Bob Letterman

<< Back to Home Page

The Golden Years Model Museum Part 4

April 26th, 2017 by admin
Chapter Four
Part Ten
The Last Chapter.

225. Yet two more of Don’s creations. VLS-Man was a superhero Don created that came to earth to ensure that modelers always had cool kits to build! The one with the Cheerleader is dedicated to Susan, but, if you want to know the story, you’ll have to visit the museum! He had a lewd sense of humor! :-) Don passed away in his 80s some time ago.

226. This steam tractor was donated to the museum by Robert L. Meyers, the father of Andy Meyers, a Mastercon regular and a fantastic modeler!. Andy’s dad attended several master cons with Andy. He was a great guy and seemed to really enjoy the shows each year. One year, Andy talked him into bringing one of his own models and enter the competition. It took some talking but Robert finally agreed! He won a gold medal and was so shocked!. Robert passed away recently in his 90s. I know how close Andy was to his father and my condolences go out to him. He was a father to be proud of Andy!

Originally, on this post, I had mistakenly identified this model as one built by my partner Ralph Koebbeman, (in the museum). Ralph had built one of the same kit and I assumed it was his. Getting senile folks! Ralph owned a collection worth more than $3 million dollars worth of models, not just our kind, but he had several craftsmen in Europe and even Russia building miniature rifles, pistols and cannons. They were all functional. He had a cannon with full caisson and horses made from sterling silver. He had .45 automatics with clips of bullets that fired just like the real thing that were the size of a quarter. He had hundreds of things like that. He also owned all the best examples of Lewis Pruneau’s dioramas. He owned all of Shep Paine’s shadowboxes and so much more. After 4 years of bickering, he bought my first diorama, The Winds of War. I’ve regretted it since, but the money he offered was an offer I couldn’t refuse on a cop’s salary. After that, I never sold another one. Back in 1987, at the RHCTA show in Chicago, a representative from Metro Goldwyn Mayer offered me a sum of money for Legacies II that I still wonder if I was crazy to turn it down! Ralph died in 2010 at the age of 98 and to this day, nobody knows for certain where all those models and dioramas are.

227. Gold and Silver medals from Mastercon. They are ones we had left over. I didn’t allow employees, (Including myself), of VLS to compete in the Mastercons, much to the chagrin of several! The Dairy Queen Truck in the background was a Snap-tite kit in 1/32nd scale. Somebody gave it to me and I built it as one of the many for the Nationals in Phoenix, 1993. Such a simple kit, I felt guilty when it took first in it’s category.

227a. The owner of CRM Hobbies, Chris Merseal, My Doberman, Southern Star, me, Ken Jones and Chris Mrosko. Taken in 2008

227c. One of the 57 books published by Letterman Publications, Panzer Tactics, in English and German, 2001. A book on Chris Mrosko’s models.

227d. Chris Mrosko’s Super Bee Dodge truck w/Hemi, 1999.

228. Now this photo has a story. I was contacted many years ago in the early nineties by Phillip Mallard from New York. . He told me the story of his grandfather who entered a competition hosted by Fisher Body, a division of General Motors back in the day. They held an annual competition for young wannabe designers and the winner was hired to work in their design division creating the latest styles of car bodies and experimental designs. That was a tradition that endured for years. His grandfather built this coach from scratch out of wood in the early 20s. You can see a photograph of the grandfather and the boy who inherited it. He is now in his 50s and lives in, I believe, the Borough of Manhattan. It has been in the museum for 26 years. He originally sent it to me in the mail to be displayed in the museum. When I got it, it was in a hundred pieces. It took me two weeks to rebuild it. It still belongs to him, but I refuse to mail it back as I don’t want the responsibility. We still stay in contact via email. Maybe someday he will come and get it. I hope so, I just won’t accept the responsibility of mailing it back to him. He isn’t a modeler and I know he could never rebuild it if it was returned in the condition I received it.

229. Another Don Kanaval piece. It is dedicated to my late partner, Ralph Koebbeman. All of these incredible jewels Don created came with an elaborate story. Don had an incredible mind.

