The Hurricane Express
As I recall, it was 1975, and the entire family had gathered in Denver for what would turn out to be, the last ever Christmas with Grandma.
We Grandkids didn’t know that, of course, although I suspect that our parents did which was probably why they somewhat unusually seemed to give in to our crazy antics and give us bit more leeway than would normally have been the case. I had never seen Johnny Carson before, but each night at 10pm (it was Mountain Standard time) we watched it and it was a hoot. But following the Tonight Show came a late night black and white serial featuring none other than John Wayne, The Hurricane Express.
The Hurricane Express was, of course, the first talkie featuring Wayne, and it was – in its day – a very serious adventure romp, complete with a villain, a flapper, Tommy Guns and an actual plot that involved somebody called “The Wrecker” who was wrecking (get it?) Trains. A roaring thriller in twelve parts if there ever was one.
And for some early teen boys, it was funnier than Carson could ever have been.
Let’s just say that 1930’s special effects were… lacking… and the action was bereft of stuntmen who could take a punch. It all led to the most famous line of our family. At one point, the hero (Wayne) who happens to be a pilot and the Flapper (a secretary) were on an airplane which was being shot at by the Tommy Guns. Of course the plane was hit and on fire, which we knew because we saw the shot of the balsa wood model moving along a string, on fire. As the episode came to its end, we were left on the cliff as to if (or as we should have known, how) the Hero and the Flapper would make their escape.
I don’t want to ruin it for you, but as the credits rolled for the night, I turned to Mike and Rob(b) and announced that “If they get out of this I will scream.” Forgetting of course that if they did get out of it, it would be 10:30pm and a scream would be likely to generate an unhappy response from Parents and Grandparents.
Of course they got out of it. Of course I screamed. Of course Oklahoma won the Orange Bowl. And of course we all donned our Grandma needle-pointed clothes for the last family picture ever to include Grandma.
Mike, Rob(b) and I look a little tired, because we were. And it might have been the most satisfying tired I ever experienced.
“Is he dead?”
“No, he just stunned!”