Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bag of Dreams

HO is for scale (1:72), not Christmas.

I was in the toy section of a thrift store over the weekend when I found a bulging bag of small WW2 soldiers, HO scale, with some little vehicles and supply-train items in there too. Among the infantrymen, machine gunners and tanks in the bag were rubber rafts (for the commandos to paddle across rivers in), pontoon bridges (to lay across the Rhine River when Germany was reached) and blasted storefronts (so the tiny soldiers could lay ambushes). (Below: British Commandos on the job.)

There were hundreds of lilliputian-sized combatants in various poses of combat, wielding automatic and semi-automatic weapons suitable for clearing any street during an intense firefight. The bag was priced at $2.50. Some volunteer store clerk had taken this clear gallon baggie loaded with a boy's dreams and put it out to the uncaring public for a song.

This treasure trove represented scores of dollars (for the soldiers when new) and hundreds of hours (of memories for the boy who played with them). Put out for...anyone.

These soldiers were of a type I played with as a boy. Purchased at hobby outlets and stored in raisinette candy boxes in my room according to their nationality, these servicemen were always ready to stem the tide, hold the line, not let them pass, take the fight to the enemy. The Germans (gray) were there to provide opposition and the Tommies (tan) and Yanks (olive drab) were there to win the war. I never had any use for Russians (bluish green), after all, what did they do in the war besides partition Poland with the Germans in the first place and get it started? (Left: The Opposition. Germans.)

This bag had Russian soldiers in it though, and even some Union (blue) and Confederate (gray) Civil War troops. With this supply a boy could conduct a century's worth of pivotal campaigns from Gettysburg to Tet in one long weekend of play, alone in his bedroom with armies waxing and waning across the floor.

I felt bad for the boy whose Mother (or the decedent whose estate) had so cavalierly packaged up all of these memories and sent them down to the local secondary retail outlet. I purchased the bag full of soldiers and put it on a shelf in the empty bedroom of my son who used to play with toy soldiers. (Last summer I came across three decrepit green plastic armymen embedded in the dirt behind the garage, at an old battle site of his obviously, and I near to cried.) Although I examined the tiny soldiers in their various poses through the clear bag, I didn’t have the heart to open it and paw through it. (Below: The wages of war. A Barclay Podfoot Dimestore Lead Soldier (bigger than HO scale) sporting a wound and perambulating about on crutches.)


DawnB said...

beautiful (with teared filled eyes)

Anonymous said...

Ok, not gonna lie...I didn't read your story. But I had to tell you: I decided yesterday to meet up with a running group this evening. I need to...I'm eating every imaginable American junk food in sight, and strained my ankle/calf, so couldn't run. Solid 10 lbs heavier in just over 2 weeks.

Anyway, on to the point of this comment...What hasn't it done in Tokyo for TWO years but did today? Snow.

Oh well, I'm still going. You inspire me. And I'm getting heavy.


David said...

They could have been my toy soldiers because I have no idea where the hundreds of them are that invaded and retreated from my childhood. I gave them a good run but it was the hundreds of 1960s baseball cards that Mom threw out that still gnaw at my psyche. All those bike rides to the pharmacy to spend my few quarters on a pack of cards and stiff pink gum ....