230. More Streets of Laredo box art. I painted the box art for all the models for that line.

231. And another Don Kanaval diorama. This was a joke on me. It was made about the time that VP started releasing those 120mm tanks. As I was always building large dioramas to promote those releases, Don envisioned a release of 3 to1 scale tanks. The text bubbles say, “WE have to ship four of these to Letterman, he’s making a shadow box diorama”. Jef, meaning Jef Verswyvel, “Is sculpting figures, He’s over at Mount Rushmore”. And another saying, “Well there it is Francois, a 3 to 1 scale Jagdpanther.”

232. Horse apples was Kanaval’s first entry at the first Mastercon. It won a gold, Susan told him she loved it and he gave it to her! It’s a little jewel!

233. “Advance on The Rhine”. Richard Mitchell was a great modeler and consistent winner at Mastercon. He was retired army. He died in 2000. After he passed, we learned that he was a heavily decorated master sergeant in the Vietnam war. He was the recipient of the DSC, Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest Army decoration, second only to the Medal of Honor. Richard was a good friend and during all those years of Mastercon, he gave me many of his dioramas. More of his work to come.

234. More Custom Dio Box art,

235. This is a 120mm diorama, roughly two feet by two feet by Vietnamese modeler, Alex Buey. He came to Mastercon twice in the 90’s and won golds, then asked me to put them in the museum as he didn’t want to carry them back on the plane. Very nice work! They’re still here Alex, wherever you are.

236. This is a great piece. Gordon Stronach built the plane. You guys may remember Gordon as the man behind all the “Planet” websites. Planet Armor, Planet Figure, Planet diorama and Planet Aircraft. I am still on Planet armor, after it has changed owners four times, I’m not sure if the others are still around. Anyway, Gordon worked as a pattern maker for years at VLS. He gave it to Lewis to place in a diorama, Lewis put it in water and added the details and this was the result! I’m very proud of this one!

237. Another team effort by some “greats”. This diorama was built by Lewis Pruneau, The 1/16th scale M-113 built by Verlinden, and the elephant built by Joe Porter, a former VLS art department manager. They gave the models to Lewis who added the base and figures.

238. Ditto.

239. A 1/48th F-14 Tomcat by John Bowery, a longtime member of Modelers Alliance, who has switched from aircraft to figure painting and has amazed everybody with his talent! The F-100 Super saber is by none other than Francois Verlinden from way back in the 1970s.

239a. John Bowery, Susan and me. taken on a visit back in 2010.

239b. John Married up as many of us did. Here is an old photo of them back in the day! Maureen was simply beautiful!

240. A Verlinden F-100 super sabre, and a German Ju-388 airplane by Alan Griffith. Alan is a guy from Cedar Rapids Iowa I met back in the early 80s. His specialty was aircraft, but, vacuum formed aircraft. To those of you who haven’t built a vacuum formed aircraft, you don’t know what you’re missing! Alan was always easy to spot. At 6; 10” and 350 pounds, I could spot him a mile away! Note the business card. It is from 1982 when I started VLS. It was originally known as WarWinds Militaria and Hobby Limited. :-)

241. Various VP aircraft accessories built and painted by Pruneau!.

241a. A visit to Pruneau’s. This was taken in 1996. From left to right. Wes Bradley, My doberman Warlock, me, Wes’ wife, Kay, Benny, an employee from Belgium who came over with Verlinden when they moved to help out. And, of course, Lewis! Susan’s Yorkie, Cagney is at the bottom!

241b. The Verlindens, Lewis and Susan in front of my corvette, 1984.

241c. Lewis and Wes playing around in the Plaster building room.

241d. Lewis in the plaster room, doing his imitation of Hitler! 1984.

241e. Me and Lewis, 2009.

241f. Lewis and me at a Mickey-Ds in 2011.

241g. Lewis and a girl friend heading on a VLS company trip to Las Vegas, 1989.

