Merry May Month of May's Personal Histories
By Scott Kruize
The way we've all been on the move since childhood, it's unlikely any of us model now with friends we had Way Back Then. So my last batch of 'Six Questions' sought personal histories from fellow NorthWest Scale Modelers, our club at the Museum of Flight here in Seattle, I. Within a few days, seven responded. My Questions, and their Answers, are compiled here...indicating a lot of shared experience, without our knowing that at the time. How about you, Readers...do you relate to these responses and reminiscences?
Six Questions for May, this year, was different: no right answers, only YOUR answers...and mine. Seven of our friends-and-relations responded, starting with Terry Moore ('The Professor') who said ''Good questions Scott!" and set the stage for revealing the innermost secrets of modeling obsession!
I started by asking: >>What was your 1st model kit? and >>Can you remember early tools, glue, paint? (That you wouldn't now touch?)
T.M.: The first model kit kit I remember was actually a toy rocket that I had to send 25 cents and a cereal box top for. It was a multistage, spring loaded missile with a launch rail. It had stickers but was only molded in white. I had to run next door to Klett's general store in Stanwood where my grandparents lived, for a bottle of Testor's red paint for the launch rail. The first real model I remember was the Revell 72nd scale Me-109. Then there were the inexpensive Hawk kits.
Russell Bucy: My first model kit was Monogram's box scale (close to 1/33) Jeep and 37mm Gun, given to me by my Sister and Brother-in-law in 1959 when I was six. My Brother-in-law was a Doctor, who practiced his "suturing skills" by rigging Revell and Aurora sailing ship and 1/48 WWI biplane models. I still have that Jeep and Gun kit from 1959 in the original box, although it's a bit worse for wear with gobs of Pactra glue and Testors paint.
Morgan Girling: The first model that I built all by myself? I've no memory of that. The first model I remember building (with my dad) was the Airfix HMS Victorious aircraft carrier in 1:400 scale. Brush-painted gloss Humbrol enamels – green for the deck, too-dark grey for the hull and too-bright red below the waterline. The little capsules of glue that came with the kit, engineered to splurch their contents on your hands. Even if it worked as intended, there was never enough to actually build the model, so after a couple of parts it was a trip back to the hobby shop (quelle horror!) to buy a tube of glue.
John Newcome: As I recall, I built my first model in 1966. It was an AMT model of "My Mother the Car" [Boy, there's a Culturally Significant TV show!! -SHK] Then I proceeded to build some Lindberg car models that came with a kit to build a small electric motor. I even managed to get one of the electric motors to run for short time.
I remember as a 6-year old I was desperate to paint one of my latest car creations but didn't have any paint. I tried to paint my model with some of my mom's nail polish. Needless to say, this experiment was not a success.
Tony Zyskowski: My first actual model was a snaptite kit of Bigfoot the Monster Truck. I was only 7 but BOY OH BOY that was a bad kit. I never built another until I met John Newcome at Renton Tech. He was my Accounting instructor (for those who didn't know) and we would spend our time out of class talking models and planes. At the end of my Finals I got a 'B' (supposedly; tee-hee): if I got better then a 'C' we would build a model in his office. The one I consider my first model that really got me into building was a Hobby Boss P-51 D Mustang. Pardon the long story.
[R.B. commented: Tony, That's a great story, and many kudos to John Newcome for using his hobby and combining model building with education. My wife is a retired professional educator (over 40 years as an elementary school teacher). But it wasn't until 1998 when she started asking me to build models for her classroom that I realized it was a "shareable" hobby. After that, many kids asked how it was done, and she'd give away models as incentives. I helped several students and their parents with model building experiences. If more educators would introduce others to the hobby, it would be great.]
T.Z. continues: I remember getting some tools from my late Grandpa Hill. He gave me his old double action air brush. And compressor. As well as some of his hand built tools which I do use from time to time. But I worry about breaking them so I don't use them much. He also left me his models in his will. But unfortunately I think I'm going to have to toss them. They are so stained and contaminated with Nicotine as he was a extremely heavy smoker. I do get to keep a couple cause they were kept in his shop.
Ken Murphy: My first kit was a reward for caddying for my Dad. In payment, he let me buy something from the hobby section of the store he managed. I was immediately drawn to the dramatic box art of the Aurora FW-190. I also got some tube glue and Testors black and silver enamel paints and one of those crappy black plastic brushes. I don't recall what I used to clip off parts, but I'm sure I did not have an X-Acto knife.
