Our Odyssey: Life Before the I.P.M.S. By Bill Engar
I bored easily with my indestructible toys from Playskool and Fisher Price that had safely rounded edges, non-toxic paint, and parts that couldn’t easily be swallowed. Dick’s room was full of irresistible gadgets with all kinds of jagged edges, hazardous chemicals, dangerous voltages, and legions of tiny parts just begging to be inhaled. I felt like a tomb raider when I had the opportunity to sneak into his room and rifle through his treasures!
Everyone else also seems to recollect that one of the first words I learned to say was “Shock.”
Later, Dick’s growing assortment of plastic models garnered the gun sights of my fleeting but determined attention span. My unauthorized, early hands-on encounters with modeling emphasized more unintentional disassembly than anything else, and the net result was a sturdy new doorknob on Dick’s room with an expensive lock that simply could not be picked. Perhaps my fascination with his modeling was also part of the inspiration behind Dick’s hanging of his aircraft models way out of my reach from the acoustical-tile ceiling. By the time I attained conscious thought, his collection contained dozens of mostly 1/72 scale aircraft from World War II to (then) modern 1960’s era. First-run subjects from Airfix, Revell, Monogram, Lindberg, Hawk, and Aurora plied the skies and jockeyed for diminishing airspace in his basement stratosphere.
I shared a bedroom upstairs with my sister who was a few years older than me. One weekend when I was about five years old, she invited some friends for a sleepover, which displaced me at bedtime. It made me excited but a little nervous when informed that I would be sleeping downstairs for the first time in the extra twin bed in Dick’s room.
Our basement was dark and scary! The old furnace made weird noises! There were hairy spiders and, I was certain, bigger monsters unseen that lurked in the shadows of the closets and under the beds. Only Super-Humans like Dick ever slept down there and lived to tell about it. I don’t remember specifically what I said, but Dick understood my anxiety. He thought for a moment, and then hopped on a chair underneath his brand-new Revell YF-12A Interceptor model. The kit of the then-cutting edge jet must have just been released, and was the pride of his fleet. He removed the radome and pointed to the radar dish underneath. He informed me that it was a death ray that would shoot any monsters dead that came into the room, and that it always helped him sleep a lot better since it worked so well.
His explanation was sufficient, for I slept soundly, knowing that a 1/72 scale Revell YF-12A model was keeping vigil, or that at least a big brother who was maybe a just a little less than a giant or a god would protect me from any evils real or imagined that night.
It was a great day when I finally received a model of my own—a 1/48 scale plank-wing F-84. I think it was a Hawk kit. Dick helped me for a while until he became a little frustrated with my fumbling fingers, and then finished the model for me. Just a few of the other joint projects we worked on in subsequent years included a 1/25 scale 1969 Corvette, a Revell set of 1/72 WWII fighters, and Revell’s big 1/48 scale Apollo spacecraft.
I dragged Dick to a meeting, and he has been a permanent club fixture ever since. He jumped right into competition, and gave me the encouragement I needed to take that sometimes intimidating first step into the competitive world of local model contests.
I had known about IPMS/USA for a long time, and hoped that some day I could feel that I was a good enough modeler to actually participate in the national contest, and maybe even win an award. About a month before the 1995 Nationals in Albuquerque, Dick asked me if I wanted to go with him! Agreeing to do so was another big leap of faith for me, so I quickly joined up and finished a couple models for that contest. Both of us were surprised and pleased to bring home some awards, and had an enjoyable road trip together in the process. Since then, we have made it a yearly tradition to visit the Nationals or a nearby regional contest, and have formed many new friendships with some great modelers around the country.
My reason for mentioning all this is that by ourselves, neither of us could have progressed to our present skill level and enjoyment of the hobby of scale modeling. It is said that scale modeling is a solitary activity, but that’s certainly not a requirement. Whether it’s a brother, sister, parent, or child, or a good friend—scale modeling is always better when experienced with somebody else who shares a love for the hobby.
Once in awhile as Dick and I travel around to various contests, people marvel that two brothers from the same family could be so infected with the scale modeling bug. I’ve never given it much thought, and we’re not unique by any means. Perhaps I might have had the same love for aviation and modeling without the influence of a brother with the same passions. I guess there’s no way to know for sure. One thing is certain—I am a better modeler because of my big brother. I am proud to say that when we compete together in the same category at model contests, I can beat him about half the time! Perhaps I don’t view him in quite the same terms as I did when I was a toddler. Maybe he is just a little less than a giant, or some kind of god. But not much less.