242. Some of my business cards over the years. Then, if you look closely, I had pins made by the thousands of VLS and it’s top two manufacturings companies, Warriors and Custom Dioramics.

243. Davis Harper was a guy I had known for some years when I hired him in 1999 out of Portland Oregon to head up the VLS art department. Over the years, Dave and his buddy, Bill Chilstrom, a professional figure sculptor, Susan and i became close friends. Dave and Bill came to the house every tuesday night for dinner and whatever the best new release DVD was at Blockbusters. They travelled with us in our second and third motorhomes as far away as the west coast. Dave should have been a comedian, he kept us in stitches all those years on the trips. He was one of those people who was naturally funny. Dave designed most all of the artwork for VLS including not only the new logo for VLS, but all the 15 manufacturing companies under the VLS corporate umbrella. A photo of D-Man.

243a. My talented and very funny friend and co-worker, David Harper!

243b. Bill Chilstrom, Dave harper and MA’s own Mr. T., Terry Barrow, 2009. In Kansas City at Jack Stacks Barbecue. Awesome barbecue place!

243c. Dave at our outdoor table on the patio, Jack Stack’s.

243d. Dave Harper at Eaglequest, 2008. He went to Dallas with VLS and other employees when we sold to MMD. We went down to enjoy the show.

243e. Just a tiny bit of Dave’s artwork!

243f. After the split, we moved into the new building and I asked Dave to clean up an aerial shot of the new building and use it in our catalog and newsletters. I didn’t see it until it came from the print shop. He had added his designed VLS Logo to one half the roof and a Belgian flag with a slash through it on the other. They had already been shipped to customers so there was no changing it. Dave loved to do things like that! :-)Nobody either noticed or didn’t get the point, but we never heard anything about it!

243g. Dave, while he was undergoing chemotherapy for multiple cancers. The last photo I have of him. His hair actually grew back in before he died.

243h. Bill Chilstrom, Dave Harper’s buddy and a fantastic figure sculptor. This was taken at the new Marine Museum at Quantico, Virginia, when it was being laid out. Dave and Bill built several dioramas and worked as advisors on the project.

244. More Box art, a Tamiya bottle opener, a pin from the Euromilitaire and a matchbook from one of our favorite restaurants in St. Louis

245. Box art plus a check stub for one of the articles in Fine Scale Modeler. Not much, but, what the hell? Right? In the back, a one of a kind kit, at least in America. The Korean company Seil who made figures and VLS was their American distributor, created something they thought would be a great seller for the American market. They sent me that as a sample, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as they were because I knew Disney was a fierce enforcer of copyright and I told them so. They were unimpressed and sent us 400 of the figures. Customs seized the shipment in Seattle and they were never produced again. On the left is a VLS men’s watch and a Mastercon 12 sticker.

246. A 1/16th scale Verlinden resin Tiger I ausf E. Wes Bradley built this one for display at trade fairs. I painted and weathered it in a big hurry! :-(On the left, you will see a pin with a VLS and a slash through it. When Verlinden Productions began producing update kits for aircraft and armor kits, (The very first to do so), some modelers weren’t happy. The guys who took all the trophies at shows in particular. They said it wasn’t fair, that average modelers could then equal all their work just by buying an update set. This was in 1984. I attended the Chicago figure show and somebody was passing those out! It was a first and last time thing! I kept one for memories. I never knew who had those made? Next to that is a Honorary membership to a Houston IPMS club. Over the years I have been sent a lot of honorary memberships. I kept them all!

247. Yep, another Box Art model. This one is special to me because it was the very first box art I ever built and painted for Custom Dioramics shortly after I bought the company from two Canadian partners. While partners with Verlinden, he always painted the box art with only a couple of exceptions. Now that task fell to me after we split. This was the very first Custom Dioramics New release after we bought the company. Below is an ancient VLS employee name tag. When we went to shows around the country, I had bought gray blazers for the crews that went, usually 8 to 10 per show. Then they wore their own black trousers or slacks if female, white dress shirts and I supplied the maroon ties. The name tags clipped into the blazer pockets.

