Like many 11-year-olds, I was drawn to the TV on Sept. 8, 1974. I had to watch Evel Knievel climb into a bizarre invention he called a Skycycle, to attempt to cross a canyon I'd never seen in my life.
The leap fell short. And the event fell short of the breathless ABC "Wide World of Sports" hype. Not that it mattered. For kids of the '70s, this was must-see TV.
A quarter century later, I was living in Twin Falls, organizing The Times-News' coverage of the 25th anniversary of Knievel's great failed leap.
We newspaper folks get jaded about "anniversary" stories. This anniversary was impossible to forget, of course.
The Knievel launch is as much as part of the city's history as the canyon is an integral part of the Magic Valley's high desert geography. The Knievel name was even part of the newsroom lingo: we used it to describe a story that started on one page, with the rest of the story (the "jump" in general journalism jargon) nowhere to be found. A "Knievel story" jumped but never landed.
So of course we had to retell the Knievel tale, a quarter century later. It was a story of mixed emotions. I think some Twin Falls residents would just as soon forget the chaos Knievel brought to their quiet little city in 1974.
Forget Knievel? Forget that. For a generation, the daredevil is seared into our pop culture memory. A small piece of anecdotal evidence: When it came time to design a logo for The Times-News' 25th anniversary coverage, we fashioned it around a small diecast metal model of the Knievel skycycle, a favorite piece of kitsch that skill graces my desk.
With Knievel's passing Friday, don't be surprised to see more kitsch — and more reminiscing about Twin Falls' bizarre 15 minutes of fame.
For more, I recommend these two good reads from The Times-News: style="text-decoration:underline;">an editorial and style="text-decoration:underline;">a column from longtime Times-News writer/editor Steve Crump.