Don Frye: It was in elementary school but I am not sure if it was the Snark Missile or a four-engine Constellation with the radar domes on top and bottom of the fuselage. I used razor blades although most parts were simply twisted off the sprues and used way too much of the tube cement. I still seem to have the adhesives philosophy of "if more is better, too much is just right". I eventually got an X-Acto knife that I stabbed myself with. That required a trip to the hospital out of caution.
ME: way, way, WAY Back, I got plastic kits I had no hope of building, so I basically watched my father put them together. He was no modeler, by any means, but I remember a Sikorsky helicopter, Monogram's Wright Flyer - which never did get completed, but that I built afresh in modern times - and Revell's box-scale Grumman F9F Cougar, which I still preserve. My own first model, that I built myself, unassisted, was Monogram's box-scale B-58 Hustler, with its astounding 'Weapons Pod Release!' feature. With its help, in my imagination all those dreaded Red-Menace Commies got blown up a jillion times, until I finally broke the release tab mechanism. This model, also, I built anew in modern times... In fact, the first time I went to an IPMS Contest-&-Show, and ventured into the dealer room, the very first table of the very first dealer had this kit. I wasn't Enlightened enough at the time to realize the goddess Styrenia was Intervening in the Affairs of a Mere Mortal Man...me!
>>What set you off on starting this hobby of modeling? Someone's example, being impressed by a modeling-related gift, perhaps a lust for a 1-to-1 scale vehicle (tank, plane, car) that you had no hope back then of actually obtaining...so modeling it was the next best thing?
T.M.: I think my dad got me started as he could carve an airplane out of scrap wood or whatever he had lying about. He also had all his sketches of airplanes that he brought home from his time in the Second Great Unpleasantness( I wish I still had them). One of the first models we built together was a Beech Bonanza. I remember him drilling out the prop and pinning it so it would turn. And it carried on from there...
R.B.: My brother-in-law set me up for modeling—every birthday, he'd provide a kit of an airplane, ship or vehicle if some sort. Thereafter, my Dad picked up on it and we built a 1/12 scale ITC "mechanized" Dusenburg. This led to a long string of model kits purchased every month at the local A&H Drugstore, with the $1 monthly allowance I'd get from my parents, and two bits contributed by my grandmother for mowing her lawn. You could buy five 29-cent kits for that money in those days, mostly Hawk and Lindberg. (For the record, I also walked three miles "one way" to school carrying a Cello if anyone doubts I could live on my allowance ;).
M.G.: What set me off down this particular garden path? Guests over for dinner. Lovely people but, well, they were adults and after dinner, they and my folks started talking about boring adult things, so I excused myself. I ended up on my parent's bed where the ritual opening of the new model kit had been so rudely interrupted by the arrival of our guests. It was the Revell Tugboat kit and between being jostled in shipping and us clipping a few parts before dinner, there were a lot of loose parts. I carefully dry-fit the deck to the hull, and with a little help, a few of the superstructure liberated themselves. I had most of the superstructure added when, sensing that "things were too quiet," dad stepped into the room. "You did that," he asked, pointing to 'his' model? "Yes," I gulped, sensing the music shifting to a minor key. "Humph, well done," or words to that effect and left the room. (He then spent the rest of my childhood trying to convince me to go outside and play instead of building models.)
J.N.: I started modeling with my neighbor in 1966. He liked cars, so that is what I built. My dad got me interested in aircraft when he purchased a Sterling® Models Stearman. It was the biggest airplane model I had ever seen as it was designed as a control-line model with a glow engine.
T.Z.: I've always loved airplanes. When I was 5 years old my mom told me a story of when I had to go to physical therapy in the Renton School District which meant going to Thompson Preschool. They did pool therapy there in 98 degree water. I started crying and screaming for my mom. (No, I really don't remember this at all. But I totally believe it.) My bus driver was told by my mom that if this were to happen she was to point out airplanes and I would calm right down. Which she did and I did as well. But it was building that Mustang in JohnN's office after my Finals that really bit me hard. I've been doing it since. When I can, at least. From moving and 'real life' I can't really get my work shop set up.
K.M.: I was always interested in planes. I would draw them in the margins of my school notebooks but it was the artwork on the box tops of those kits that fired my imagination and compelled me to want to build them.
D.F.: I remember friends in school building some and it quickly became an allowance eating hobby. For years I was all over the map, building planes, ships, cars and tanks. Also started collecting ROCO® MiniTanks®. I settled on cars in my teens and still have a large number of parts and kits I am selling off. Amazing what someone will pay for an old Johan® kit on eBay.
