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Toy stories

Posted February 19, 2014 in Winterset

Boys don’t play with dolls.

But when something stands 12 inches high, has cool dog tags, 21 moveable pieces, comes with an assortment of knives and guns and is based on the original American hero, well then it isn’t a really a doll, now is it?

It is an “action figure.”

And that’s exactly what John Pletchette of Winterset got one Christmas morning in the early 1960s — a first generation G.I. Joe.

“I remember being excited about getting it,” says Pletchette, “but I don’t ever remember pestering my mom and dad about wanting one for Christmas.”

He isn’t sure which Christmas morning he got the G.I Joe. The Hasbro company, which manufactures the action figure, began producing “America’s movable fighting man” in 1964, making 2014 the 50th anniversary of the plastic wonder man.

“I may have gotten it 1965,” says Pletchette, “but it could have been 1964 as well. I just don’t remember.”

John Pletchette holds up his G.I. Joe action figure he received for Christmas as a young child.

John Pletchette holds up his G.I. Joe action figure he received for Christmas as a young child.

The initial Hasbro product offering featured members of the four branches of the armed forces: Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Pilot and Action Marine. Pletchette received the Action Soldier.

The toy was unique for its day in that it had 21 movable parts, which meant it could be posed in life-like positions.

“You can bend it at the elbow, wrist, shoulder,” says Pletchette. “You can turn its head, bend it at the knee and at the hips and ankles.”

Pletchette says he was more into sports as a youngster but thought the reason he received the G.I. Joe was because his dad was in the Korean War.

“I enjoyed playing with it,” says Pletchette. “I don’t remember any of my friends having one, but I had a great time playing war with my friends with it.”

Over the years, Pletchette received many accessories to go along with it. The original action figure came with a rifle, was dressed in fatigues and had dog tags.

“I have a bayonet that you can attach to the end of the rifle and lots of knives,” Plachette says. “There was always something you could get to add to it.”

Pletchette says he isn’t sure when he completely stopped playing with his G.I. Joe, but it was around the early- to mid-1970s, a time when demand for G.I. Joes slowed down, mostly due to the Vietnam War.

“It was such an unpopular war that nobody wanted to have anything do with a toy that seemed to glorify war,” says Pletchette.

But Hasbro re-invented the G.I. Joe franchise. Instead of being a just a soldier, G.I. Joe was an astronaut, a deep-sea diver, and even the ever-popular “G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu grip.” However, these action figures were tiny in comparison, standing just 3 inches tall.

It has been more than 20 years since his G.I. Joe has “stormed a hill” or “captured a platoon of soldiers.” Still, for being 50 years old, the guy is in pretty good shape.

“It has a crack on one of its feet,” says Pletchette. “Other than that, it’s held up pretty well.”

Pletchette says he is not sure why he kept his G.I. Joe, but he is glad he did.

“I didn’t keep any of the other toys I received over the years,” he says. “My parents had seven children. I am sure my parents didn’t have a lot to spend on Christmas for all us. This was the biggest Christmas gift I ever got as a child. Maybe that is why I kept it all this time.”

And even though his G.I. Joe could be worth upwards of $200, Pletchette says he has no intentions of selling it.

“I am keeping it, and hopefully I will have a grandson or grandsons someday so they can play with it and enjoy it as much as I did,” he says.

A Lionel train set
James Olson, the Mayor of Winterset, doesn’t remember being fascinated by trains as a young child until one Christmas morning in 1954 when he received a Lionel electric train set at the age of 8.

James Olson holds up the caboose to his Lionel electric train set. Olson, who said he got the set in 1954, is now trying to refurbish and restore it to pass down to his grandchildren.

James Olson holds up the caboose to his Lionel electric train set. Olson, who said he got the set in 1954, is now trying to refurbish and restore it to pass down to his grandchildren.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you how excited I was when I opened this big package up and saw that train set,” says Olson.

The Lionel train set Olson received featured the 246 locomotive and was called the Tandem Set.

“You could put a little tablet down the smoke stack, and it would smoke,” says Olson. “It had lights, and you could make it go forward and backwards. It was great.”

Olson says his dad, who was a machinist, rigged up something in a utility room of the family house so he could play with it whenever he wanted to.

“The train set was on this huge piece of plywood,” says Olson. “Dad hooked the plywood up to a device where we would turn a crank so we could lower it when we wanted to play with it and raise and get it out of the way when we were finished with it.”

Olson says he got many years of enjoyment out of the train set.

“Of course there came a time where it was packed up and was never played with,” says Olson. “But I kept it.”

Within the past year or so, however, Olson has toyed with the thought of getting the train set refurbished and restored.

“I have taken it to a place in Des Moines to see what all needs to be done with it so it can run again,” says Olson.

The reason Olson says he wants to get the set restored is not to sell it, but to pass it down to his grandchildren.

“My wife and I have accumulated a lot of antiques over the years,” says Olson. “But we have never gone out and purchased any of those items; they were all handed down to us by our parents and grandparents.

“This train set is about the only thing from my childhood that I can pass down to my children and grandchildren.”

Of course, when it is restored, Olson plans on putting the train set on a large piece of plywood covered with green paint — just like it was when he was a youngster.

“We have a little ways to go before we can lay the tracks down and hook it up again, but it’s coming along,” he says. “Just getting it out and checking it over has brought back a lot of fond memories. I can’t wait until we get it all completed and fire it up for the grandkids for the first time.

A little music, please
One of Dave Trask’s favorite toys when he was growing up was one he had to share with his sister — a 35-RPM record player.

Dave Trask shows off the baseball mitt he received as a young boy, a Mickey Mouse airplane and a 35 rpm record player he and his sister used to listen to and play.

Dave Trask shows off the baseball mitt he received as a young boy, a Mickey Mouse airplane and a 35 rpm record player he and his sister used to listen to and play.

“I am not sure when or why my parents bought this for us,” says Trask. “It could have been a Christmas present, or it could have been something they just bought on a whim. Either way, it was a great present for both of us.”

Trask, who owns and operates the Ben Franklin store in Winterset, says he and his sister received the record player sometime in the early 1950s.

he record player came with six records, and Trask says he and his sister added to the collection over the years.

“I remember having records of different colors,” he says. “Some of the colored records had stories on them instead of songs.”

His two favorite records were one from Spike Jones and Patti Page’s “How Much is That Doggie in the Window.” Spike Jones performed ballads and classical works that would be punctuated with gunshots, whistles, cowbells and outlandish vocals.

“I must have played those two records so much it wore out the grooves,” Olson says. “They were just fun to listen to.”

Trask says he is not sure why he kept the record player after all these years.

“Maybe it was because my parents got it for us when they really didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend,” he says.

There were also two other things Trask kept from his childhood days — baseball mitts.

“I remember on my birthday one year, my parents sent me to the neighbors to get some eggs,” he remembers. “When I got there, instead of getting just one sack containing the eggs like we normally got, the neighbors handed me two sacks.”

Trask says he got a little suspicious of what was in sack as he was walking home and peeked inside.

“Inside was one of the baseball mitts,” Trask says. “Of course, I was thrilled. Later on my dad asked me to go downstairs to get something off his workbench, and there was a baseball. It was like a birthday scavenger hunt.”





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