Sunday, 23 March 2014


Howdy, pardners!  Lemme tell ya the story of the old West -
JOHNNY WEST, that is!  Or to be more precise, his trusty horse
THUNDERBOLT.  The Palomino you see in the photograph is the
very one I've had since I was 9 or 10 years old, and here's how it came
 into my possession.  In a previous post, I mentioned one of my boyhood
friends, JOHN FIDLER, who was ROBIN to my BATMAN whenever
we played at caped crusaders in the street where we lived.  (Just as well
his nickname wasn't 'Kid' or he'd have had a hard life, eh?)  Well, one
afternoon, around '68 or '69, John was in my back garden when his
eyes fell upon a big battered tin truck my father had brought
home one day, having found it abandoned in a ditch.

For some curious reason it was love at first sight for John in
regard to that truck, and he immediately offered to swap Johnny
West's Palomino  for it.  Naturally enough, being an animal lover, I
instantly agreed to his very generous offer.  (Not without a nagging
sense of doubt it has to be said, as I'd got the truck for nothing while
John's parents had paid good hard cash for ol' Thunderbolt.)  For
a while I expected him to renege on the swap and demand his
steed back, but he never did and I've had it ever since.

One day, in my bedroom, a corner of Thunderbolt's left ear
suddenly popped off and fell onto the new carpet.  I recovered it
at once and glued it back on, and that's probably the reason why the
smell of that carpet fills my nostrils nowadays whenever I gaze upon
my plastic Palomino pal.  Curiously, 20-odd years later, I acquired a
second horse and was surprised to see that it was missing a piece of the
same ear - of the exact same size and shape I'd glued back on its twin.
Both pieces would've looked identical in every respect, and I can only
conclude that there must've been at least one batch of horses which
suffered from a weak spot in the same place, prone to popping off
at any moment.  (I repaired the other ear in case you were
wondering, and the fix is virtually undetectable.)

I didn't obtain Johnny West or CHIEF CHEROKEE until
sometime in the late '80s, 'though Johnny was missing his hands
and Chiefy had only one.  Luckily, a company called DAPOL had
issued a limited run of their own versions of the duo (from the orig-
inal moulds), and, as well as purchasing both sets, I also acquired
spare hands and accessories so I could tart up and complete
the original LOUIS MARX TOYS figures and horses.

So, I've now had ol' Johnny for around 25 years, and his
faithful steed for around 45.  Before Johnny reclaimed his equine
pal, an '80s ACTION MAN used to sit astride his back, but I later
bought another Thunderbolt (complete with box and accessories)
for PALITOY's most famous son to ride the range.  After all, I
couldn't leave him bereft of a horse to get around on.

Now, hands up if you want to see Chief Cherokee.


Colin Jones said...

Kid, do you remember the Lone Ranger and Tonto action figures from the mid '70s? I'm sure the horse was articulated. I never owned them but I remember thinking how terrific they looked, especially the horse.

Kid said...

I do remember them, Col, but I never had them. I wasn't really buying new toys then as I considered myself too old. (There were exceptions 'though.) It wasn't until about 1983/'84 that I started to slowly (at first) re-acquire replacements for the things from my childhood.

I remember Palitoy released Bonanza figures and horses back in the late '60s (might've been licenced from Hasbro, dunno) and they were great. I didn't have any, but a relative did and I was mighty jealous.

moonmando said...

I loved my Johnny West figure and reckon i must have got mine around about the same as you aquired yours Kid.Never did get the horse but did have the saddle bags,pots and pans and leggings,etc. Would love to know where Johnny is now as he disappeared many a year back.Would like to think he eventually found his trusted Palomino and rode off into the Sunset of some far off western plain.

Kid said...

Nah, Moony - you'd have got your Johnny West in the '60s - I got mine in the late '80s. Did get the horse in the '60s 'though, if that's what you meant.

Where did your little Johnny go? I stole him from you! Hee hee!

TC said...

As I recall, the accessories (pots and pans, saddle bags) came with the Johnny West figure, and the horse was sold separately, which is probably why moonmando had the former but not the latter.

As I recall, the Johnny West stuff, like Captain Action and Matt Mason, was never more than moderately popular at the time. I don't remember any of them being "must have" items, like GI Joe had been a few years earlier.

In the mid-1960's, TV and movie Westerns seemed to be waning in popularity, and there were no westerns specifically for kids (except a short-lived Lone Ranger cartoon series). So I don't know who Johnny West was aimed at. A few years later, Marx brought out some action figures of knights with armor, and, similarly, I don't recall any particular interest in that subject among kids. The only movie in the sixties dealing with medieval knights would have been "Camelot," and that was a musical, not a kids' action-adventure movie.

For that matter, the super-hero fad was passing by the time Captain Action showed up. Seems the toy companies were always one step behind the times.

An acquaintance, who collected action figures, once told me that there was never an Adam Cartwright action figure. If Palitoy and/or Hasbro first started making them in the late sixties, it would have been after Pernell Roberts left the series.

I remember seeing ads for the Lone Ranger action figures, but I never had any. There was a Lone Ranger TV cartoon series in the late 1970's and a movie ca. 1980, so maybe the toys were a tie-in with one of those. My memory could be playing tricks with the dates, though.

Kid said...

Perhaps the pots and pans came with the Johnny West figure and the saddlebags came with Thunderbolt, TC? Moony's memory might be a bit dodgy at this ancient stage in his life.

I'd say you're right about these particular toys being moderately popular rather than massive hits, but Mattel, Marx & Ideal must've done okay out of them.

As for the Marx Knights, in the mid-'60s in Britain, Ivanhoe and and Sir Lancelot were still being repeated on TV, so perhaps they were aimed at the kiddie audience of those two shows - wouldn't swear to it 'though.

A cousin had the Bonanza figures, and you're right, I think, about there being no Adam figure. I only recall Hoss, Joe, & Ben.

If I remember rightly, The Lone Ranger figures were a tie-in to the movie. I never had any of them either. I've got the re-released LR costume for Captain Action 'though.

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