Remembering Ed Walters, the Original Geek Dad

 The following is a guest post by Mikey Walters.

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Ed Walters circa 1976, posing for his son Mikey’s very first photo

In January of this year, I lost my dad to cancer. In the weeks that followed, I was overwhelmed with memories of all the things that made my dad so special, and started to write about them as an expression of my grief. I suddenly wanted to write a follow-up to my interview at 2 Warps to Neptune to express how my dad was such an encouragement to me as a young geek, and how the love and acceptance of a parent can be such a powerful force for a child like me.

Dad served as a navigator in the US Air Force, and my family moved quite a bit during my pre-elementary school years. Dad was often away on temporary duty, including time in Vietnam. Somehow, even during these hectic times, I was the lucky kid who always had the best Christmas on the block. I don’t recall actually making a Christmas list, but Santa always knew what I wanted, probably from watching me reading the Sears Wishbook and seeing which TV commercials got me really excited. Looking back at my family’s Christmas home movies, I know I couldn’t possibly have been happier.

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Christmas, 1978

Dad always spent Christmas day playing with me (an only child) and my new toys. One Christmas the gift I wanted the most was a Mego Star Trek Tricorder (a souped up cassette recorder), and my parents hid it behind the curtains so it was the last gift I received (long before Ralphie’s dad pulled this trick in the classic A Christmas Story). The excitement didn’t end that morning, though. Dad and I used that Tricorder for weeks to record a series of “radio shows” staring announcer “Banzai Bifford” (Dad came up with that name) interviewing various personalities like the aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind!

Dad was always supportive of my geeky projects. When I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker, he broke out the 8mm camera and spent days filming my science fiction film Target: Earth. My parents both saved every single paper towel roll and toilet paper roll my family ever used, knowing that I loved to use them to construct spaceships and other things. As I began to clean out the garage after my Dad’s passing, I discovered a large box still filled to the brim with toilet paper rolls. I like to think Dad couldn’t bear to throw them out since he knew how important they once were to me. Part of Dad’s Air Force career involved working with the T-43A Navigator Simulator, and he often gave me old manuals and documents to play with because they were full of technical diagrams that were perfect for constructing futuristic control panels.

I have fond memories of Dad coming home from a trip to the BX with a few comic books for me. In addition to the usual Spider-Man and things he knew I would like, he often chose things that looked interesting. He had an uncanny sense of knowing what would make me happy. My very first exposure to the Star Wars universe was Marvel’s Star Wars #1, which Dad picked up right off the spinner rack. I remember taking it with me to Albert Schweitzer Elementary School the next day and showing it off to my friends. Dad was increasing my geek cred before the term was even invented. Even in the last year of his life, Dad still picked up the “free for Armed Forces” Captain America comics and gave them to me, his 48-year-old son.

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Ed, Lena, and Mikey at Disneyland, circa 1971

Dad and I shared countless hours together obsessing over each era of video game technology, starting all the way at the beginning with our first console, the Unisonic Tournament 2000 (a 1977 Pong clone). Later we bought Mattel’s Intellivision during a visit to my grandmother’s home, and Dad was so excited about playing it that we even bought Grandmother a new color TV to improve the experience. We had such fun with the Intellivoice module playing B17 Bomber, always mimicking the Slim Pickens-style voice saying, “That was close! Watch out for flak!”

Next we moved on to our Atari 800, which was not only a great source of gaming entertainment, but also an essential tool for both our lives. When Dad retired from the Air Force after 24 years of service, he went back to school for an Accounting/Information Systems degree and worked as a database administrator for the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Dad often used our Atari 800 and blazing fast Hayes Smartmodem to check on database jobs running in the evening, while I wrote programs in Atari BASIC and learned the skills that pay my bills today.

After that we continued to buy the same game systems, including Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, and the Nintendo Wii. Eventually Dad settled into iOS gaming, and we challenged each other to games of Words with Friends literally every single day for years! Dad was an avid collector during all of these video game eras. He was compelled to buy Intellivision cartridges, Atari software, and Nintendo games, almost more than we could ever find the time to play. I know in my heart that he made each purchase thinking of the fun he could share with his son. Recently I found the instruction manual for our Pong system and some Intellivision catalogs tucked away in his desk drawer, looking as new as the day they were printed. Maybe Dad saved these as mementos of our shared video game memories.

