I grew up in the very small town of Thomasville, North Carolina. There wasn't ever much to do, so as a kid I naturally turned to Star Wars. I barely remember seeing Star Wars in the theatre. However, I saw ESB at the local drive-in many times. Can you imagine seeing AT-ATs that *huge*? It was awe-inspiring.
The first piece of Star Wars memorabilia I had was a Luke X-Wing action figure, quickly followed by Yoda, Tusken Raider, and R2D2. I can distinctly remember playing with Yoda and the Luke figure in my parent's gravel driveway. (Move the rocks around, add a little water...)
Like Gus, I had a chance to meet the "cast", though only Vader. It was in the National Guard armory, and they announced over the loudspeakers when Vader's TIE had landed. I still have the autographed ("Darth Vader") 8X10 somewhere.
The ESB years are those I remember best. White sheets on my bed bacame Hoth. I remember racing through the house with my Falcon dodging asteroids and angry parents many a time. I had all of the ESB figures except Leia Bespin, just to show how obsessive I was about my little plastic men even then. I never got her, because Jedi came out with all of those cool monsters...
Funnily enough, I still don't have a Leia Bespin.
By the time Jedi rolled around puberty was in full force and I was making Princess Leia collage posters out of extra Topps cards and stickers. I finally joined the fan club, and had the 8X10 pics they sent framed.
Then came the dark years. I got out of Star Wars and into GI Joe and Transformers, though strangely enough I never gave up on toys completely. I guess it was just in the blood.
After I went away to college my mother gave my SW toys to the neighbor's kid (ugh..). You know, the usual story.... Then, my sophmore year, I stumbled across a little webpage called the Star Wars Collectors Archive, and attended my first toy show, where I saw the strangest Star Wars action figure. Huge, yellow and beautifully sculpted, I had never seen anything like it before! What in the world...
It was Amanaman and the rest is history.