When I was growing up, we always knew Christmas was right around the corner when the film March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934) aired. This was at a time when we only had three channels and Christmas specials were a big deal. The film was originally in black and white but was later edited in color. Regardless of the age of the film, four generations of our family watch this film every year after Thanksgiving.
March of the Wooden Soldiers starred Laurel & Hardy, a comedy duo specializing in slapstick and downright silliness. The film, a musical, was about the babes in Toyland – Little Bo Peep, Tom Thumb, the old woman who lived in a shoe, the crooked man who lived in the crooked house, the three pigs, and many more nursery favorites.
In the film, Barnaby (the crooked man), wants to marry Bo Peep (the daughter of the old woman who lives in a shoe). If Bo Peep refuses, then Barnaby will evict the old woman and her many kids from the shoe. Stan and Ollie (Laurel & Hardy) trick Barnaby by swapping Ollie for Bo Peep during the wedding ceremony. For their trickery, they are banished to Boogeyland along with Tom Thumb, Bo Peep’s true love. With the help of 100 wooden soldiers, Stan and Ollie save Toyland and all their friends from Barnaby and his evil Boogeyland monsters.
While the film played shortly after Thanksgiving every year, Santa was only briefly portrayed in the film when he showed up to his workshop in Toyland to check on his order of 600 1-foot soldiers. Stan, confused about the order, had 100 6-foot wooden soldiers made for Santa. In the end, Stan and Ollie make good use of Santa’s oversized soldiers and defeat the evil doers.
We were all hooked on the film and loved the wooden soldiers. This started decades of obsessive nutcracker collecting. My dad, brother, and I all collect nutcrackers of all kinds – so many that we don’t have the room to put them all out at Christmas. My grandkids adore them, so we started making our own.
I pick up unpainted nutcrackers at Hobby Lobby. They come in different sizes and styles. We paint them in acrylic paint, usually in black, red, and white (my grandkids paint them in multicolors). You can also glue small stones to the crown, depending on the style. Some of the unpainted nutcrackers come with the face already painted, but we usually get the ones without anything. A bit of fuzzy yarn glue to the mouth of the nutcracker makes a nice beard. The super small nutcrackers can be used for tree ornaments. The larger ones find a place among the many that we’ve collected over the years.
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