playing army

autumn roadRemember those Winter days when it was cold or raining out? Sometimes it was just too cold out to do anything outside. It always seemed to me that the house was alive with activity then, perhaps because we were all driven inside. sky king My dad, however, stayed mostly in his shop doing whatever seemed important at the time. These cold days bring back some great memories full of resourceful fun that required only a bit of imagination. Cold Saturdays usually began with the best cold cereal in the house, followed immediately by morning television which was primarily rooted in cartoons and black and white syndicated classics. A favorite in our household was the morning lineup of Sky King, Roy Rogers, My Friend Flicka, The Lone Ranger, Superman and Bomba The Jungle Boy.
corner store For a dime, I could load up at the corner store on penny candy. Of course, fifteen cents was always better, and for a quarter, you could get something good-such as a candy bar, or box candy-plus a lot of penny candy. Empty pop and beer bottles usually helped in these areas, and they could be easily found on the streets or in bushes.the mole people Candy was all about timing. Good, chewy stuff should be able to last you through a whole movie. This was just one of the reasons I liked the fruity chewy stuff so much. dots Were we getting enough rubber in our diet? Fun candy always included those wonderful big boxes of Dots that only cost a nickel. I was a big fan of Dots and Jujyfruits. Licorice ropes were the best. I loved the red ropes but usually had to balance them out with the black ones. Licorice ropes cost about a nickel at the time. If you were lucky, your corner store had them for three cents. red ropes I used to love to put one end in my mouth, then start chewing, slowly pulling it in like a snake slowly swallows its prey. Yes, chewy candy was a worthy investment. A careful and meticulous young shopper like myself would always seek out the best bargain. Chewy lasted longer, ergot, bargain!

parachute toyDimestore toys were very magical and seemed so worth the few cents that they cost. I can recall a cool parachute man where you wind up the parachute loosely around him, then throw him up in the air with all your strength. The parachute unwinds from the throw, and he comes floating down. Great fun was always putting together models and Aurora always managed to keep us entertained. I tried these monster dragsters, but they never held my attention for long. Still any reason to get out the glue and the paints was a grand ocassion. modelsYou set up your handy card table in your room, or wherever your model-building sanctuary was, and prepared to spend hours building. The ether-like smell of the glue, and the feeling of it on my fingertips brings back great memories of waiting for paint to dry. The enamels likewise had a beautiful scent of their own which always reminded in a way my mom's paint-by-number kits. Remember the little jar of thinner and how gunked up it got after hours of paint mixing? room Better yet, remember sometimes how the paint brush would roll off the paint cap that you so carefully rested it on when not in use, and how it got stuck to the newspaper on your table? Oh, the frustrations. Yet somehow, it was always easily fixable. A small black and white television blasted out Saturday afternoon monster movies. I could be watching "Invasion of the Saucermen" while waiting for the glued peices to set up.

Another fun Saturday activity was playing with the Ouija board. For some reason I think we all waited to see the board give us the most extreme answers to the same old questions.ouija board A genius game, Ouija was designed to put us all "on our honor" as to not deliberately move the pointer-or the planchette as it's referred to-on our own. matchbox truckAlso, Matchbox cars were great. They wereas much fun as army men and could provide the same long hours of play. It was great to actually invent play characters who, of course, were yourself, and owned a fleet of different vehicles. "Uh oh, the boat's stuck in shallow water. Let's go home and get the Jeep, the trailer, and the flatbed truck to save it. Better get the Exploration truck too!"

kids playing armyIf it wasn't building models, it was out getting our feet soaked in damp marshes and rain-soaked fields. My black and white converse always soaked through from the tall wet grasses in abandoned fields. I can recall the feeling of wet pant legs slapping against my shins and the smell of wet fields after a brisk rain. Even though the rubber boots were cool looking, I couldn't run or maneuver as easily in them. They always came off my feet when I ran. I usually only wore them when playing army because they looked like part of a uniform. Games of army were always up for debate, but I could always talk a few guys into it. At least until it became too cold or rainy to play outside. Here in the Pacific Northwest where I grew up, rain was a regular visitor.

Setting up army men in a friend's basement, or my room, was also a great cold Saturday event. These epics were long, and usually took a few hours to set up and men Creeple Peeple was a great set, and provided many hours of fun--providing that there was enough Goop. The Plastigoop was sold in stores so running out wasn't a huge problem. I always felt that I was so ingenious when I mixed the colors of the goop, only to find out that everybody did it.

One of my Saturday chores was at the burning barrel. It was great when it was freezing outside to stand around the fire putting in stuff to burn. If I was alone, I'd often pretend I was in battle, crouched behind the barrel, warm and protected from the heat, and fire at an invisible enemy holding the stick I used to cram things down in the barrel.burning barrel It was especially fun if it was late afternoon and getting dark out. If a friend was over, we'd sit around the flames talking about everything in the world. On those frigid afternoons near the fire, I could smell the flames and the burning debris. Inside my dad's shop I could hear his drill, or his hammering away at some project. If he and my brother were working on cars, I'd hear the engine revving. It was all great, and soon I'd be in the house where steam on the windows from my mom's cooking would tell of the evening's meat loaf, or macaroni and cheese.

These days, these long, cold, wistful winter days were great fun and a perfect way to spend an afternoon without spending a fortune. Imagination was the key to everything back then, for with it, anything was possible. From swinging on braided vines through emerald forests, to tromping through the muddy remains of a bombed out French chateau, or even creaking through the darkness of a mummy's tomb, games of imagination were what we held so dear back then. I can imagine no other way to spend such valuable time. These recollections, these flights of fantasy when sloshing through puddles and wet fields, or games that required nothing but other people to play are far more treasured to me than anything in the world today.