A Fond Look Back At Marx Toys' 

"Best Of The West" Collection

by John Allen Small

(NOTE: The original version of this article was written two years ago, but I've never been able to determine whether it ever actually saw print in the publication for which it was intended. My messages to the publisher were never returned and no confirmation of its publication was ever forwarded to me. So I'm posting a slightly updated version here for those who have the same fond memories of these marvelous toys as I do...)

For the rest of the world, the mid-1960s and early '70s may well have been an era of unrest and uncertainty. But for many of us fortunate enough to have been growing up during those years, it was a veritable Golden Age.

These were, after all, the years of our best stuff. Or, if in retrospect not always necessarily the best, then at least the most fondly remembered of TV shows ("Batman," "The Wild Wild West," "The Monkees" and "Star Trek," just to name a few);  music ("Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Hey Jude" and "A Boy Named Sue"); Saturday morning cartoons {"Space Ghost," "Archie," "Super Friends" and - again - "Star Trek"); and comic books (DC's "Teen Titans" and "Green Lantern/Green Arrow," Marvel's "Spider-Man" and - as we inched our way with uncertainty towards puberty - Warren's "Vampirella.")

And then (to finally get around to the point of this particular reminiscence) there were the toys.

My parents had no daughters so I can't speak with any authority about what the girls were playing with at the time, aside from the seemingly eternal presence of Barbie. I do recall seeing commercials on Saturday mornings for some silly board game called "Mystery Date," but I don't think I ever knew any girl who actually played the thing. And anyway, as my little brother Jimmy used to like to say, "Who cares about the girls, anyway?"

But for us boys it was an especially remarkable time to be a kid. It was during the '60s that I first discovered Legos. The success of the Matchbox line of die-cast metal cars begat a tidal wave of imitators: Corgi and Husky, Aurora's "Speedfast" line, Topper's "Johnny Lightning" and, most famously, Mattel's Hot Wheels. The games we played either had a certain "manliness" about them - the Rock'em Sock'em Robots and Battling Tops come to mind - or, like Skittle Bowl, allowed us to interact with girls without threatening our fledging sense of masculinity (unless, of course, the girl happened to win).

There was one type of boys' toy that, in the minds of some fathers of the time, probably was at first viewed as a threat to their sons' manhood: boy's dolls. Today we call them "action figures," a term that I personally don't remember hearing until Kenner launched its line of "Star Wars" toys in 1978. But let's face it, they were dolls, although in my house at least we never referred to them by that name. My brothers and I always called them "men." I guess because that's what they were. Real men. I remember a time when a little girl who lived down the block from us, Pam Moore, saw me and Jimmy playing with our G.I. Joes in the front yard and came running over with her Ken doll wanting to play with us. We told her to go on home and put a dress on Ken. Ken was a doll; Joe was a man. I'm sure we were a little meaner about it than we should have been, which is probably why Pam turned me down flat years later when I asked her to be my girlfriend in the seventh grade. You know what they say about a woman scorned...

Joe was the first, of course. He came into the world in 1964 - a year after I did, as it happens - and like the Matchbox cars his popularity spawned a number of imitators. One of the best remembered today was Captain Action, introduced by Ideal Toys in 1966. Joe and the Captain were sort of half-brothers; both were created by a man named Stan Weston, who reportedly had envisioned the G.I. Joe concept as a sort of boys' "he-man" response to the enormous popularity of Barbie. A case of Adam being created from Eve rather than the other way 'round, I suppose. 

Owing his existence to the superhero craze ignited by the Adam West "Batman" TV show, Captain Action went Joe one better; instead of taking on the guise of various military men, the good Captain could (with the purchase of accessory kits, naturally) transform into a variety of comic book, comic strip and TV heroes, from Superman, Captain America and Flash Gordon to the Phantom, the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet. But the Captain's star faded as quickly as Batmania, and for many years he was seemingly forgotten by all but a few of us who had fond memories of creating his adventures. (He's been brought back a couple of times, and today under the stewardship of CA Enterprises the good Captain is enjoying a much deserved renaissance, with not only a new toy line but a really entertaining set of comic book adventures and even reports of an animated series said to be in the works!)

Between the first appearances of G.I. Joe and Captain Action, another boy's doll burst upon the scene. Like his contemporaries he sprang forth from a great American tradition. Not that of military heroism like Joe, or superhero action-adventure like the Captain, but rather of a time and a place woven so tightly into the fabric of the American experience that it gave this new character his very name.

