(Article published in the "Toy Soldier Magazine")



UnionReenactors.JPG (130399 bytes)     As the sun begins to rise over the fields, the camp begins to stir. Blue-clad figures roll themselves out of their blankets and greatcoats. stretch their sore limbs and move toward the fire, hoping that someone else has already begun to boil the coffee. Slowly, the camp creaks to life. The Union officer in his tent sits on the edge of his cot, wondering how many men he will lose today, and thinking of the last letter from home, as he pulls on his boots. The drummer coughs and clears his throat as he prepares to rattle the camp to assembly, and to prepare for the days inevitable battle. 

     In another part of the camp, the battle is already joined. Gallant horsemen in gray plunge toward the Union line while desperate artillerymen feed the gaping maws of Parrott and Ordinance rifles. 

Reenactors.JPG (132779 bytes)     Across the fields a gray-clad camp practices much the same ritual. The Confederate soldiers mutter the same curses as the sergeants drive them into line and bellow them into slouching morning attention in preparation for calling the roll.

    Infantry in blue cheer as men in gray and butternut screech their rebel yell. Riding calmly through the lines of his men, old Marse Robert sits astride Traveler, projecting an aura of dignity and calm that radiates across the scene. On the opposite side, John Buford peers through his field glasses, wondering how long his dismounted Union cavalry can hold against the confident waves of gray. 

     What is truly remarkable about these soldiers, in the midst of the opposing camps, is that they are already surrounded by men from both sides, looking on in admiration, even as they reach into battered haversacks for checkbooks and pens. Behind the battle scene stand the true masters of this field, Larry and Wendy Simons of March Through Times, purveyors of fine toy soldiers to the modern armies of Civil War Reenactors. 

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     Larry has been a collector of toy soldiers for many years. His primary  collecting interest is composite figures of the Old West. This is particularly appropriate since he and Wendy make their home in Reno, Nevada, just a few miles from Virginia City, one of the original boom towns that truly made the West wild. Larry retired a few years ago from the hardware business and now runs March Through Times full time. His friendliness, and knowledge of both toy soldiers and the Civil War, guarantee an interesting conversation when you drop by.    

     Wendy, a health care administrator and an avid horsewoman, seems to fit into the reenactments beautifully. Her grace and charm breathe an air of the Old South into the camp.     

Larry&Customer.jpg (84664 bytes)     Purchasing themselves a tent, Civil War period outfits, and familiarizing themselves with reenactors and reenactments, soon Larry and Wendy became familiar faces, and one of the favorite stops for U.S. reenactors between battles. Specializing, naturally, in Civil War sets, March Through Times, as their business is called, draws not only the collectors looking for a new set, but has introduced many reenactors to the joys of collecting. Likewise, a number of people visiting reenactments find a soldier, or perhaps a model cannon, the perfect souvenir to take home to remind them of what they’ve seen and learned.

    About six years ago, Larry began selling some of his excess figures on e-Bay, the online auction service. Through his contacts there, and a long-time interest in the American Civil War, he and Wendy developed the idea of traveling to reenactments and setting up as ‘sutlers’ to sell toy soldiers. Sutlers are merchants who set up tents at reenactments to sell a variety of goods, both to reenactors and to the public who attend reenactments.

ShowDisplay.jpg (167205 bytes)      Part of the attraction are the very interesting displays that Larry and Wendy arrange in their tent. Tables decorated with fortifications, bridges, houses, and tents serve as the perfect background for the products of many of today's finest makers of toy soldiers. Manufacturers whose products appear in these handsome displays include Frontline Figures, King & Country, Trophy Miniatures, Conte Collectibles and J.G. Miniatures. Soldiers are arrayed in line of battle, assaulting fortifications, manning cannon, in camp scenes, and even on the deck of a massive Confederate gunboat - all sure to catch the eye and the imagination of both reenactors, and the general public.

     Particularly popular are sets which tie in with units or regiments being represented on the field. On a given day that is likely to include the Fighting Irish, the 69th New York; the California 100 (a company of Californians who paid their own way to come east to fight for the Union); or, on the Confederate side, the 5th Texas, or Wheats Tiger Zouaves.

     Larry has actually gone so far as to specially commission sets from some of the manufacturers to represent particular moments in a regiment’s history. Thus he sells a set by Trophy of the Irish Brigade at the stone wall at Fredericksburg, and from Frontline, a guidon bearer of the California 100, sets not for sale anywhere else in the world.

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    The real attraction to March Through Times, however, has to be Larry and Wendy themselves. Although admittedly preferring the ‘boys in gray", they have become favorites with soldiers from both sides, who look forward to a friendly greeting at reenactments up and down the West Coast.

    Larry and Wendy hope that in the near future they will be able to take their tent and displays to the East Coast. They have applied to set up at the huge annual reenactment at Gettysburg, Pa., for the past three years, but so far there has not been an opening. We have no doubt that eventually March Through Times will be seen on the field at Gettysburg, bringing the best in toy soldiers to Americas most hallowed ground.