ATTLEBORO, Mass. — G.I. Joe, a military action figure aimed at American boys, was born in the mid-1960s, just as the Vietnam War was beginning to gain momentum.
Last month, Joe, the brainchild of Pawtucket-based Hasbro, celebrated his 50th birthday. But for a 50-year-old, the pose-able man of action turned cultural icon is still looking pretty good.
With millions of figures and toys sold and being featured in starring roles in comic books, on TV and in the movies, G.I. Joe still qualifies as Real American Hero — and a toy-selling phenomenon.
“Joe stood for everything that was meant to be good: Fighting evil, doing what’s right for people,” said Alan Hassenfeld, the 65-year-old former CEO for Hasbro whose father, Merrill, oversaw G.I. Joe’s development in 1963.
G.I. Joe has been reinvented several times over the years. He started out as a 12-inch-tall hunk in khakis based on the ideas of toy designer Stan Weston.
In the 1980s, Joe was downsized to a 3 3/4-inch figure whose mission was to combat imaginary enemies from Cobra, an evil terrorist organization. This year, Hasbro plans to release a special, 50th anniversary Joe in the smaller size through Toys R Us stores along with new items in its line of related building sets.
G.I. Joe also became the star of his own TV show and later the basis for blockbuster Hollywood films.
Don Levine, then the company’s head of research and development in the 1960s, is often credited as the “father” of G.I. Joe for pushing the toy through design and development.
Levine, who served in the Army during the in Korean War, said he got the idea for the moveable figure as a way to honor veterans.
But, Levine knew a soldier figure would be a hard sell. It took several years before the project received Hasbro’s full backing.
“Most boys in the ’60s had a father or a relative who was or had been in the military,” said Patricia Hogan, curator at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., home to the National Toy Hall of Fame. “Once you’ve bought Joe, you need to buy all the accessories and play sets and add-ons, which was great for business.”
A major concern early on was whether boys would accept a toy in the form of a pose-able male figure — in other words, a doll.
So, Hasbro thought up another term for their product.
“G.I. Joe wasn’t a doll,” said Ron Rudat of Attleboro, a designer who worked on accessories for the original G.I. Joe in the early 1970s and later helped spur Joe’s revival in the 1980s. “We called him an action figure.”
Introduced in 1964, Joe remained a popular toy through most of the 1960s until opposition to the war in Vietnam caused parents to pull back from military-related toys — and Joe in particular.
Hasbro responded by introducing “Adventure Team” G.I. Joes that were less overtly military.
Faced with declining popularity, the original G.I. Joe was discontinued later in the 1970s. But, a comeback was just around the corner.
The inspiration turned out to be a firefight from a time long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
“Star Wars resulted in toy figures that were very popular at the time,” Rudat said. “Hasbro was very impressed by that.”
Rudat, who by that time was a key toy designer at the company, remembered how a chance event seemed to reignite enthusiasm for G.I. Joe.
“I was working on a truck and presented it at a marketing meeting in green camouflage colors,” he said. “That started a lot of people thinking.”
Not long after, Hasbro decided to try a resized Joe that would be smaller and more affordable than the original 12-inch figure, but with more characters, accessories and enemy figures.
Rudat, whose father had served in World War II and who was raised to revere those who served their country, was delighted.
“They asked me to design figures, and I remember thinking, ‘Great, that’s right up my alley.’”
The company first tried a modest line of Joes and accessories in case the new, downsized soldier bombed. But he didn’t. He was a hit.
Rudat ended up designing more than 100 figures for the new line, plus sophisticated accessories like an assault boat. He also invented the logo for the evil Cobra organization, the original of which hangs framed in his home.
Along with the movies, comic books and TV, G.I. Joe has inspired a legion of diehard fans and collectors. Many of the more devoted enthusiasts gather each year at the GIJoeCon, an annual convention held by the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club.
G.I. Joe was elected into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2004.
Rudat, who was hired by Hasbro right out of art school, no longer works for the company. But, he remains proud of his role in helping revitalize G.I. Joe and for the care and authenticity that he and others put into crafting the legend.
“We did a lot of research on what a modern soldier would wear, what kinds of tools he would use,” he said. “We even went to the Army’s Natick labs and saw the new helmet they were designing before it was issued to the troops.”
Today, Rudat works in his home studio surrounded by books, pictures and military uniforms and accessories dating back to the 1850s. There’s also a case for his father’s World War II decorations from the Marine Corps, a treasured keepsake.
“In designing accessories, I got a lot of ideas from things the Marines used,” he said.
A talented artist from childhood, Rudat continues to paint stunning landscapes and still lifes in oils and acrylics, which he exhibits and sells at local galleries.
