The day I became Batman and Public Enemy #1 was the same day my brother, Scott, became Robin and Public Enemy #2.
The year was 1975. Our parents had noticed that the Dallas schools were in rapid decline and even though my brother and I were in second and first grades, respectively, the folks wanted to find a rural area to move to in hopes to get us out of Dallas before entering junior high.
Every so often, for several years, we would hit the road to look at a tract of land that our father had found for sale. The parcels of land that we went to inspect in this story were all located in various rural areas of Arkansas.
It was our last day in Arkansas and we had just spent the night at a little motor lodge in the town of Imboden. Scott and I grew quite bored watching our parents pack up our little U-Haul trailer that we had rented for the trip, so we decided to play one of our favorite games – Batman and Robin.
Scott is a year and ten days older than I and has never let me forget the fact. As children Scott’s seniority allowed him more privileges than I was happy with – including the privilege of playing the lead role in all our games of pretend. This meant that Scott was always Batman and I was always left playing the Boy Wonder.
On this particular day I wasn’t having it! I took an extremely rare stand and fought for my right to be Batman!
“You always get to be Batman! It’s not fair!”
“Batman’s older than Robin,” Scott reasoned, “and I’m older than you so I’ve got to be Batman.”
“It’s not fair!” I screamed, “You’re always going to be older than me! I’m never going to get to be Batman!”
After a good deal of crying and a royal temper tantrum Scott reluctantly gave in and forfeited his birthright for the day.
“Atomic batteries to power,” said Robin. “Turbines to speed.”
“Roger,” I replied, ever-so Batmanny, “ready to move out.”
In an effort to be as authentic as possible I pulled the gear shift down with all my might, not realizing that this might not have been one of my best ideas.
It didn’t take more than two seconds for us to realize we were moving. We looked at one another, saucer-eyed, as our faces turned from pink to stark white. I was the first to speak up about the matter as the car transported us across the street and into a vacant lot. In an effort to stay in character, I reacted the same way Batman would have in that situation.
“WE’RE GONNA DIE!” I screamed.
“No, we’re not,” Scott assured with a trembling voice, “we’ll be okay.”
“WE’RE GONNA DIE! WE’RE GONNA DIE!”
The car had picked up momentum after crossing the street and entering the vacant lot. I decided to take action, so thinking only of myself, I opened the driver’s side door. As the Batmobile was making its way through the vacant lot, I jumped out and onto a cement water main cover, skinning my arms, knees, shins and the palms of my hands.
After I was able to gather my wits, I stood and watched the Batmobile dragging the little U-Haul trailer across the vacant lot. Scott was still in the car but rather than jumping out of the passenger’s side, he climbed across the seat and peered out the driver’s side door as it swung back and forth.
The car continued its journey across the lot and was just about to enter the traffic of the town’s main street. In daredevil fashion Scott jumped onto the door which was swinging back and forth, knocking his body against the door frame of the car. Just as the car’s front tires were about to touch pavement of the semi-busy street, Scott loosened his grip on the door and fell into the irrigation ditch.
During Scott’s graceful bailout he accidentally performed a backward somersault – an achievement he had previously attempted without success in an attempt to receive a Cub Scout achievement badge.
After Scott bailed out I started running across the lot while screaming his name, afraid he might be dead. I was halfway across the lot when Scott popped up out of the ditch and started running in my direction. Realizing he was okay, I turned around and we both ran together toward our motel room where both of our parents were standing slack-jawed.
Scott began screaming with unanticipated glee, “Mommy! Mommy! I did a backward somersault! Can I count that as a Cub Scout achievement?”
As Scott and I were making our return to the motel room the Batmobile had continued its journey across the street and crashed into the town’s bank, taking out a pillar or two and crashing firmly into the front wall of the bank.
Scott and I walked up to the door of our motel room as our parents stood in shock. Our father decided he should probably go check out the situation while Mom cleaned up our bloody bodies and administered first aid. Mom tended to me first, as I was the bloodiest and was crying uncontrollably.
After I had been thoroughly cleaned and bandaged, Mom gave me a tapioca pudding cup and turned her attentions to Scott. As soon as Mom was convinced that neither of us were permanently damaged, she proceeded to lecture us.
