Sonny and I had been saving up our money for months. He had seen a commercial on TV that promoted a nearly foot-tall action figure called GI Joe in 1964. The action figure, not a doll mind you, was about to come out in the stores and we wanted to be the first to buy one. Finally, when the release day had come, we bugged my parents to take us shopping to Kent, a little further down the road than Ravenna, Ohio to Hills Department Store, where we were hoping to find the first GI Joes. Imagine our excitement as we rushed through the various aisles in the toy section to catch our first glimpse of this new toy. If memory serves me right, they cost about $2.50. We were short a few cents so Mom helped with taxes.
My brother teased us about boys playing with dolls, but undeterred we informed him that it was an action figure, not a doll. These GI Joes became the catalyst for many an adventure played out on the living room and bed room floors in the winter time and far more outside when the Ohio weather became bearable. While we were fascinated with the M-1 rifle and the many poses we could do with GI Joe, it was the imagination he sparked in us that inspired many a battle, many rescues, many commando raids that may have started out with the action figures, but ended up with Sonny and I acting out our own battle scenes in the barn or out in the woods. When we weren’t playing Cowboys and Indians, we were playing Army.
The folks at Hasbro were pretty smart. They kept releasing accessories for GI Joe. And, of course, Sonny and I had to buy them. Green Beret’s, bazooka’s, grenades, frogman suits, airman suits, various camouflaged clothing and weapons. Then we had to have an official foot-locker to keep all the equipment. We had some of the best times playing with GI Joe. There was a place back in the woods by the creek where there was a dirt hill. That was a choice location to fight battles. Normandy was recreated there. GI Joe came across the creek, crawled through the dirt, dodging bullets and hurling grenades at the enemy occupying the top of the hill. Later, a competing figure came out call Captain Action, who came with a parachute. We adapted the parachute to fit GI Joe.
We would toss him out of the third-story window at Sonny’s house and watch him float to the ground. Got a lot of exercise taking turns running up and down all the stairs to see GI Joe parachute behind enemy lines. I still have my original GI Joe and all his military gear. In fact, every year as my son Christian was growing up, we would buy a GI Joe (the original large size) on the 4th of July. It renewed our patriotism and gave me an opportunity to talk about our country and the brave people who served it in the military, of which Sonny was one. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Not long ago, Sonny and I were reminiscing about GI Joe. Those GI Joes helped teach us about patriotism, responsibility, leadership and honor, because that’s what GI Joe represented to us. Still does.