Rudat and other Hasbro veterans starred in a recent DVD documentary on G.I. Joe created by Rudat’s video artist son Tristan. More information about Rudat and the film, “Code Name: Blast Off,” can be found at the movie’s Facebook page.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A valued veteran of the Pittsfield Police Department credited with saving two lives during his career has died.
Chief Michael Wynn said in a statement Monday that Nero, the department’s German shepherd, died recently after a long illness.
Nero spent eight years with the department.
The Berkshire Eagle reports that in 2009, Nero found a woman who wandered from a homeless shelter in freezing temperatures. Nero located the woman trying to keep warm in a pile of leaves.
In 2012, Nero tracked an elderly man who had wandered from home in freezing temperatures. The dog traced the man two miles to a barn where he was trying to keep warm.
Nero is also credited with apprehending numerous felons and helping find more than 40 pounds of illegal drugs.
By Patriot Ledger staff
BRAINTREE, Mass. — Police Chief Russell Jenkins said Friday that the quick actions of a Braintree officer “more than likely” saved the life of a young Iraq War veteran who was found unconscious after a possible drug overdose.
Jenkins said officer Brian Eng was sent to a Braintree home on Feb. 4 for a report of a possible drug overdose and had to force his way in after nobody came to the door, news partner The Patriot Ledger reports. The caller who reported the overdose directed Eng to an attic bedroom, where the officer found a 21-year-old man who was not breathing and did not appear to have a pulse.
Jenkins said Eng and Sgt. Philip Yee began performing CPR on the man, who eventually regained an erratic pulse and began breathing as color returned to his face. The officers continued to watch the man until medical crews arrived and administered Narcan, a drug used to counteract opiate overdoses.
Jenkins said the man was eventually able to walk to an ambulance to be taken to the hospital. He said police also found evidence of drug use in the home and confiscated it for evidence.
In a commendation, Jenkins said the actions of Eng and Yee “are a credit to both themselves and the department and are indicative of the professionalism and dedication to service this department strives for.”
The little boy, Tyler Doohan, woke up six relatives when he spotted the fire inside the Penfield, N.Y., mobile home early Monday. But after he helped them escape, the boy went back inside to rescue his disabled uncle, Steve Smith. The two died along with the child’s grandfather, Lou Beach.
BY JOE KEMP / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tyler Doohan, 8, alerted his family that there was a fire and helped six people escape the mobile home — but died when he went back inside to help his disabled uncle and grandfather.
Tyler Doohan helped six relatives — including two children, ages 4 and 6 — escape the burning Penfield home early Monday, but the boy went back inside where his uncle, Steve Smith, and grandfather, Lou Beach, who were trapped, family said.
“The kid has more guts than I know of,” an uncle, Joseph Bereyette, told WHEC-TV. “I mean, to run back in there and go through what he went through to try to save his uncle — what can you say for the kid? He was a great kid.”
But the child — who lives in nearby Rochester, but was visiting for the night — his uncle and grandfather were soon overcome by the flames, authorities said.
“There was fire all the length of the trailer,” Penfield Fire Chief Chris Ebmeyer told the Democrat & Chronicle.
Tyler’s body was found with his uncle in a rear bedroom of the single-wide mobile home after the flames were extinguished, authorities said. Several of the family’s pets — including cats, a dog and hamsters — were also killed in the blaze, the newspaper reported.
Barbara Coffin, a neighbor, said she ran outside to help a woman holding two children away from the burning home.
“She was trying to comfort them,” Coffin, who called 911, told the Democrat & Chronicle. “So I brought them back to my house to warm them up and get them cleaned up and stuff.
“It was just horrible.”
Ebmeyer said investigators are treating the fire as accidental and believe the cause was electrical.
The surviving victims were treated at Strong Memorial Hospital and expected to recover.
But the tragedy left the family devastated.
“I love u tyler,” one relative posted on Facebook. “It was to (sic) soon for u to go.”
Coffin, who has lived in the trailer park for about 60 years, said she’ll miss her beloved neighbor.
“He was a really nice guy,” she said. “He’d go by and always talk to you and always help out people around here.”
Oxford, Maine -
A Paris Elementary School teacher is being credited with saving the life of a student.
Superintendent Rick Colpitts told the Board of Directors at Monday’s meeting that teacher Alice Deegan performed the Heimlich maneuver on the sixth-grader after a water bottle cap got stuck in the student’s throat.
The Sun Journal reports that Colpitts said Deegan immediately recognized the look of panic in the boy’s face, assessed the situation and dislodged the cap in the cafeteria just before the Thanksgiving break.
Principal Jane Fahey says once the cap was dislodged and it was determined the boy was all right there was a huge roar from the children and a standing ovation for their teacher.
I was thinking about real-life heroes and not those that we see in movies. The ones that act without thinking when someones life is in danger. The ones that always put others first. So I searched the web for stories and thought I would share some with you.
I’d love to hear who you hero’s are. Please leave me a comment listing your heroes.