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Father and son, circa 1969

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Thanksgiving, circa 1970

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a child I was sometimes socially awkward, a little overweight, and spent more time alone than most kids, but Dad never tried to change me into anything other than my authentic self. He didn’t try to make me play baseball or any other “boyish” endeavor, but instead was thrilled to fill my room with super heroes, spaceships, and everything I could ever want to fuel my imagination and make me feel I could accomplish anything. My love of nostalgia is directly caused by my incredibly happy childhood. Everything I collect, watch, read, and obsess about helps me remember those amazing golden days. I miss Dad dearly, but I’m forever thankful that he was a man who was proud of his geek son.

10 Responses to “Remembering Ed Walters, the Original Geek Dad”


  1. 1 Ed March 12, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Great story and I am sorry for your loss. I lost my mother to cancer last summer and it was incredibly hard on me. Your story is very similar to my relationship with my mother. She was always very encouraging and seemed to understand what I liked better than I did. She would pick up things here and there for me even when I was an “adult” as she still knew me better than I know myself. I find myself bring home and saving things for my kids who are now teenagers. And although they act too cool for any of it, sometimes, some of the things get squirreled away in their rooms by them. I am sure your father is proud of you for the man you became and appreciates how you feel about him.

    • 2 WEBmikey March 12, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Thanks, Ed. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom. I’m thankful that the positive effect of our parents helped us become who we are today, and I’m glad you’re passing it on to your kids as well.

  2. 3 Matt March 12, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Mikey, I love this. An excellent tribute. You fellows had an amazing relationship. Do you recall being proud that your dad had a such a cool job as an Airforce Navigator? I would have bragged about it. I’m going to go dig out an Imagic catalog I have in a box now and read throught the descriptions.

  3. 5 Matt March 12, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Really nice post and tribute to your father. Made me think back on things my parents did for me growing up as well.

  4. 7 Jay March 13, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Mikey, this was so nice to read, especially since I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately. I lost my father (granted, a lot longer ago – 1990) to cancer, as well & I still miss him tremendously. While he didn’t play video games or the like with me, he, like your father, showed an interest in things that I liked, whether it was building with Legos, collecting comic books or model making (he bought me my first comics & we built my Millennium Falcon model together) .

    Those memories will stick with me the rest of my life. Keep your memories close in your heart & your dad will never more than a thought away 🙂

  5. 9 RDO Yellow Jacket September 8, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Mikey, AMAZING, EMOTIONAL article! And my belated condolences to you as well as belated condolences to both of you, Ed and Jay! A big thank you to your DAD, Mikey, for serving our Country! No, I didn’t Serve nor ever was a Policeman, Firefighter, First Responder, member of the Peace Corps, etc but do appreciate ALL of that stuff!!

    I had me a happy childhood, not unloved by any sense from either parent, great Christmases, birthdays hence cool gifts, but my old man would bust me chops just a (harmless) tad for being too obsessed with Star Wars/Battlestar Galactica. He and my Mom took both me and my little sis to see SW and both parents loved it. Me and my sis actually thought Vader died and my sis actually cried because of it, LOL (she had a crush on Han, but also crushed on…the Death Squad Commanders????) I also remember all four of us watching the pilot BSG ep only for it to be on-hold because of some President Carter/Camp David summit (perhaps addressing a Mideast power vacuum, for Saddam to perhaps slip into?) and me and lil sis had to go to bed and not be able to see the rest (I didn’t even remember that until reading about it online relatively recently; then it all came back to me), and I remember my Dad and I watching the Buck Rogers pilot but me having to go to bed early but my Dad watching the rest and telling me the next day that he liked it. He always had the sci-fi-friendly sensibility, but simply liked sports/music/movies/and especially ART much more (he was a football player/gymnast in HS, fine arts major in college while seeing both Jimi and the Doors in concert).

