Monday, September 1, 2014


When I was growing up I loved the tv show M*A*S*H. Channel 32 (WFLD Chicago) played it at 6:00 and 10:00 at night for years. I watched it at both times as well as it's first run network slot at 8:00 P.M. on Mondays ( meaning that in the days before videotape I got to watch the show 3 times on Monday). Right around the time the show ended in 1983, they released action figures of the show's characters. I bought them all.

The M*A*S*H action figures and vehicles put out but Tristar International

My official M*A*S*H dog tags. These were especially neat because as a
kid I would wear my father's World War 2 dog tags when I would visit him
on the weekends. When I got these I actually had a set of my own.

The toys were put out by a company called Tristar International Limited. Along with the action figures there was other merchandise, such as dog tags, jeeps, ambulances, and helicopters. After acquiring all of the merchandise only one thing remained- an army camp for the figures to live in.

Tristar had created one that could be found in stores. This is what it looked like:

Their action figures were really well sculpted, but their camp looked like cheap plastic. My father and took a long look at it during a stroll through Toys-R-Us . He picked it up off the shelf and said " You know, I think I can build you a better camp than this."

This was no idle boost. Ray Larson had spent his parental life making things for his children and grandchildren ranging from Wizard Of Oz costumes to Star Wars toys and everything in between. We went home and he started compiling photos form the M*A*S*H show in books and trading cards that I owned. This was before the internet ( before we had a VCR as a matter of fact )so his task was a little more difficult then it would be today.

In the pre-video tape era Poppy subjected himself the the M*A*S*H
 title sequence at least twice a day in order to get a feel of what
the camp looked like from this overview shot at the beginning of every episode

One of the things Poppy liked about the Tristar toy that was manufactured for the figures was that it folded up and easily was put away. He decided to do the same thing. Where the company had used plastic, however, he used illustration board ( as he did with most of his 3D creations).

This is the inside of the tent roofs. They were designed so that
each individual roof would fit inside another roof.

The 4 walls of the tents were connected by cloth
that could fold without being torn, then held together
at one end by velcro. The end result was 4 walls
that folded up into one flat piece and reassembled again
with no fuss.
The first thing Poppy did was make a list of what was to be made. Four tents: The Swamp ( home of Hawkeye, BJ, and Winchester), Col. Potter, Fr. Mulcahy, and Hot Lips. Also an office, Operating Room, and Post Op Ward (Later a Mess tent was added). In addition to the tents, there were the things that went into the tents. These consisted of miniature beds, tables, chairs, desks, stoves, and operating tables.
 Mess Tent had  tables with condiments and trays built onto them,
benches for the figures to sit and the area where food was served.

Each tent had at least one bed, a table or desk, foot locker and a stove. 
The oxygen tanks and operating table for the OR.

Once completed, the M*A*S*H camp was an achievement such as I had never seen before and since. The figures had a home to live in and I had a something that was far superior to what was being sold in the stores. When the series ended, Newsweek published this map of the camp, and I set my camp up to match it.

On the surface the camp looked pretty real:

Inside the tents things were happening too:

the Operating Room
The Post Op Ward

Inside the Swamp

It's been over thirty years since my father created this camp.  I recently pulled it out and assembled it for the first time in 20 years. It needs a couple of repairs here and there but overall it has remained in overall good shape. Pretty good for something that was created with Illustration board, tracing paper, and Elmer's Glue.