By Gil Kaufman
Like a lot of kids in the 1970s, my Saturday mornings were pretty booked up. There was the terribly dubbed “Speed Racer” to get through, not to mention “Hong Kong Phooey,” the “Shazam/Isis Hour," “Speed Buggy,” “Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch,” “Jabberjaw” and, of course, the big daddy of all must-see cartoons, “Super Friends.”
And it might be old news to most of you, but I just recently found out that the home of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Hawkgirl, Samurai, The Atom and their unfortunate sidekicks, Zan and Jayna (a.k.a. The Wonder Twins), is actually based on one of my favorite buildings, Union Terminal in Cincinnati. How could I have been so blind?
See, I live in Cincinnati, and I’ve been going to the gorgeous Art Deco railroad depot built in 1933 my whole life. When Hanna-Barbera, the studio that created the “Super Friends,” was sold to Cincinnati-based Taft Broadcasting in 1967, the HB execs would visit my fair city. While looking for a grand headquarters for the Super gang to inhabit, background supervisor Al Gmuer somehow ended up sketching a building that looked a lot like the Terminal.
The building, which was decommissioned as a train station in 1972, was nearly torn down less than a year before it got its moment in the sun on the original 1973 “Super Friends” show. It languished for years and, though I feel like I’m one of the only people in town who remembers this (and it’s possible I hallucinated it), for a while it was turned into a mall and I swear you could rollerskate up and down its ramps.
Now, it houses the city’s natural history and local history museums and an IMAX theater, and kids look up at it in wonder not because it’s where the Super Friends once plotted about how to stop a giant Kryptonian pteranodon, but because there are giant replicas of non-Kryptonian dinosaurs scattered all about.
Plus, as I’ve been telling those clowns in New York for years, if it’s happening, it’s happening here.
Think Cincinnatti really is the origin of all great things? Want to weigh in on the origins of the Hall of Justice? Sound off in the comment section!