We’ve told you before about Cliff Arquette, but how much do you really know about him? He was better known as Charley Weaver, “the wild old man from Mount Idy,” whose ad-lib sense of humor could “beat the fastest gun alive,” according to Jack Parr. After Jack made him a regular on The Tonight Show, Cliff almost never appeared in public, except as Charley. The character sent audiences into uproarious laughter with his “letters from Mamma,” featuring the latest small town news from Mount Idy. They were the 50s equivalent of The Onion. He was later a recurring guest on the original Hollywood Squares, where he was a master of quick one-liner responses, like in the following exchange:
Question: Should you train your very young children on the piano?
Weaver: No, try newspapers.
A lot of people don’t realize that he was a Civil War buff or that he founded the Charley Weaver Museum of the Civil War in Gettysburg, which is now the Soldiers National Museum. He even played the role of General Courage on the series F Troop. But his greatest artistic contribution to Civil War history was the series of hand-carved soldiers that he crafted. They represent a quarter century’s worth of research and labor, all done by Cliff himself, from hewing the pine to gluing the beads onto their caps.
Remarkably, Cliff relied on dentists’ instruments to shape and model his figures. It accounts for the fine level of detail you’ll observe. For hair and beards, he molded plastic wood into the proper shapes and, with wire and plastic, he gave them adjustable hands and arms. Cliff strove for authenticity in every aspect of his creations, so he researched uniforms, rifles, muskets, and accessories before attempting them. Hammerlocks and trigger plates he molded himself, at a fraction of the size of the real thing (¼ inch!). It’s truly an incredible display of talent.
Plan your trip to visit the Soldiers’ National Museum today, and check out the new gift shop items while you’re there!