Christmas 1965 was one that I wasn't especially looking forward to, for my father died earlier that year. As a semi-normal 10-year-old, I was upset about my first Christmas without Dad.
I saw an ad in the back of a comic book of something I thought looked great early in the year that I showed my mother, but soon forgot about it.
Early Christmas morning, I headed out to the Christmas tree in my grandparents' living room. I turned the corner from the hall that led into the living room and froze in my tracks. Sitting there, looking like she had been launched from the builder's dock, was a submarine.
Constructed of dark green cardboard, she was every bit as magnificent as Jules Verne's Nautilus. She spanned over seven feet long, with a width of three feet. She was built in two basic pieces, the cigar shaped hull and an overly large conning tower. The conning tower had a hinge on the rear that allowed one to lift the front and climb in.
I climbed inside, lowered the conning tower and left the real world, entering the world of Captain Nemo and the giant squid devouring passenger ocean liners. In front of me was my control panel with depth and fuel gauges and a steering wheel. Two torpedo tubes poked through the upper corners of the panel, with a rubber band at the end of the tube.
Two four-inch blue torpedoes were held on the panel, enabling me to sink the purveyors of evil, thereby saving the world as we knew it. Above me, poking down toward me was a periscope allowing me to draw a bead on all the dastardly characters of the world. It swiveled 360 degrees!
I vaguely remember my grandparents, mother and aunt and uncle coming out that morning. When my three younger cousins arrived at noon, though, I proudly flipped the conning tower open to show off my submarine. I could see the envy in their eyes. Move over Superman, Batman and Aquaman, Captain Kevin has arrived!
Soon we were firing torpedoes all over my grandparents' home at giant squid, renegade U Boats still left over from World War II and evil aliens from Mars who landed their flying saucers in the ocean.
About one o'clock, the Admiral (my mother) informed us that Christmas dinner was served. We ate that dinner faster than any before or since and returned to the sub. We met all of Planet Earth's enemies and defeated them all that Christmas 1965.
My cousins went home later in the evening, leaving me to my submarine. Somehow I persuaded my mother to let me eat my turkey sandwich that night in the sub. I remember making a remark to her about taking the sub into the bathroom while I took my bath, but one glance at her face convinced me not to push my luck. I returned to the sub and fell asleep inside surrounded by the depths of the ocean and all the mysteries contained within.
My cousins and I played with her all the next week. All enemies within the known (and unknown) universe were soundly defeated, which was a good thing. Mom and I went home the next week and the sub went into my grandmother's basement, since it wouldn't fit into Mom's '64 Corvair.
We soon got a call from my grandmother. She's had a flood in her basement and the sub was sunk. While the cardboard was gone, the world to which my cousins and I had been magically transported is still alive and well. None of us fails to mention it when we talk or e-mail. Thirty-five years later, I still smile when someone mentions submarines.