Little Green Army Men

Did you know that there is a Toy Hall of Fame? I didn’t either. It hasn’t been around for too long, so some classic toys are still trying to get in. Reuters reports on this year’s Hall of Fame class:

Little green army men finally prevailed on Thursday in their two-year battle for a coveted spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame, joining Rubik’s Cube and soap bubbles on the podium for an induction ceremony held at a western New York museum.

The miniature plastic soldiers had been nominated last year, but lost out to the classic yellow rubber duckie and chess, one of the world’s oldest board games.

Chess, bubbles and army men competing for Hall of Fame spots? Seems like a category error.

This year, a selection committee chose the inductees from 12 finalists, which also included American Girl dolls, Mattel’s Fisher-Price Little People, Hess Toy Trucks, Hasbro Inc.’s My Little Pony and Operation Skill Game, Wham-O’s Slip’N Slide, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and pots and pans.

Pots and pans are a toy? I don’t get that.

“All three inductees represent three different types of play,” said Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections at The Strong. “Little green army men are great for storytelling; bubbles are purely a physical toy; and the Rubik’s Cube is much more of an intellectual toy.”…

“Little green army men help children learn how to negotiate,” said Hogan, explaining one of the reasons the toy was selected for induction.

Negotiate? He can’t be serious. Little green army men teach boys how to organize and deploy armies and how to blow stuff up.

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If we wanted to be liberal, we could say that army men help boys to appreciate diversity. The armies that my friends and I assembled as kids included not just little green army men, but swordsmen, cowboys and Indians, mounted knights with lances and other martial figures, mixed together indiscriminately.

This guy would always topple over.

This guy would always topple over.

Our problem was that, having spent hours arranging our armies, we lacked a good way for them to actually fight. As little kids we would draw lines with our fingers from a soldier’s gun to the intended target to see whether a shot hit home. Needless to say, that method proved amenable to cheating.

Bazookas were good.

Bazookas were good.

When we got a bit older, we rolled dice to determine the effect of each round. But it was only later that we found a fully satisfactory mode of combat: we would build elaborate trenches and fortifications, man them with green soldiers and others, and take turns blowing up each other’s fortifications with firecrackers. Of course, we could only do that in the summer. We found that little green army men can tolerate an amazing amount of firepower without being damaged, although sometimes they were blown far enough away that we couldn’t find them.

The Hall of Fame site tells us that green army men have been manufactured since the 1930s:

They carry the weapons of battle, as well as other equipment such as radios and binoculars….

True. We thought the ones with binoculars and radios were lame and stationed them in the rear of our armies.

Because little green army men cost a pittance to make, they encouraged a kind of play that differed from the play of metal toy soldiers. Kids lose their green figures in do-or-die battles with toy dinosaurs, space men, and model railroads.

It is true that army men were cheap. That is why we had thousands of them. But we didn’t include dinosaurs in our armies, as that would have been ahistorical. We preferred to make football teams out of dinosaurs. Ankylosauruses made ideal centers, stegosauruses were generally guards, and so on.

Or they stage battles with lifelike explosives using the caps from their cap pistols or purloined firecrackers from holiday celebrations.

Heh. It’s good to know we weren’t the only ones. In South Dakota, however, there was no need to “purloin” firecrackers. Twelve-year-old boys bought them by the bushel basket.

It’s good to see little green army men receive the recognition they deserve. Next year, they could upgrade the Hall a little by inducting All-Star Baseball.

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