Tap tap tap...anyone out there?
Well, this is my third blog, but it's going to be the most challenging. You see, this blog is going to center around one of my earliest loves, but it's also going to be my personal Drill Sergent.
I am a serious procrastinator and when it comes to wargaming my procrastination kicks up a notch. So, I'm hoping that doing this blog will give me the kick in the butt needed to do several wargaming projects I want to do.
So, let's get this party started with a little introduction of myself and why I like toy soldiers.
My name is Larry in I live in south central Kansas. For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with history - especially military history.
Along that line I've also been enthralled with toy soldiers. In fact, some of my best childhood memories center around toy soldiers.
Growing up I had the typical green plastic toy soldiers that you could get cheap in bags. However, the first set of toy soldiers I ever got that really stood out were purchased around 1975. I was in 3rd, or perhaps 4rd, grade and had saved my allowance for what seemed like forever to buy them.
Here is a picture of the set I bought.
I couldn't believe I found this on-line, but go here to see the entire writeup about the set as well as the others offered.
Anyway, I remember the day the package arrived like it was yesterday. I was sitting in class when a summons came over the school intercom for me to report to the Principal's office. When I got there secretary told me that my mother had called and said I was to go home for lunch.
The first thing that came to mind was that I was in trouble or something.... Why would mom call to have me come home for lunch when I ate at the cafeteria? Once lunch time arrived I walked the block and a half to our house. When I walked in I saw the package!!
There it was, sitting on top of the freezer we had in the kitchen, a small, brown paper wrapped box with MY name on it. The toy soldiers had arrived!!!!
I ripped into that box so fast - I just had to have a look.
Lunch came to an end too fast and I had to go back to school. It was an extremely long afternoon, but once the bell rang I ran home as fast as I could. Those toy soldiers provided me with many, many hours of fun, both inside and out.
I can even remember going to Long John Silvers with my parents and getting the kids meal. I always ordered the kids meal because it came in a cardboard pirate ship! The same type ship that would be perfect for my toy soldiers!! I would take the ship home and seal it with paraffin wax, like the instructions said to, so it could float. I would then use the ships as landing craft for the British.
I never knew what happened to those toy soldiers but I suspect my parents got rid of them one year when I was away at summer camp. I would do just about anything to have them again.
When I was in 5th grade I discovered Britains Deetail toy soldiers. At that time the foot soldier was about $1.00 and a mounted figure was about $2.50. Again, I would have to save my allowance to buy them (my father thought they were a waste of money so if I wanted them I had to buy them). It was a grand day indeed when my parents went to the little shopping are that had the toy store carrying the Britains. I will never forget the glass case filled will perfectly aligned troops! I would purchase all I could with what I was able to save and be on cloud 9 for the rest of the day. I bought American Civil War soldiers, WWII British and Germans, and some Medieval knights as well. The best part is I still have all of these!!
Another memory that comes to mind is a simple one. One day I walked to my grandmother's house. On the way there I went down an alley and just happened to look down at the ground. Believe it or not, sticking up out of the ground was part of a small wooden soldier just shy of 2.5" tall.
Here is the little guy. He's only about 3" tall and a bit battered, but I found him over 30 years ago! I wish I knew how old he is.
It was also about this time (5th grade IIRC) that I started to think to myself that there had to be a way to use these toy soldiers to play a game. A game that would let you recreate the epic battles of the past.
Then it happened...
It was the summer of '76. I had the chance to go to a used book store with my aunt and uncle. While looking at the gobs and gobs of books I noticed this tiny orange colored book on an end cap. Low-and-behold (!) it was a book about using toy soldiers to fight miniature battles!!
This was exactly what I was looking for. The book I discovered was a 1st edition of ‘AIRFIX Magazine Guide 4 Napoleonic Wargaming’ by Bruce Quarrie.
This book cost me all of $1.00. Not only was it the first book I ever purchased on my own, but it was the book that would open up the world of Wargaming to me. To this day this book can usually be found in the book cubby of my bedside table. I read through the book often and sometimes I look through it just to bring back the memories.
Anyway, once I was introduced to the world of wargaming I started looking for it wherever I could. However, living in a tiny, tiny town (I still live here), not old enough to drive, and the Internet something unheard of, there wasn't a lot out there for me.
Fortunately I had an uncle (the one who took me to the book store) who enjoyed history and would indulge me when I went into the big city with him. I eventually found a couple of stores with limited hobby supplies that included some wargaming items. The big moment was the day we drove by a shopping center and I saw a sign that said 'The Game Shop - Hobbies and Games'. Thankfully my uncle stopped.
