Antietam park ranger Mannie Gentile has created a new bog, Toy Soldiers Forever, devoted to one of our mutual passions – 54mm toy soldiers. While my rather modest collection is exclusively my vintage figures from when I was a kid growing up in southern Ohio in the 1960s, Mannie has continued to purchase newer figures, and his new blog will include reviews and extensive photographs and commentary on figures from all makers and years. Published twice a month, this promises to be a must-view blog for anyone even remotely interested in plastic toy soldiers and the Civil War in general.
My first set of 54mm plastic Civil War figures was a Christmas gift I received in 1963 — a Marx centennial edition Blue & Gray playset, much of which I still have. Over the next few years, those early volunteers were augmented by new recruits on birthdays, Christmases, and other special occasions, and I would run errands for some of the widow ladies in our village to earn a little spending money for those weekly trips into the city. There, I would plunk down a portion of my earnings on figures (or baseball cards or comic books, my other passion of my youth).
What was the first set of toy soldiers you received? Do you still have any of them? Did you ever blow any up with firecrackers on the 4th of July, something a couple neighbor kids did with their green army men?