A Journey Back in Time

As I sit here at the workbench among the tools, rattlecans and a half-completed ’57 Chevy, I can’t help but think back to where this journey started.

It was during the April school holidays in 1967 (can it possibly be so long ago?). The “Summer of Love” was about to kick off – not that we knew about it! What we did know was that the Vietnam War was raging in the Far East, Jimi Hendrix had just recorded “Purple Haze”, the Chevy Camaro had recently broken cover in the USA and mini-skirts were getting shorter by the hour (which was quite an important occurrence for a young schoolboy).

Anyway, it was a Friday and a junior school tyke races his Raleigh bicycle down to Brenners in Beaconsfield, clutching 25c in his grubby little hand, wondering what fresh jewels await him on the Airfix display. It is still ten minutes before opening time as I peer through the dusty windows to see if I can spot anything in their toy section. All I can see is saucepans, rolls of material and the floor manager handing out linen bank bags containing the “float” for the day’s trading.

Eventually old Mr Brenner himself opens the front doors and I make sure that I am the first one in. I make a dash for the toy counter, where Miss Dorothy is still transferring her float to the cash register. The Airfix display is like a magnet. Ah, what a selection! Gloster Gladiators, Hurricanes, BF109s, Lysanders – and only just enough money for one!

After much deliberation, the selection is made – the Me262! The deal is done and the cash is handed over. Then it is back home as fast as possible. Out comes the tube glue, Dad’s dark green Duco that he used to fix the dent in Uncle Chris’ Mini and a brush from my little brother’s water-colour set.

By lunchtime, the miniature masterpiece is proudly sitting in Mom’s display case, squeezed in between my Grandma’s floral teacup and my Dad’s William Harvey Medal that he received for donating fifty pints of blood. The little jet has a fogged canopy, silvered decals, wheels pointing in three different directions and a shinier paintjob than the neighbours’ brand new Vauxhall Cresta! But in my eyes it is by far the most precious jewel in the display case!

Then the agony of waiting for next Friday – and the next pocket money instalment. When the wait became unbearable, extra cash was generated by selling herb beer bottles, washing the car or (if really desperate) mowing the lawn.

Soon the aircraft collection became boring and it was time to step up to … cars! The Airfix 1:32 range looked so tempting, so I took the plunge and invested in a Lotus Cortina. It came out real nice in white with a green stripe and the chrome done in that aluminium fence paint that never seemed to dry properly. However, the standard wheels looked real weedy and definitely did not suit the image of the car. As luck would have it, the Cortina was procured in the same week that Dad had bought us a second hand Scalextric set. So, out with the tools, bin the Ferrari GTO body and soon the Cortina was roaring around the little figure-8 track, sporting the wildest set of wheels imaginable!

Then something happened that advanced my modelling endeavours to a whole new level. For Christmas, I was given a 1:24 Monogram Bugatti Type 35 by my rich uncle. It had been purchased at Popes (in the middle of town, where all the well-off kids shopped). It was my first model that was larger than 1:32 scale and it was my first model that actually came in a box and not in a plastic bag!

What extravagance! I had to prolong this modeling experience as much as possible, so I cleaned the mould marks, puttied the seams and I waited for the paint to dry before assembly. For the ultimate realism, I painted over the chrome parts with silver paint to replicate the brushed aluminium finish of the real car.

After that, there was no going back! Instead of one Airfix kit per week, I cycled up to town once a month to treat myself to a Monogram or Aurora model. They were all built with loving care – mainly cars, but also the occasional movie monster or medieval knight.

It is now nearly five decades on and all those models are gone – victims of cupboard cleanouts, careless feather dusters and the occasional malicious little brother. Of course, the sudden awaking of the senses to rock music, girls and motorcycles meant that the dwindling reserve of built models was not being replenished!

Sometimes, I wish that I could go back to those times … to peer through toy shop windows, to feel the anticipation of a new kit, to smell the tube glue and model paint, and surround myself with all the little gems on my bedroom floor. But our minds have a strange way of filtering out the bad experiences and enhancing the good memories!

So I fear that, if I could go back to the late Sixties, all I will discover is how absolutely dreadful my building skills really were back then! So it’s probably better to stop reminiscing about the good old days and rather to concentrate on getting that ’57 Chevy done in time for the SANNL!

Until next time …

Get the job done!

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