    Believe me, by beginning of Summer ’78 – at age 7 – upon now having all the 12-back figures, I seriously WAS the #1 Star Wars-fan in the World (ask anyone who knew me then, serious)! And what makes that feet all the more impressive (like an athlete being voted MVP despite being injured throughout the season)…is that I still had yet to see the MOVIE! Just the action-figures and super-cool SW comics that I won at an Easter egg hunt that spring and SW cards with wallet that my Mom ordered for me out of a cereal box was enough to make me oh so Worldly obsessed! Trust me, I was ranked #1 in the World Star Wars-fan AP poll! Look it up!! Serious! And, of course, I loved the Superheroes! Incredible Hulk, Superman, Spiderman, Six Million Dollar Man! And, of course, my first five crushes…Lindsay Wagner, Deidre Hall, Judy Strangis, Linda Carter, Carrie Fisher! Always favored the sci-fi babes, but I actually may have loved Dawn and Marie Osmond first (Marie STILL smokin’ after 45+years, ISN’T she???)!

    And the ’78/79 school year…BSG was certainly the 20-year precursor to the Sopranos (Greatest TV Series All-Time BAR NONE) for me and my 2nd-grade classmates in the cafeteria every Monday morning! All of us, even the girls (well, OF COURSE, the girls…Apollo & Starbuck and what ladies they’ll romantically link with; OF COURSE the girls) having our ‘watercooler’ convos during dessert about last night’s episode while eating butterscotch krimpets and drinking milk from our thermoses (my thermos, of course, being from my Six Million Dollar Man lunch kettle with Yours Truly, of course, being the #1 BSG-fan in the Whole Wide World as well; the GIRLS’ thermoses?…well from their Holly Hobbie lunch kettles – duh)!

    I also remember my WWII vet/Golden Gloves champ/athlete well-into adulthood/still doing those bitchin’ wheel-on-the-floor-exercises into his 50s maternal grandfather teasing me going into Christmas ’78…”What do you want for Christmas? Let me guess…Battlestar Galactica!” But I was laughing as he said that and it was all well-meaning. He was real young-at-heart (just a mere 44 years older than I) which made it all the more harmless hence myself still looking back at that nostalgically (first death I ever experienced; he died of a heart attack two and a half years later when I was ten; he at age 54 would have been an MMA contender today, believe me).

    Thing was though, he and my grandmother DID watch some BSG – if only because there were only three channels to pick from and/or LORNE GREENE starred (along with they, perhaps, hearing in-advance that some other old-time stars like Fred Astaire and Ray Bolger were going to appear; I remember ‘Hector’ & ‘Vector’ being in the newspaper on a Sunday morning (TV Guide section) and then going to my grandparents and my grandmother enthusiastically asking me, “Did you see those two guys in the paper who are going to be on tonight’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’ episode??”

    My mother, however, was the main supporter of my love for SW/BSG! My three best-friends from my early-childhood before I moved to the city whom I practically lived with (their mother babysat me) all loved Star Wars. They had some of the original 12 figures, they already saw the movie, and me simply seeing their figures in addition to already seeing a cool commercial that advertised them gave me the BUG! The BUG! In an instant…thanks to my Mom buying me at least one action figure every Friday after she got out of work (payday), I got ALL 12 before even THEY did! And believe me, their parents bought them SO MANY cool toys!!

    Summer ’78, the Summer of…”Boogie Oogie Oogie” (SUCH a HAPPY summer for Yours Truly), I was at their house every Mon-thru-Fri! One day, the oldest friend was on the phone with his older cousin. She was a bit stocky, built, a bit tough and authoritative (I liked that). He told her that a friend of theirs (me) was there and had a lot a SW figures and I yell, “Tell her I have the whole set (yes, I wasn’t feeling modest; I wanted to impress her)!” Then he said to her, “He has the whole SET!” and I simply smiled and rubbed me knuckles against me chest, lol. I was SO proud of that! Thanks, Mom! She ordered that grey, plastic stand that all 12 original figures could stand (and turn) on with that ‘Star Wars’ logo (X-Wing/Tie dogfight backdrop) of a pic behind it all. She also ordered the Boba Fett figure for me in Spring ’79! Along with placing the Death Star Droid in my Easter ’79 basket and ALL that stuff!!

