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A Lifetime of Militaria!


For those of us of the early "Baby Boom" generation, movies and TV ( showing mainly old movies! ) were probably the greatest influence, as I commented on in a recent thread about the passing of Fess Parker in Gunboards' section Smoke Pole. Like you, my favorite toys for Christmas were always the fabulous millitary-themed "playsets" by Louis Marx from Sears: Ft. Apache, Battle of the Blue and the Gray, Revolutionary War, Davy Crockett at The Alamo, and of course various Battlegrounds and Army Training Centers. Since it had been only a short time since "the War", all the Army-Navy surplus stores had REAL WWII surplus for very little. My parents were in ways BOTH veterans of the Army Air Corps and encouraged my interests; as did my aunt who gave me my very first "history" book, one of the excellent Landmark series, The Battle of Gettysburg. My mother also treated me to the vacation of a lifetime, driving all the way to Pennsylvania and back visiting all the Civil War battlefields in between! The reason was the Centennial and the very first reenactment, that of First Bull Run in 1961 which I at least got to see. Sometime around High School I began to "switch sides" so to speak, and got interested in German militaria for some reason. I think it's simply because, thanks to Hollywood, "they" always LOOKED BETTER! ( After all, that was one of Hitler & Goebbels' big selling points to the German public! ) And who could deny the "cool" projected by actors like James Mason's Rommel or Richard Basehart's SS colonel on Combat! That was also about the time my best friend and I discovered the inventive board wargames by Avalon Hill: Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Waterloo, Stalingrad, Battle of the Bulge, Bismarck, Guadalcanal, Afrika Korps, etc., etc.

But probably the biggest influence to me as a potential collector was the fact that Dallas, Texas had TWO superlative shops in the mid-to-late 60's: the legendary Jackson Arms and Bob Cowan's Militaria. Like you, I had desperately wanted something - a Civil War SABER! - and my long-suffering mother actually found me one at Jackson's, introducing me thereby to that institution. This was no mere "gun shop", but dealt in the rarest fine guns, antique mostly; and as it's name implies, Militaria was a treasure trove of military miniatures and items from all periods, but especially the Revolution through the Civil War. Thankfully, the owner of Jackson's, an army colonel in WWII, cared little for swords and the other "junk" he found himself selling along with the guns, and priced them accordingly - unless they were Confederate; most of the German paraphanalia in the photo came from there. In case you can't ID them, there are L-R: a likely podium banner I hung on the door to my room; German army officer's sword and knot; Algeimene SS armband ( one of 3 "brought back" by my stepfather, so I KNEW it was "REAL"! ); EKII; M40 SD Luftwaffe; and fireman's bayonet. Sadly, When I got interested in Civil War reenacting in the mid-1970's all the things in the photo went, except the sword, which was stolen in a "smash-n-grab" break-in! As to the WHY of collecting, I'm reminded of a "dialogue" I once read about gun collecting: "Why do you LIKE old guns?" "How is it possible NOT to LIKE old guns?"

As you can see, I always liked to play "dress-up"; consequently reenacting eventually got me into all kinds of situations, experiences, expenses, trouble, and undreamed-of opportunities; stories for another time.


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