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Continued: No ordinary Joe: Fans go wild for G.I. Joe

  • Article by: AIMEE BLANCHETTE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 19, 2014 - 4:01 PM

Joe quits the military

By 1968, the country was growing weary of the Vietnam War and interest in military expansion was starting to wane. It was time for G.I. Joe to reinvent himself.

He became a daring adventurer, sent to rescue mummies and ancient artifacts. He wrestled bears and tigers and took on abominable snowmen, giant clams and massive spiders — nearly anything but U.S. military rivals.

“He came out of the Vietnam era to stand up for patriotism and give everyone hope and belief that the government and America were doing the right thing,” Hembrough said.

To entice a new generation of fans, G.I. Joe also grew fuzzy hair and sometimes sported a beard. He developed the now-famous “Kung-Fu Grip,” a technique to better hold his weapons and equipment. His popularity soared.

Longtime fans keep the memory of these years alive with their Joe rooms.

“It’s reliving your childhood — those times you had when you were a little kid and you had no worries,” Allgood said. “These are just a gentle reminder of those years gone by.”

Allgood has more than just a room dedicated to G.I. Joe.

The 46-year-old’s basement is lined with floor-to-ceiling glass cases crammed with G.I. Joe collectibles. Closets store even more “fanfare,” which he regularly takes to conventions such as “Joelanta” or “GIJoe­Con,” where he meets other fans and swaps stories and wardrobe accessories.

Allgood even proposed to his wife at one of the G.I. Joe conventions. She agreed, under one condition: His Joe room had to move from his living room into their basement.

There’s even a Twin Cities Facebook group devoted to G.I. Joe’s life: The Minnesota G.I. Joe Club.

Longtime club member and collector Aaron Warwick of Minneapolis takes family vacations to Joe conventions and has turned his 14-year-old son on to the soldier.

As a child, Warwick spent summers with his grandparents — and G.I. Joe accompanied him. He remembers the two of them rescuing the needy with a net made of turkey webbing. Paper clips attached to the end of the rope came in handy. A headquarters made from a cardboard box was all they needed.

“G.I. Joe could do anything and be anyone,” Warwick said, “whether he was in the jungle or out in the desert looking for a mummy. … But he never died.”

Joe goes small

As the 1970s came to a close, problems arose again for G.I. Joe — this time as a result of the petroleum crisis. The cost of oil used to fuel his foot-high figure skyrocketed, so G.I. Joe went under the knife and shrunk to 8 inches.

The move didn’t go over well with young fans.

“It was an unmitigated disaster,” remembered Jim Kitchen, 45, of St. Paul.

  • G.I. JOE

    Born: 1964.

    Education: The real world.

    Military service: All four branches of the U.S. armed forces.

    Interests/hobbies: Joined Adventure Team in 1970, fighting terrorism and tigers.

    In the media: TV cartoon series; theatrical movies “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”

    Honors: Member of the National Toy Hall of Fame.

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