Hauling big wooden 24-bottle cases of Ma’s Old Fashion Root Beer from our storage room to the cooler out in the store was hard enough.
But I bore an extra burden in that summer of 1958.
America was fascinated by the UFO phenomenon in those days, 60 years ago. So was I, and I had just found what my teenage brain thought might be the answer to the riddle of strange craft in the skies. But there was a problem.
I was in charge of a lot of things in our Heights store. Besides keeping the soda cooler full, I made sure all our magazines were properly displayed and replaced by new issues.
In one of those mags – one dedicated to the occult and unexplained – I’d spotted an ad for what looked like a very interesting book. It was entitled “A Dweller on Two Planets, by Phylos (a Martian).” Yes, that’s how the author was listed.
Well, I reasoned, if some guy who claimed to be from Mars didn’t know what was going on in the mysterious skies of that era, then who did?
The library didn’t have it, though. And teenagers of the time lacked the money to send away for merchandise. So Phylos and his book remained frustratingly unreachable.
Solving the UFO mystery wasn’t the only impossible goal on my mind that summer.
Reading the New York papers a couple of months earlier, I’d come across ads for the movie “Love-Slaves of the Amazons.”
Did any Wyoming Valley theaters see fit to carry this intriguing flick? Oh, perish the thought. In that summer of deprivation, even a vicarious stalking through South American jungles, machete in hand while in search of a lost kingdom (for scholarly reasons, of course) would never come about.
Maybe for some people, a mention of that long-ago year calls up memories of gorgeous big cars and weekend dances at Sans Souci.
But for me, it was the summer of the most informative book I couldn’t read and the most intriguing movie I couldn’t see.
Oh, I had interesting adventures at the store and met a lot of nice folks who came in to buy anything from a pound of cheese to a pack of Luckies.
But Phylos and the Amazons? Forget it!
Let me tell you, stoicism for a 1950s teenager was a poor substitute for insights from other worlds and the blurb “One man found the lost land of the Amazon women” plus a picture of their leader wearing French Riviera swimwear while carrying a spear and breaking free of a chain.
But I survived. Under pressure of realities like college and the U.S. Air Force, Phylos and the jungle women faded into history.
Then, just a couple of weeks ago, these teen-years obsessions resurfaced as I was looking up classic science fiction for my book club.
Phylos’ story, or at least one by the writer who says he channeled Phylos, turned up online and free – absolutely free. Just open it up and there’s his book, every word. This Martin guy might have traveled the solar system but, apparently, he’d never heard of earthly copyrights.
On a hunch, I did another search. Yes, there it was — the complete “Love-Slaves of the Amazons,” also free online.
Can my aging psyche take a weekend of such bliss?
Oh, who cares!
Cut me some of that Ma’s Old Fashion Root Beer — my computer and I are off on a long-deferred trip to the eternal mysteries of 1958.
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader history columnist. Reach him at [email protected]