My daughter the Princess and I went to Toys R Us this morning to spend a little of the money I had earned by proofreading a technical paper for a grad student. I bought a My Little Pony Equestria Girl named Rarity (I already have the pony, I just needed the girl to add to the collection.) I also bought a Minecraft sheep thing that the Princess promptly named Jed. Apparently, in the Minecraft game online, if you name your sheep Jed, it turns rainbow colors. And I know I didn’t slip by you the fact that the Pony Girl was my toy. In this post I intend to explain to you why I play with little girls’ toys… and hem and haw… and rationalize… and lie… because it is really not what it seems.
It all began in 1965, on my ninth birthday, because I had discovered in the Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalog the first Action Figure, G.I. Joe, and I begged and begged and begged it for my birthday. There were four different flavors of G.I. Joe to choose from, representing the four branches of the U.S. Military. You could get either a sailor from the Navy, a soldier from the Army or Marines, or a pilot from the Air Force. Of course, I was wild about the Air Force, but I was clever enough to ask for a sailor Joe because my father was a Korean Conflict Veteran who had been in the Navy on board the USS Hornet aircraft carrier. Dad actually liked the idea and got the Navy Frog Man uniform to go along with it. I could change Joe’s clothes and make him a cool undersea adventurer. It only took a half hour to change him from a sailor into a frog man, and another half hour to change him out of his swim fins and wet suit back into a sailor. It was a doll with sets of clothes to change him into just like my younger sisters’ Barbie and Tammy dolls. Wait… what? I had been tricked into playing with dolls? It is like I lost my official man card even before I earned it… or even before I knew what it was.
Oh, well… it was all about the stories anyway. Yes, I was a story-teller even then. I built a submarine out of my Erector Set (a cherished toy from a previous Christmas) and my Joe led adventures through the vast undersea areas of our parents’ bedroom using Barbie (actually a Midge doll) and Tammy (little sister’s knock-off imitation Barbie doll) as crew. We added to the stories and adventures as time went on, and birthdays and Christmases passed, and we accumulated more dolls. I added Fritz, a Soldiers of the World G.I. Joe from Germany, an Air Force Pilot Joe, and an Astronaut Joe. My sister Nanette added a Francie doll, a Christie (the first African-American Barbie), and a G.I. Joe nurse. Little sister Maggie added a Francie of her own, a regular Barbie, and a Skipper doll to the submarine crew. And then the stories went through the roof when I got my sweaty little hands on Captain Action and his Super-hero costumes!
Captain Action was the creation of the now defunct Ideal Toy Company as an answer to the incredible success of G.I. Joe. You could take the basic Captain Action figure (seen above on the far right… this is the actual first figure… what’s left of him. The right hand is long gone. He has no fore arms. The uniform that he is wearing is not his original. It is basically holding his severed body parts together. I did successfully re-attach the head) and put him in a new uniform to turn him into Batman or Superman or… Aquaman! perfect for submarine adventures with sisters!
In the 1990’s my parents gave me the box of my old G.I. Joes. It was like a re-awakening of childhood passions. Several of my Joes were in terrible shape because my little brother and his semi-simian deviant friends had used fire-crackers on them a-la-Sid from Toy Story. I began cleaning them and restoring them. And then the internet happened. Old guys like me that grew up with these classic toys were now trying to recapture their youth by buying and selling the toys on E-bay. Seriously, check out this price for vintage Captain Action stuff (mint in box);
Aquaman on E-Bay (Oops! That $2000 toy that you can’t even play with has already sold!)
Collecting and trading dolls has become a fascinating hobby and potentially profitable (at least until age and death and bankruptcy winnow out all the old crazy guys like me who collect this sort of stuff). And why the added obsession with Barbies and things like My Little Pony dolls? Well, my sisters’ dolls had all been kept in a metal box. Attics in Texas can reach 600+ degrees Fahrenheit in the Summer. Have you ever seen a melted Barbie? Nostalgia made me do it… that, and having a daughter… well, that’s my story, anyway. And I am sticking to it.