Saturday, October 12, 2013

How it all started

I must have been five or six when my mother bought me my first bag of toy soldiers. And as the only accessories were picks and shovels - in retrospect I guess they were green construction guys, nonetheless to me they were my first plastic armymen.

These were MPC "ring-hands" the first generation of cheap American-made plastics that had rudimentary accessories. 

The summer that I turned ten my godmother, Aunt Josie, gave me the MPC Civil War playset to supplement the Marx "Blue and Gray" set that my parents had given me that spring for my birthday. I was in kid heaven that summer.

The accessories were pretty clunky, as here, our soldier models the neckerchief, saber, 
canteen, and haversack.

The sculpted detail however was quite pleasing.

And, though somewhat squinty, the facial expressions were much improved on the earlier ring hands in which everyone looked like Raymond Burr.

This Yankee may have lost his rifle but he still has his bedroll.

MPC also made really cool WWII GIs.  I had lots of these.  The silver-colored accessories were much better than those of the Civil War guys.  Helmets, "grease-guns", M1 carbines, and even life jackets for goodness sakes - these guys were ready for anything.

Again, the sculpted on detail was very good.  And as a kid I was fascinated...

by these cool cargo pockets!

The prone shooter guy was a favorite, waiting silently in ambush for the next Japanese patrol 
to come down the trail.

Thank goodness for my mom and Aunt Josie, they got me started in a delightful world 
of toy soldiering.

Soldier on!



tradgardmastare said...

Interesting post and figures I have not seen before.
Britains and Timpo were my earliest chaps but most evocative are the 1/72 Airfix...

Mike Bunkermeister Creek said...

Awesome, Manny. Those ring hand figures in the jumpsuit and a similar one in a trench coat, were my first figures too, in about 1958when I was three. I have continued to buy the WWII style ones and have hundreds. Ring hand figures are my favorites. They ACW and AWI accys are available as recasts. Mike Bunkermeister Creek

Beaty said...

Aw that's excellent! Really nice to see where it at began. I did try to think back and remember what was my fist plastic soldier but I'm afraid that's lost in the mists of time...

Being a Brit it was probably a 1/32 Airfix set (we weren't well of enough to afford Britains). Though I do remember having some Timpo US Cavalrymen in the early days! (I am of an age where we were still keen on cowboys and Indian movies at our Saturday morning cinema show).

One thing I do remember - I used to covet a set of American Revolution soldiers which was advertised at the back of my favourite Harvey Comics (I liked Casper the Friendly Ghost). Unfortunately it was way beyond my means. The set came with cannon and the two armies moulded in red and blue!

pylgrym said...

Just shuffled in from the Facebook Group we know and love, after posting there a link to your delightful blog. My earliest soldier memory is crystal clear: the Marx "chubby" 60mm crouching, firing guy was stolen from a neighbor (whom I found - fifty years later - on FB!)and the crime was covered up - except in my conscience which, thank God, is still tender to this day!

gail from Long Island said...

Hello Manny. I'm back to ask more annoying questions. By the way, thanks for the info on shirt colors, and the one about infantry ammo carriers. Now, when horse powered caissons or limbers bring artillery ammo to the cannons, what did they do with the equipment when the shells were expended? Did some of the cannon crew bring the caisson back to HQ, or supply and re-load for a return trip? Was the empty caisson used for cover? Just need this info to line up my horse artillery, possibly in 2 directions. Thanks again, Carl, NY

Mannie Gentile said...

When a battery of six guns expended all ammunition from limbers and caissons, the battery would retire from action, report to the ammunition train and restock ammunition. Individual units of a battery never retired to the ammunition train singly as the rest of the unit may have moved in their absence. Batteries worked as a unit though sometimes with sections (two guns) or individual guns posted separately but temporarily, but always advancing or retiring as a complete unit.