It was Christmas morning 1959, I was six years old and lived with my younger brother and parents in a tiny two bedroom house in Hull, East Yorkshire, England. That house is now long gone, being replaced by modern housing but is situated only a ten minute walk from the house I now own. That morning the fat guy in the red suit had left me a gift I can only describe as magical.
There on the floor at the foot of my bed was Fort Laramie, very similar to the one pictured above, with it were forty US Cavalry and forty Red Indians, It was a dream come true, That fort and the toy soldiers that came with it, became my go to toy, the mounted cavalry below are very similar to the ones I received that morning.
My mum and dad, seeing the response and enthusiasm, followed it the year after with a wooden castle. Again it came with a host of knights both mounted and dismounted. The castle below is very similar, though not the exact one.
Both the castle, fort and soldiers were eventually passed on to neighbours children when we moved house, but they had given many years of pleasure and hopefully they continued to do so for the new owners.
Many years later, I discovered the story behind the gifts. Money was very tight back then, My mother had to buy the fort on the never, never. She would call into the store, which was situated on the main road just around the corner from the street in which we lived, and pay half a crown (two shillings and sixpence or twelve and a half pence) each week, she would also spend two shillings on soldiers, one mounted soldier cost one shilling (five pence or 20 cents) and a standing figure cost sixpence (two and a half pence or 10 cents). This went on all through the Summer and Autumn (Fall) until a few days before the big day, dad accompanied my mum to the store and all the items were collected. I can still remember the thrill of that Christmas morning as if it were yesterday, even though it was 56 years ago.
Now all these years later, that store is still there. It is where I buy my Vallejo paints and my Perry War of the Roses figures. So after well over half a century, that little boy once again owns some shiny knights bought from the very same store. I also still feel the same thrill when I open a box too!