248. A medieval diorama by Lewis Pruneau. In 120mm scale. Verlinden knights, all else scratched. Immediately in front of it is a roll of shipping tape from VP when they were in Belgium!

249. This is another of the three “Superdiorama” Kits I designed for that series. The base was a marine styrofoam casting and the buildings were plaster. It came with all the resin accessories. This was the Box Art. They were essentially a “Diorama in a box”.

250. Another vacuum formed German Blohm and Voss BV 222 Flying Boat in 1/72nd scale built by Alan Griffith

251. This one is a mystery. When we closed the commercial location of the Museum in St. Charles, we had more than a hundred models and dioramas on loan. We called the owners and had them pick up their work. This was the single one we never could figure out. No idea who built/owned it. The closing there was 15 years ago, so I will probably never know? It was probably a local builder as it used the St. Louis McDonnell-Douglas markings!

252. This was built by William Konn of Chicago. This tractor-trailer unit with the Israeli modified British tank required a lot of research and work. Built in 1/25th scale. Bill was a close friend of Jim Stephens and a frequent competitor at Mastercons.

252a. A photo of Bill Konn (Left) being presented an award by Tony Eads, VLS’ Sales manager at Mastercon 14.

252b. Another photo of Tony Eads at a party in my family room way back in 1985. From left to right, Mickey Eschevarria, a buddy of mine, Tony, Kyle Mullin, Our computer programmer and Mike Rudolph, a nine year old neighborhood kid that mowed our lawn way back in 1971, who we sort of became his second family. He came from a troubled home and his mother was happy to let us take him places. We are still in touch to this day.

252c. In 2008, we had a VLS reunion in my backyard. Here you see Tony on the left and Chuck Stuckenburg on the right. I hired both out of high school. Both went on to become very successful in life I am very proud of them both!

252d. A close up of Chuck!

252e. Herb Rigg. Many will recognize Herb as the bus driver at Mastercons. Herb worked for VLS for many years after retiring from the post office. Herb and I are still good friends and keep in touch. Herb was so well liked, the Mastercon members voted him the recipient of the Gil Godfrey award! Our great personality award!

252f. Tammy Tucker. Tammy worked in the warehouse for many years. Always cheerful and happy, she was great to work with. She also moved to Springfield a year or so earlier than Susan and I.

252g. Steve Hoard. Steve started in the warehouse, then worked his way up to the art department and eventually took David Harper’s place when Dave went to Texas. Steve and I became friends and after VLS moved to Texas and i retired, him and Wes helped me set up the museum in the building I had built in back of our house. He is still a Facebook friend of Susan’s. Many will remember Steve from the Mastercons.

252h. One of the original employees of VLS was Don Wardlaw. Don was our original art guy. He created all the original ads in the model magazines. He still lives in St. Louis. I last ran into him at CRM hobby shop about two years ago! this photo was taken in the very early days of VLS. Probably 1985. Damn, we both looked really young back then. Don was very tall, a couple of inches taller than Lewis Pruneau! To get an idea, I am 5 feet, eleven and a half inches tall.

252i. Nancy Hovanissian who worked in shipping and receiving for a long time. During that time, Chris Mrosko was moved to St. Louis after I purchased 70% of Warrior’s shares from John Rosengrandt. Chris retained his 30% of Warrior shares. Chris and Nancy fell in love and were married in the lobby of VLS by the Mastercon chaplain, Del Miller, in full uniform of a British para. (Del was into re-enacting)! It was a cool ceremony that everybody will remember! This is Nancy in Susan’s office.

252j. My messy office just before we retired in 2007.

252k. Of course, I can’t forget my better half of now more than 51 years. We have been through the wringer together. I can’t even remember when she wasn’t by my side! Susan Letterman.

