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.
Brings back pleasant memories.
Well, film negatives of instrument faces combined with etched brass instrument panels do help. Also, cast resin detail parts help add to the realism of many a model.
And that damned Cherry-scented 'Ross Sniff-Proof Glue' was the first salvo in the war to feminize boys.
I told him that one of the reasons why guys build rockets, or planes, or catapults, or whatever, is because there is a real thrill in seeing something you build with your own hands and your own imagination actually do what it's supposed to, be it fly, shoot, or pick up tv signals. Nowadays it's cheaper to simply buy a tv; I don't know if heathkit is still in business. But the thrill of it, the smell of the solder, the pause before you plug it in: will it or won't it make lots of sparks and blow all the fuses? Those were the days....
I have spent as much as half an hour painting one instrument face. I can take a couple of weeks for me to paint a 1/35 scale soldier (partly because oil paints take time to cure).
I really like the distinctive camo job on the 51. You got one of those Junkers with the "snake" camo jobs? Talk about labor-intensive!
35 years after I built my last plastic model airplane, a friend with a convention/party service company contracted me to assemble a dozen helicopters for a display. The price was right so I built them.
And I loved it!
I also discovered my hidden airbrush talent. :-)
Great read, good memories.
Thanks. That was thanks to careful masking and delicate airbrush technique. I chose that pattern because it is a rather unusual camo pattern.
Wonder how it would fare against the SU-22 Fitter.
Funny that you should mention the Fitter - I am working on a Su-17M4 and a Su-22UM3K.
Seriously, that control panel work looks like museum quality. Nice job.
Yeah... we grew up during the same period. I keep this little list around to remind myself what it was like (and because no one will believe me when I mention it):
I was born before Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees, and the pill. There weren't things like laser beams, pantyhose, or air conditioners, and man hadn't walked on the moon.
Men and women got married first, then lived together. Every family had a father and a mother, and most kids over fourteen had rifle that their dads had taught them how to use and respect.
Until the sixties, I called every man older than I was "Sir." Especially policemen and any man with a title.
In that era, closets were for clothes not for "coming out of."
Sundays were set aside for going to church as a family, helping those in need, and just visiting with your neighbors.
We were before gay rights, computer dating, dual careers, day-care centers, and group therapy. Our lives were governed by the Ten Commandments, good judgment and common sense.
We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong, and to stand up and take responsibility for our actions.
Serving your country was a privilege and living here was a bigger privilege.
We thought fast food was what you ate during Lent.
Draft dodgers were people who closed the front door when the evening breeze started, and time sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and on weekends not a reference to condominiums, which didn't exist.
We'd never heard of FM radio, tape decks, CDs, artificial hearts, word processors, yoghurt, or guys wearing earrings.
If you saw anything with "Made in Japan" on it, it was junk.
The term "making out" referred to how you did on your school exams.
Grass was mowed, Coke was a cold drink, pot was something your mother cooked in, and aids was a term used to refer to helpers in the principal's office.
A chip meant a piece of wood, hardware was found in a hardware store, and software wasn't even a word.
Any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him, or use him to carry groceries, and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it.
Girls neither dated nor kissed until high school, if then.
A quarter was a decent allowance, and another quarter a bonus. You'd reach into a muddy gutter for a penny.
There were two types of sneakers for girls and boys (Keds and PF Flyers) and the only time you wore them at school was for gym.
You got your windshield cleaned, your oil checked, and your gas pumped, without asking, for free, every time.
Laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes, or towels hidden inside the box.
And we were the last generation that was so dumb as to think you needed a husband to have a baby.
Kinda strange to think of it now, huh?
Thanks! The F-15C is one of my 1/48 scale projects. This is what I do for fun and relaxation (aside from visits to the firing range). I guess that I should show some of my ships and tanks. Gotta go to bed. 'Night all.
So I gotta put this link up, Model kits for everyone from the kid to the serious scale modeller
I built my share of B-24s and Spitfires and Zeros. My pride and joy was a 1/24 Stuka, with huge wing-mounted antitank cannon. Eventually, I graduated to model rockets, but I kept the model planes for a long, long time. I had a huge kit to make a Cutty Sark model, but never did get around to it, too much painting and other preparation....