They called him Johnny West. And in many ways, he was my favorite of the three.

Introduced by Marx Toys in 1965, Johnny was just a bit shorter and stockier than his compatriots - standing 11.5 inches tall, compared to Joe and Cap's full 12-inch height - and was constructed differently as well. Where Joe and Cap could change from one uniform to another, Johnny was limited to the one caramel-colored (or green, if happened to live in Canada) outfit molded right into his hard plastic body. He did, however, come with some pretty cool accessories - not just a cowboy hat but also a vest and chaps, as well as a six-shooter and holster, a rifle, spurs, a canteen and even a coffee pot and cup. The hat, holster, vest and chaps were molded from a soft but reasonably durable (so long as your dog or kid brother didn't chew them up) brown plastic; the others were made from harder plastic much like the G.I Joe accessories, all of them a deep chocolate brown. 

Because of the difference in construction, Johnny's gear wasn't as interchangeable as those of Joe or Cap. If certain backyard or bedroom floor adventures called for it, Cap could wear one of Joe's uniforms and vice-versa; but Johnny's frame just couldn't squeeze into my Captain Action's Captain America uniform or G.I. Joe Mercury Astronaut spacesuit without ripping the fabric. Johnny's hat wouldn't stay on Joe's and Cap's because his head was slightly larger than theirs, and putting Johnny's vest on either of the other two gave them the appearance of being somewhat emaciated. On the other hand, the guns could pass from figure to figure without much difficulty at all, and many was the time that my Johnny West found himself unexpectedly doing battle against some unknown space creature armed with Captain Action's laser gun and lightning sword while Joe and Cap sat safe and sound back at the campfire, drinking from Johnny's canteen and coffee cup...

To me there some was something about Johnny that made him a little more mysterious - and hence, a little cooler - than Joe or Cap. At the time I figured it was because he hailed from a different time and place than the other two, or perhaps the difference in his build and the slightly sharper edge to his features. Not until many years later did it occur to me that Johnny's mysteriousness might have stemmed from the fact that "Johnny West" might in fact have been just an alias... and that our cowboy friend might even have been some kind of time traveller. 

In 1964, shortly after G.I. Joe’s debut, Marx Toys honcho Louis Marx looked at the success Hasbro was enjoying and saw an opportunity to capitalize on the new “boy’s doll” craze. Opting at first to settle for imitation rather than blaze its own trail , Marx Toys later that year released “Stony Smith,” a military figure whose uniform was molded from green hard plastic. Like Joe, Stony came with some appropriate accessories – helmet, rifle, etc. – as well as a military Jeep that could be purchased separately.

But Stony never caught on the way Joe had; it may have been the difference in the way the figures were constructed, or the fact that Joe had more accessories and even uniforms. Or, perhaps, boys of that era just knew a copycat when they saw one and chose to remain loyal to Joe. Louis Marx, undeterred by Stony Smith's unsuccessful tour of duty, began searching for another way to grab a share of the action figure pie and looked to his company’s own previous successes for direction.

The cornerstone of that success – indeed, the thing Marx is still best remembered for by aging baby boomers today – was the company's line of western-themed toys. For well over a decade little boys all over America had been creating Old West adventures that probably would have been the envy of many a Hollywood writer, courtesy of Marx’s various playsets featuring small plastic cowboys and Indians and wonderfully realized buildings and environments for those exploits to take place in. Marx’s first playset - historic Fort Dearborn - had appeared in 1952; subsequent additions to the line ranged from the Battle of the Alamo and Custer's Last Stand (who said toys aren't educational?) to licensed tie-ins with such popular TV shows of the time as "The Lone Ranger," "Gunsmoke," "Johnny Ringo" and Disney's "Zorro" (the latter substituting Mexican soldiers for Indians, just like the Alamo playset).

One of the most popular of Marx's licensed playsets had been a tie-in with the TV series "Daniel Boone". Recalling the company's success with that particular product, Marx thought he'd found the ticket to emulating Hasbro's success with G.I. Joe. In 1965 Marx Toys released a Daniel Boone figure, similar in style and construction as Stony Smith, but with a coonskin cap instead of an Army helmet and a head whose face bore a fairly reasonable resemblance to series star Fess Parker. Sales of the Boone figure were still short of Hasbro's star performer, but successful enough to convince Louis Marx that Horace Greeley had been right when he'd said "Go West."

