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What Did You Say??
by Ed Olomoff, World-Renowned Expert On The Subject and Author of
"Baton Rogue: X-Men Figures In Louisiana" and
"The Pen Is Mightier Than The Borg"
(both currently out of print)


After the demise of the Lucky Duck Company, the toy industry was in a state of chaos. The Irma doll had been an abject failure, and other companies were reluctant to market any sort of doll at all. Most of the toy companies of that era simply continued to produce the items which had proven to be reliable and consistent sellers: tops, gyroscopes, flame throwers, BB guns, yo-yos, mechanical banks, silverware, Halloween costumes, and torque wrenches.

However, one man still clung to the idea that a doll could prove to be a money-making product. His name was Halliburton Finch, and he had worked briefly for Lucky Duck just before they went out of business. Finch had studied the Irma designs which Vernon LaFuselle had devised years earlier. He was convinced that LaFuselle had been on the right track, and had failed only because Irma had never been given the proper marketing [ 1 ] -- to be more specific, he felt that some kind of "gimmick" would be required.

Since no existing toy company would consider producing a doll at that time, Finch had to start his own company from scratch. For some reason, he called his company "Ed's Tuba Repair." [ 2 ]

Finch set about the task of creating a doll that would capture the imagination of children all over the world, or at least enough of them to make a tidy profit. His first effort was "Lintie, the doll that's also a lint brush!" Needless to say, this went nowhere. [ 3 ]

His next attempt was "Footsie." This was an 18-inch plastic doll with giant hollow feet. The gimmick was that you could open Footsie's feet and keep your shoes safe inside them. This, alas, proved not to be the breakthrough Finch had hoped for. Few people in the mid-1950s were overly concerned with the safety of their shoes [ 4 ] , and those who were could generally find a safer (not to mention substantially more attractive) place to keep them. In addition, many of the children who owned a Footsie were ultimately traumatized by her picture on the box; she was depicted with a large word balloon, saying "You can have giant hollow feet just like me!" In all likelihood, this claim was not even true.

After a few more attempts at the "perfect"doll [ 5 ] , Finch suddenly realized that nobody had ever made a doll for boys. All of the dolls that had ever been created up to that point were strictly intended for girls. This presented a serious marketing problem for anyone who wanted to create dolls for boys, however; since it was already commonly understood that dolls were "for girls," Finch had to find a way to overcome this perception.

One of his assistants, a man named Shibley Canasta [ 6 ] , suggested that Finch should devise a name for his figures that would definitively indicate they were not dolls. Finch came up with "non-dolls." Canasta tactfully noted that, strictly speaking, the term "non-dolls" could include anything and everything that wasn't a doll -- a house, a river, the planet Mars -- and that Finch, perhaps, might be better off using something a little more precise.

It could be assumed that it was at this point that Finch came up with the term "action figure." Nothing could be further from the truth, however. In reality, Finch decided to call his toys for boys "duck patterns." There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the origin of this name over the years, and no one has been able to resolve the mystery. [ 7 ]

Finch now had to determine what kind of toys he wanted to produce for boys. And so it was that fate intervened, as it often does in people's lives, especially when they're not expecting it.

While walking down the street to his favorite clothing store, Finch happened to notice a parked Army jeep. He immediately ran back to his office and started drawing up sketches for "Jeepie, Half-Boy, Half-Army Jeep." [ 8 ] Canasta suggested it might make more sense to produce a series of regular Army-type people instead. After getting over the initial shock of this radical concept, Finch agreed.

Less than a year later, in 1957, the "Military Milt Duck Pattern" began appearing in stores all over the country. Military Milt was an eight-inch plastic soldier with a cloth uniform and a plastic helmet. The earliest figures had limited articulation -- Milt could move his right elbow, and there was a lever on the back of his head that would make his eyes move from side to side. [ 9 ]

Somehow, Military Milt captured the imagination of boys all over the country, and over ten million figures were sold the first year. While Finch seemed to have a hard time deciding on what accessories Milt should have, [ 10 ] it didn't matter to the buyers. They scooped up every Milt figure they could find and demanded more. By 1960, Finch had sold more than ninety billion units worldwide.

Sadly, the success was not to last. Finch took all of the money he had made from Military Milt and invested it in a new project -- he was convinced that all television sets were actually aliens from the planet Refolgen VII and attempted to purchase every TV in the world. What he intended to do with them is anybody's guess.

He never recovered from this disaster. Halliburton Finch died in 1967 in a bizarre accident involving an experiment with a "Snow Magnet." The device, if proven to be functional, would have allowed anyone "to magnetize snow." Presumably, Finch was hoping that this device would allow him to reclaim his former success. But we shall never know...

NEXT: Chapter Three: Super Heroes All Over The Place



1 Then again, Finch was also convinced that his dog Mort was the reincarnation of John Wilkes Booth. He was often overheard telling the dog, "Look, don't shoot the President, now there's a good little doggie." [ Return ]

2 When asked about this apparent inconsistency, Finch remarked, "Well, everybody knows it's bad luck for a toy company to make dolls, but nobody ever said anything about a tuba repair shop." Afterwards, Finch spun around in a circle until he was extremely dizzy, and later participated in a boxing match against a cypress tree. [ Return ]

3 Oddly enough, although there are only a handful of Linties left today, they still aren't worth anything. [ Return ]

4 Crime was rare in those days, crimes involving shoes even more so. [ Return ]

5 "Porpy, the Porpoise-Girl" (left side of her was human, right side was a porpoise), "Little Viney" (vines growing out of the doll's body), and "Evelyn, the Robot Who Smokes Cigars" (self-explanatory). [ Return ]

6 This is the same Shibley Canasta who later unsuccessfully ran for President of Nebraska, and who also invented the stationary bulldozer. [ Return ]

7 Canasta has stated that the term "duck patterns" actually referred to a revolutionary form of government proposed in 214 B.C. by the ancient philosopher Xermanophanes. Finch claimed he had never heard of Xermanophanes, but admitted he had once fallen into a bowl of chili. [ Return ]

8 A prototype of this figure was actually produced at one point. It isn't worth anything, either. [ Return ]

9 Finch had originally wanted to put this lever on Milt's forehead, but was eventually talked out of it. [ Return ]

10 Some of the accessories included with various versions of Milt include: a dining room table, a horse's head, a replica of the Stanley Cup, a cardboard cutout of Galileo, an anvil, a pitchfork, and a flurb. The anvil is particularly rare; a Military Milt with Anvil (Mint In Box) can be worth as much as $4.00, if you can find anyone who will buy it. [ Return ]

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