252i. Two very historic photos, at least in my life! In July, 1984, I went to the Atlanta IPMS Nationals. VLS was tiny back then but we still had the largest number of vendor tables in the vendor room. That was where I met Verlinden and Jos Stok, (The “S” in VLS). We had plans to go to Europe the following week with Wes to locate some product lines we could import. They invited us to come to Belgium and we did. Stok invited us to dinner and we went. He was an amateur chef and very wealthy. He had in incredible kitchen built into this house that would rival any grand restaurant in Europe. He hired the great chefs of Europe to spend a week cooking at his house and teaching him. Unfortunately, Jos was fantastic at investing, but his cooking was, well… not so good. He also loved modeling but was terrible at that as well. These two photos were taken that night and was the very beginnings of what would become the VLS corporation. Left to right. Wes, Jos Stok, Susan with her back to the camera, Jos’ son, Lilliane and François Verlinden.

252j. Another photo, this time with me, (Looks like I was posing for something?) These photos bring back so many memories from so long ago. It seems like another lifetime.

252k. To prove how dedicated i have always been to the military, this was taken in 1943 when i was two years old. My mother was only 18. My father was the same age serving in the Pacific. I was born when they were both 16!

253. Various memorabilia. Verlinden model rifles. A photograph of the VLS crew at our booth at of the Trade fairs in Chicago. Left to right, Tom Gerringer, me and Herb Rigg. In front is an entrance tag to the Nuremberg Germany International Toy fair. The largest in the world!. Susan’s name tog when she was a member of the local chapter of the IPMS club and a tag from Mastercon 13.

254. One of the first resin 1/15th scale products from the 1980s. Our own Alex DeLeon had built a 1/16th scratch Nebelwerfer. It was featured in one of the Verlinden magazines. A Chinese company, Kirin, was competing with Verlinden resin products, bought the diorama from Alex, took it apart, made molds and began producing it. Not to be outdone, Verlinden had Jef Verswyvel build a master, produced and released one as well. This is the Verlinden kit..

255. An American flag flown at the American base, Danang, Vietnam. One of “Blinder’s” donations.

256. A ship diorama built by Dr. John Leyland. In my early days with IPMS, John and Loren Perry were fantastic ship builders. They worked in different scales, Loren was all large scale ships and John made the teeny tiny ones. Both always won the Judges Grand Awards at the IPMS Nationals in those days. One of the best ship modelers in the world, John scratch builds all his tiny dioramas and I have seen him do mid-world war carriers, using human hair for rigging and scratch building microscopic biplanes under the deck and you can see them through open portals. John Leyland and Loren Perry are the two best ship builders I have ever known! This Leyland model, USS Ward DD 139, shown here, fired the first shot in WW II near Pearl Harbor.

257. Another Superdiorama Kit designed by me for the series. I built and painted the box art, The Dragon Wagon and Sherman tank was built by Dan Clover of California, an old friend!

258. US Navy Petty Officer’s service cap. St; Louis Police ball cap.

259. A London Bobby’s service helmet. One year we took two couples to Europe and gave them the grand tour, we covered a lot of countries. In Paris, we didn’t have a lot of time, so I took them on a walking tour as they wanted to see all the famous places. It stretched from the Eiffel Tower all the way to Montmarte and the Sacre’ Coeur Basilica. As close as i can figure, we walked them close to 40 miles, (60km), that day. When we see them today, they always refer to it as “The Paris Death March”. One of the guys when we got to London, went somewhere on his own and came back with a London “Bobby’s” helmet. It was so cool! The next time we went, I walked into a Police Station, not only got my own helmet, but after showing them my badge, they offered to let me and Wes ride on patrol with them. During that 4 hour event, they got a call for an assault at a housing project. The dispatcher gave a description of the suspect and they asked Wes and i to wait in the car while they handled the call. While waiting, I saw the suspect, patted him down for weapons and arrested him. When they returned from the call, I had him in the backseat of the patrol car. Both of them freaked out! :-) True story!