And so later that same year, Stony Smith went west - exchanging his green battle fatigues for a brown cowboy outfit and changing his name to Johnny West. Gone, too, was Stony's Jeep; Johnny's ride of choice was a gallant golden horse named Thunderbolt. And unlike Stony, Johnny had a supporting cast: an Indian named Chief Cherokee, who had a horse of his own named Storm Cloud; and the appropriately Sam Cobra, a black-clad villain who didn't have a horse and so (I suspect) spent a lot of time in various made-up adventures that first year plotting to steal Thunderbolt or Storm Cloud. Sam and the Chief came with their own accessories (Sam's were basically the same as Johnny's, while Chief Cherokee came with weapons more appropriate to his Native American heritage), and the horses came equipped with full tack. 

The release of these figures marked the launch of the company's much loved and remembered "Best of the West" Collection (although that name would not itself be used until several years later). This time Marx had hit the bull's-eye: sales were brisk and G.I. Joe finally had a serious rival. The fledging line's debut was so successful, in fact, that Marx Toys quickly set their eyes on grabbing a share of Barbie's market as well.

In 1966 Marx introduced a number of additions - 14 in all - to the Best of The West Collection. The most important, of course, was an entire family for Johnny West: wife Jane, sons Jamie and Jay, and daughters Janice and Josie. Arriving with Johnny's kin were Jane's horse, Flame; Pancho, a pony shared by the four West children; another horse named Buckskin, whose head (unlike those of Thunderbolt, Storm Cloud or the other two new horses in the West corral) were articulated; and two dogs, a German shepherd named Flick and an English Setter named Flack. 

Also added to the collection's menagerie was a buffalo - excuse me, an American bison - presumably to give Chief Cherokee something to track during those long hunts across the prairieland that was our bedroom floor. The bison and the two dogs were the most difficult items to find, at least where we were living at the time; the dogs only seemed to turn up in our local stores when my parents didn't have enough money to buy them, and to this day the only place I ever remembering seeing the buffalo at all was in the Sears Christmas "Wish Book" catalog.

The newly expanded collection also included the Wests' homestead, the Circle X Ranch (obviously named for Marx Toys' trademark logo, although I seem to have been the only kid I knew at the time to have originally picked up on that); and a teepee for Chief Cherokee. Without a doubt the most curious of the 1966 additions to the Best of the West Collection was a camping set which included a Jeep. This made absolutely no sense to me for the longest time, since I knew that I had never seen the Cartwrights or Marshall Dillon ever driving a Jeep on the back roads leading to and from Dodge City or the Ponderosa; only years later did it finally occur to me that the reason Johnny West had a Jeep was most likely because Marx Toys still had a number of unsold Stony Smith Jeeps they couldn't get rid of any other way...

I can't prove this, of course, but I've always suspected that the introduction of Jane West and the West children probably did more to cement the Best of the West Collection's place in pop culture history than anything else. To the best of my knowledge it marked the first time that a doll line was successfully marketed to children of both sexes; little boys could create a world of adventure for in which Johnny and his sons found themselves squaring off against Chief Cherokee or Sam Cobra, while girls could have Jane teaching Josie and Janice how to cook back at the ranch. 

And maybe - just maybe - if little sister fussed enough, she and her brother could play together by having the whole family go off on a camping trip in that anachronistic jeep of theirs, or maybe having Ma and Pa West giving the kids riding lessons in the ol' corral.  (This is presupposition on my part, of course, since I had no sisters. The part of me that sometimes wishes I did have a little sister wonders what such playtime together might have been like; but the realist in me knows full well that even though the collection was being marketed to boys and girls alike, no self-respecting little boy back then would have ever acceded to playing house with his kid sister without a stern warning from Mom and/or Dad about the possible dire consequences of refusal...)

In 1967 the collection expanded further with the addition of new cast members, including two Native American characters and several U.S. Cavalry soldiers. One of each were based on actual historical figures: Geronimo, the legendary Apache warrior chief; and General Custer, whose downfall at the Little Big Horn had been the subject of an earlier Marx playset. Custer's troops included Captain Maddox, Zeb Zachary and Bill Buck, while Geronimo's companion was an Indian brave named Fighting Eagle. 

