Not for the first time recently I have been feeling nostalgic. Well, truth be told, I still am so I decided to do something about it, after all, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be! That something turned out to be writing my Modelling Memoirs.
So firstly, why the title – “This is Me!”? Well a very recent and popular film musical by the name of “The Greatest Showman” features a rather poignant song entitled “This Is Me” and by a remarkable coincidence the first letter of each of those three words spells TIM! Clever huh, and to think some of you probably think this shit is just randomly thrown together! Then I thought, why not also incorporate a couple of photos of yours truly through the ages to either cement or shatter IRO’S image (and anybody else’s for that matter) of what I look like with my pipe, bedroom slippers and beige cardigan, so I have!
Now without further ado let me explain why I decided to jot this stuff down.
When I essentially retired 11 years ago one of the projects I got involved in was doing my Family Tree. A great thing to do and something I shall pick up on again when my eyesight and ability to hold a brush steady finally get the better of me. The reason I make mention to my family tree project is that when I was doing it I kept asking one question more than any other – “why?”.
Why did they move? Why did they die? Why did they live there? Why did they do that job? You get the idea I’m sure. So many unanswerable questions but nobody asked, nobody was told and nobody wrote anything down (mainly because they couldn’t write of course!). I guess it could also be argued that nobody cared either. But when you do care it is frustrating to say the least. So, in the unlikely event that my kids ever wonder why and how I ever got into modelling I thought I’d write this so that they would know.
So as Julie Andrews (who?) might sing – “Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start …”
The Foundation Years – 1957 to 1969
Me in 1963 aged 6, butter wouldn’t melt …
As best I can recall toys of the late 50s and early 60s were for my older brother and I dominated by Matchbox (cars), Dinky (cars), Britain’s (figures), Airfix (figures and kits) and Hornby (trains). We weren’t heavily into cars and trains so the Britains and Airfix catalogues were the main focus of our attention. To be even more specific, we were into all things Wild West.
Star Wars which changed everything was light years away. The playground, TV listings and the cinema were dominated by Westerns and we loved them. TV was black and white but you could always tell the bad guy because he wore a black hat while the good guy wore a white one. Our heroes were John Wayne, Alan Ladd, Gary Cooper and Robert Mitchum along with countless others. We had cowboy hats to wear, guns that fired caps to shoot and could do what we liked all day as long as we were back by the time it got dark (usually earlier on the longer summer days because we were hungry and when a mans gotta eat a mans gotta eat!). Everything we read was about the Wild West. In short we were both fixated on the period and fell hook line and sinker for the legends and Hollywood myths. Nothing has changed, we are still besotted but just show it in different ways.
Indoor play centred around our collection of figures. We had little in the way of lead soldiers but had loads of Airfix 1/72nd figures and Britain’s Swoppets. The Airfix figures and the Swoppets were very different but little did I know at the time that both would prove to be major influences in my years to come as a modeller.
The 1/72nd Airfix figures probably require very little explanation, partly because you can still buy them to this day exactly as they were all those years ago except for the packaging (I suspect production techniques may have changed too). The figures were wide-ranging but the various sets included cowboys, indians, pioneers and the American Civil War. My brother and I called them “Little Men” and it was on these figures that I cut my teeth painting. Armed with a poor quality brush and a small selection of Humbro enamel paints I would spend wet days painting away and then later sitting back and admiring how I’d managed to turn a brand new plastic figure into a muddy gloss coloured one!
Swoppets on the other hand probably do require further explanation and rightly so because I think but cannot be certain that they had a major influence on some aspects of future figure development, in particular multi-pose and the concept of conversions. They are probably best explained with the use of a few pictures.
The photo above is of four 54mm Swoppets as they would have been bought. They could be purchased individually or in sets. There were only ever two series of figures for the cowboys and one series for the indians. Each series consisted of six foot figures and six mounted figures. The bodies for the foot and mounted figures were the same. The first series cowboys hit the streets in the 1950’s so these little chaps are almost 70 years old.
The photo below shows how the Swoppets came apart. You could even remove guns from holsters!
The next photo shows how the figures can be rebuilt to creat a new one from swopping the parts (hence why they were called Swoppets).
Now I’m no mathematician but I’m guessing that if you had all 24 cowboys and all twelve indians you could make up a fair few combinations. My brother and I had them all.
Having introduced the world to Swoppets (they also did some WW2 soldiers too) Britains expanded the range to include buildings. They brought out a jail, saloon, livery stable, ranch house and a bank which meant we could create even better setups.
So, between painting 1/72nd figures and creating setups using Swoppets the foundations were laid for my eventual passion to paint and create vignettes and dioramas as well as making my own buildings. This unknown passion was to lay dormant for many years.
The non-modelling years – 1970 – 1984?
Me in 1974, just left school to start work, age 17
As I entered my teens and young adult life so my childhood was consigned to the past. Toys were packed away and put in the loft or even worse, as was the case with my Swoppets, they were given away! (Thanks to Ebay I’ve since bought them all again!).
To old to play life became dominated by football (soccer), girls and drinking (to be honest it was a fun time!). Work then followed along with meeting she who must be obeyed and in 1982 I got married. Nothing was happening whatsoever on the modelling front until a fateful day in 1988 which was to change my world.
… (To be continued in Part 2).