Captain Marvel

I was born in 1937 and most of the technology which is so much a part of our lives today came decades later. I clearly remember that we had one radio which we listened to in the evenings - especially the "Fireside Chats" of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the 2nd world war. We would gather around the radio and listen to those words coming from the little-understood box called the wireless radio. There were only a few stations we could successfully get and there were none for many miles around our home - probably only Louisville, Atlanta and Cincinnati in those days.

We were "hooked" on magazines - The Saturday Evening Post was an especially welcome reading in our home. As a young boy in the 1940s, I was particularly interested in comic books. Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel claimed the biggest attention from me. Superman was amazing in that he could fly, could break chains that attempted to keep him in bondage, and could change from a shy newspaper reporter into a superhero by going into a telephone booth and removing his clothes; Batman could accomplish all sorts of wondrous things with his sidekick, Robin; and a boy, Billy Batson, could utter one word, Shazam! and amazingly change from an ordinary human being into the superhero, Captain Marvel. Of course, this was long before television was available in our tiny town, so we never actually heard any of them speak.

I believe that the first time I heard Shazam! pronounced was in the early '60s when Gomer Pyle (played by Jim Nabors on The Andy Griffeth show) would frequently say the word. He had a couple of other sayings which caught my attention - "surprise, surprise, surprise" and "golly!"

Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle
Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle

As kids, we would tie towels around our necks and run around our grandparents' yard at twilight imitating superheroes setting off to do good and to destroy evil. In those days I would often imagine that I was Captain Marvel. Since I had never actually heard the magic word which initiated the transformation, I pronounced it SHAZZ-um. It didn't occur to me why it worked with Captain Marvel but didn't work for me until I heard Gomer Pyle pronounce it correctly, shuh-ZAM! If I had pronounced it correctly, my career may have taken a different path - that of Superhero. Perhaps that is the reason I chose the second-best superhero occupation: super CONDUCTOR!.

New Shazam
Now it is on cable TV in 2019!

Captain Marvel
Ah, the joys of childhood in the 1940s.

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