Joining them was a lawman named Sheriff Garrett - presumably named for Pat Garrett, the man credited with ending the career of Billy The Kid. Other additions that year included another horse named Thundercolt; and a cardboard, Johnny West-sized version of the Fort Apache playset Marx first released roughly a decade earlier. (That smaller scaled Fort Apache remained a big seller for Marx for a number of years; the one I had came in a metal carrying case that unfolded to form the fort grounds.) 

According to at least one writer, two of that year's new figures had their origins in popular television series of the day. He states that the head used for the Bill Buck character was that originally used on Marx's Daniel Boone figure two years earlier; and that the head sculpt for Captain Maddox was patterned after actor Robert Conrad, star of the popular CBS series "The Wild Wild West." The latter was said to be originally intended for a planned figure based on Conrad's role in that series, U.S. Secret Service agent James West, that was ultimately cancelled after Marx failed to secure the toy rights to the show. I can't personally attest to the accuracy of this particular individual's information is, but there definitely was a facial resemblance between the Maddox the toy and Conrad the actor.

Additions to the collection in 1968 were few, and would in fact be the last new additions to the line for several years. There was only one new figure that year – a female Native American figure named Princess Wildflower – plus two new horses: a fully articulated steed named Comanche, and an unnamed horse that came with a covered wagon. A new version of Johnny's horse Thunderbolt was also released that year, this time with a buckboard wagon that came complete with harness and bridle; this version of Thunderbolt, and the new unnamed horse, both had tiny wheels on the bottom of the hooves that allowed horses and wagons to both move together without having the critters drag their feet. (I've read a couple of articles about Marx's western figure series that list the year of Princess Wildflower's introduction as 1974; I haven't done a lot of research on the topic but I am inclined to accept the earlier date as being accurate, in part because I seem to recall seeing the doll pictured in the Sears Wish Book prior to that year.)

My memory of the period is a little hazy (I was only five years old at the time, after all, and I've slept once or twice since then), but I believe I received my Johnny West figure for my birthday in that year of 1968. It could have been 1967, but I don't think so; it was for Christmas that year that I received my Captain Action figure with the Captain America accessory pack - that much I remember because that was the Christmas before I started Kindergarten -  and Cap had been part of my toy collection for a while by the time Johnny showed up. And both figures came before I received the Astronaut version of GI Joe (complete with Mercury space capsule and an orange-colored 45 rpm record that included the tale of Joe's space adventure on one side and the real story of John Glenn's historic space flight on the other) for Christmas of '68. 

I don't know if it was this way all over the country, but most of the boys my age that I knew in those days tended to be "exclusive" when it came to their favorite toys. When it came to action figures or boys' dolls or whatever, for example, those who were G.I Joe fans generally didn't care much for Captain Action,  Cap fans who didn't pine for Johnny West and West fans who tended to view Joe as something of a sissy (that little scar under his eye notwithstanding). Things were different at my house; Johnny, Joe and the Captain were not only held in equal esteem, but they all got along personally and (as noted earlier) often shared adventures. (This no doubt provided at least part of the foundation for my later fascination with the concept of crossovers in general, and Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton mythos in particular.) Later, when little brothers Jim and Jerry got their own Joes and Best of the West characters (Captain Action's star having already burned out by that time), it wasn't unusual to see one of their Joes - the early '70s "Adventure Club" models sporting life-like hair and beards and possessing something called "kung fu grip" - riding on one of the West family horses or doing battle against one of the Native American warriors.

Johnny could, with a little bit of work on my part, even be made to fit in Joe's Mercury space capsule. (Not too comfortably, I suppose, but then Johnny always was the stoic type and not known to complain all that much.) That discovery set the stage for what may well have been Johnny's greatest adventure, at least as chronicled at my house: his voyage to the planet Draykcab (spell it backwards), where our intrepid hero - armed with his own six-shooter and rifle, Captain Action's lightning sword and Captain America's shield - encountered a tiny race of warriors (in reality, as I recall, some of the smaller plastic Indians from my aforementioned Marx Fort Apache playset) and saved Pam Moore's Barbie (ecch!) from the ferocious clutches of one of her Teddy bears. Sounds kind of silly all these years later, but I'd like to think that old pulp fiction fans like Phil Farmer would have been proud...

And while Johnny and Company could not wear any of the uniforms issued to Joe or Captain Action, they could exchange outfits amongst themselves. We found this out by accident; if memory serves my brother Jimmy had been playing especially rough with his Zeb Zachary figure, and caused one of the arms to work loose from the large spring inside the body frame that held both arms and the head in place. Dad managed to pull everything back into place by using his handy-dandy needlenose pliers, and it was while watching him perform this operation that I hit upon the idea of reversing the process to create my own characters. 