    My obsession became a tad problematic, however, with these three best friends of mine. Yes, they loved SW (and they loved me), but their interest in SW was quite dwarfed in comparison to mine (who’s WASN’T? after all, I was the #1 SW-fan in the World for crying out loud)! They’d want to play sports (especially baseball) sometimes and though I’d be so into sports a bit later in life (once I moved to the city a couple years later), I wasn’t at all yet into it any of it! Riding Big Wheels/Green Machines in their huge basement, or bikes out in their front lot (I didn’t know how to ride a bike yet), Hot Wheels in their main hallway, Go Fish games on the dining room floor (while their mother would do spring cleaning while playing Kenny Rogers Gambler on the living room stereo), simply watching cartoons in the living room, sitting around a record player Indian-style and listening to the ‘Grease’-Soundtrack, or the middle sibling wanting us to play Barbies with her (she was the little Sandra Dee of our elementary school; her bedroom looked just like hers, and every morning when she woke up, two little birds put on her bedroom blouse as she’d then sit in front of her mirror and happily comb her hair while two little fawns would come up to her from behind while Frankie V would be heard singing; believe me, I clearly DID witness this numerous times! honest! no hallucination, believe me). In either event, all I wanted to do was play Star Wars albeit with the figures, or run around outside and role-play it by playing guns. But they would get a little annoyed at me ONLY wanting to do that, complaining, “All you like is ‘space’!”

    Funny, my paternal grandfather who actually was a very longtime HS head-football coach who actually did ‘make sure’ my Dad and my Uncle played football (even if they would have played anyway),perhaps realized that maybe he was too tough about that, so perhaps he never said even a WORD about getting ME or my male cousins to try to play. He didn’t even say a word! I actually look back on he as more an intellect than a sports-guy at all. My last memory of us being over at he and my grandmother’s place every Christmas Eve was he reading Plato ‘The Republic’ to me and my cousins in the living room! SUCH more an intellect than sports guy although he wasn’t exactly… ‘bad’ at coaching HS football in his time (SICK understatement)!

    Beginning of 3rd-grade I was basically at the ‘eve’ of still not liking sports yet (about to move to the city where my new 30+ neighbors all loved sports and I couldn’t HELP but to get sucked into the…’BUG’); however, I had me a ’72 Dolphins-like ‘perfection’-complex when it came to…spelling tests!! Oh yes! Every test HAD to be perfect! Or I’d cry like a widdle bitch!! Each test had to be scored 100%! Major obsession! I was still perfect yet was getting real worried about my first…’defeat’! The word ‘experiment’ I was thinkin could ruin it for me! I was real worried! That late-October ’79 Thursday night my Mom happened to take me to my paternal grandparents’ house. My Grandpa himself coached me (and not on the field either)! And he seemed so HAPPY to coach me up in this particular game! This although he was doing what he always did…sitting on his living room recliner while smoking his pipe watching sports (sure enough he was the first subscriber to ESPN; sure enough)! In either event, I actually ended up scoring another 100% and ended my brief time in my now-former elementary school with a perfect score! The booklet with all my perfect test scores (stickers to boot) those first two months in Lonley’s 3rd grade class before moving to the city are still in my mother’s basement and I still look upon them in pride whenever I do happen to place nostalgic eyes upon them!

    Yes, moved to the city in late-October ’79. Lil sis and I treat-or-treated in the country and then the very next (Satur)day…we were now living here in the city (eating pizza that night while watching BJ and the Bear)! Loved Star Wars all through ‘Jedi’; and actually loved ‘space’ even more-so in my new city although I actually did dip toes in YMCA basketball (Gym and Swin every Saturday) that fall of ’79. But all through the rest of that school year, I became even more ultra-obsessed in sci-fi! Like a supernova…totally blowing up even more-so than ever before, before finally… chilling out! ‘Empire Strike Back’ came out, I watched it, and was sucked in!! Loved it despite the not-so-good ending (as Chuck Klosterman stated, it taught us GenExers some ‘lumps’)!

