Because There was Zorro

by

 

Mary Lou Houck

 

 

Read at the dedication of the Mission San Luis Rey bench, August 2nd, 2003

 

 

She was eleven. He was almost seven. They lived in different parts of the  country in 1957, but they had at least one thing in common. Every Thursday at 8PM they would sit on their living room floors in front of a very big Cherrywood TV cabinet with a very small black and white picture tube inside. In just a few moments that oh-so-familiar theme would begin and they would be completely lost in the adventures of their hero, Zorro.  And across the country, girls and boys just like them shared that same fascination. Afterward, the boys ran around the house in a fierce, imaginary battle of swords and wits with a not-so-imaginary Commandante. They won because, after all, they were Zorro. The girls ran upstairs to the privacy of their bedrooms where they opened their diaries and wrote about an imaginary senorita in love with her dashing caballero, El Zorro. They delighted in this weekly ritual, but it would last for only two short years. During that time they learned some interesting things: that the hero doesn’t always wear white, and that if you want to blend in with the darkness of night, remember not to smile. But there were other lessons as well, because there was Zorro.

 

 

 

These were not as superficial, and they lasted well beyond the short time the series aired. Guy Williams’ Zorro had deeply influenced their minds and hearts in ways even they would not consciously understand at the time, but the lessons were there nonetheless. Because he was Zorro, they learned not to focus on wealth, or power, or authority as the signs of someone’s worth. They learned that all people have worth, despite their race, age, size, sex, or handicap. They learned that physical attributes are wonderful, but that character attributes are what really shape a person. They learned that justice can be tempered with mercy and can even be handed out with humor. Because he was Zorro, they learned that even the most hardened criminal should be given the opportunity to reform. They learned that sometimes people are not what they appear to be, and that some of their most admirable traits may be hidden from view. They learned that to truly love someone you must allow them to be true to themselves. They learned that if you expect people to do their best, usually you will not be disappointed. Because he was Zorro, they learned the meaning of sacrifice and honor, of courage and dedication, of selflessness and determination. Guy Williams’ Zorro taught them these things and more. Of course they wouldn’t have understood all this in 1957, but as they grew up they began to celebrate and reflect these values in their own lives. They chose careers of service such as doctors, nurses, teachers, psychologists, lawyers, policemen, firemen, paramedics, environmentalists, researchers. They became actors, singers, entertainers, writers. They joined the Armed Forces, the Ministry, the religious life, the Peace Corps, the Civil Rights Movement, Habitat for Humanity. They went to the moon, to Viet Nam, to Cambodia, to Kuwait, to Iraq. They married and raised their children in the hopes that they, too, would cherish these values. They celebrated the return of Guy Williams’ Zorro to television and introduced their children to him, confident that their young minds and hearts would be safe in the world he protected.

And then, too soon, they found themselves mourning his loss. They were not alone. And in time, the man who was Zorro would bring them together as friends.

Now, forty-six years later, they meet at this spot that is so much a part of his memory, to recall, to celebrate, and to share their belief that Guy Williams was then, is now, and forever will be the one and only Zorro.

 

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