Sunday, October 18, 2009


I remember making lead soldiers down in my basement back when I was eleven and twelve years old. I had some molds for the different soldiers that I had to heat up with a candle to make the inside of the mold black in color and to help the lead flow through the mold. I had a small electric heater to heat up the lead and change the solid lead to the liquid state to pour into the molds. I had molds of World War II soldiers such as an army man with a bazooka as well as molds for an officer with a pistol, and a cannon with wagon wheels. One of my friend's father was a plumber and he gave me a lead pipe or two that I remember having to use a hacksaw to cut up into pieces small enough to melt. Lead is an interesting metal as the color of lead is generally a dull metal when exposed to the air but is shiny like silver with heated up and melted to a liquid form. I can remember skimming of the impurities from the molten lead before pouring the lead into the molds.

After pouring the soldiers and waiting for them to cool I would file off the excess lead and later paint these soldiers. I sold some of them at a local consignment store and played with the rest of them.

I have been listening to a lot of the old Jean Shepherd radio shows on podcast at a website In a previous post I described my adventure with the author, humorist, and storyteller called "The Good Shepherd". This website has approximately 1175 recordings from the 1970's on radio station WOR. One of his shows was called "Lead Quarters".
During this show Jean described making lead soldiers in his younger days with his friends. Jean and his friends decided to experiment and made a mold of a quarter by pressing a quarter into a raw potato. They proceeded to make a bunch of quarters and they all came out nice and shiny. They then decided to go to a nearby store in Hammond, Indiana for soda and candy and when it came time to pay for their purchases; they decided to use their new lead quarters which the store owner accepted. They also used their new quarters at a few other local stores over the next couple of weeks. All went well with Jean and his gang of friends and their lead quarters until one evening at their family dinner Jean's Dad read out loud a newspaper article about a rash of counterfeit quarters throughout downtown Hammond and the treasury department was called in to investigate.

So, Jean and his friends had quite the adventure. Me, I never tried to counterfeit quarters, I just made my lead soldiers but Jean's story of his adventures with lead reminded me of my own lead experiences. Plus, I had baked potatoes for dinner tonight.