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The Rat Patrol: 1973

The Rat Patrol: 1973

This is my brother Paul (right) with a friend, Danny Bergman, who lived four or five houses down the block. It was taken in 1973 on the driveway in front of our house in Huntington Beach, California. I built the "machine gun" for them from spare pieces of PVC, wood and assorted hardware that were lying around in the garage. Next, I nailed a belt of machine gun ammunition to the block of wood and voila, a "machine gun" ... I used to go hiking with my father up in the dusty hills of Camp Pendleton where I collected spent rounds and belt links from the range. (At the time, I had no clue that I would end up hiking those hills again in 1979 and 1980 as a Marine myself! Or did I?) When I got home, I would reassemble the brass casings with the belt links and make lengthy ammunition belts. In the late sixties and early seventies I always had an ammo can with ten or so feet of belted machine gun rounds. My friends and I played "Army" a lot back in the sixties. Anyway, my brother and his friend would go around playing "Rat Patrol" and blow away all sorts of imaginary suburban enemies. In the garage is my parents 1972 Fiat 124. I never got to drive that thing but it was a dog of a car from what I remember. They ended up replacing the Fiat with a light blue 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit. I learned to drive in the 4-speed manual Rabbit while I had my learning permit. I got my license on the day of my sixteenth birthday and drove the Rabbit until 1976 when it was sold after being involved in an accident. I was not driving it at the time! Scanned from the original 110 negative. View full size.

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I had a similar toy a friend of my dad built for me in the fifties. He put a motor with a battery and playing card inside so that when I pressed the trigger, we could pretend the noise was the gun firing. Similar to the noise a playing card in bicycle spokes would make.

Great memory!

I was at Camp Pendleton twice, two weeks in 1976 at Devil Pups and again in platoon 3001 MCRD SD 1979.

Great memories of growing up in California!

Star Wars Storm Trooper

Check out the shadow of the kid and gun.

Things Change

Great photo!

It's interesting to compare this picture to "A Heavy Load: 1909," and meditate on just how much American childhood changed in less than 70 years.

Field Marshal Rommel beware.

Christopher George has nothing on these guys.

Waffle Stompers!

Our kids wore them in the late 60s early 70s when we started going camping and hiking in the summer. Good shoes to wear for all the rough stuff, including going out to the desert to shoot model rockets. (After the rocket landed much time was spent trudging through sand and rocks searching for it.) Practical too. Though they cost more than Vans, they didn't wear out as fast. Plus, they would be outgrown by the next summer, so might as well get use from them.

-- Former SoCal Mom

Dart Wars

That suction-cup dart on the ground, what was that from? I love that it's in that same pukey shade of green.

Thanks for the memories...

This picture made my week.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s (turned 10 in 71). I spent most of my childhood on Okinawa, mostly living off base. My brother and I would comb the jungles for WWII surplus (tons of it! Oh how I wish I would have saved some of those treasures) then we'd play "Combat" and "Rat Patrol" with the stuff we found. Getting to play soldier in a sho'nuff Asian jungle ... MAN I loved being a kid.

Avocado see you

Some classic 1970s colors here. Wow.

Fiat 124, film 110

I nearly bought a 124 in 1981, but got another Rabbit instead, the right decision I think. Still cool to see it in the garage there.

Nice job on the 110 scan. So far I've only scanned slides from 110, which are often not very well exposed; I'm hoping I can get better results, maybe comparable to yours, when I get into the negatives.

Rat Patrol.

Great job of making that machine gun. Always fun to make something cool from a pile of junk. Kids with imagination and skills.

Ever notice in the weekly beginning of "Rat Patrol," the guy absolutely destroys himself on the machine gun as they crest over the sand dune? Ouch.

Also, the lead actor in the series eventually died from injuries incurred while filming the series years later.

Not Just a Radio Flyer

It's the flashy Radio Flyer GT, with mag wheels and whitewalls!

Fix it again, Tony

We had a nearly identical Fiat, except in powder blue. It was a lemon, and then was squashed like a bug when my neighbor forgot to set his parking brake and his car rolled down the hill, across my lawn and right onto the Fiat.

Rat Patrol

Playing "Rat Patrol" and "Combat"...Our dads had enough WWII souvenirs (ammo belts, helmets, etc) still lying around in basements and attics that we could kit ourselves out, but I admit we never had such a cool machine gun!

(I always had to be the bad guy because I could speak German).

Fun. Italian. Auto. Transport.

They started making the Fiat 124 in 1966. The Russian Lada factory is still making a version of it.

Love the wheel chocks, and Yes, my kids have that wagon (in red).

I remember being mocked when my cousin & I pedaled around his block in Cerritos wearing motorcycle helmets.

Also, those are pretty odd shoes for 1970's SoCal, Danny. As I recall, it was pretty much just Converse, Vans, Adidas, Lightning Bolt flip-flips and anything from Sears.


Yes we played with toy guns and enjoyed Rat Patrol and movies about war.

When we weren't playing with toy guns, we were practicing with real ones. I got my first rifle for my 5th birthday. Didn't get a BB gun until I was 7, maybe 8.


Looks like Danny needs some iron-on knee patches. When I was 9 in 1973 I had "Tough-Skin" jeans in assorted colors -- when the knees started to give out my mom would iron on plastic color-matching patches. Which made my knees sweat. And I could never figure out why my jeans never faded like my older brother's.

Fiat Green

I had a Fiat 131 in the same shade, though I think this has printed out a little light. At least in the late 1970s it was closer to glossy olive drab. I had a Rabbit too, later on.

The thing that resonates for me the most, though, is the tank top. That's such a '70s boy's shirt.

Holy Cow!

My brother and I used to play Rat Patrol on vacations at the beach back when it wasn't a federal offense to play on the dunes. If we'd had that dune buggy rather than our two spindly legs, we would have destroyed all the sea oats on Topsail Island, NC.

For more Rat Patrol goodness, I give you:

Accident Waiting to Happen...

As I look at the photo, I can't believe that the gun and my brother didn't fall off and hurt themselves. I don't know how they managed to keep upright!

As for helmets, we rode bikes, skateboards and mini-bikes without helmets because nobody did. I don't remember when the helmet PSA's started appearing but is couldn’t have been too much later than this.

I was surprised at the quality of the scan on this too. Some of the 110 negatives that my mom shot were terrible but this one and several others were most excellent. This was scanned with the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED.

I will post some more soon. I have a technical issue which Dave (Shorpy's own) helped me resolve.

Shocked. Shocked!

No helmets? And children allowed to play with toy guns? How times have changed.


Wouldn't that be Rug Rat Patrol? That's insanely cool, especially with the ammo belt made up from the real thing. The Fiat might've been a dog, but that's a great color for that car.

(Yeah, I asked if you strapped that thing on, but it got edited out. Grr.)

[Part of your comment did not show up because it contained invalid characters. - Dave]

What goes around

Fantastically good scan from 110 negative! Thanks for sharing, and thank you for your service to this great country.

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