Sometimes I get the rare chance to get in a time machine, and go way, way back, to a simpler time in my life. A time with few worries. A time spent building models and playing with toy soldiers. I took one of those trips tonight.
I had won an auction on Ebay for an unopened Monogram Patton Tank. The very same kit I’d built when I was 11 or 12, back in ’78 or so. Opening the shipping box was like greeting an old friend. I hadn’t thought about this kit in years, and it was only a recent foray into armor modeling that even got me thinking about it. Yet here it was, just as I’d remembered it.
I always loved the Monogram kits of the mid-70s. The ones in the white boxes with the photos of the built kits all over them. They just looked so cool. I remember cutting out the covers and pasting them in a notebook. I have no idea what happened to it. Lost like so many other things as “more important” stuff, some of which was, and some wasn’t, came along.
For you collectors out there, brace yourself. The box was in very good condition, still in the original shrink wrap. It was obvious whoever had this kit kept it well. After a deep breath, I opened the shrink wrap up.
Lifting the lid, I actually had a lump in my throat. Memories came flooding back. The hours I spent in the storage area of our carport, my very own modeling area. How wonderful it was, at the mature age of 12, to have my very own space, a place to retreat to. I had a stool to sit on, a modeling desk, shelves…. I could spend hours and hours and hours in it. And I did. I sweated in it. I froze in it. When the rain poured I closed the door. I was bit by mosquitoes and hounded by flies. One day I was chased out by a hornet.
But I modeled and modeled and modeled.
As I lifted the parts out fo the box, I could see it all. And though I thank the Lord for everything I have, and all of His blessings, I thank Him for memories too. The kind, especially, that were brought out holding a chunk of plastic.
The box says it’s 1/35th scale, but everything I’ve ever read says it was closer to 1/32. And it’s size is just bigger than what 35th scale seems to be. Still- who cares, really? Whatever scale, it was the monster of my battlefields. While Captain Thunderbolt and my trusty Dauntless ruled the skies, this Patton tank, and his brother-in-arms Sherman tank (the Monogram Hedgehog kit, which I will acquire, somehow), ruled the battlefield. They took on all comers, and vanquished all foes.
The kit also came with soldiers. The flame thrower guy, the grenade guy, the prone guy, and the others. I painted them all… simply, of course. I think I used a grand total of two colors- OD green and flesh.
My favorite was the tank commander, standing proudly in that oh-so-cool mini-turret on the top of the main turret. See, my dad had been an M48 commander in the Georgia National Guard. He told me stories about it, and even had pictures to prove it. And when my Patton tank rode into battle, conquering all before it, that was my dad, right up there, in charge. You did NOT want to mess with my dad and his Patton tank. He was bigger than a hero. He was my dad.
I love you Dad.
The box had other goodies. Two color brochures- one showing the Monogram armor kits. Another offering the Monogram catalog for the grand sum of $1.00. I remember mailing those in, stuffing in my very own $1 bill. Just holding those felt wonderful.
Finally, I got to the part that as a child simply fascinated me. In so many of the Monogram kits, there was a gem. A hidden treasure. A piece of paper, sometimes a pamphlet, that I would literally read and read, fold and unfold. I would study it, ponder it, and always, always be amazed by it. If you grew up in that time, you know what I am referring to.
Sheperd Paine’s “Tips on Building Dioramas”.
Honestly, I thought there could be no higher form of employment than to do what that Sheperd Paine guy did. There was no internet to refer to, no budget to buy books, no car to go to any shows (if there were any… I never knew…). My whole modeling world was me and a few friends and our simply built models made of tube glue and Testors paints. And then this modeling genius named Sheperd Paine. What a wonderful time it was, reading those brochures. If you ever read this- thanks Mr. Paine.
No, it’s not the Tamiya or Hasegawa or Eduard kit of today. The detail is simple, assembly is basic, and often the detail that is there is not exactly accurate. Panel lines are raised and there are some ejector pin marks and seams in odd places.
Yet I can sit here and stare at this kit next to me, as well as others like it I have built and yet to build, and tell you with no doubt in my mind, for me, there is nothing finer than an old Monogram kit.
It represents what made me fall in love with this hobby. A kit, built for fun, for the pure joy of gluing plastic together while chatting with friends (the real kind, face-to-face, remember that?), and when the glue was not even yet dry, hurrying off to the backyard with boxes full of soldiers and tanks and airplanes, and letting our imaginations run wild as we fought battles of long ago all over again.
Do yourself a favor, friends. Go buy an old kit, and build it. For fun. Don’t worry about the accuracy. Forget what the pundits on the websites say about scale inches and raised panel lines and fit and all of that stuff that gets tacked on as we get old and simply forget why we did it in the first place. We forget and we get on forums and we annoy everyone around us. So give it a break for a half day and build a kit for fun. We’ll hold your place in line to point out what’s wrong with the latest kits.
I suppose I could go on some more about it. But I’ve got an old friend to hang out with right now.
And I bet, somewhere, you do to.