The late, great Marx Toys – Part III

In the final installment of my journey down toy-memory lane, I’m going to talk about my most favorite toy of all time: the Carry-All Cape Kennedy Action Playset by Marx.

Marx created a lot of playsets. These collections of figures, buildings, and accessories included dozens (or even hundreds) of pieces that provided countless hours of unstructured gameplay. Based on history (the Revolutionary War, the wild west) or TV (Gunsmoke, The Untouchables), the reasonably-priced, all-inclusive sets were the objects of desire of every kid on the block.

And while all the playsets were cool, nothing beat the innovative design of the Carry-All playsets. Instead of a boring old cardboard box, these sets came in a metal case that unfolded into a theme-appropriate diorama. It was a briefcase for kids, but filled with fun instead of work. 

Marx sold several different Carry-All playsets, including Fighting Knights, Fort Apache, and a Boot Camp. Essentially, any scenario with a fence or wall became an ideal candidate for the portable Carry-All format.

I was, and still am, obsessed with space so (no surprise) I loved the Cape Kennedy version the most. Packed with a gantry, rockets, missiles, and a helicopter, we could simply unfold the case and turn on the fun.

Putting the word “action” in the title was brilliance. The rocket launchers used springs, but nothing else in the play set used motors or batteries. We created our own action with our imaginations and hands. For hours on end. 

And the best part? When mom called me for dinner for the third (ok, maybe fourth) time, I could quickly fold Cape Kennedy up and be downstairs before the mac and cheese got cold.

Every Marx playset created engaging, imaginative worlds — a core part of their universal appeal. A nine-year-old has little control over their environment, so being able to create and manage an entire ecosystem was a big part of the attraction. I could be astronaut, flight director, and capcom — simultaneously. I was the master of my launch center domain.

The same idea applies today with online games like Microsoft’s Minecraft. The ability to create, manipulate, and even destroy and rebuild a virtual world appeals to anyone who feels like they don’t have control over their real world. It’s a modern take on the Carry-All concept. Certainly not as portable, but just as engaging.

Sadly, my Carry-All Cape Kennedy Action Play Set is long gone, but the hours I spent world building are burned in my psyche. And, of course, there’s always eBay.

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