When I was a kid my Dad and I built model airplanes, scale models the kind that didn’t fly but look pretty on your shelf until they got broken or so covered in dust that the decals began to peel off. This was the first place I ever used an airbrush and the first place I painted anything freehand, usually when I couldn’t find decals for a piece of nose art I wanted to copy. We also painted lead soldiers or “military miniature”, the progenitors of modern gaming figures. Both of these avocations fed both my creative needs and my love of history. They were also something Dad and I did together and that made them the best.
One of the best things was when on a weekend Dad and I would head out to the hobby shop to select our kits or figures. Model shops in those days were pretty common and the kits they sold were manufactured by companies driven by the market in the same way reality TV is driven these days. As a result of that there were endless variations of P-51 Mustangs and Me-109s. My personal favorite was the P-47 Thunderbolt, I guess for the same reasons I like Can Am cars, and I built more than my fair share of those.
As I started to get older though Dad started watching what I was building. After a while he started to ask me why I wanted to build the same thing over and over or why I wanted to build the same thing all my friends were building. There was no real prodding, if I insisted on build yet another Corsair, which I also built a lot of because my Mom had worked on those in the Marines, there was some teasing but I got the kit.
After awhile though I started to see what he meant. There were a lot of really interesting kits coming out then of odd planes. I developed an understanding of the Teutonic lines of unkers bombers and the flowing lines of pre-war carrier planes that were more aesthetic than deadly functional as all arcraft had to become durning the war years. I looked at the model with new eyes and in those times began to understand the diverse nature of design.
Additionally each kit was bought with a PROFILE publication, a little pamphlet with information on the plane in question, plan views and alternate paint schemes. I started to rely less on decals and more on my brush to do the paint jobs. I learned to be precise and historically accurate, two traits that served me well in the games industry.
Plastic modeling isn’t what it used to be and hobby shops are hard to find. Most of those are chain stores. The last hobby shop Dad and I went to was owned by Pat Patterson and was in Sacramento near McClellan AFB. Mr. Patterson lived in the back of his shop and had every issue of National Geographic published to date in a big case in his rooms, he showed them to Dad and I. Mr. Patterson also had a Tattoo of a propeller with the initials RFC next to it on his arm because he had been a fighter pilot in World War 1. I was one of his favorite customers and when Dad and I came into his shop he would show me what was new in the store and often, Dad later realized, he didn’t charge me for everything that went into the crisp white bag with HIGHLAND HOBBIES printed on it in Green. Dad and I stopped modeling after the shop closed for two weeks and then we found out from his sone that Mr. Patterson had passed away. I did a little more modeling but I was going up and girls entered the picture.
Nick and I didn’t build models together but for a short time we painted game figures together but we enjoyed while we did. I never told him but I always felt like there were three of us there, huddled around the dining room table with our brushes in our hands.