Skip to comments.Scale models..
Posted on 05/30/2006 9:20:53 PM PDT by pickrell
The box contained magic. Oh, it didn't say that; rather, it said things like,"1/32nd Scale", "A Revell Kit", and had words like "Flying Fortress" emblazoned fearlessly across the top. Pictures of dreadful and desparate combat over Berlin warned the faint of heart that they were passing through friendly lines, across the no-man's land of imagination, and entering into ... the Free-flight Zone.
Believe me- the box contained magic. Lovingly peeling off the cellophane, my friends and I paused to savor the treasures within. We were seldom disappointed. Inside were hundreds of pre-formed plastic parts, which, under the tender ministrations of us 11 year old airframe and powerplant experts would soon come together into a frightful projection of unstoppable airpower, sure to stave off the Nazis, in time for a lunch of Spaghetti-O's.
This is because we were underpriveleged youth of the 1960's. Unlike today's upper-middle class boys, who open birthday gifts of preassembled plastic toys designed to prevent unnecessary, tragic, and gender-biased martial tendencies from developing, we delinquents were shamefully allowed to lust after war-birds.
Born of unnurturing parents, those of us lucky enough snared kits consisting of hundreds of parts, some quite small enough to swallow, or poke into our eyes... were we bone-stupid enough to do so. For the truly indigent, even a mere 19 cents would purchase a 1/64th scale plane of nearly 80 parts! The world was our unprotected oyster!
A tube of airplane glue- the tendons and connective tissue of the polystyrene world- would solemnly be produced by one of the gang as his contribution to the war effort. And the symphony would begin. Sages among us would educate the neophytes about keeping the glue from getting smeared onto the outside. As parts were skillfully detached from the plastic frame, we declaimed upon the secrets of assembly. The diagram provided by the manufacturer- (obviously for wussies far less skilled than us)- was disdainfully cast aside, as theories were propounded about what each part did... or could be made to do.
It never occurred to us that the tube of glue formed a ticking time bomb waiting to lure us into the lurid world of reefer-madness.
We would have snorted at the need for drugs- we were in the land of imagination. Parts fit into other parts, certain of them necessarily cemented forever into a fixed position, while the Committee for the Freely Turning Propellor presented it's final recommendations. Several of the props were too-liberally glued to the little spindle jobbies, as they passed through the cowling bearings; the extraneous glue serving as a mute and eternal testimony of left-wing rotational failure. Our self esteem was hammer by flak, but didn't shatter as we simply redoubled our care on the right wing.
The masterpiece emerged as the ideal bomber, suitable for flying in counterclockwise circles to throw off the cursed Nip fighters. (We were mechanics, not geographers...)
Over the summer, the idea that things were made up of smaller things, and that each part had it's necessary and vital function to perform for the overall good of the whole, seeped into our understanding of The Way Things Worked. It became obvious that Things Worked... only when sufficient care and sufficient talent went into their assembly. Thought had previously occurred by those mysterious craftsmen who designed these marvelous models in the first place. Obviously demi-gods of engineering.
The consensus agreed that, with a serious enough study of parts- a serious enough guy could probably learn how anything worked! Heady stuff.
As we talked, we propped up each other's morale, knowing that the fight against communism, floridation of our water, and other formidable challenges lay ahead. We spoke of fathers and uncles, real (and in a few cases imagined), who were "seldom owed so much, by so many... and collected it so few times". We may have got a lot of it wrong, but the idea that men actually flew in these things, you know, like, for real, daring death and dismemberment to stand against monsters... caused each of us to think. And then to think some more.
What would we have to do, when we grew up, ... to earn our place in their eyes? It was a time when you believed that all of those women, and many men also, back here at home worked feverishly to rivet and solder, to paint and test, the best weapons we could give those tall men. The occasional dirty Nazi spy was soon outed, and the G-Men took him out.
It was back when heroes were supported. It was back before disillusionment crushed us. A time of honor, when fathers were revered, and tragically, sometimes lost.
