When I was a kid back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, I would join with the other youngsters in my safe suburban neighbourhood and the whole gang of us would play war. Most often we ended up playing games inspired by the popular TV shows of the time, such as Vic Morrow’s gritty Combat! or Rat Patrol, which incidentally happened to star a pre-The Young and the Restless Eric Braeden (Victor Newman, FYI. It’s not like I watch the show, I’m just a stockpile of general trivial knowledge. P.S. He didn’t have his trademark moustache back then.).
War as a game was great to play as a kid because you didn’t need much else aside from a stick or tree branch for a rifle. If you wanted to, you could spend your entire allowance on anything from a plastic camouflage helmet to a toy bazooka that fired plastic missiles. True confession – a buddy and I actually ordered the “real” submarine that you could order off the back page of a comic book. Sadly, the submarine never arrived, nor did we ever see our money again. Probably just as well, I would likely not fit into it today anyway.
Even more elaborate than the life-sized war gear for us kids were the countless accessories for our rugged G.I. Joe action figures. You could purchase everything from a scuba set to snappy navy dress whites. Oh yeah, and a very realistic-looking acoustic guitar, because Elvis Presley had one in G.I.Blues.
We read war-themed comic books, like Marvel’s Sgt. Fury and comic strips like Sad Sack & Beetle Bailey. As I mentioned earlier, TV had loads of serious war shows that parents watched as well, and also some admittedly not so serious, like Hogan’s Heroes. As a kid, I often wondered how Richard Dawson finally made it safely out of Stalag 13 and on to hosting Family Feud.
Around the time my chums and I were playing war, music artists were shifting from traditional patriotic songs to protest efforts. Give Peace A Chance, For What It’s Worth, Springtime For Hitler. Okay, that last one was Mel Brooks, but the point is the artists were reaching out to a society growing increasingly weary of war. That lasted for decades.
After that unprecedented attack so close to home, music quickly reflected the stunned feelings of peaceful nations. I remember attending Elton John’s lavish Las Vegas Red Piano show, where he framed his classic song Daniel as a moving video tribute to Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and killed in Pakistan. In the first minute alone, a wounded young soldier in the foreground, you got the intended message loud and clear.
Playing war as a carefree kid may have been fun, but as an adult, I couldn’t be happier that in my lifetime the sacrifices made by others over so many years ensured that I’d never have to strap on a real gun with a group of my own young buddies. And for that matter, allow me to grow up to the ripe old age that I have. Many others have not been as lucky. November is our time to remember that.
Lest We Forget.
Humour columnist and author Dan St. Yves was licensed with Royal LePage Kelowna for 11 years. Check out his website at www.nonsenseandstuff.com, or contact him at [email protected].