A Christmas Story: Batman and Robin save Christmas

Featured Post, Opinion December 20, 2010 14 Comments

A Christmas Story: Batman and Robin save Christmas

By Rich McIlhenny

Like many a child growing up in Mt Airy in the mid-to-late ‘60s, I was mesmerized by The Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder, who dominated the airwaves during the pre-Brady Bunch Era of our youth. I even thought our father, Francis, sort of resembled the handsome and rugged Bruce Wayne, who slid down the hidden “Batpoles” in stately Wayne Manor, with his sidekick Dick Grayson magically turning into Batman and Robin on the way down.

They’d jump into The Batmobile, which is without question the coolest car ever made, and rush off to battle the Joker, the Penguin or the Riddler and their henchmen and save Gotham City from whatever devastation was being visited upon it by these evil villians .

“Robin” (Ed Floria) and his four children and “Batman” (Francis McIlhenny)nand his children, Richard, 3, and Lisa, 4. Floria and McIlhenny saved Christmas for kids at the General Electric Christmas Party in 1967.

During that time, my dad worked for General Electric in Valley Forge, which had a huge office and plant where they made products for NASA and other companies. Our family piled into his orange ‘57 Chevy to head out to the company Christmas party in December of 1967. After a bit of a drive and unable to find a close spot, Dad dropped my sister Lisa and our mother and me out front, while he went to park the car.

We walked into the huge and magically decorated lunchroom, where there were hundreds of kids with their parents all abuzz as Santa was sitting by the Christmas tree giving out presents.  Lisa and I ran over to get in line as we listened to my father’s friend and co-worker Bud Leo on the microphone welcoming everyone to the affair.

After a few minutes of waiting, Mr. Leo’s soothing voice was suddenly interrupted by sounds of a struggle, while the lights started to flicker on and off. Soon there was a very loud and evil laugh from the stage above us. Everyone looked up to see the Penguin himself, who had just wrestled the microphone from Bud, who now was being tied up by one of his cohorts. In no time, several other baddies were making their way towards Santa. The crowd gasped, and children cried out as the Penguin’s muscle dragged Santa onto the stage and tied him up with Bud.

The cries grew louder as the toys were gathered up and taken from kids by the villains as the Penguin taunted us over the loudspeakers and asked where our savior was this time. The happy family holiday party had turned into a nightmare. Parents tried to console their crying children as the Penguin laughed and teased us all more and more.

A shout of “look at the window!” caused the kids to cheer, as their heads turned to the large plate glass window of the lunchroom, where they looked out to see the Batmobile peeling through the parking lot and come to a screeching halt  just outside. Batman and Robin jumped out and pressed their faces against the window, peering inside at the disturbing scene. Kids cried out “Batman, Robin! We’re in here!” as the heroes went rushing around the side of the building looking for a way out after finding that the main doors were locked by the Penguin’s men.

As the crowd came to a hush and everyone wondered where they were, Batman and Robin slid down ropes from the level above onto the stage to cheers and started duking it out with the baddies. Fists were flying, and kids were screaming and rooting them on as Batman and Robin knocked out the villains and untied Santa Claus to thunderous applause.

Bud wrestled back the microphone from the hands of an angry and now tied up Penguin and shouted, “Kids! Let’s hear it for Batman and Robin!!!!!” The crowd went wild as Bud turned to The Caped Crusader, who by then was panting and sweating heavily. “Batman,” Bud said, “once again you and Robin took care of the Penguin and his terrible men and saved Christmas for all of these boys and girls. Is there anything that you would like to say to them?”

Batman paused and looked over the crowd while the children waited breathlessly to hear him speak. “Nah, not really,” Batman replied to howls of laughter from the parents and stunned looks from the children.

While the crowd buzzed and the baddies were taken away by the just-arriving police, Lisa and I fought our way through the crowds of kids surrounding Batman and Robin. Once we got up close, I looked up at Batman, and he looked down at me. It was then that I saw a familiar twinkle in his eye.

“Batman?” I asked nervously. “Do you drive an orange car?”

Smiling as he picked me up, Batman replied, “Yes, son. I do.”

Rich McIlhenny, a lifelong resident of Mt Airy and a realtor with Remax Services,

can be reached in his Batmobile at RMAC88@aol.com.

