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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Kermy at Play: 1956

Kermy at Play: 1956

"Kermy, 1956." Cultural anthropologists and toy experts please annotate. Our third look at this batch of Kodachrome slides. View full size.

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Army Blankets

Were readily available at the surplus stores where we got all kinds of camping and outdoor equipment.

We had a set of Army men too.

Once everything was in place, we'd attack them with Robot Commando, while our sister would play with her etch-a-sketch.

From the words on the box, it looks like the name of the Army set was called "Battleground" play set. Christmas day, 1961.

Army brat?

I can smell that Army blanket right now. My dad was a career Army officer and we had a bunch of those in our house growing up. Kermy and I are about the same age. Wondering if he's an Army brat. The only thing that makes we think not is that big, expensive W-MARX radio console. Not many career Army dads would buy their kid a toy like that in 1956. Maybe he had grandparents who didn't mind spoiling him.

[Where our Army blanket came from, I don't know; no one in our family was in the service. But it was always there when I was a kid, and thence forward. Very scratchy, like ilsa says. - tterrace]

Army men

Here are the nine army men I saved as a representative sample from a large bag of them from the sixties. I see Kermy has the sentry and the minesweeper. I'm missing my minesweeper.

Marx memories

When I was Kermy's age [in my case, early 70s], I think we had most of the Marx plastic playsets at some point, ranging from a dinosaur and caveman set to a WW2 military set which included US, German, and to a lesser extent, Japanese soldiers.

I don't know how many battles we fought involving cowboys, Indians, cavemen, American, German, Japanese [oh, and a few Confederate and Union] soldiers on my bedroom floor, not to mention the tanks and other military vehicles versus dinosaurs. Obviously historical accuracy wasn't very important at the time. Regardless, the Marx sets made for hours of fun at the time and for great memories today.

Itchy & Scratchy

I couldn't help noticing what looks like an itchy Army blanket in the corner. Every family had one for the bed or the beach. Either way it was scratchy.

Perennial favorites

I grew up in the late '70s-early '80s but still had a very similar toy set, with the plastic fence and cowboy-and-horse figures, though mine had three or four different colors of figurines and a yellow (fresh-cut pinewood) fence.

Marx family

It's starting to look like Kermy's was a Marx family; his fences are from the company's Western Ranch playset (top). Mine must have come from Plasticville, because when I stumbled upon the lower photo in my searching my nostalgia glands exploded.


My guess is that WMARX is a nod to the practice of a first letter W for radio and tv stations east of the Mississippi (or so). Kermy was a lucky kid.

The Enclosure Will Be Televised

I like the way Kermy has mixed together cowboys, soldiers, Lincoln Logs, and vehicles, all of widely varying eras (and scales) within and around the (likely Marx) playset fence -- he was creatively hip to the surrealism lurking beneath those ostensibly gray flannel Fifties through which so many of us came up. The miniature orange and red semi trucks just outside the gate were Fords, which had been "prizes" in boxes of Post's Grape-Nuts Flakes, as I recall. I had several of those trucks myself, and sold them through the antique mall just a few years ago.

[Kermy, like I did, probably watched western movies and TV show that were set in an intentionally ill-defined time period that included cattle rustling, bandits, six-gun shoot-outs, but also cars, radios and airplanes. - tterrace]

Cowboys and Indians

Yes, this brings back memories for me too ... I distinctly remember my grandmother giving me a Cowboys and Indians plastic set complete with a fence like this one (although not black) when I was very young for my birthday ... in later years I moved on to Army sets, but this one was first.

Marxist Radio

Forget the Lincoln Logs -- I'm all about that "W-Marx" radio toy. Google is somewhat failing me—there was a "Marx" toy company, with a lot of items on eBay and a museum site but I'm not sure this is the same Marx.

[It's a Louis Marx Co. Electric Powered TV and Radio Station, apparently a rather rare item. This photo is from a recent toy collector convention. - tterrace]

[I remember these! There was a light bulb inside that let you bake a cake. -Dave]

The stuff on the floor is a fairly generic mixture

Lincoln Logs, etc., but man do I want that radio set in the background!

I'm also kinda keen on the singing cowboy figure - mine always had guns, but never a guitar!

Kermy's stuff

Probably most others of my generation will recognize the Lincoln Logs, the molded-rubber little guys, the pre-Matchbox toy cars, the segmented plastic fence (mine was white, with machined planks rather than rustic), possibly even the radio setup - that one I never had. But he also has our woven wicker laundry hamper, at right, and even an army blanket, at left - ours usually rode around in the back seat of the Hudson, and later the Rambler, for traveling warmth and occasional picnic and camping use. This doesn't seem to be Kermy's room, though, or at least not his exclusively; the bed looks too fancy, and he sure wouldn't fit in those snazzy wingtips under it. Darn kid is even wearing glasses, like I did at the time. I never had quite the tan he does, though.

Summer rug

Looks like this is what my mother called a grass rug, put down in the summer, when the wool rug was sent to be cleaned and stored.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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