Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 1961- How It All Began

As I have said many times, my parents were both very supportive of my wargaming hobby from the beginning. Here is a picture from 1961 of me opening one of the most important gifts of my life, the Marx "Blue and Gray" set, on Christmas morning.


This wonderful set of figures included EVERYTHING! There were infantry, artillery, cavalry, medical personnel, all types of small accessories, and scenery, including buildings, bunkers, trees and a model of Burnside's Bridge.  The lesson was clear to me. Toy soldiers should occupy a diorama. I still spend almost as much time of scenery as I do on figures.

I still have about twenty of the stalwart 54mm figures in my collection. They are painted and based, and will make an appearance this summer when I run an outdoor Not Quite Portable Wargame of the Civil War. (More on that later).

Over the years, Christmas usually meant a new period or theme for my gaming.The D-day landings, also in 54mm: Charge of the Bengal Lancers, in 25mm, hand-painted plastics; Fort Apache, also in Marx painted 25's; a wrapped box filled with ROCO mintanks that got more attention than a new bicycle. When I discovered board war games, my parents made sure there was one new one each year.

Even in my forties, Christmas would see me opening an envelope, with a check and a note saying"Go get something at Sword of the Phoenix" or the War Room, two now departed meccas for the hobby.

My parents have both passed on, now, but I look back on a lifetime of love and support of a hobby that has so deeply shaped and enriched my life.  I know that they would be very happy to see the friendships that have grown out of  a gift that had a small lad spreading out his armies on Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas, to all my friends!
-Steve


13 comments:

  1. Ahhh Happy Memories. My first playset wasn't Marx, it was Fort McKenzie by Lido perhaps? But the joy was the same and the toys soldiers came year and year. Some of the figures from those early days still march across my games tables from time to time.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours Steve

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ross,
      I had a few Lido Cowboys and Indians back in the days... did Fort McKenzie have RCMP figures? I would have really enjoyed some of those!
      -Steve

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    2. Steve, no RCMP, just standard cowboys and indians, I was looking for US cavalry of course but was happy enough to let the cowboys use the cannon.

      Delete
  2. A splendid photo and a great tale of supportive parents...
    Merry Christmas to you and I look forward to reading of your forthcoming gaming...
    best wishes
    Alan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alan, I look forward to getting in my forthcoming gaming! We have worked a good bit of overtime the last three weeks, and several quiet evenings ended up at the homes of of best friends, who feed us like royalty! Tonight we are taking teo of our young friends to a professional basketball game as their Christmas gift.

      I do have three games set up on different boards, awaiting the chance to play and photograph them (Early Western Desert, Hastings, and Marston Moor). I've also got an ironclads vs. fort game for "Old Admirals" in the works.

      Maybe next week everything will fall in place...
      -Steve

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  3. Merry Xmas Steve,

    Great story and those sets of figures always used to catch my eye in various comic books - you dont see stuff like that very often in the UK sadly.

    Very interested in the AWI plastic flats though - for us in the UK could you write a post up on them!?

    All the best,

    DC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David, the AWI flats are from the back pages of comic books. "204 Revolutionary Soldiers for $1.98" was the ad blurb. I got a set at the age of four or five, and was hooked...only a handful survived childhood and several moving adventures. Back in 2006 I bought several small lots of them off eBay, and have added a few every time iee any. I now have about four hundred painted, and have run games with them at the Seven Years War convention in South Bend, Indiana.

      I will set up a small "Morschauser" game with them soon, and have Spike take a lot of pictures.
      -Steve

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  4. I still have many of the figures and parts from Sears Roebuck copy of the Blue & Grey. I, too, every year would get the Sears copy of the Marx sets. Right now all the figures sit in a large box, unused, in my basement.

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  5. I wonder if we were separated at birth? I too got a "Battle of the Blue and Gray" set one Christmas, and a set of the AWI flats when I was a kid. Most of mine survived childhood (nyaah nyaah), but I also have been buying them whenever I see them on eBay. Hmmm--you must be the godless heathen who keeps bidding against me...

    I've been wondering how best to use the flats. I have way too many to use in a portable wargame, but maybe a regular Morschauser game is the way to go. Are those the rules you've used at SYW conventions you mentioned?

    Best regards,

    Chris

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    Replies
    1. Hi Chris,
      It sounds like we both had a good childhood!
      I ran my SYW convention game using Koenig's Krieg. We had a four player game of the Battle of Long Island.
      I am currently basing all of my flats for a "Standard Morschauser" game using five stands per unit. I am basing them with three foot and two horse per stand. I took all the broken cannon pieces and sawed them down to single guns. a "Musket period" game using the roster system can be a great deal of fun to play.

      Good luck on future auctions! I now have all the AWI flats I need. Now I just need about fifty more Romans!
      -Steve

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  6. Howdy.

    You probably figured this out a long time ago, but I discovered a way to turn some of the light dragoons (did they have to include so many?) into tricorn cavalry: the fifer's head is smaller than the other foot figures'--it is in fact almost identical in size to the dragoon's head. A quick switcheroo gives you a heavy dragoon or cuirassier! Best of all, it provides a use for what otherwise would be a lot of useless figures.

    Best regards,

    Chris

    P.S. I have a couple of sets of Romans--if I have any I don't need, I'll keep you in mind!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey,

    I just saw this on eBay, and I recalled you were looking for these. The price is getting up there a bit, though:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Plastic-toy-Roman-soldier-toys-redemption-item-from-back-of-comic-book-/230949650093?pt=Toy_Soldiers&hash=item35c5abfead

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
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