Thursday, January 19, 2017

GI Joe Memories, Part 1

GI Joe has been a part of my life for almost my entire life. I played with the 11.5" GI Joe in the late 60's, early 70's. The 3 3/4" troops arrived in 1982 and I've been a fan of the small scale figures pretty much ever since. There have been a few years periodically that I drifted away, but I've always found my way back.

I thought that I would write out a few of my various GI Joe memories from across my 54 years. 

  1. Thoughts as a Kid - I had some amazing adventures with the big GI Joes when I was a kid. I've got a cousin, Randy, who lives in Massachusetts and we played everyday when I would visit from South Florida. His mom used to go to the Hasbro employee store and buy him some awesome equipment for his GI Joes. He had these huge dirt hills in his backyard and they were constantly under assault from our troops. I also have vague memories of the Sears toy department and the famous "valley of green," full of a huge assortment of GI Joe troops and equipment. I remember having the Five Star Jeep with the trailer, the Mercury Space Capsule, and that glorious yellow Adventure Team Helicopter. I think I'm going to need to write another post detailing these memories.
  2. 1982 - K-Mart - I'm pretty sure the GI Joe comic came out first, with the new line of action figures following soon afterward. Now I was 19 at the time and still interested in action figures. I had been collecting the Star Wars and a few others, so it was very easy for me to transition into this new size for GI Joe. K Mart and Lionel Playworld were the only toy options in the area. Walmart and Toys R Us had not yet arrived in the area. Lionel was an awesome store, but K Mart was the first place that I found the new GI Joe figures. I remember seeing the figures in the store and I think that I bought Rock n Roll, Stalker, Flash, and the RAM first. I promptly went out my car and opened them up, fiddling about with these new GI Joes and this new vehicle. So cool! I'm not sure which figures were still in the store, but I went back in and bought one of each of the rest of them. Hooked on the small scale GI Joe ever since.
  3. 1983 - Lionel - Lionel Playworld/Lionel Leisure City was an amazing place. When my family moved to Georgia from Florida around 1972-73, Lionel was the place for toys and hobbies.They had a huge model department that was just phenomenal. As I got older and got my drivers license, Lionel was a frequent place for me to visit, especially when GI Joe showed up. I made the note of 1983 as a key moment for Lionel because I remember the huge endcap of the new (2nd wave) of GI Joe figures. I think nearly all of the Joes were out in that first wave. Destro was not out yet, but he would be soon! To this day, at least when GI Joe had a retail presence, there was something magical about thumbing through the carded figures, making sure you saw each character that was available.
  4. 1984 - Tollbooth - Some of my readers may be familiar with my story about Tollbooth. Here's the thing, I was 19 and unattached when the ARAH line appeared. Despite being a toy nerd, I actually did find a girlfriend who would become my fiance. I think we got engaged in 1984, she would remember, I don't remember exactly. I do know our anniversary date, so my memory isn't totally shot. We got married in September of 1985, and my girlfriend/fiance bought me an awesome gift for the Christmas of 1984. This was way before the internet and finding out what new figures were coming out for the new year. Much to my surprise, Lisa had bought me the Toss n' Cross Bridgelayer with Tollbooth. I had to marry her, right? She's been stuck with me and has stuck by me ever since!
    1. 1985 - First Wave with Swivel Necks - My girlfriend worked in the evenings at one of the department stores at the local mall, so I would often visit her at work. Back then, Kay-Bee Toys was a pretty cool toy store. Still over priced compared to Toys R Us or Lionel, but still a toy store! I first spotted the new figures for 1985 at Kay-Bee. I'm pretty sure that Flint, Shipwreck, Airtight, and the Crimson Guard may have been some of the first figures that I bought that year. When I opened them up, I was quite surprised by the new neck articulation. The swivel arm grip had been out for e couple years and this new innovation was such an improvement on the figures.
    2. Terror Drome - Fast forward a little to 1987, my now wife and I were living in Jacksonville, FL after transferring with an airline job. The Terror Drome came out in 1986 and was slowly making its way out of stores for the next couple of years. I happened to pick one up at the Lionel Playworld in Jacksonville on clearance. I don't recall the price, but it was marked down enough that my new bride was okay with the purchase. Such an awesome piece of GI Joe history! Sadly, I no longer have it. I sold it in one of those years where my interest in GI Joe had faded a little. I wish I still had it...
    3. Defiant - The Defiant Complex has a little bit of personal tragedy behind it. When I first saw it in the catalogs in the new vehicles for 1987, I knew that I wanted it, but it was unlikely that I would ever get one. It was pretty expensive back in 1987. Then the giant boxes started showing up at Toys R Us! Holy crap, that box was huge! But it was still out of my price range. Fast forward to late 1989 and the tragic death of my mother in September of that year. We had an infant son added to our family in 1988 and had moved back to Georgia in early 1989. Horrible event surrounding my mother's death. Maybe I've written about it before in the early days of this blog. Maybe I'll write about it again one day. Eventually her estate was settled and my siblings and I got a small modest sum of money. I used a portion of that money, probably in early 1990, to buy a clearanced Defiant Complex at the local TRU. I had a Toyota pick up truck at the time and that beast of a box nearly filled the entire bed of the truck! It took me a few days to build it. Family stuff, infant son, a job, those sorts of things. It was amazing! But it was so dang big. I never really had a place to properly display it. Eventually, as we moved, the Defiant took a few hits here and there and began to suffer with age and neglect. The fate of the Defiant wound up that it was taken apart and sold piece by piece. The whole Complex had suffered enough that it wouldn't bring the kind of money that I was hoping to get. Parted out, as well as selling the two drivers, gained me a whole lot more money. By selling off chunks of the Defiant Complex, I was able to finance one year of the FSS and buy some of the late wave Retaliation figures. Not a bad legacy for the Defiant Complex, I suppose.
    4. Keel Haul
    5. 12" Modern Figures
    6. New Sculpt Era
    7. 25th Anniversary boxed set
    8. Zombie Viper Wave
    9. BATs at Family Dollar
    10. Dollar General figures
    11. 50th Anniversary
    This post is getting a bit bloated. I'm going to wrap up this post and continue on with the rest of the list in a later post.

    Share your GI Joe memories in a comment!


    Big Tone said...

    Back in the early 80s ,my sister was dating a questionable dude,well In my parents eyes.They hated him lol!I ,on the other hand ,loved the guy!He'd set up the closed in porch with a T.V. so we could watch all the cool Saturday Morning cartoons.He'd always bring me old toys that his brothers outgrew and every once In a blue moon he would drive me out to K Mart or Kiddie City to pick out anything I wanted(usually a bunch of Joes!)!I remember that day i came home with v.2 Storm Shadow and some Tiger Force Joes,I think Bazooka and Duke.We also stopped at a video game rental place o the way back from Kiddie City and rented RAMBO for the Sega Genesis!He was a big kid,which Is probably why my parents didn't dig him too much :( Great memories,though.

    Y. T. said...

    Great stories Tom, I look forward to hearing the rest. I love that Defiant tale.