Thursday, March 28, 2013

FEATURE: LoEB ''Young Love''

We're back from our hiatus - just in time for this week's League of Extraordinary Bloggers!

This week's assignment comes from guest coordinator Cal from the Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool, who  - with a tweak from regular coordinator Brian at Cool and Collected - gave us the following to work with:

When I was a kid, my favorite _______ was _______.

So many possibilities! As I'm sure regular readers know, I'm a huge Doctor Who fan, so that would be my favorite TV show (I don't think non-Brits ''get'' just how ingrained that show is in the UK's collective psyche) but I've already done a few Who-themed posts for the League... Kids love candy, snacks and sweet stuff - and I was no exception - so maybe something about Dracula lollies or Spangles or Rancheros or Kung Fus? Maybe if That Figures was a dieting website... But no, That Figures is a site about toys and action figures. So when I was a kid, which line of action figures was the most popular? And out of the ones I owned, which did I love the most? Got it...

When I was a kid, my favorite Star Wars figure was... Well, you'll have to wait and see...

I have to admit that my memory really isn't what it should be. It happens to us all as we age and is as inevitable as the expanding waistline and the shift of hair from where it should be to places where it has no right being. But one thing I do remember is my first experience of Star Wars figures.
A depressingly bleak newsagents, some years ago.
Cleveley's - or ''Clev's'' as everybody called it - was the store where I spent most of my allowance as a kid. Although technically a ''newsagent'' (a store similar to a newsstand), Mrs Cleveley - the matriarch in charge of the store - was actually way ahead of her time, possessing a vision of the place as being more than just a place to buy newspapers and top shelf pornography, so within Clev's you'd also find books, hosiery, a huge selection of loose candy (sold by weight), the only Slush Puppy machine in the area and, best of all for us kids, a rather substantial toy section.

Every week when I got my allowance I'd make my way to Clev's - a walk (or occasionally, bike ride) that seemed to take forever as a child but when revisiting it as an adult was less than a quarter of a mile - and spend my whole one Pound on an assortment of treats. A copy of 2000 AD, a ''10p mix-up'' (a paper bag filled with a random selection of cheap candies, gum and other sweet treats), The House of Hammer magazine, some Guinness Book of Record Breakers stickers, or - if I was in a particularly extravagant mood - some Matchbox cars.
Imagine my surprise then when one Saturday morning I called in to Clev's, my goal being to score some Monster Munch and a bottle of Tizer, and saw hanging behind the counter (just near the cigarettes and tobacco) a half dozen blister-packed action figures, branded with the words ''Star Wars.''

I know it's hard to imagine in the Information Age that a toy line so big could simply appear on shelves without any warning but you have to remember that back then even having a phone in your house - at least in England - was a big deal and that the digital revolution was still a few years off. The only way to find a new line of toys was by stumbling upon it on the shelves of your local toy store where - if you were incredibly polite, nice, lucky and in the presence of an adult - they may even let you look in their wholesale catalog of products. Much as I love now being able to find entire checklists and photo galleries of upcoming releases online, the thrill of finding something so important purely by chance is something I wish I could experience again.
Head over to the awesome for more catalog goodness.
Anyway, as I was saying, right there next to the Woodbines and Benny Hennies were these amazing-looking, Micronaut-sized action figures from the Star Wars movie. I so had to have them.

The problem was, each figure cost one Pound - exactly the same amount as my allowance for the week. So I'd need to choose wisely. The Stormtrooper looked kind of cool but they were just background characters... R2-D2 was the funny robot and I'd always been a big robot fan... Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi was just some old guy, so he was no fun... Dark Vader (as we always called him) was kind of neat... Luke Skywalker was kind of OK, I guess... But wait! Look at him!

Decision made, I waited patiently in line (probably behind some old lady talking about her cats/her waterworks/her big bingo win), my frustration growing with each passing second (I remember being convinced somebody was going to somehow buy them all before I could get my chance) and when my turn to be served came, I peeped over the counter, pointed at the toy I wanted, handed over my Pound note and then rushed home with my new treasure.
Yup, that's my first - and to this day, favorite - Star Wars figure,  Chewbacca, a toy I still own 35 years later. Sure, his bowcaster may be long gone and he's a little worn, paint-wise but his joints (all FOUR of them!) are still as firm as ever and for a toy of his age, I think he's looking pretty good overall.
Having recently reacquired all my Star Wars toys (and yes, they're the ones I owned as a kid, not replacements) I have to admit that of them all, Chewie is still my favorite. Sure, there's the great cast, the goofy-but-lovable face sculpt (did Chewbacca have such baby blue eyes in the movies?) and the limited articulation is charming but for me the real appeal is the fact that he was the first of many Star Wars figures I purchased and although I'd, obviously, had toys in the past, he's the figure I can point to and say ''that's where my toy collecting started.'' And if that's not reason enough why Chewbacca was - and still is - my favorite Star Wars figure then I don't know what is.

As a footnote to the story, I came home and told my sister about the Star Wars toys and how I was convinced somebody else was going to buy them before I could get them all (remember, nobody at this point could predict just how big the toys would be and that this was just the first of many waves). My sister had already been in trouble from my parents for spending her allowance on me (something she did all the time, as I was her little brother, a position that put me somewhere between a walking, talking doll and a pet) and so came up with a workaround: she'd buy Chewbacca from me (for the same price as I'd paid for it) so I could then go and buy another figure. I can only guess that my folks simply threw their hands up in the air and admitted defeat at this point, as a few hours later I'd added R2-D2 to my now-growing collection.

The funny thing is that to this day, whenever the subject of Star Wars toys comes up, my sister still points out that, technically, she owns my Chewbacca. Which is of course correct. So if the day ever comes that I do decide to sell any of my vintage figures, I'll be sure to see she gets her one Pound back - with maybe a little on top, too.


What of my fellow League Members' favorite blankiest blanks?

See the full list - or better yet, join in - over at Cool and Collected.


  1. Wow, did this article take me back. I too remember the sheer thrill of seeing these figures in the store. What a great trip down memory lane!

    1. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. And yeah, it's hard to explain to younger folks just how incredible it was to walk into a toy store and find something totally unexpected like this!


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