Nowadays, it’s supercool to be a nerd, but back in the 70s, it was a tough row to hoe. The last thing you ever wanted to do was let slip that you dug Star Trek or comic books or anything like that, because the torment would be endless. It didn’t even matter that I was into Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and Queen; I liked Star Trek and that was enough to cancel out anything that could ever be considered cool. And hell, even once Star Wars came out and every single person on the planet — and certainly every single kid in junior high — saw it and loved it, you didn’t wanna blurt out “Star Wars rocked!” at school, because that was a guarantee that, before the day was out, your underwear would be yanked so far up your ass crack the waistband would be around your shoulders.
That’s why I was so astonished when, while sitting through the local news one Saturday night waiting for Star Trek to come on, I saw a report about an entire club full of Star Trek nerds, right here in Albuquerque. This was sometime in 1976, and the club was called Alpha Centura. I convinced my dad to take me to their next meeting.
And it was amazing.
Not only were all these folks huge fans of Trek, science fiction in general, and comic books, they were all really nice. And even better — there were cute girls wearing Star Trek uniforms.
Me and my dad went to a bunch of Alpha meetings, but somewhere in mid-1977, we kind of fell out of the habit. I can’t even begin to explain how important the club was to me, though — just learning that there were other people like me out there was a big confidence booster. No, being in the club didn’t prevent the never-ending onslaught of thermonuclear wedgies that was the scholastic norm for me, but you learn to survive.
Recently, I discovered that my pal Stan Day was not only in the club at the same time I was, he was the official photographer for Alpha — and he’s created a website where you can peruse his photos. While I was going through ‘em, I found a few of particular interest — the one below is a blowup of a much larger photo, but that kid with the shaggy bowl haircut and the long-sleeved blue t-shirt? Yeah, that’s me.
This next one — another blowup — is extra cool to me, because that older fellow on the far left wearing glasses is my dad.
And this last one? Well, you may remember my recent post about the death of my buddy, Randy “Skids” Clark. That kid on the left is Skids himself, a 12-year-old nerd just like I was. The crazy part is, I don’t think me and Randy ever realized we were both in Alpha at the same time — we didn’t really “meet” until we were both 18.
Stan’s Alpha site is a heck of a lot of fun — it’s a nice personal remembrance of Stan’s days in the club, and the story of meeting — and working up the nerve to ask out — Carol, the woman who would become his wife, is just terrific (I thought I was gonna cry when Stan told it to me, it’s so dang sweet). But it’s also fun to check out the ’70s nerds — these folks were on the front lines of the battle so all you nerd youngsters would one day be able to openly let your geek flags fly. Check out the site, but be prepared to lose an hour or two.