Today, a child is protected from the agonized inability to assemble his toys from parts. Esteem is as carefully monitored as the verboten choking hazard. Liberal eyes would roll in their heads at the very thought of a loaded tube of glue without a child-proof safety catch. Plastic army men were permanently and utterly routed from the field by the non-judgemental, indeterminantly-sexual, plastic play characters of today. They are certified free of environmental contaminants like testosterone, thank heavens.
So as not to provoke excruciating puzzlement, the imagination-stimulating 'Mr. Teacher Play Toy, (suitable for all ages)", is packaged in cellophane to facilitate close inspection by parent-advocacy groups. This guards against painful, psyche-debilitating surprise on the part of Timmy.
So why does Timmy seem to need regular doses of Ritalin?
Tell you what. Let's try putting the magic back in Timmy's life. Let's lead him to the precipice of assembly-required failure, and the tragic lessons learned therefrom at his tender age. As proof of our inspired viciousness, let's introduce him to the world of cause and effect, of the understanding that bigs things are influenced by little things and that he CAN understand why things work.
In a final act of barbarity, let's allow him to imagine himself the kind of boy that risks it all, to protect the folks back home. He can use the now painfully hazardous, old-fashioned safety pin to fasten on the towel-of-great-powers, and fly to the rescue of, (brace yourself- here it comes-), helpless damsels of the female girlness, sort of thing.
Let's throw caution to the winds, put the magic back into his life... and just risk it.
Where the hell do you think Marines come from, anyway?
This is excellent.
I've always enjoyed your writing.
I think one of the reasons that engineering enrollments have collapsed is that kids don't make things anymore.
I got horribly dizzy, nauseous and head achy from doping the wing of an airplane model in 1966. Later, I found out that some people actually liked this feeling. Go figure. I spent hundreds of hours gluing-up and painting models, mostly cars, in the 60's. I even placed third in an Ed "Big Daddy" Roth contest. My winning saying was: "Do unto other Rat Finks before they do unto you!"
Timmy picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.
Thanks. Despite the diminutive size (wingspan less than the length of a dollar bill), the cockpit features seat harnesses with buckles, full instrument panel, rudder pedals, etc.
I have marines in training. Great article.
I still think all the Testers glue fumes did me well! :)
Wonderful piece about a time when boys were actually allowed to be boys. Model kits were great, and some of us - destined in future to become particularly regressed examples of outdated gender stereotypes - even played war with our models, a handfull of toy soldiers, and cherry bombs, blowing up everything in sight in messy fashion before rushing off to the woods to play soldier.
Nothing in human nature has changed, but now that it's all culturally prohibited and politically incorrect, kids have to be furtive about it. Funny that the "do your own thing" generation became the "do my thing my way or else" generation.
Reminds me of the joke about the little girl at Christmas who's waiting in line to see Santa. When it's her turn, she climbs up on Santa's lap and Santa asks, "What would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas, little girl?"
The little girl replies, "I want a Barbie and a GI Joe."
Santa looks at the little girl for a moment and says, "I thought Barbie comes with Ken."
"No," returns the little girl. "She comes with GI Joe; she fakes it with Ken."
Seems there's a message in there somewhere; kids learn to fake it so young these days. Not to mention everything else they learn so young. What happened to innocence and childhood?
I have a neat video of an F-14A Tomcat model that flies. Trouble is I don't know how to paste it into a response.
As someone who grew-up during the cold war, my models whacked many a commie (Eat hot death, commie scum! Fox one, missile away!). Then, I built tanks and bombers with Lego and defended the free world from a wide assortment of foes. Those were the days, when boys dreamed of being strong, capable men - the hero in every struggle.
Like it was yesterday. Before long I was mainlining Guillow's kits. I think I built all of those. 6 hours a day in the shop. Since leaving the Nav, I've gotten the itch to build again, this time 1/1 scale.
um, i confess to having snatched a couple of Wildcats and Zeros off ebay last month. I am anxiously awaiting some freetime to escape back to those days of modelmaking. I even got the original Revell flying deuces series. with the F4F and A6M boxart that I remember, as about an 8 yr old, thinking was so cool. I confess. I confess!
Great attention to detail. My dad made airplane models when I was a kid, and he was the same way...attention to detail. I remember him having a paint brush with one bristle to paint the control panels.
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