Monday, August 28, 2006

Only Girls Play With Dolls

Boys play with 'action figures'.

I think the toy makers who doubled their doll production with this one are geniuses.

It's true. When I was a kid, and Big Sis had all her Barbies and their stuff in an old roundish suit case type thingy, I would be fascinated with them.

But boys learn real young that boys don't play with dolls.

Mattel and the other toy makers blew that whole concept out of the water when they started marketing things like the original G.I. Joe. The original big one, not the little ones they made in later years.

I remember as a little kid, around 7 or 8, Big Brother received a Major Matt Mason for Christmas. He was probably 6 or so inches tall and had wires inside his arms and legs for positioning. They would eventually break and the arms and legs would be floppy.

My counterpart to Big Brothers doll was Callisto, an alien. He had a clear green head that you could see through. How cool is that for a 7 year old?

I loved him. I had a big white space plane that came with him and Big Brother and I would spend hours in outer space. Major Matt Mason had a tractor thingy for crossing desolate Martian terrain, and this thing would climb over books and stuff that we put in his path.

This stuff was great for the imagination.

This was in the late 1960's, at the height of the race to the moon.

Then a few years later in the early 70's, I got what came to be one of my favorite toys of all time.

Big Josh.

Big Josh was about Barbie's size I guess, and he had a beard and massive muscles. Think Aahnold in the Conan movies. He was one of a series of guys who could be bought, the main one was Big Jim. But the one I had was Big Josh.

But the coolest thing about Big Josh and his cohorts, was that if you bent either arm toward his shoulder, his bicep would bulge and get noticeably larger.

This wasn't a doll! Dolls don't make muscles like that!

Yeah, right. Men are so in denial. They were dolls. We can call them action figures all we want to soothe our fragile psyches, but they are all dolls in the end.

I never much cared though. I loved my big Josh and spent many hours playing with him.

When I was growing up, my mother was an excellent sew-er (seamstress, whatever you call someone who sews), and most of our shirts we wore, she made them. So I would take scraps of her material and patiently, with no instruction, figure out how to make Big Josh a back pack and things I thought he needed.

You could also buy sets of things as accessories for them. One of my favorites was a whole scuba outfit with tanks, flippers, and mask/snorkel. All of a sudden I was TOTALLY willing to take a bath, a bonus for Sainted Mother.

And I remember saving my money and finally having enough, and going to a store in Natchez, Mississippi, that had a toy section year-round (oh the joy!) and bought Big Josh's camper, complete with all kinds of manly outdoor thingies inside.

See, Big Josh had a big button in his back, and when pressed, his right arm would move down in a karate chop action. So, you could attach an axe to his hand and he could chop wood for a camp fire. Nifty eh?

But Big Josh's camper wasn't a girlish pink like Barbie's; it was a much more manly brown as befitting such an obvious he-man as Big Josh.

A friend down the street, whose name I can no longer remember, had one of Josh's cohorts, and he had a pet eagle that had a button on the birds back that would flap his wings.

We spent many hours outside camping with Big Josh and his friends. But I guess I eventually outgrew the need for Big Josh and the whole accessory scene and I assume they eventually got thrown away.

But please don't try to tell me boys play with dolls. Boys don't play with dolls, they play with action figures!


Emily said...

"See, Big Josh had a big button in his back, and when pressed, his right arm would move down in a karate chop action. Nifty, eh?"

I can just see it! That's one of the cutest stories ever...

Anomaly said...

I love it :)

In fact, I can't wait to use some of that story on my brother...

JAM said...

Big Josh was cool. I wish I still had all of that stuff, but my younger brother, seven years my junior, finished off whatever my older brother and I didn't tear up ourselves. I see them on ebay from time to time, but haven't bought one. The memory is good enough for me.

__Neal said...

It's really eerie that I've been working on some posts for my own blog about childhood action figures and your experiences sound so much like my own. I too had the Callisto guy with the weird green head. I also had a Big Josh as opposed to the conventional Big Jim. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one with memories like these.

JAM said...

Neal, thanks for stopping by my blog. My older brother was the one who usually got the 'main' thing like Major Matt Mason, and I ususally got the sidekick. I'm not complaining, I would have SO chosen the clear green headed alien over the astronaut anyway.

I've often wanted to buy one of those video/dvd things on ebay that people have made with old sixties and seventies toys commercials.