|1960s Vintage GI Joes|
(L to R) Army, Navy Air Force, Marine
Seems that Dad took one look at GI Joe and declared, "That's a doll." And of course, no son of his was going to be playing with dolls. The Old Vermonter and I were sorely vexed at this proclamation.
So what made GI Joe a doll, rather than just another toy soldier?
First of all, toy soldiers are supposed to look like this -
And they should come in a bag.
You shouldn't be able to change a toy soldier's
Sorry, I'm still a bit touchy about that.
Then one day my mother happened across a new kind of toy soldier. This guy -
Stony was his name, the only thing you could change on Stony was his weapons and his headgear. You couldn't swap
So this new guy met my Dad's definition of what was a toy soldier. He was somewhat skeptical as Stony was the same height as GI Joe and didn't come in a bag like other toy soldiers. But it was close enough. Dad couldn't stretch things and call Stony a doll. He was a toy soldier in Dad's book.
So come Christmas morn, the Old Vermonter and I both received Stony. We were ecstatic, until we realized that Stony could only move his head and his arms. He couldn't bend his legs or anything. Poor bastard couldn't even take cover when he was under fire. He could just stand there and return fire. Of course, he did have a pretty awesome array of weaponry as you can see in the photo. (I just noticed the bugle. What in the Sam Hill does Stony need with a bugle? Hhhmm, I don't remember the bugle from back in the day either...)
So Stony was okay. The other kids in the neighborhood (who did have GI Joes) would mock his inability to go prone, or sit, or run. Stony was always getting his ass kicked in firefights with the more poseable and limber Joes.
But in hand to hand combat, Stony was formidable. It was that stoic look I think. But still, if one of the Joe's knocked him down, the poor bastard was like a turtle on his back. No flexibility you see.
Eventually the Old Vermonter got two new action figures for his collection, but they weren't toy soldiers. They were these two guys -
Of course, old Stony was really feeling left out now. The new guys (who were fully poseable like GI Joe) were seeing more action than he was. Seems Stony's new job was to be a rear area pogue. Wherever Stony was, that marked HQ. Due to Stony's inability to take cover, he had been demoted to "in the rear with the gear".
Things got worse for Stony. The Old Vermonter got a GI Joe for his birthday. A sailor! Not sure what Mom was thinking. Of course, she's a Mom, what did she know about toy soldiers or playing army? But at least the sailor Joe came with his own equipment. Though that blue uniform did tend to give his position away in the field, at least he could go prone. Stony? Yes, still "in the rear with the gear". Until one day the Old Vermonter had an idea.
He recalled that Stony was a paratrooper. Maybe he had really stiff legs to withstand the shock of a parachute landing (what did we know, we were kids?)
So we made parachutes for the two Stony's. They could drop behind enemy lines and blast the enemy as they came down. Wouldn't matter then if they couldn't bend their legs or take cover. So we went ahead with that scheme. (Mom still probably wonders what happened to some of her bed sheets. Between parachutes for Stony and winter camouflage for us kids I'm surprised we had any sheets at all in the house!)
Stony as paratrooper worked out pretty well. Stony's pride was back and he was no longer a pogue, he could go into action. Then the Old Vermonter had another bright idea. As Chief Cherokee was a Native American, he should be pretty good at tracking and sneaking. The Chief should be the head paratrooper! (Not sure how Stony felt about that. He'd been on the roster a lot longer than the Chief.)
So Chief Cherokee got outfitted with a parachute. But it was then that tragedy struck. On his very first training jump (which was unfortunately from our raised front yard onto the street ten feet below) the Chief had a "Roman candle". His chute was a streamer, didn't open at all.
When the Chief hit the asphalt his legs kind of separated from the rest of him. Seems there was this big spring inside his hips which held him together. When the spring let go on impact, the Chief was never the same again. Oh, we patched him up as best we could but his legs were ever after wobbly.
Just as Stony couldn't sit, now the Chief couldn't stand. He could still fight, he just couldn't move all that well. And it really affected his buddy, Johnny West.
Of course, the two had come up through the ranks together. They knew each other "out west", as it were. When Chief Cherokee had his accident, Johnny took to the bottle. Of course, he was a cowboy and did have a certain predilection for hanging out in saloons anyway. So the Chief was a cripple, Johnny was a drunk and Mom found out about the sheets so we lost our supply of parachutes. So Stony was back "in the rear with the gear".
Also more GI Joes were coming into the ranks as Dad had given up his "that's a doll" stand when all the other kids on the street had GI Joes. And GI Joe was getting a lot more sophisticated as well. Hasbro was producing "foreign" GI Joes now as well. Germans, Brits, Russians and Japanese.
So the old guys were quietly retired. Sent to live out the rest of their days in the toy box. I know they were bitter. You could see it in Stony's face -
And yeah, that's a mug shot. After his time in service, Stony fell in with the wrong crowd. He and the Chief were picked up out in Arkansas when they knocked over a 7-11.
The judge cut them some slack based on their service records. Especially considering Stony's disability. Poor guy couldn't even run from the cops.
So yeah, I was into action figures as a kid. Still collect them. There will be more stories along this line. But this one's for Stony. You were one stoic dude.