ME: To say 'I was always interested in planes' is to grossly understate the matter. I never cared a fig about cars, trucks, boats, or even spaceships... Whereas just on the edge of my youngest memories, long before I went to Kindergarten, I carried around with me - always! - one of two molded plastic jet fighter planes...perhaps a Grumman Tiger and North American Super Sabre...
>>What's your 'specialization'? Of course, some of us don't have an actual specialization, and instead model all over the place: cars, aircraft, ships, armored fighting vehicles, fantasy figurines, real space vehicles, and those from Hollywood movies
T.M.: I specialize in B-17s, captured aircraft and aircraft in unusual markings (for example, all 5 of my Me-109s are NOT in Luftwaffe markings). I have very few models in squadron or unit service. Time frame for my aircraft interests are early '30s to late '50s subjects. I like one-offs and experimental aircraft. Then there are those Indy cars from the mid-50s to the mid-60s... [Let Readers be aware that Terry is the only fellow member I know who's dabbled in racing hydroplane boats. - SHK]
R.B.: I build about everything, except fantasy stuff. But I also appreciate all others modeling efforts. Lately I've focused on 1/32 WWI aircraft, 1/72 aircraft, or 1/35 vehicles. I have a few 1/700 ships. I'm really interested in "Yellow Wings" and 'tween the wars aircraft, sea and floatplanes, a few iconic armored vehicles from WWII, and US towed artillery from WW1 to the "Atomic Age". [Does that include the United States Army's atomic cannon? Whenever I see pictures of this 'brilliant' concept – shooting an atomic bomb at the Red Army right over there - my mind once again boggles about how weird we were during the Cold War... - SHK] And I've painted quite a few 1:16 figures in my time.
M.G.: Specialization? Next question please, though I do have a penchant for building teeny-tiny things. [HAH! What about 'Weirdness' as a specialization? Who ELSE do we know that pivots effortlessly from scratch-built steam-powered heavy field artillery from the Franco-Prussian War of 1898 (!)...to the Spice-prospecting orthithopter (!) deployed on the planet Dune... with WORKING electrically-articulated wings?! - SHK]
J.N.: My primary modeling interest is Golden Age and biplane aircraft from 1903 - 1940. I also like sailing ship models as well. I built Revell's 1/96 scale USS Constitution, Revell's 1/96 Thermopylae and Aurora's Whaling ship Wanderer.
T.Z.: My specialization is World War II to modern fighters and bombers with a side order of tanks from the same eras.
K.M.: I've always focused mainly on planes, but even in my formative years, I modeled tanks, sailing ships, and Aurora Medieval Knight figures. These days I still build mostly aircraft, but still the occasional tank, car, or figure. I have yet to build a ship, but I have a couple in the stash.
D.F.: After my divorce my modeling went into hibernation because I was living with other guys in a single room. Also partying way too much. When I finally got my own place the few 1/72 tanks and soft-skins took center stage because of their small size and low cost. I limited my scope to World War II and the European/African theater. I try to give equal opportunity to German, British, Russian and American projects.
ME: Continuing my interests from Way Back When: my current collection is overwhelmingly World War II fighters in 1/48 scale. Those allow me to pay attention to historically accurate details. By now, you all know that I also build flying models, where the emphasis is on what I can handle with my limited piloting skills...so they don't have any elaborate, time-consuming detail work likely to be utterly ruined in the next flight! And from time to time, I at least attempt something out of my usual rut.
>>What possessed you to join the NWSM? (Presume you didn't get conscripted at gunpoint, or went into the wrong classroom on some Free Thursday by mistake...)
T.M.: I was never possessed or coerced into joining NWSM. [HAH! So you claim! The Readership here knows this towering personality was once the Seattle Chapter of the I.P.M.S. Prez-4-Life! Happenstance...alignment of Houses of Zodiacal symbology...mere coincidence? HAH! - SHK]
R.B.: WHO HOODWINKED ME INTO NWSM? Jim Schubert tricked me into NWSM. I met him at Skyway Models in 2006, shortly after I retired from the Army. I was building a 1/72 commission model of a Handley Page HP42. Jim took pity on my efforts, and undertook the challenge of coaching me through the process. Finding it easier to lead a mule to water, he pawned me off on NWSM. I am in awe of the range of modeling skill present in NWSM, and that's why I enjoy the group.
