly excited about the new film. Then when the full trailer dropped back in October the anticipation level went through the roof. We are now just days away from the film’s opening, my enthusiasm can no longer be contained. So what does Star Wars have to do with local history and genealogy? Well from a certain point of view quite a bit actually. I wanted to see what I could uncover about Star Wars using the resources the Local History and Genealogy department has available. Some of the stuff I found was pretty incredible.
The first resource we will discuss is the vast collection of newspapers the library has on microfilm. I began looking through the newspapers hoping to find a few items. First I was hoping that I would find the old Star Wars comic strips that ran from the late 1970s until about 1984, but it seems our area did not pick up those daily comic strips as I was unable to find any. Next I wanted to find old toy ads. I played with Star Wars toys as a kid and wanted to see how they were advertised in ads back in the 1980s. Earlier this September a good deal of the merchandise for the new film was released. Today a basic action figure will run you around 8 bucks (but a Kylo Ren and his wicked lightsaber are a must add for my collection). Back in 1980 at Shillito’s Department store you could get an action figure from The Empire Strikes Back which had been released that May for $1.99. For the price of a figure today you could have snatched up 4 or 5 of those figures back then. And let’s not even talk about how much some of them could be worth today. When it came to looking for toy ads I had my pick of the lot and it was immensely fun. At times it was too much fun. These were some of the ones I liked the best.
Today a new movie will run in theaters for a month maybe two months if it is really good and draws a large amount of money. The original Star Wars movies all were released in late May in 1977, 1980 and 1983. Even a few weeks before Christmas in 1980 and 1983 respectively theaters were still showing Empire and Return. The best movie ad I ran across though was one for the opening of Star Wars in 1977. This particular ad was for Showcase Cinemas but the film was only playing at the Springdale location. I can imagine that when the new film releases at 7pm on December 17th it will be playing on every screen at the various theaters across town.
The Faces and Places database is another resource I used to see what information I could find. Sadly our database only has two Star Wars related images that could be found. One of them is an absolutely frightening head shot of someone in what appears to be a Chewbacca costume .
My favorite however is of a mother and son shopping at the old Johnny’s Toys in Latonia (who doesn’t miss going there) you can see pure elation from the child pointing at the various toys hanging from the shelves.
While searching through a few other photographs on the site I managed to find a few with Star Wars images in the backgrounds. The popularity of Star Wars since it’s debut in 1977 has rarely waned. Even during the holidays Star Wars toys have for a longtime been on the top of many holiday wish lists. A couple of additional pictures found on faces and places show the giving nature of our community over time with collections Most were images of toys being donated around the holidays. One image you can clearly see a Chewbacca doll minus his infamous bandolier in the front.
In another image there is a Return of Jedi speeder bike toy on a table in the back.
Just digging through an old newspaper in our massive microfilm collection can uncover some exciting gems. For the sports guru an old box score changes what was known about baseball history. The 1940s fashion fanatic can find inspiration or finding that long lost relatives obituary can be extremely rewarding. Newspapers are considered a primary source when researching and offer invaluable information for research projects. Visit the library anytime and the courteous staff can help get you started using the newspaper collection for whatever your purpose may be. Even if you don’t have a purpose it is just really fun to look through old newspapers. Happy hunting!
This blog was written by Luke Groeschen, Star Wars Fan, and patron of the Kenton County Public Library.