TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - Years ago, Barbie was queen of the dolls, and toy makers wanted to do something similar for boys.
“No daddy would let his boy play with a doll,” said Joey Tutor, a 51-year-old Pontotoc resident. “They came up with the name, action figure.’ If anybody called it a doll, they lost their job.”
The action figure in question is G.I. Joe, a toy Hasbro released upon American boys in 1964.
“This is the 50th anniversary,” Tutor said. “Fifty years ago, the first G.I. Joes were wrapped under Christmas trees for the first time.”
Tutor has a more than passing acquaintance with the character. He played with G.I. Joes as a kid, and now he collects them as an adult. He’s got more than 200, as well as Jeeps, helicopters, boats, space capsules, trucks and so much more to go with them.
“At one time, I had a room in my house that I kept them all in,” he said. “I moved and lost that room, so I keep a lot of them in storage. I have some of my vintage ones on display at home.”
He recently spent quality time with his collection while preparing for an exhibit at the Oren Dunn City Museum at Ballard Park. The exhibit will run through January.
Tutor gave most of his childhood Joes away to his cousin many years ago. When his son, Joseph, was born, Tutor decided to introduce him to the toy that had provided so much fun.
“We started collecting the new stuff that was coming out,” he said, “and I wondered if we could find any old stuff, the kind I had when I grew up.”
He went to garage sales and flea markets, and then something unexpected happened.
“A couple of years ago, I found this great thing I’d never heard of called eBay,” he said. “It’s made things a lot easier, but I still like going to antique stores. The search is part of the fun Wow. Found one.’”
One of his favorites is also a fine example of American manufacturing.
“He’s not the oldest in my collection. He’s a 1967 talker, which was my first G.I. Joe,” Tutor said. “He said seven phrases.”
He didn’t hesitate to pull the Joe’s string, and then translated the slightly garbled response: “G.I. Joe, U.S. Army, reporting for duty.”
“It still works, all these years later,” Tutor said. “That’s amazing, when you think about it.”
As the Vietnam War progressed, mothers didn’t want their boys playing with war toys, so Hasbro introduced policemen, firefighters and adventurers.
“Instead of fighting wars, they started going after tigers and pygmy gorillas and sharks,” Tutor said.
A character with a mechanical arm and leg called “Mike Power” was introduced to compete with “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Another Joe, “Eagle Eye,” has become known as “Creepy Eye” in the collector community.
“His eyes move,” Tutor said. “He watches you.”
Hasbro has created female characters that appeared in the G.I. Joe cartoon, but Tutor’s collection remains mostly male-centric.
“They made a G.I. Joe nurse. I wish I could afford one of those. It was only made one year, in 1967,” he said. “It flopped. It was a terrible seller. No girl wanted someone with G.I. Joe on it and no boy wanted a girl. Now, I think it’s the most sought-after G.I. Joe.”
Visitors to the exhibit will be able to spot one G.I. Jane, a Vietnam nurse released in the 1990s.
There’s also a doll mixed among the action figures. Tutor’s wife, Denise, noticed one of his adventure Joes was dressed in similar colors to one of her old toys.
“It’s her Midge doll,” Tutor said. “She put it in the set. She said that’s so he doesn’t have to be alone in the jungle now.”
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com
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