M.G.: I don't recall, but I think it was Stephen Tontoni who got me to NWSM. I missed most meetings for a long time as it conflicted with another club I belonged to. [Skeptics about an 'Afterlife' nevertheless must admit that late great colleagues of ours - two of whom are named above - still make their presence felt and influence our modeling activities and devotion. - SHK]
J.N.: I discovered NWSM quite by accident. I used to sit outside the door and listen to the meetings. I was afraid to go into the room because I thought my models were crap compared to what the group was building. The first time I went onto the room after the meeting was over when Terry was building his "Psychedelic Monster" B-25. I felt I was way out of my league but it motivated me to improve and try new things.
T.Z.: Once again. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of JohnN ha ha. He told me about NWSM and how you all are extremely helpful and willing to give tips and pointers. Of which is 100% accurate. And I thank all of you for that.
K.M.: Oh, I was possessed all right – I was conscripted at gunpoint to a meeting by the very Author of this article! [Give me strength, for Heaven's sake! I shouldn't have to reprint outrageously slanderous nonsense like this in my own posting! Now, it's true that I've accumulated a few Nerf guns, from my various trips to garage sales and thrift centers...but I only have them because the dreaded Robinson brothers tend to show up in my yard at any moment, weilding their own arsenals. So my modest collection includes the handy Nerf Rival Knockout XX-100 Blaster, a matched pair of the rather larger N-Strike Maverick REV-6 Revolvers, the intimidating Alpha Strike submachinegun, and just in case all three Robinson brothers show up at once, the Strongarm Elite N-Strike large-magazine-capacity assaulter. But really, now: pressed - under oath - Ken would have to admit truthfully only that he knew I had them...not that I actually held him prisoner with any of them as we went to his first NWSM meeting! Let's not promulgate 'Fake News' on social media! - SHK]
Even though I had recently returned to the hobby after a 30-year hiatus, I was apprehensive about being seen as someone engaging in such a childish pursuit. I was quickly disabused of that notion. I was blown away by the quality, artistry, and sophistication of the models on display and by the friendly openness and hospitality of the group.
D.F.: I picked up a flier at the model show in the Museum and showed up at one meeting in the winter of 2020. After that meetings were canceled. (I don't think it was something I did but still not sure.) I am sure I will return when meetings resume because - as the Borg are fond of saying - 'Resistance is futile!'
ME: That was Emil Minerich of Skyway Models. I bought a couple of classical (read: ancient) kits from him, and after a couple of visits, he told me about the IPMS and NWSM. In my ignorance, I made some self-deprecating remark about not being a good plastic model builder, but he cut me off: 'YOU actually BUILD kits you get!' I gathered he was happiest about customers actually building his offerings...as opposed to lots of others who buy kits but then merely talk about the great modeling they're going to do...some day.
>>From Back Then, have you ever had a thrill, ego boost, special recognition moment related to this hobby? That is: impressing your elementary school class at Show-&-Tell...winning a ribbon at the county fair, impressing your uncle with a model representing his wartime service?
T.M.: I did win a ribbon at the county fair once. Oh yes, I built a model of my dad's WWII GMC truck, complete with everything he added, including the name for his truck - Miss Evergreen.
R.B.: MY MODELING CROWNING GLORY: I once built over 50 aircraft models for display ranging from the Wright Flyer to the Space Shuttle for my wife's music classroom who's theme was "Where Music Takes Flight". (It had a 20 ft. ceiling, making it an ideal display space). Most of these models were later auctioned to support parent volunteers and deserving students. I also painted 15 1/16 miniatures in historical Army Uniforms to be used as place markers for a dinner honoring the Army Chief of Staff. The modeling achievement I'm most proud of was being asked to take part in Newport RI's "Art and Artists of Newport, where several of my painted 1/16 miniature works were displayed (turns out I wasn't the only modeler there, as another figure modeler was also asked to display his work, the two of us making a nice representation of the art of the miniature figure painter for the town of Newport RI.)
M.G.: Recently at work at one of those affinity group virtual meetings. We had several new members, so the leader asked everyone to give their names, where they worked in the company and tell something interesting about themselves. When it was my turn, I said that I built scale models and held up some of the pioneer aircraft I'd been working on for the 'Women in Aviation' display. [We NorthWest Scale Modelers do quarterly special displays for the Museum of Flight and Morgan is an active Producer of them. That particular display goes up in June. Catch it if you can come to Seattle in the next couple of months! - SHK] It happened that the VP of the research division was attending that day and it became a rapid series of questions about the hobby, how long it took to make a model, and had I thought of doing a model of our moon lander for the display. When I said that it was on my build list but that my research materials were restricted to screen shots of the videos we'd published, he offered access to materials, and could I help them with finding and selecting a manufacturer for display models. (I fear we sort of hijacked the meeting.)
