Sunday, 13 February 2011

When I Sent Evel Knievel Crashing to Certain Doom (Down the Stairs)

Evel Knievel, American daredevil of the 70's
I was pottering this week and sorting out old papers and mags for packaging (yes, here I am again, single-handedly saving the planet) when I came across an article in the Telegraph Magazine (TM) which brought memories flooding back.

The article in question was in the TM's Flashback series, and revolved around Kelly Knievel remembering the exploits of his famous stunt-riding father Evel Knievel, who (I read somewhere) died in 2007 at the age of 69.

Albeit just a few hundred words, the feature was interesting, not least to discover that Mr. Knievel (that sounds so wrong, like calling Big Daddy the wrestler Mr. Daddy) went from fame and fortune, getting $6 Million for a show at Wembley in 1975, to being bankrupt just two years later.

But why, you are wondering, is Evel Knievel of such import to me?

Well, let us travel back in time to the mid 1970s (harps sounds, picture wobbles, sepia tones apply).

The Evel Knievel Stunt Bike. Yowzer!
Look! There at the top of quite a large set of stairs is a little boy in his brown pyjamas (very with it!) turning a handle on a lump of red plastic like mad! What on earth is he doing? See the anticipation in his eyes. His brow furrows, he grits his teeth and finally a little man on a bike whizzes off to crash at the foot of the stairs.

What fun.

Yes, we just saw little Gareth playing with his Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Ah! halcyon days. How many times can a poseable figure fly down the stairs to crash at the bottom? How many stars are in the sky? How many Jammie Dodgers could a young boy munch in one sitting?

After all, what could be more exciting than having your very own daredevil flying down the stairs?

Little Gareth could so easily imagine a grown man on a roaring bike flying over umpteen double deckers, or his own little (carpeted) mountain. And despite the crashes, spills and Evel being generally thrown off his bike in the most startling of bone-crushing ways, the hero would live to tell the tale and do it all over again just a few moments later.


Simple fun. Violent in its own way, but nobody was hurt and innocence was retained.

Bobby Dazzler!

How the Stunt Bike worked. Stairs were way better, PJs optional.
So it was that the feature in the TM brought all these memories flooding back. The stairs in our home in Alma Road were superb for Evel Knievel, for not only did we we have three sets of stairs, in what to me seemed like a wonderfully rambling home (especially for hide and seek), but even one set that went down from the front door/living room level to the kitchen back-room level! If you include the coal cellar we had four sets of stairs!

I remember learning progressively to jump down the stairs from an ever higher vantage point. How on earth I didn't end up in the Royal Infirmary (for that) I'll never know. Evel Knievel was always able to do better than me, yet invariably ended up having to be twisted back into shape (possibly in 'real life' too).

I am sure, back in the day our little hero (Gareth, not the wee man on the bike) thought he was playing with "Evil" Knievel, no doubt because the naughtiness of sending a motorbike crashing down umpteen flights of stairs went against all pre-conceived ideas of what was proper behaviour in the home (being told off umpteen times for jumping down the stairs being a prime example).

I don't know about you, but when I come across things as I rush around being a working dad that remind me of specific things from when I was a child (every time I see a snotty tissue I can't help but remember a gypsy child in the waiting room of Cardiff's Royal Infirmary putting used tissues from the floor in his mouth! Arrggghhhh!), but as my own children say, "yes Dad, but that was before the war."

Cheeky little scamps.

Now, if I ever catch them jumping down the stairs there'll be what for! ;-)

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