By that time my own action figure collection had grown to include both the Marx General Custer and Geronimo figures. One Saturday morning, using the icepick from the kitchen drawer to pull the spring into place (Dad's pliers being locked in his workshop since he was at work at the time), I managed to swap the figures' heads: General Custer's head on Geronimo's body and vice versa. I was intrigued by the idea of seeing Custer dressed in Indian clothes and moccasins, not so much because of the obvious historical irony (which wasn't quite so obvious to me yet at that age) but rather because the notion had brought to mind some of the mountain men characters I had seen in various Western movies on television. Thus was born a character I originally named Linus Rawlings, after the mountain man Jimmy Stewart had played in "How The West Was Won"; I later changed his name to Buck Mason, not knowing at that stage of my life that this was the name of a character in a western novel penned by Tarzan  creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Since every hero needs a sidekick, and because I had not long before seen a western movie on TV that featured an Indian character who wore a Cavalry uniform, the now-blue clad Geronimo also acquired a new identity: Running Fox, Indian Scout. (Years later, Buck Mason and Running Fox both appeared as characters in my 2007 collection of western short stories "Days Gone By: Legends And Tales Of Sipokni West." The characters in the book were not identical to those I had fashioned from my Marx toys - Mason in particular became a gunslinger, in fact the father of the character created by Burroughs - but were included as a sort of tribute to those bygone days when my brothers and I were creating our own worlds of adventure.)

Soon Jim and Jerry were coming to me and asking that I change the heads around on their figures, as well. One day Johnny West might be clad in Zeb Zachary's Calvary uniform, the next day Chief Cherokee would be wearing Sam Cobra's black shirt and trousers. Unfortunately none of us ever thought to ask Mom or Dad to take pictures of our creations, so there is no actual documentation of their evidence save our own pleasant memories – a tragedy compounded by the fact that the process by which we altered our heroes' looks and personalities hastened their eventual demise.

The sad fact is that, after changing the heads back and forth as often as we did, those internal springs eventually got pulled out of shape and wouldn't hold the characters arms in place properly anymore. Few memories from those first 10 years of my life are quite as heartbreaking as that of the sight of several Best of the West figures sitting there on our bedroom dresser, their arms just dangling loose and useless from their sockets. Jimmy made one bold but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to repair one of his figures by using a bedspring he had managed to remove from under his mattress; the effort did little for his Zeb Zachary and even less for our mother's disposition, but I couldn't help but be impressed by Jimmy's ingenuity...

While the Best of the West collection continued to sell for several years, 1968 was pretty much the end of the toy line's "golden era." Within four years company founder Louis Marx - the man Time magazine had once crowned the "Toy King" - would retire and sell Marx Toys to the Quaker Oats Company. The company's output became as bland as oatmeal from that point; it was during this period that the Johnny West line was officially dubbed the Best of the West Collection, with new, standardized packaging bearing the "Best of the West" logo introduced in 1974.

The following year - ironically the 10th anniversary of the debut of Johnny West - saw the introduction of the final new additions to the line: the "Johnny West Adventure Series," a three-figure line remembered primarily for its new versions of the Johnny West and Sam Cobra characters. Taking a cue, perhaps, from G.I. Joe's kung-fu grip, the new Johnny and Sam figures featured "Quick Draw" action; a lever in their backs allowed the figures to draw their pistols. This version of Johnny came dressed in a blue outfit rather than his traditional brown duds, the only time his wardrobe received any kind of makeover. (Well, almost; I've seen pictures of Johnny West figures sold in Canada in which he was dressed in green, and I'm told that there were other foreign variants of the character in which his accessories were molded in red and blue plastic.) Over the years there were other minor changes in certain figures in the West line - most notably Jane West, who got a complete facelift courtesy of a new head mold just a few years after she was introduced. (I'm not a big believer in plastic surgery for strictly cosmetic purposes, but there's no denying that Jane's new face was more attractive.)

I remember seeing the Quick Draw figures in local stores but never owned one myself; a school chum who got one of the Quick Draw Johnnys for his birthday that year told me that the lever mechanism quit working after just a short time, resulting in a limp-armed gunslinger and one awfully disappointed little boy. With the wisdom that comes with age I find myself viewing this as a pretty decent metaphor for the impact certain aspects of modern technology has had on society; the older way of doing things really are better, just like Mom and Dad always tried to tell us.

