Yesterday, I reflected on the Lego minifig and my first encounter with the little guy in the late 1970s.
I had a friend Andy Oman who was the first one to have the set with a minifig. It was some kind of rocket lancher set, with two astronauts: a white one and a red one. Later on, he'd get more sets, including the Galaxy Explorer. I begged my mother for the rocket launcher set, and eventually, she gave in.
I recall mulling over the minifig and looking at the construction between my fingers. So miniature, so perfect. Everything fit in every way. Before, there were only two kinds of "Lego people." There was some kind of 2-part blocky guy. He had the Lego head and hat ability we still know today, but there was no face. The torso looked like he had his hands in his pocket and the rest looked like he/she was wearing a tight skirt that went all the way down to the feet. In fact, it kind of disturbing looked like someone wrapped up in a latex fetish body suit. The other kind of "people" were these heads with faces about the size of a Dum-Dum lollipop. They also had large hats/wigs you could snap on. The head fit into a 2x2 brick that also had an assembly for the arms. Arms were a snake-like with as many joints as you had pieces. The body was whatever you build from normal bricks.
Both lego people types were kind of lame. But the mini-fig was awesome. And 30 years later, the only thing they have changed is faces with expressions, printed hair, and beards. Plus more torso types. The skeleton was a nice addition.
But as a kid, I was hooked on the space sets. I built this one array that was a "space gas station." It was on top of a metal supply shelf I had in my room. It had two levels. The top shelf was the landing pad. It rad rockets, ships, and generic factory like facilities. It even had a diner. The shelf below that was "underground" where a small town was. Here people would mill about without the use of space suits. It had shops, restaurants, hotels, and housing. I collected a LOT of minifigs. I must have had over 40 of them by the time I was 12. They were always in little scenes where they would be doing something. Sometimes, I had a dark streak, and I recall one "scene" was an auto accident with dismembered limbs and some red modeling claw for guts, blood, and organs.
This made friends jealous, and quickly I began to realize that my Lego men were disappearing. I was so anal about them, knew each and every one I had. So when 2-3 of them disappeared right after a friend visited, I quickly put two and two together. I only caught two people, whom I will call "R" and "A" because, well, records are sealed at 18, right? ;)
"R" was REAL stupid about it . He used my Lego men in a diorama project at school. He denied it at first, but I told him I wrote my name on the foot on each Lego guy, and did he mind if I checked? He fell for my bluff, and gave me more Lego men than he actually stole (I didn't tell him). Then he tried to back out with the lie that he didn't steal from *ME*, but from "A," who was "stealing them from everybody." I mean, I knew A had taken some, but he denied it. Then A was confronted with R's evidence. A had recently been burned badly when he stole a bunch of cap guns from a toy store and got caught when he was giving them out to all the kids on his block. Sadly, A was not as anal about his toys' care, and so I got some of my men back melted with small magnifying glass holes. This actually ended our friendship (which was shaky anyway because of other stuff he was doing).
Ah... sixth grade politics.
At some point, I got hold of an unspecified "European toy catalog." This had Lego sets that were not sold in the US at the time. This had castle sets, plus some Lego knockoffs someone was selling that had dragons and tanks (I forgot, but I think this was way before Megablocks). There was no order form or address, and my mother had to tell me the sad news she was not having anything shipped overseas because that was way too expensive. I was DEEP in some kind of avarice and was totally pissed off. Nowadays, I get things from the Internet with such ease. I wish I could buy a ton of minifigs from Bricklink and send them back in time to myself with a note, "Sorry your parents suck, hope this helps ease the pain a little. And tell A[censored] he can't come to your house anymore."