A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The GI Joe Mistake

A mortally wounded GI Joe is assisted by clones.
(In honor of GI Joe's upcoming 50th anniversary as America's favorite ACTION FIGURE, here's a rerun from 2010...)

 I blame it on the Sears catalog.  It was their yearly Christmas edition that featured the pictures of GI Joe, fully attired in his military gear, camping beside a flowing creek or fearlessly plunging headlong into battle.  It was 1964, the Vietnam War was raging, and young American elementary school boys were ready to do our part. 

In our family, our Christmas gifts were not normally a surprise.  We either picked out something reasonable from the Sears catalog or found something reasonable during one of our two yearly trips to K-Mart in Fort Smith.  That year, I was intrigued by GI Joe - America's Movable Fighting Man.  So, I showed Mama which particular GI Joes I wanted.  I picked out three; two Army GI Joes and one Marine GI Joe.  Odd, because the Yates' were Navy men.  I think I liked the uniforms.  The Sears catalog said they were wearing fatigues, a new word to me which I assuredly pronounced to Mama as "fat-ih-gyues."  So, the order was placed, and on Christmas morning of 1964 I excitedly unwrapped my three GI Joes, along with accessories.  They all three looked about the same; one had brown hair, one blond, and one had actual fuzzy red hair.  They all bore the same serious expression with the requisite scar on their right cheek.  They had guns affixed with bayonets; one had a phone-like communication backpack, and one had a little sleeping bag.

I tried to remember the scene from the Sears catalog...GI Joe was crouched over a campfire in a clearing surrounded by trees, a gentle creek flowing in the background.  Since I had no trees, no campfire, no creek, and no clearing, I set up the scene as best I could on the living room linoleum.  It was at that moment when it occurred to me that there was nothing really else to do with these guys.  Yes, you could bend the arms and legs and turn the heads, but other than that they pretty much just sat there. 

I thought they might be more fun if I played with them outside, where the background setting offered more potential.  But, one of the older neighborhood kids came by while I was setting up my GI Joes and erroneously pointed out that I was playing with dolls.  I was incredulous that he lacked the ability to differentiate between a doll and a movable fighting man.

 In spite of my lack of enthusiasm, I did feel it important to send off the form that came with my GI Joes and become an official member of the GI Joe Club.  After the GI Joe Club Board of Directors met to consider my membership, I received a packet in the mail which contained my membership certificate and official GI Joe dog tags.  Col. Pat Lawrence, Commanding Officer of the GI Joe Club H.Q., sent me this welcoming letter:

Welcome Buddy:

We here at GI Joe Headquarters are glad to have you aboard one of the newest and fastest growing young men's organizations in America.  Why just this month several thousand more GI Joe enthusiasts joined the ranks.

(Ah, I'd joined the ranks of a young men's organization...)

We hope that you will find an important place in your room for your membership certificate, that you'll use your ID card as sure proof of your membership in the club and that you'll proudly display your GI Joe emblem on your T-shirt or other article of wearing apparel.

(Never actually found an opportunity to use my ID card for anything.  I shudder to think what it says about me to note that I am still in possession of my membership materials some 46 years later...)

We here at the GI Joe Club will be in touch with you during the coming months with dependable regularity.  We'll forward to you news about the GI Joe Club and also news and bulletins about other club members such as yourself.  We'll also tell you from time to time about new GI Joe gear and equipment that will show you how to expand your hobby into all the exciting aspects of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps action.

(Actually, I never heard from them again.  Col. Pat Lawrence was undoubtedly called into more serious pursuits.  After all, there was a war going on...)

And so, my interest in my GI Joes progressively waned until it reached the point that I never played with them.  But one day, I came into the house and saw that my sister Janet had set up a little scene with her Barbie dolls, using some little boxes to create couches and chairs.  Barbie sat on a chair, and across the table from her was GI Joe, dressed in his fat-ih-gyues, evidently completely enthralled by the lovely vision of femininity that sat across from him.  Oh well, soldiers need a little R & R on occasion, I guess.

Click here to see an original GI Joe commercial from the 1960's.


  1. Wow! Amazing that you still have those membership papers! That's hilarious! Worth any money? lol

  2. I'm so glad you posted it here. Yes, amazing you still have that stuff. I remember getting my letter and dog tag, too. Got my first Joe for Xmas in '64. Wish I still had them. I remember other kids saying I was playing with dolls, but I didn't care. Their loss!

  3. They were dolls, just dressed as soldiers! But they were good things to play with! I preferred troll dolls.

  4. I remember the "Hello Buddy" letter from the Colonel. Got my big plastic dog tag, certificate and iron-on shirt decal too. I went down to the mailbox every day in hopes of getting another letter from the GI Joe Club. Think I ended up getting three. It was like a mini Christmas whenever I got their packets.