Do you remember those 80s toy soldiers?

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Answered by: Melt, An Expert in the 1980s Nostalgia and Remembrance Category
1980s Nostalgia and Remembrance

I’m an 80s kid. Yep, it’s true. I grew up in the era of eye-stabbing neon and big wild hair and Miami Vice. I still listen to music from that decade. They remind me of a time when I was still young and innocent and unburdened by real life.

And stupid.

Two things happened today. I listened to Martika’s 1989 Billboard hit Toy Soldiers, and while I sat there, trying to write, yet allowing my mind to drift back to when the song first came out, I remembered how I used to play with toy soldiers. Do you remember those green plastic toy soldiers in the 80s? Toy soldiers with their feet melted to a plastic base so that you can make them stand upright. They used to sell them packed in plastic “footlockers” molded to look like real army issue. Those 80s toy soldiers even enjoyed full-page ads in comic books showing a scene reminiscent of the Allied forces storming Normandy.

Man, did I enjoy them. I used to collect those suckers. I don't remember how many plastic toy soldiers precisely at any one time, but I had a lot of those “footlockers” stored in a great carton box in the garage. My room was too small see, what with G.I. Joe and He-Man action figurines and my comic books taking up most of the space. We were poor and those 80s toy soldiers were cheap and so I only needed my imagination to wage war on every evil baddie I could conjure up. Imagination is funny that way.

And I didn't lack for variety either. You had tanks and jeeps and battleships and planes, even different types of soldiers, from officers to riflemen. I usually had a few platoons ready and available and I’d build a war zone outside in the garden or on our sandy driveway. I’d dig trenches for them and hills they had to conquer.

I was about 14 when waging war in the dirt wasn't enough anymore. I wanted to take things a notch up. See, the A-Team was a hit on television back then and they usually had big explosions on the show and I liked it a lot. Like, really a lot.

So, I stole gasoline from my dad’s lawnmower and gunpowder from his workshop outside. Back then, when he was still alive, he used to load his own bullets. I arranged my “men” the way I usually arrange them, except now I had them doused in gasoline and I took some of the plastic cars–metal ones, too, from my old broken toys–and fill them with gunpowder, and a plane. Always a plane.

And you know how in the old westerns when they light a stick of dynamite, the fuse would flash into action and burn the length of it, sparkling and cracking? Well, if you pour a thin line of gunpowder from the target area to about a meter away and light it, it works the same and sounds the same–only faster. Much faster. Now imagine doing that while you have plastic toy soldiers and toy vehicles soaked in gasoline and gunpowder…

Yeah, I lost my eyebrows that day and some of the hair on my head, and I almost crapped my pants from fright when the whole scene went up in a brilliant flash of black smoke and the acrid stench of sulfur and saltpeter burned my nostrils, but it was fun and exciting and utterly stupid.

Martika’s Toy Soldiers for me holds far more value than simple 1980s nostalgia and remembrance. It reminds me of a time when outside the house held far more excitement that inside.

Viva la 80s.

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