For the young wargamer wannabe this place was Mecca! The shop was primarily dedicated to magic sets, boardgames, and card games but there were some wargaming items as well. I don't really remember what all they carried other than some books, rules, some of the early magazines. The main thing was all the miniatures!!
This shop carried 25mm and the new 15mm scale miniatures. Since I had to scrimp and save my money to get 'real' wargaming miniatures I wasn't able to buy many at all. I tried buying 25mm minis to begin with but settled on the 15mm minis such as 'Mike's Models' and 'Minifigs'. By buying 15mm minis I was able to get more bang for my money and I was happy.
In the Spring of '79 I felt I had finally entered the 'big league'. It was at this time that I was able to make my first BIG purchase. I had saved up enough money to purchase two, 15mm armies from 'Mike's Models' - Romans and Carthaginians. Those two armies are still in my possession today. It's hard to believe the quality between these figures and the 15mm ones made today! It was also at this time (the late '70s) that I started to purchase some of the AIRFIX plastic 1:72 minis as well.
Before I continue, let me share another fond memory with all of you.
At one point in time there was this massive (well, massive to me) display of large miniatures - perhaps 25mm or 30mm - under glass at 'The Game Shop'. At first they were just there for display and then they were up for sale. This set was absolutely beautiful!! There was a Napoleonic British army and French army with perhaps some others thrown in. There had to be several hundred minis in the display case and the display case was huge! A few months later I went in to the shop and the minis were gone. I figured they had been sold. I found out that the guy who owned the minis had died and that he wanted the figures to go to someone who could use them. I have often wondered who those figures went to; I wonder if they still have them.
Like I said earlier, I live in a tiny, tiny town. I have never been able to find anyone in the area who was interested in playing a historical wargame. The closest thing was the new fad called 'D&D'. I had several friends who were into this game, but I just couldn't get into it. So, I contented myself to just painting my mini men and moving them around on my small gaming table.
Eventually I got old enough that I could drive. Soon I was able to drive myself to the hobby shop. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to drive and go play a game with like minded people, those people were no longer interested. Wargaming in this area just sort of died out. When I talked to the owner of the hobby shop about it he said that historical wargaming just never did catch on here.
So, here I was, able to drive, but no one to game with. Once again I was left with just painting and collecting. As soon as I went on to college my hobby of painting and collecting miniature armies died out.
In the late 80's I got married, entered the military while going to college and had my interest in Wargaming rekindled. Right about the time I get hitched a new hobby shop opened up called 'Hobby Town USA'. They carried some minis as well as rule books, Osprey books, paints and supplies etc. So I decided to get back into the hobby and purchased several packs of Empire US Civil War minis. To tie into this my wife purchased me two sets of the basic GEOHEX set-up as a wedding gift!
On top of this, on one of our anniversaries (I want to say the 1st, but it could be the second) my wife bought me two complete, PAINTED, British and French armies for 1815 in 15mm Napoleonic armies from a new company called 'Battle Honours' in England (or perhaps I should say tried to buy). While she was trying to do something great for me it turned out to be a living nightmare!!!
Long story short - the painted samples arrived for our approval and we gave them the go ahead to paint the armies.
Yes...I still have the samples.
This one is of the 8th Lt. Dragoons.
There were three grades of paint jobs to chose from, standard, collector/wargamer, and museum. This is a sample of the collector/wargamer grade that we chose.
Also, these are small 15mm minis in case you are wondering.
Just another view of the same one.
The other samples are backed away. If I find them I might post pics of them as well.
BTW - SWMBO (the wife) took these pictures. She is better at taking pictures of smaller things than I am.
Anyway - when the first batch arrived (about 3 months later) the minis were not painted to the standard agreed on. Those were sent back. The next batch arrived (about two months later) and this time the box was crushed on one end. When we contacted the company we were told they were in the process of being sold. Due to the problems (and trust me there were a lot more than I mentioned here) we were having with the company they said they would just cancel the order and give me the equivalent in unpainted miniatures.
So, we hammered out a new agreement where I would choose the unpainted minis I wanted. This was back when you could buy one mini at a time, so I told them it might take a while for me to figure out exactly what I wanted. They told me to just fax them orders and we would both keep a tally as to what was owed. So, I had to come up with purchase orders totaling $1,900.00!
