In the late seventies and early eighties, Batman patrolled the streets of Birmingham in his 1971 Ford Thunderbird he dubbed The Batmobile Rescue Ship. Brown, white, and finned, The Batmobile Rescue Ship was possibly the most equipped car of it’s time. It sported a color TV, what must have been a beta of a beta model car phone, a cb radio, more antennae than he could have possibly needed, and, of course, a turntable. The sides were festooned with silver stickers with women’s names on them and almost suggestive phrases. The trunk was filled with spare gas, tools, and jumper cables.
What did he do on his patrols? He helped stranded motorists, drove the elderly to doctor’s appointments, drove drunks home or, so I’m told, to other bars, and showed up at children’s birthday parties. He even drove a guy I know to his wedding. Amazingly, he never took a penny in compensation.
I’m not one of those people who thinks that the world was a better place in the magical past. I like my phone that is still called a phone even though it’s a computer. I like that I can look up almost any subject by typing a misspelled version of some keywords and then gain access to a bunch of quasi dubious information on that subject without leaving my couch. I can instantaneoulsy trade messages with people in the former Soviet Union. This is not a “gone are the days” post. This is an “aren’t people weird and amazing” post.
Willie died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1985. He was working on the Rescue Ship in his garage when the garage door fell shut. He never noticed. He exists in the memory of many who grew up in Birmingham around that time. He was larger than life, and if you’ve ever seen kids run to a window to see a passing fire engine, you can only imagine a portion of the excitement generated when one kid cried “Batman!” So I like the picture I use as my avatar.