Before we get started on this new semi-regulary blog feature, I want to take a minute to thank everyone that helped name this blog by voting in the poll we ran a few weeks ago.
Obviously Fitz’s Toy Chest won out over the other (much catchier title Figure Fan with Fitz, man). That name really grew on me and honestly I came THIS close to overturning the vote result to go with that one.
Ultimately we let the vote stand and went with the title that I came up with. Fitz’s Toy Chest may sound generic and cliche, but there is actually a specific reason I wanted to use it.
When I was a kid, long before we had major superstores like Toys R Us (#RIP) the big toy store in our area was called…wait for it…Toy Chest.
This store was amazeballs and it was my paradise from about age 5 up until about age 12. I can remember the front corner of the building had giant letter blocks going up it, and a kinda like Home Depot has grills and lawn mowers out front this place had swingsets and playhouses lined up along the front along with the obligatory 70s/80s shitty steel swimming pool/animal troughs.
(Side note: This was the exact place that in 1983-ish I would see the Endor Garrison and Speeder Bike swingset. It existed. Look it up.)
Sometime in the early 80s, the almost equally awesome Children’s Palace opened a location just down the street. This competition from a larger chain store with multiple locations would eventually drive Toy Chest out of business.
And Jesus wept.
The rest of my childhood toy buying days were spent begrudgingly going to Children’s Palace or the taint of toy stores, Kay-Bee. And while Children’s Palace was a mostly acceptable replacement for Toy Chest and I still have many fond memories of going there, nothing can touch the joy that was shopping at Toy Chest.
A good portion of my toy collection came from that store, as well as some big fish that got away (I’m looking at you Superion).
So the name of this feature is a direct homage to that hallowed hall…
Now that I’ve wasted time explaining all that, let’s open Fitz’s Toy Chest and see what’s inside…
Acquisition Year: 1978
Acquired via: Purchase, Gacen Drugs
Years In Possession: 40
In 1977 a movie was released that changed movies forever and made such a profound impression on my 3-4 year old brain that I’m still in love with it and everything that has been spawned from it 4 decades later.
The same monumental change that Star Wars brought to movies, it also brought to movie MERCHANDISING. And out of all the thousands and thousands of different kinds of Star Wars merchandise created and sold over the years, NOTHING could ever compare to the original line of action figures put out by Kenner. These toys were heavy and in a lot of ways crude representations of the beloved characters seen on screen but somehow felt as real to me as any flesh and blood actor.
They were clunky but full of heart and joy. Kenner produced 100 or so different figures in a surprisingly short 8 year span from 1978 to 1985, never seeming to lose their uncanny ability to create the perfect assortment of characters and vehicles from all 3 films (compare this to the modern Hasbro line that started out as a Kenner reboot in ’95 and is still pumping out uninspired poorly sculpted toys 20 years and 8 movies later).
Of course much of my reverence for these toys comes from the fact that they were so much a part of me for all those formative years. I may very well have felt the same about the new line if I had been born in the early 90s. But I doubt it. There is just something about these figures, from the packaging to the solid heft of them in your hand that make them seem more like pieces of art than just a toy.
In 1978, not long after I had seen the movie for the first time, I got my first action figure. It was one of the original 12 released famously months and months after the initial hurricane of Star Wars mania. And as the title of this post has already spoiled, it was C-3PO.
I can still remember being in the aisle of one of our two neighborhood drug stores (oddly the other one never got into the toy game) with my mom, watching her rifle through the figures on the peg. I’m not sure I knew what they were or had any interest in them, I’d never really seen toys like that before. “Action Figures”, especially in the 3.75″ scale were unheard of before Star Wars. But my mom was convinced I would love them. She would say “Oh look at this one! Oh how about THIS one!” and lower them down to my level so I could see each one. There’s even one particular statement she made that is forever burned into my brain to this day, but I’ll save that for the next volume of this blog…
Eventually, for no reason in particular, I chose C-3PO. He wasn’t my favorite character in the movie but for some reason I was drawn like a magnet to his gleaming gold finish.
I still remember taking him home, my own miniature treasure, the first of what would become an army of tiny plastic friends which would see me through childhood, well into adolescence and remain as much a part of me as my own organic appendages into middle age.
That afternoon I laid on the couch, and with no other figures to interact with 3PO, I created a cave out of a pillow and imagined him hanging out in there by himself waiting for his master to show up.
Which he would eventually.
Thanks for reading guys, I’ll be back to share another piece of my collection and more boring stories that no one but me cares about!