Apparently – to hear Mom tell it – people shouldn’t drive cars into buildings. It’s just not nice!
“Do you realize your father could go to jail?”
I started crying even harder at the thought of my father going to jail – our only means of support – leaving us to die in this small Arkansas town.
My memory of what happened next might be a little fuzzy. I was six-years-old and distraught at the time so the details might not be 100% accurate, but my recollection is as follows:
A man walked through the open door of our motel room. He was wearing a cowboy hat, western shirt, a pair of belted blue jeans and cowboy boots. His belt buckle was about the size of a dinner plate but the detail that stood out the most was his height. I was so in awe of his loftiness and the large belly button shield he wore as a belt buckle that without realizing it, I had stopped crying.
“Is she okay?” asked the giant.
“Yes, thank you,” Mom answered, “she’s okay.”
I resumed my bawling at this point and screamed, “My father’s going to jail!”
“No, he’s not,” said the giant.
“Yes he is! My mommy said so!”
A promise from a strange giant ruined Mom’s attempt to scare us straight. I believe the “your father could go to jail” remark was intended to teach us a lesson, but since the giant ruined her plan, she needed to devise a new plan! A new moral was needed to insure that something good came from this experience.
Mom’s new plan entailed walking her two evil super heroes across the street to the scene of the destruction. I was back to my normal self by this point and was pestering Mom with some very important questions.
“When our car hit the bank do you think it hit any boxes of money? I bet they keep all their nickels in big boxes. Do you think any nickels were bent when the car hit them? They won’t be able to use the bent nickels – people want flat nickels. Do you think they’ll give me the bent ones?”
Mom sighed and asked, “What ever would you do with a box of bent nickels?”
“I’d beat them with a hammer and I’d be rich!”
Mom walked a little more briskly after that. She was either stifling laughter or counting silently to ten in an attempt to calm herself down.
I started getting nervous as we approached the bank, thinking somebody inside was probably ready to scream at us for wrecking their building. I needn’t have worried though because apparently in Imboden it’s a sign of friendship to run your car into the bank.
The bank employees were lined up just inside the door awaiting our arrival. We were celebrities! Batman and Robin were receiving a grand welcome!
An employee approached Mom with a smile and asked, while pointing to me, “Is this the one who was driving?”
“I’m afraid so,” replied Mom.
“She’s so cute,” crooned the lady teller.
“What do you say, Vicki?”
No longer nervous and taking advantage of my new celebrity status, I asked, “Did our car bend any of your nickels?”
“Vicki Lynn!” Mom scolded.
Mom succeeded in getting me to say “thank you” and proceeded to give us a tour of the wreckage in an attempt to teach us both her long-awaited lesson, but we were too hyped up on sugar by this point to feel remorse.
After our tour of the destruction we caused and after our father was finally able to convince his insurance company that his children were Batman and Robin and were forced to bail out of the Batmobile to save their lives, we were finally allowed to go.
Mom walked Scott and me back to the motel as our father started up the car and backed it out of the bank. The wall was partially caved in where the car had made contact and bricks were scattered around on the pavement, but old Bessie fared well! That old Pontiac received a few minor blemishes, the worst being a busted headlight.
An hour later we were on the road, heading back home after our week-long trip to Arkansas. I was sitting in the passenger’s side back seat behind Mom.
I turned to my left and noticed Scott digging in the goody bag he was given by our adoring fans at the bank. He pulled out his balloon and began to blow it up. Not to be outdone by Scott, I pulled my balloon out of my pocket and attempted to blow it up, too. I blew so hard my cheeks ached!
My balloon was a dud! It was welded shut. No amount of breath could inflate my defective balloon.
“I can’t blow up my balloon!” I whined.
Mom turned around and looked at me over her shoulder and in her sternest tone of voice, she said, “It serves you right!” Smugly she turned back around, satisfied that she was finally able to teach me a lesson.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. When you go around crashing cars into financial institutions, you get stuck with the defective balloons.
I never wrecked another bank after that day, and I hope I never do! The consequences just aren’t worth it!