I was up and out of the house bright and early this morning. So early that I was at the Port Authority by 7:30. Today was the annual Hackensack toy soldier show. I only began getting into toy soldiers when I started going to Gettysburg regularly 6-7 years ago. The Hackensack show has always had a special meaning for me; the first time I went was five years ago as my father was dying. I remember him calling me a few days prior to the show to say he wouldn’t be able to see me in Florida in early January 2010. I understood instinctively that “wouldn’t be able to see me in Florida” meant he would be gone. Indeed, he died ten days later. I remember calling him in the hospital from the courtyard outside the Fairleigh Dickinson University gym. Five years ago this weekend.

Going back year after year since then has made me keenly aware of the passage of time.


Imagine my surprise when I came across A.P. Hill. In another part of the gym was a living historian playing Queen Victoria. I spoke to her and her friends for about ten minutes.


It is not just toy soldiers. There are vendors who sell vintage toys.


I wanted to get a better photo of this one, but it was behind the counter. I didn’t want to get behind the vendor table and so leaned in and stuck the camera out. I love this for about ten reasons. I always wonder what kids were thinking when they played these old board games and things like that. Could they have known it would someday be a piece of cultural history? Probably not.


Perhaps I am just more aware of it because I am getting involved in the Great War Centennial, but there seemed to be much more WW1 merchandise this year. The toy soldier market skews heavily toward the American Civil War and WW2. This is a neat old piece.


My gosh, just look at the camouflage on this German zeppelin. The level of detail is impressive all the way around. The purpose of such camouflage was to throw off the depth perception of ground artillerymen and fighter pilots who might target the dirigible.


These four came home with me. I love the doctor and nurse because they remind me of Ethel and Richard Derby, Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter and son-in-law. Dr. and Mrs. Derby served in France during the Great War. He was a surgeon and she a nurse. These four figures were made by a retired gentleman who lives in Baltimore. I bought a doughboy from him last year. My g.i. has stood at the ready on my office bookshelf for the past 52 weeks. Now he will have some company. One thing I liked about the vendor and his wife was that they emphasized that they make toys, not collectibles. It is something to enjoy and have fun with. The marine with his carrier pigeons is a unique figure. The toy soldier maker undoubtedly knows the story of cher ami.

I love the poilu. You don’t see these WW1 figures too much, though again I think this may change during the Centennial. Among other things the dealer had some cool  WW1 French zouave figures too. That is just one reason to mark my calendar for next year.