Stealing Christmas

While in Virginia we had an exciting Christmas. Jim, my half brother I had never met who lived in California, came to visit. He was in his twenties, I believe. But more exciting than that was…Johnny West! Of course, for Christmas, a brand new Johnny West for me, and another for Jamie. What else? The funny part is, I don’t remember opening them on Christmas day. Maybe because by then we had already played with them. Mom made the mistake of thinking she could hide Christmas from us boys, who never did believe in Santa Claus. She hid both Johnny West boxes on end in Daddy’s bookcase, and on another of those infamous days when she left us home alone, guess what. We discovered Christmas. We took down the dolls and played with them freely until we knew it must be getting close to time for Mom to come home, since it was getting dark. Then we put them away and went on about our business, tiny lips sealed tight. No one ever knew. Just me and Jamie … and our Johnnies. By then we had several, I’m not sure how many. But enough that the old guys stole the accessories from the new guys and got to see what it was like to wear fresh duds again.

By the way, lest I forget: do you children of the sixties remember that fresh vinyl smell Johnny West had when you first opened the box? Mmmmm. I’ll never forget that. To this day I can smell it, and every time I smell new vinyl, like beach balls sealed in plastic, it takes me back to yesteryear. The reproduction Johnnies of the early part of this century had it, but not as strongly, since they were no longer sealing their accessories tightly in a bag.

Well, there we were in Virginia. And never once did we lay eyes on the home of our beloved Johnny West in Glendale. In 1971 we moved back west to Idaho, where I spent all of my childhood, and left the kingdom of Johnny West behind. When I say “kingdom” I mean THE kingdom, the birth place, the place where you could go in any store and get any figure, any horse. Out west it was not like that. They always had Johnny and Thunderbolt, Geronimo, Jane, the kids. But pickings were usually slim. Vikings? Knights? Right! We never saw those again. Never laid eyes on a Princess Wildflower or a Jed Gibson, only when they would do those cool little commercials during the Saturday morning cartoons.

On and on my childhood went, surrounded by Johnny West. We had over thirty of them at one time, many of them pieced together from different parts. Geronimo seemed to be so numerous (since he was made from a tougher mold) that we actually took his bodies and gave them to Johnny West and Custer from time to time. We built several towns and a number of ranches around them. I even built a gallows, a water tower, a livery stable out of an old dog house. Johnny West? Yeah. He was life itself.

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