J.N.: When I was in third grade I took one of my car models to a Show-and-Tell. Another kid in the class also brought a car model he had built. One of my classmates told me that I didn't get as much glue on the windows as the other model and that the wheels on my car actually went around.
K.M.: Back then I had no association with anyone who modeled until I met Scott, so my special recognition was exchanging kudos about each other's builds. [Since I met him, back in 7th grade, the times I've least been able to stand Ken Murphy is when he's being modest. He should've said here that he TWICE won Revell's model sweepstakes, in the late 60s! That's boxes – piles! - of model kits, way beyond our most extreme dreams of avarice Back Then...HE won, I DIDN'T! - SHK]
D.F.: I won some kind of certificate when I entered some of my car models in the Hobby Hall of the Puyallup Fair in the late '60s. I don't remember seeing many models at all the last time I went to the Hobby Hall.
ME: Many 6th grade classmates had been at my birthday party in 5th grade, and knew since then I'd assembled plastic model kits. They told our teacher, Mrs. Durkee, that I should build and paint the Pyro® Model Human Heart for our science lesson... such fame amidst the Multitude!
>> Is there any other leisure-time activity that competes for your modeling time? I mean some other hobby: not your Happy Homeowner chores or your Domestic Bliss-ful family life...some specific leisure activity you choose to indulge in, that competes with your hobby modeling time?
T.M.: My sole outside activity is playing baseball in the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League. I've been in the league since nearly its inception in 1989. I play first base and right field, I have been known to lay down a bunt and I actually hit a home run once, the day Randy Johnson was traded from the Mariners, July 31, 1998.
R.B.: THOU SHALT NOT HAVE OTHER HOBBIES BEFORE THIS: Nowadays, modeling is my single most involved hobby. I have some woodworking skills. I enjoy collecting modeling and other reference books, and have a good sized library. I dabble with a small "mint" stamp collection, but I don't do a lot of "active" stamp collecting anymore. I also do a bit of outdoor landscape gardening . I "used to be" an avid backpacker and runner (my first REI membership was #79). But age and infirmity limit my ability now. Even so, I have fond memories of long distance hikes along the Pacific Coast from Hoh Head to Neah Bay, Pikes Peak from the backside, various parts of the Pacific Crest trail, around Mt. Adams through the Mt. St Helens 'destruction zone' two years after the eruption, through Mauna Kea National Park, and the southern edge of The DMZ in Korea. I also did a fair amount of walking through the jungles of Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands looking for WWII chemical weapons. Today, I consider myself lucky to be able to hike the eleven steps to my basement.
M.G.: Reading, but only as the cats allow.
J.N.: I also like to collect and use antique woodworking tools. May of my tools are over 100 years old. I haven't been able to much woodworking since my son has started working on 1:1 cars. He has two cars in our garage, a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix and a 1978 Volvo wagon that he installed a Chevrolet LS V-8 into. My workbench is now covered with car parts.
K.M.: It used to be kayaking, hiking, and sports, now it is more watching sports and too much TV and YouTube. For actual activities, I hang with my granddaughter and I take dance lessons with my wife, though it has been a long time since we could actually go to a dance!
D.F.: I have a '72 Chevy pickup that I have good intentions of cleaning up and teaching myself some simple body work and welding skills... Time will tell.
ME: Since Way Back Then, my devotion to modeling has been split. If I go too long without putting bits of plastic together and painting accurately, I get distressed and am impelled to start doing so again. Contrariwise, I absolutely must 'butcher balsa' from time to time, and take the results out to the flying field. That will have to do as justification for when, at our Zoom sessions, you see me doing exceedingly odd things with exceedingly large model aircraft...
>>BONUS: It's been a while since we established that consensus: our work areas always occupy more-or-less one square foot of clear space. May we see what your work area looks like, as you work at it?
Ken M writes: Here is my disaster area of a workbench. I would say my "clear space" is closer to one square inch. But I hope to soon finish the 'Tony' you see in the left corner, then I'll clean up this mess.
Messy or not, we're fond of our workbenches where we indulge our favorite hobby. Each of us described here - and all of you - should continue to
Build What You Want, The Way You Want To... And Above All, Have Fun!