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Making an impression

Making an impression
Making an impression
Dr. Wayne Willis

On Labor Day 1932, when Ray Bradbury was 12 years old, he visited a carnival in his hometown of Waukegan, Ill.

In one tent, Ray met, seated in an “electrical” chair, Mr. Electrico. When a stagehand pulled a switch, Mr. Electrico was charged with 50,000 volts of pure electricity. Lightning flashed in his eyes. His hair stood on end. He stood up and walked around, knighting boys and girls with a sword. When he reached Ray Bradbury, he touched the sword on Ray’s forehead, nose and chin, gazed in his eyes and shouted, “Live Forever!”

The next day, Ray returned to the carnival and sought out Mr. Electrico, who in turn introduced him to the strong man, the fat lady, the trapeze people, the dwarf, the skeleton and the tattooed man. He told Ray, as they walked along, that he had recognized Ray as the reincarnation of his best friend who had died in his arms after being wounded in the battle of Ardennes.

Several days later, the Bradbury family moved to Tucson, Ariz. As soon as they arrived, Ray, convinced that he was going to “live forever,” found a piece of butcher paper and began to write. He wrote something every single day for the rest of his life. Ray Bradbury achieved literary immortality, winning the Pulitzer in 2007 and becoming one of the most celebrated authors of both the 20th and 21st centuries.

Researchers have largely been stumped in learning more details about Mr. Electrico. He forever remains the mysterious magician who indelibly branded Ray Bradbury’s soul, or, as Bradbury wrote, “Mr. Electrico gave me both a future and a past.”

Sometimes a school teacher, aunt, coach, camp counselor or even a carnival magician, through words and actions, achieves immortality in an impressionable child.