I'm not talking about comparisons of beauty or complexity or in scale accuracy or in attention to detail. No, in all those areas the American models were superior to the Japanese, IMHO. But what really stood out as the big difference for me were the motors and the gear boxes and the AA batteries and the lights and the switches. The Japanese models actually DID something! The American models just sat on the shelves and looked pretty.
Thought I haven't seen them in 48 years now, I can still picture those tiny dark blue Japanese model motors with the red and blue wire leads and the tiny brass gear on the shaft. When I built a cable car, it didn't just sit on the shelf showing off its paint job. It had gears and wheels that moved, and I ran string from the top of my bunkbed across the room and down to a floor lamp and when I switched it on, my newly assembled toy climbed up a 30 degree slope.
When I built a submarine, the backplanes and frontplanes actually steered the thing up and down underwater in the bathtub.
I built little motorized tank models with rubber treads and moving turrets with spring loaded gun barrels that shot plastic ordinance at card houses. Better yet was building forts out of cards, with toy soldiers on top, and then setting the tank to crawl across the room on its own and take down the fort. When it was time to move to the States and I couldn't take my tank models with me, I stuffed as many firecrackers into them as I could and started them off on their last battle run across the back patio, to blow up midway.
The ship models all had propellers that turned. The really big ones (that my family could never afford) had motorized gun turrets as well as props, and lights all over the place as well. My older brother used to visit a friend whose parents had money, and he and his friend would build huge ship models and then blow them up with firecrackers in their fishpond in mock naval battles. What a waste! (But what fun.)
And no, I never once put "Cemedine" in a bag and sniffed it. That's what bad kids did. Besides, they barely gave you enough in those little yellow tubes with the bright red caps to complete a model.
Ahh, those were the days!
I'd had X-Plane simulator for a bit, and when I found an SU-22 fitter model to download for it, I found I was a couple months too late as the link was deader than Tsar Nicholas..
An interesting aircraft to be sure, a scrap between it and the Lightning would have been interesting.
(Also, the T-4/SU-100 would have been interesting to see... but it was the 'answer' to the XB-70..)
Built my share and then some as a kid.
Still put em together occasionally today.
And now I fly a few myself as a private pilot.
Working on a studio scale X-wing from Star Wars at this very moment.
I had so many models; tanks, armored cars, planes of every country (but Italy!), Army men, etc, that I turned my bedroom into a huge diarama.
I ruined several of my moms forks heating them up to melt bullet and flak holes into the sides of B17's and Aircobras. Alas, because I was never one to do the minute details, I had no patience to paint the dash panels of a Hawker Hurricane and FW190 when they had to be in battle so quickly after construction!
Most of my models met untimely deaths in the ferocious battles and firefights in my backyard. OK, all of them did!
Good read! Didn't assemble models back in the 60's, didn't have the patience. After I turned 30, I started learning patience and have built a few model planes/jets.
Exactly. While not exactly a latch key kid, when I was young my Mom was registered nurse and was often helping older family members and my dad worked long hours so many times I was on my own or with neighbors.
THose hours were spent building models or reading (admittedly lots of comic books as well as traditional print).
The skill I learned in model building have been oen of the greatest assets I've retained from my younger days. The one that comes to mind first is what to do when you screw something up. If I inadvertantly broke a spare or miscut a plastic part from a tree I learned to work around it.
That ability is valuable in just about every aspect of anything you do. In news writing if I don't have the exact info for a story...I write around it. Use only what I have to turn out as good and accurate a story as possible.
The models fired immaginations...taught me about cars and planes and boats and planes. Remember the "Big T" model T series? The visible V8 and the Visible chassis? WIldlife models? Dioramas? And of course the Visible Man and Visible Woman.
AMT, Revell, Monogram, Lindberg, MPC, Sterling, Estes, Cox, and countless other companies were huge parts of my learning years. I think that is where my real, usable education came from.
Great article, can't wait to pass it along to my kids later today. Thanks!
My model making days are so ancient,I had to cut pieces of balsa wood to make plane frames and then cover them with a filmy paper to be doped and painted---of course some of these could have a rubber band to wind up for the prop spin and really did fly---ah, the good old days
Rat Fink model!
And you usually asked either for "$2 worth" or "Fill 'er up." If you asked for "Fill 'er up" you got change back from a $5 bill.
I built aircraft and car models in the 60s, Now I have been writing and illustrating repair manuals for our most modern aircraft. It was a learning experience that served me well.
Here's one to drool over... saving up my milk money for this one:
Canopy removed for pics.