260. A Paris France Gendarme’s Kepi. A Danish police casual cap in the background.

261 Tokyo, Japan Police service hat.

262. German Wehrmacht artillery officer’s peaked hat. (A replica).The Iron Cross is an original!

263. Belgian Police antique service hat.

264. Czech army service cap

265. A US army steel helmet from Vietnam. (From Blinder). Complete with the Marlboro pack, etc.

266. Russian Officer’s service hat. (1970-80s).

267. US Army Air Force cadet’s service cap, WW II.

268. Soviet Marine Officer’s hat

269. Czech army Pile cap 1980s.

270. Iraqi helmet, First Gulf war 1991.

271. Lots of police memorabilia, St. Louis in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. .38 Police Special revolvers, nightstick, “brass” knuckles, rights card, etc.

272. Police shoulder patches from around the world.

273. St. Louis Chief of Police gold badge. My partner of 15 years, Joe Mokwa, became the youngest Chief in St. Louis history. I broke him in well! :-) I retired many years before he made chief. He gave me a copy of his badge for my 70th birthday.

274. More police shoulder badges from around the world.

275. Complete Soviet Tanker’s Uniform including Infra-red gear.

276. Soviet pilot’s cap WW II. Various Soviet decorations, 1980s.

277. Periscope from a Soviet T-72 tank. Pile cap, Tanker’s head gear.

278. Georgie Patton. George Patton has been my hero since the 1950s. I believe I have read every book ever written about him, including his memoirs. I built the original Legacies diorama around him, and the current diorama I am building is about him as well! The American Flag flown at VLS headquarters 1985 to 2007.

279. US Tanker’s gas mask WW II, plus German military decorations.

280. A gold medallion, cast in commemoration of the Battle of trafalgar. A Euromilitaire stick pin, Both gifts of Ken Jones. A US Flight deck crewman’s head gear. Some German decorations.

281. A police service cap from the Netherlands. Behind that is a Belgian state police service hat. The girl on the left is artwork by Willy Peeters, the multi-talented artist from Verlinden Productions and later co-owner of KMC. (Kendall Model Company).

281a. Photo of Willy Peeters taken in 2005.Willy was the artist in the original Verlinden Productions company that created most of the printed products as well as the dry transfers and books. In 1995, Willy and Jef Verswyvel left Belgium and immigrated to America. Kendall, Florida to be precise. There they founded Kendall model company! Willy is currently a free lance designer and author.

281c. A photo of the other half of Kendall Model Company. Jef Verswyvel. VLS eventually brought out Kendall Model Company’s masters. They were re-released under two of the VLS production’s labels. Jef went on to found Black Box models, and an armor company, Combat Series. VLS carried both product lines! He is currently an executive with MMD/ Squadron and doubles as their in house master modeler.

282. US Army artillery service hat, WW II.

284. Hawaii State Police, (Five-O) ball cap! Two of the old Verlinden Aces II ejection seats.

285. US Navy Petty officer’s work cap, 1980s.

286. Schweig-Holstein, Germany State police service cap.

287. US army Field Grade Officer’s formal cap, Current.

288. US army peaked service hat 1940s.

289. M2 Bradley Tankers helmet and an East german helmet from the 11980s

290. US army enlisted peaked hat, 1940s.

292. Various US Hand grenades from WW II to current. 2 120mm Desert Storm army figures.

]

293. Back in 1983, we belonged to a local model car club in St. Louis. This was taken at an annual picnic. I can’t remember some, but on the far left is Susan, my wife, in the middle is Wes Bradley, acting like he is being hung from the tree, then Lewis Pruneau and my buddy Mickey Eschevarria, 34 years ago!

293a. Ditto. Wes, a car model trader named Steve Lovan. Steve bought out my entire model car collection, more than 500 models, for a tidy sum that allowed me more seed money to invest in the fledgeling Warwind’s Militaria and hobby, LTD, which would eventually come to be named The VLS Corporation. I haven’t heard from Steve in years! The guy on the right is John McGuire. He had a collection of some 10,000 kits back then!

293b. It was about the same time i was elected vice-president and Wes, President of our local chapter of IPMS. Here we are at an annual dinner. I chose a guest speaker a WW II veteran named Chester Klier. Chester had flown thirty missions over Europe with the 8th Air Force. He had written a book about his experiences. Flight crews in those days had only a 21% chance of surviving 30 missions. Susan, me, Wes and Chester. 1983.