After about a month of sorting out what I wanted the orders were placed. Soon the packages started to arrive. Then, all of a sudden, I got a large package that was crushed and had a hole in it. Several of the minis were broken and several more were missing - assumed to have fallen out of the hole. Inside the package was a note saying the final package would be shipped on such-n-such date. Well, I tried to contact the company to ask about the missing and broken minis but got an answering machine message saying the company was closed but would be open again in about a month (something like that anyway).
As soon as the time arrived that the company was open for business again I contacted them. They said they had no idea who I was and knew nothing about my order. I was then told the company had been sold and they were the new owners. I gave them all the order numbers over the phone and faxed them copies of everything. They asked me to give them a few days to look it over and find out what was going on.
So, I called them back a few days later. They said that per the agreement with the previous owner they were not liable for my order. They then said that they saw no proof that the last package had been shipped but no proof that it hadn't. So, they would not be sending any more miniatures to me because they were not obligated to. When it was all over I ended up with a ton of minis, but $700 dollars worth missing.
This event, plus the lack of opponents, about turned me off to wargaming all together. However, even though I had no one to play against, I was still drawn towards painting those minis.
Then, in 1999 the wife and I had the chance to go to our first and only wargaming convention. It was held in Muskogee OK and compared to Historicon it was nothing more than a zit on a gnats butt!! HOWEVER - for the first time the wife got to see lots of well painted 25mm minis. She looked at me and said "now that we are making some descent money and have a larger house, you ought to start painting that size".
It was right after this that we found out that the company I worked for might shut down my branch. I figured now was not the time to invest in minis - we needed to sock all the money we could into paying of bills and such.
I was feeling a bit down at the thought of needing to hold off on purchasing some larger minis. Then, something stupendous, completely out of the blue happened. My very best Internet friend made me an offer I couldn't refuse!! I don't want to embarrass him so I won't mention his name, but I owe him a lot for a lot of reasons. Anyway, he offered to give me, yes give me, a huge amount of 30mm-ish Napoleonic minis that he had painted many many years before. All he asked in return was the cost of shipping and the promise I would use them.
I will never forget the day the packages arrive. I was sitting at my desk at work and the delivery guy walked in with this huge box asking for me. He walked over and sat it down and I thanked him. He said that there were more!! All in all there were 4 large boxes and one big box IIRC. By the time the delivery guy had finished bringing all of those boxes in a small crowed had gathered - everyone wanted to know what was inside those boxes! Well, due to pressure from my co-workers I opened up one of the boxes. They had all heard about the toy soldiers and wanted to see them. They were a hit!
So far those minis have been publicly displayed more than once and pushed across my table many times. Unfortunately they are now packed away in storage for their own protection. Soon, hopefully, they will be making a grand re-entrance into their new place of honor in the new gaming room.
To my very best Internet friend (you know who you are!!) you have no idea how much these minis mean to me!!!
Well, in 2001 the word came that they would be shutting down my branch. I was offered a position with the company in Texas, but the wife had a great job and we didn't want to leave. This was, in a way, a blessing in disguise. We had gotten most of our bills paid off and could easily revert to a one income family. So, due to health concerns, and the loss of my job, the wife and I decided I would become a stay at home hubby for a while (more on that later).
On my first day of 'retirement' I was a bit bummed out when I walked the wife out to the car in order for her to go to work that morning. Before she got in to leave she said she had something for me upstairs. After she left I went back up stairs and found a card. Inside this card was a hefty gift certificate for 28mm minis to be purchased from Old Glory!!! That really made my day.
Because of the amount of the gift certificate, plus ordering over the phone, and the "buy X amount get X amount free" offers given by Old Glory I was able to place a VERY nice order. All-n-all I ended up getting British and Zulu armies for the Zulu War of 1879; British and french armies, along with lots of natives for the French & Indian War; and TONS of Napoleonics!!! You should have seen the size of the boxes that order arrived in!!
Unfortunately, at the same time, we started restoration work on our house and the yard. This, plus the fact that I'm a world class procrastinator, brings us back full circle as to why I started this blog. I have had many false starts at painting this collection of Old Glory miniatures. I'm tired of not getting any of them painted. So, I'm hoping that this blog will help keep me motivated to paint. We will see.....
Well, this 'short' introduction has turned into epic. I think I need to go ahead and call it quits. There are so many stories I could tell you about my trials and tribulations of trying to be a wargamer. Throughout this blog I will share more of these with you, but for now, I hope this introduction will suffice.
Till next time...