Part of the USA Today Network

Civil War toys – the way we were

As a kid growing up in the 1960s in a sleepy lakeside village in southern Ohio, I always looked forward to our occasional Saturday trips into the nearest city, Zanesville. We would stop at the local farmer’s market and buy vegetables, fresh bread, and yummy raisin cookies. Then, we would head downtown and make the circuit of the 5 &10 stores (S.S. Kresge, Newberry’s, and Jupiter’s). I saved my chore money and headed for the toy section (or the baseball card rack). Often, my target was the bins of toy Civil War soldiers.

A single dime could buy a small collector box with a trading card and a hard plastic, hand-painted-in-Asia Marx “Warriors of the World.” A dollar would buy a large bag of unpainted soft plastic toy soldiers, from such long-gone companies as Lido, MPC, Ideal, Timmee Toys, Timpo, and others. Every now and then, there were higher end figures from Britains (I fondly remember their Swoppets line), and there were other toys as well with removable heads, hats, weapons, and even torsos!

But my all-time favorite was my Marx “Blue and Gray” playset which I received one year as a Christmas present from my parents. It had figures in blue and gray, cannons, mortars, horses, trees, a hard plastic lunette, tents, and all kinds of other goodies and accessories, including a lithograph printed tin mansion, complete with white plastic columns.

I spent hours and hours on the floor of my parents’ house in the winters playing with these army men, and I have wonderful memories of my buddies and I constructing elaborate defenses and trenches in the sandbox out back in Dad’s apple orchard. Almost everyone in the neighborhood had their own playsets, and we would go from house to house playing with different toy soldier sets (WWII, Fort Apache, Fort Cheyenne, even Vikings!). No video games in those days, just our toys and our imaginations!

Did you have Civil War toys as a kid? Where did you or your parents buy them? Waht are some of your favorite memories? Do you still have any of these old toys?