293c. Fast forward ro 33 years later. Chester Klier came to our house in St. Louis to see the museum. Denny Klier, his son and former St. Louis County police helicopter pilot, drove him out. He was wheel chair bound and well into his 90s. It was New Year’s eve in 2013. He passed away later that year. He seemed to really enjoy himself at the museum. I think it brought back a lot of ancient memories!

294. A “Fake” M-16 rifle. It works, but only fires .22 long rifle ammunition.

295. Various items, a bayonet, a hand made Bowie knife and 20mm rounds, (Inert), from an M-2 Bradley main gun.

296. WW I relics. A WW I Helmet and campaign hat, a “Photogram” from WW I.

298. Various documents from WW I, plus an award, dog tags from the era, a service cap, some /50 Cal. ammo belt and a “Fake” Luger German pistol.

299. The smallest diorama I ever built. Souvenirs is a 120mm Scale diorama of German soldiers bartering with French and British souvenirs to a cavalry officer. During the move, this was totally destroyed. It was in at least a hundred pieces when it arrived. It all went back together and looks as good a new!

299a. Ditto.

300. A civil war diorama by Lewis Pruneau made in 1998. It featured mostly VP products in 120mm scale.

301. This lighted case was at the entrance of the Miniature World Museum in St. Charles.

I have enjoyed many years posting and reading posts with all the members here at modellersalliance.com! I hope to spend many more years doing the same! Here are some Photos and captions not necessarily in order of occurrence, but that I wanted to include before ending this story! Due to my antiquated computer skills, I had some help from Laurence Maftei, (White Wolf), and Bob Britt, (Moon Puppy), especially in posting the two videos that follow shortly! Thanks, all you guys for many, many hours of enjoyment!

301a. The diorama that started it all, “The Winds of War”. It was the original “Superdiorama”, that I built in the late 1970s. No aftermarket, barely any scale figures, I had never heard of a “wash” or “dry-brushing”. I used furniture antiquing stain and a wide brush with small amounts of paint to weather everything. There were 300 miniature grain of wheat bulbs throughout. I had no idea when building it that it was different in any way. When we carried it into the St. Louis Marriott convention hotel in July, 1982, (It took six men to carry it), I was shocked to realize that it was “larger” than the other dioramas in competition. This photo was taken by the Post Dispatch reporters for their newspaper and later, sent to me in a stack of photos they had taken. I was 42 in that photo, 34 years ago! It’s the only diorama I ever sold. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse by a collector that drove me crazy for 5 years before I finally gave in. ! If I had it all to do over again, I would never have sold it. The quality of the work in it is pretty bad compared to the state of the art today, but, for me, it has a significant historic and sentimental attachment. I have no idea where it is, the last I heard, it was in a town in northern Illinois, near Chicago.

301b. In 2005, Shep Paine called and told me I had been chosen to receive the Phillip Stearns award, an award for Lifetime achievement in the industry. Here is what Shep reads from from the engraving, on the video, but can be difficult to understand;

Few people achieve success in both the modeling and business sides of the hobby industry. Bob Letterman has gained great renown throughout the world, primarily for his super sized dioramas. His ambitions were no less lofty when he started VLS, one of the great success stories of the model industry. In his soft spoken way, he has touched the lives of modelers all over the world, and we are proud to honor him with this award.

The World Expo is a traveling convention and that year it happened to be in Boston, Massachusetts. There was so much going on at the time at VLS, there was no way I could make it. Chris Mrosko had already made preparations to attend and I asked him if he would accept the award for me and he agreed to.

Now, for a little background. Chris was a vice president of VLS at the time and Dave harper was in charge of the advertising and art department. Chris had came to VLS from the west coast when I bought Warrior’s from John Rosengrandt. Chris was a part owner in that company and decided instead of selling his shares, he opted to come to VLS and manage production. Shortly after I split with Verlinden, I lost a key employee in the advertising department. I hired Dave Harper and moved him and Bill Chilstrom from Portland Oregon to Missouri. Bill would sculpt full time for VLS.

