It was Christmas 1972, probably…
Mum had taken me to the Co-op for the first time. It was a big occasion, someone called Santa arrived on what I remembered to be a big red sledge on wheels, along with a young woman festooned in red glittery clothes and white fur. It made complete sense to me, that she was called Mary Christmas and was so beautiful that Santa kept shouting out her name, ‘Mary Christmas, Mary Christmas, everybody!’
When I sat on his knee and told him what I’d like (not, as Mum had instilled in me, what I wanted) the kind voice from behind a slab of cotton wool said, ‘I’ll see what I can do.’ Adding that I must to be good and he’d know if wasn’t.
Mary handed over a wrapped present, when I got back to Mum and opened it I was thrilled. See what he could do? Santa and Mary Christmas had hit the jackpot for me, there it was: my very own spaceman!
Almost half a century later, following the anniversary year of the moon landings, I wonder how many ‘made in Japan’ spacemen the Co-op had purchased back then, in anticipation of our demands, or at least our joy in seeing a face behind a blue/gold fish bowl helmet when we pulled the wrapping off.
As we grew through the seventies the spaceman became old news in the grown-up world. All things have their rise, curve and descent, just like those Jupiter rockets sent to the moon. Times had changed, socio-economic blowback from Vietnam and the oil crisis led the USA to knock the space programme on the head, quietly, without telling us kids.
The stark gleaming purity of the spacesuit against blackness of space still represents aspiration beyond worldly concerns. The marketeers understood it: Want to sell to kids? Put a spaceman on it, or at least the helmet. This extended to dental health campaigns, records and toys.
One of the most popular toys of the era was the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Adorned in white suit, space helmet and Stars and Stripes, Knievel was a combination of Elvis and Gene Cernan (the last man on the moon), fixed to a gravity defying Harley Davison.
In the age of diversity the retro fantasy spaceman is safely anonymous; behind the gold visor, could be any gender, age or ethnicity. It remains the marketeers ‘go to’ image, like a dogwhistle of optimism, whether relating to social distancing and PPE in the Covid-19 crisis or troubled Presidencies low on hope and benevolence.
When the spaceman appears one giant leap becomes thousands of clicks, a quick glance lingers a few more seconds more, transforming our attention span into positive data and metrics.
So thanks to Mary Christmas I guess I’m hooked for life and now most weekends I look forward to the posting of: a crash course for the ravers it’s a #spacemansaturday