    But after that, I still liked ‘space’, but couldn’t help but to gravitate to other places. The kids in my new city neighborhood DID love Star Wars! But they didn’t actually have action-figures yet alone have toy guns to role-play such stuff. Just playing sports and riding bikes and swimming and that’s all. Some of them that Summer of ’80 would ask me to let them up into my room so we could play Star Wars and although I may have still succumbed, I at times would actually suggest we play basketball or baseball instead (now if those friends of mine from the country would have seen this…they’d be pissed – “oh, NOW you want to play sports”)! My Mom did get me the Han Solo Hoth figure that Summer of ’80 while getting my sis Yoda, but I basically made it clear that I simply wasn’t into getting nor playing with figures anymore. Mistake! In hindsight, I should have at least collected everything from Empire thru Jedi (make that thru ’85, right?). If I wake up and am in 3rd grade all over again, I ask my parents to get me a paper route (put it in their names) so I can buy me Empire (then Jedi & ’85) figs!

    Times were a changin’! I became ultra-obsessed with sports especially NFL football shortly into that 1980 season! What bad timing for I’m a Steelers-fan and here I started following after their Dynasty already ended! Had to wait 25 years for a 5th Ring just like I had to wait 16 for my Yankees to win another! Previously, my Mom would take away my action-figures if I did bad at school; but now the punishment would be her taking away my little bubblegum football helmets!

    Yet, just a couple years later an older friend actually who never had SW figures inspired me to take them back out and play them with him. His rational…”we have nothing better to do”. I at first hesitated but then actually succumbed. And here we were – me in 6th grade, he in 7th – playing them for a bit. I actually got me a Lando figure to boot because of it all! It didn’t last though. It’s simply just a testament to just how cool those damn 3.75 inch figures, and accompanying ships/playsets, were! I’m sure I’m not the only 6th grader who took them back out. Heck, in 8TH grade I briefly entertained taking them back out yet again! I didn’t but just the THOUGHT…yeah, the best toys in World History! Very understandable! Not even CLOSE to ashamed!!

    1999, late-20s, Phantom Mencace now out…my mother actually, without me asking, bought me a Qui-Gon-Jinn and placed it on my apartment doorknob! She obviously remembers my old obsession on the wings of these new prequels now coming out! I laughed, but before I knew it, I actually went out and bought me quite a few of the new figures just for the heck of it (ended up giving my coworker/friend’s son my Anakin figure at a party of her’s). Funny, in my bachelor-pad, a CORRELATION came over me! I mean a SERIOUS correlation!! Something made me want to actually try writing a mostly-fiction but semi-enough autobiographically tale of an elementary school student in the late-’70s! He’d take his sister and friends on an Earth-to-Pluto, Summer ’78, voyage in which the young protagonists meet many people on their trip (good and bad), but also get smack into an ultimate battle (on Pluto) between good and evil which basically propels them all – once they get back home from their esteemed trip – to balance school life with space-war life all the way thru the lead character’s (1981) elementary school graduation! Perhaps a bit Harry Potter and Stranger Things, who knows! Charles Schultz, Star Wars, BSG, Laura Ingalls, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, (my sister had her friend at the coffee shop beneath her apartment read some of it at the time and he told her it reminded him of…’V’)! In either event, mix it all in a pot why not!!

    Just the same, my old man lived just down the block from me. He had his own art studio. I lent him a copy at the time and he totally complimented it!! Yes, the same one who would harmlessly bust me chops for loving too much sci-fi in early elementary school! My uncle, his brother, would visit him and read it and REALLY be into it! He laughed out loud at some of the characters. Sadly, I never finished the whole Hardy-Boys-like ‘series’. Only led the main characters (400+ pages) to Mars! An awesome premise, but hey, never too late. Heck, didn’t Glen A Larson originally write BSG in the ’60s only for it to…yeah.

    Anyways, no harm done whatsoever by my pops, but so awesome Mikey that your Dad was ALL-IN with you! Again, GREAT article and so many of us GenExers so damn lucky we were youngins in that cool majestic era just before MTV became a household name. Nothing against MTV, early-’80s (once they actually WERE the ’80s) was such a cool time! Men At Work, Duran Duran, INXS, Billy Squire, ‘THRILLER’, Eddy Grant, Stray Cats, Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow, Culture Club, Greg Kihn Band, Kajagoogoo, Huey Lewis, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Prince, etc, etc. But just glad we got to get a good taste of things beforehand!


  1. 1 Star Trek Tricorder (Mego, 1976) | 2 Warps to Neptune Trackback on May 14, 2015 at 2:57 pm

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