Believe it or not, my first exposure to the Star Wars saga came not in a movie theater but in the toy aisle of the old K-Mart across from Southridge Mall in sunny Des Moines, IA. I remember asking my mom if I could look at the toys and she agreeed. While looking at all the normal toys, I came across a bin of little plastic guys dressed up like spacemen. My favorite was the guy who looked a bit like a cowboy even though he didn’t wear a hat. Years later, Han Solo still remains one of my favorite Star Wars characters.
Growing up in small town Iowa, we didn’t get a lot of news about what was cool or hip. Combine that with a dad who didn’t care for science fiction and it probably doesn’t come as too much of a shock that I would encounter Star Wars in the toy aisle (I can’t complain too much though; Dad gave me my love for westerns as well and probably made it possible for me to love Firefly). Still, not seeing the movie never stopped me from wanting nor playing with the toys once I did get my hands on them.
My best friend Derek had a much larger collection and we often played with his stuff since he had all the cool toys. I remember distinctly that we would take turns picking figures for our armies. It seemed that we had an unwritten rule – he got to pick first since they were his toys and he always picked Luke, then I would pick Han, then he’d pick Leia and I’d pick Chewie. I got to pick vehicles first and I grabbed the Millenium Falcon. That’s right, my buddy had the cherry of all Star Wars toys. Plus he had the big AT-AT and many other vehicles. We wasted many an afternoon when we probably should have been outside playing. But we were far more content to play with those little plastic spacemen.
Although my collection was less expansive, I enjoyed it nonetheless. I recall laying on the couch, sick from school, with a piece of yarn tied around the Hoth Rebel Trooper so I could throw him and reel him back in. I tossed him once and heard something start to sizzle so I grabbed him back quickly. A closer inspection showed flat spots on the back of his legs where he had landed on the space heater I was using to keep warm. An otherwise boring sick day is forever etched in my memory because of that act.
I also remember my grandmother getting me the Hoth Han Solo figure. What made it all the more fun was that she also gave me Empire Strikes Back sheets for my bed. I was amazed because this was the “socks and underwear” grandma (you have one too, stop laughing). Somehow word had gotten back to her about her normal present choices and she decided to be the cool grandma. Although she never repeated that, I still remember the shock of opening that package from my Granny.
Believe it or not, there was a time when we pulled our figures out of their bubble package and chucked the cardboard back to actually play with our action figures. And although I wish that Joey was more into the action figures, I already have plans to corrupt Lucas with Galactic Heroes as he gets older (yes, he got his first set this past year for Christmas and he’ll get more this year if I have anything to say about it). Joey has his Legos but I hope that Lucas might get as much enjoyment out of his action figures as I did mine.
What about you? Did you have a favorite toy as a kid? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!