The third figure, to my mind, was the most interesting: Jed Gibson, an African-American cavalry scout. Like the aforementioned buffalo (and, for that matter, Princess Wildlfower), the only place I ever saw Jed was in the Christmas catalogs. I remember getting funny looks from some of my friends after mentioning that I would have liked to have had one of the Jed figures. This was in a part of the country where most people liked to think of themselves as being more "enlightened" than those in other areas; maybe I shouldn't say this, but sometimes I can't help wondering about the response I might have gotten had I been living in the deep South at the time.

Alas, the arrival of Jed Gibson and the Quick Draw Johnny and Sam marked the end of the trail for the West collection. The end of the toy line coincided with an important period of transition in my life. In 1976 I was in junior high school; I was reading Phil Farmer and Isaac Asimov, giving serious thought to how I might change the world and praying that girls might start to notice me the way I was starting to notice them. Believing myself to have outgrown such things (a mindset that lasted a little less than a year, thanks to a little movie called "Star Wars"... but that's a story for another time), I gave what remained of my action figure collection and certain other toys to my little brothers who played with them until they fell apart. That's what kids did back then, play with toys until the toys couldn't be played with anymore; it never occurred to us to put away our action figures and Hot Wheels cars and comic books and Pez dispensers so they might be worth a lot of money when we were adults. Where was the fun in that?

Only with the wisdom that maturity brings do we realize that we should have taken better care of our stuff. In my case this understanding stemmed not from daydreams of the possible financial windfall that got away, but rather from the realization that our toys were better built, more imaginative and just plain cooler than most of the junk that was being peddled to our kids when they were the same age. That's a point that was driven home in the 1990s, when efforts by a British licensee to reintroduce the West line resulted in the short-lived release of two poorly constructed figures: a new version of Chief Cherokee, and a new character called Cowboy Kid that appeared to be patterned after the Captain Maddox figure. (Another effort to reintroduce the line in the early 2000s apparently fared no better, although I'm told these figures were superior in quality and are highly prized by some Marx collectors.)

Fortunately I was smart enough to hang on to enough of some of my old toys - and have managed to replace a few others over the years through purchases made at flea markets, antique stores and specialty shops - to have demonstrated their superiority compared to more modern offerings to my own two sons. Unfortunately, the list of recovered artifacts from my childhood so far has not included Johnny West or any of the related figures. It hasn't been for lack of availability; I've come across a number of West figures for sale both at antique stores and on the Internet, but in almost every instance the seller has asked far more than my lifelong affliction with meager finances (even in the best of times) has allowed me to spend.

The one time I thought my luck might have changed was a couple of years ago. My wife and sons and I were in the Oklahoma City area and paid a visit to a Vintage Stock store, which specializes in used video games, second-hand toys, old comic books and other nostalgia-themed items. Melissa and I were looking at a locked display case full of toys in the back of the store, when I happened to notice a Johnny West box stashed away on the top shelf behind a couple of a handful of "Star Wars" figures and a large plastic replica of the starship Enterprise. When I saw a handwritten sticker in the upper corner of the West box listing its price at $40, I nearly fell into a swoon; my wife, bless her heart, saw my reaction and went off in search of a store clerk.

Fortunately she also had the presence of mind to request that I inspect the box's contents before spending the money. The clerk - a kid obviously no older than 16 or 17, with no real appreciation for the true value of nostalgia - would no doubt disagree, but it's a good thing she did; I opened the box to find a Johnny West figure that had been broken into dozens of little pieces, with no hope of repair short of a sizable amount of Super Glue. Sadly I put the lid back on the box and handed it back to the clerk, who was visibly offended that my wife had caused the loss of a sale.

"A real collector would have just bought it and glued the pieces together," the stupid kid sniffed.

"Maybe," I conceded. "But anyone who understands that toys are made to be played with and not just set up on a shelf collecting dust would know better. And a lot of them would probably knock someone like you upside the head for suggesting otherwise."

The kid shot me one of those "Geez, what a crazy, stupid old man" looks I tend to get from a lot of people that age and went back to sorting through a stack of Pokemon cards. 

Ah, well, that's the younger generation for you. No respect for quality or appreciation for the finer things in life. Thank goodness I seem to have done a better job of raising my own kids...

(Copyright 2013 by John Allen Small)