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  • http://www.lauraweiner.com laura weiner

    Rich, I always enjoy reading your work. It is really a work of “art”. I am so impressed and very moved by your child hood memories. I think it’s time you wrote a sitcom and produce a new show. Move over “everyone loves raymond”, here comes mcilhenny from mt airy. Happy holidays my friend! warmly, laura

  • Bud Leo

    Richard, your article brought back fond memories of the fun times the Leo and Mcillheny clans shared. I laughed aloud as I read along. Although the event occured over 40 years ago, your vivid recollection of the event was remarkable. Your writing displays a comedic talent that is quite rare. I think your ready for the big time. I’ll even go out on the limb and say that you could probably write for the Main Line TImes. Seriously though , great job. Christmas greetings to you and your family.

    God Bless

  • Bud Leo

    Richard, Sorry for the name spelling botch. I was watching the Eagles highlights while I was writing.

  • Kate Conran

    Thanks for sharing this terrific story, Rich. Several years ago, when my kids were much younger, they got to visit with “The Grinch” at their dad’s Christmas party. It was a similar scenario – and I know how much fun it was for them. We had our Christmas Photo taken that day with “The Grinch” and several folks wondered why Ron wasn’t in the photo. Merry Christmas! Kate

  • Cheryl Dachille

    Richard,
    I share that wonderful memory, as we also attended the GE christmas parties. My Dad is Bud, and we loved the goofy antics of you dad and mine! Thanks for reminding me of that magical time! I love your story and loving way you told it. I haven’t thought about it in many years but your retelling is exactly as I remembered. Merry Christmas, and thanks for making me smile today!
    Cheryl Leo Dachille

  • http://www.richmachomes.com Rich McIlhenny

    Thanks Laura and Kate! Bud and Cheryl, I am so happy that you both enjoyed it! I hope Allison and Mrs. Leo got to read it too. I forgot to mention the Batman music playing in the background, but oh well. I remember Robin’s kid next to me in the picture having that package of cars and I was looking at them after the party and was very jealous of them! Miss you guys. We should plan a get together when my folks come to town. It has been too long and would be great to see you!

    Rich

  • John Moss

    Rich, Great story! Reading it, I was able to visualize your account of the event. I remember your father well from when I was kid and he was, to me at the time, this enormously tall man of sound physical structure. Imagining him in tights and a cape…well, let’s just say it brought a tear to my eye and and outburst of laughter heard around Glenside. It was a very enjoyable read. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    John Moss

  • http://www.cunninghampiano.com Rich Galassini

    Good story – Classic McIlhenny yarn – tell FX and the whole Mcilhenny clan that I said Merry Christmas.

  • Jim Harris

    Rich, Great piece. It was like an episode of “The Wonder Years,” and you really told it well.
    I’m impressed by the lengths that those guys went to to put on a show for you kids. they must have had to rehearse a lot to get it just right. I wonder if anyone would do that today.
    Keep those stories coming!

  • Phyllis Vergnetti Rempe

    This was awesome Rich, I just keep thinking that some of the kids had to have some trauma if they really believed!!!!! It’s great how your dad was into his kids and making life so much fun! Now I know where you get it from :-)
    See you soon

  • http://peteleen@comcast.net Eileen McIlhenny Robertshaw

    I can remember my nephew Richard having the wittiest
    comments even as a wee one. Since I lived on the West Coast they were a wonderful source of humor to tell my daughter and she would then relate it to her school chums. They all wanted to come East and meet Richard.
    My brother Francis and his wife Joann were creative parents and gave their children lots of enjoying adventures.
    Richard is a gem and a genius for his memory and tales of humor so well written.

  • neil

    BASH! Zonk! BOOM!
    HoHoHo!

  • http://www.richmachomes.com Rich McIlhenny

    Wow. Thanks again everyone for saying such sweet things. I wish the Local’s website had this feature for all of the articles! Love you all and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

  • Gina

    Loved it! Great story. You draw the reader in with such ease and hold their attention to the very end. Your vivid recollection of events amazes me as well. You even get a little chuckle and smile out of the reader which is a special gift and on top of it all a picture to. bring the whole story together. Your affinity for recalling the past and bringing to life your chilhood memories for everyone to enjoy is true talent and art….and very inspiring.

    I, too recall Mr. Mcilhenny as a tall physical specimen. Perfect demeanor to pull off the Batman character.

    Time to hire an agent and market your talent. Even beyond Main Line Times ! It is a shame not to share with a broader audience.

    Thank you and Merry Christmas!