There was a small problem in that Dave and Chris were not particularly fond of each other. They had known each other before coming to VLS. I remember on a couple of occasions when I had to insert my 190 pound frame between Chris, at 450 pounds back then and Dave who was closing in on 300. Two memorable experiences! From April 1999, to January, 2007, when I sold VLS to MMD, there were numerous heated discussions between the two which I ultimately had to deal with over those almost eight years.

Ken Jones, the now retired editor of Military Modelling Magazine in England, attended the World Expo in Boston, and videotaped Shep announcing my award and Chris accepting it. Ken gave me the tape and I turned it over to Dave to burn as a DVD. When he finally gave it to me, I filed it away and forgot about it. Fast forward to 2009. I was putting together some DVDs for my daughter Gail about my model career. I played the DVD while making a copy and realized that, Dave being typical Dave, he had modified it to his own liking. The last time I talked to him via Skype, I told him I had just seen the DVD. He laughed like hell and all I could do was shake my head. Dave was a natural born comedian, a million laughs, he could keep me and Susan laughing 24/7. We talked on Skype for about two hours that evening and the following morning, Bill Chilstrom called to tell me Dave had went into a coma overnight. He never came out of it. He died of a severe and all consuming cancer after being in a coma for nearly a month in October, 2010.

Here is that video that Dave made for me. :laugh:

https://youtu.be/0RMlLMnXVdI

301c. In 2006, I was invited to the IPMS National Convention in Kansas City to be the Guest of Honor. They set aside and area with tables and roped it off for me to display 4 or 5 of my smaller dioramas. I took a combo video player/Television screen and asked Dave to put together some of his video he had taped since I began building “Logistics”. He asked me when I thought I would be finished with it and I told him possibly in 2007. That turned out to be a real joke as it was that year I began negotiations to sell VLS to MMD/Squadron. So, here is the video Dave composed, just ignore the “Coming in 2007″. And don’t laugh! What was that? Ten years ago?  :yipee

https://youtu.be/AG60q-X3SgQ

302. For Wes Bradley who was with me throughout it all and still is to this day! Wes on a recent visit. We are still best friends after all those years. Wes is now 63. When we met, he was a 28 year old crazy kid who worked in my favorite hobby shop! I was 40 at the time!

303. Bob Britt, a really great guy and a damned good webmaster! :-) :yipee

304. For Phantom II, (Christian), Adam Baker and his lovely bride, and of course, Bob Britt, The Moon Pup, all of whom Susan and I had the pleasure of meeting in South Carolina and hope to do so again in Atlanta this year!

305a. Lewis and I are still modeling the same as ever, maybe a bit slower now. This was taken fairly recently when he brought his latest diorama by the house to show me. It is now 2017, I am 75 and Lewis is 72. We’re both still in good health, and working on new dioramas.

305b. François Verlinden, a recent photograph, from what I hear is doing well too. I think he is the same age as Lewis. He is retired and from what Lewis tells me, still modeling. Once you are hooked on this hobby, you can never stop!

306. This is the last photograph I have of Shep Paine. The Hobby lost a major player a year and a half ago!. Shep sat on a throne in the world of modeling and he will never be replaced. Rest in peace Shep.

Well, this is definitely the longest post of my life. There are hundreds of more stories and photographs/ Some friends and relatives have told me I should write a book because of the vast amount of material I have. I have thought about in from time to time, and I have discussed a joint project between Ken Jones and I. Between the two of us, I think we know just about everybody who is or was anybody in the modeling community. I told them I would give it some thought, but for now, NO MORE PROJECTS! My undivided attention from this point forward will be finishing the diorama Logistics. It’s been too long! I have already been working on it again for the last two weeks and will soon have enough to make my first model post in a long time.

Chapter Four
Part Ten
The Last Chapter.

225. Yet two more of Don’s creations. VLS-Man was a superhero Don created that came to earth to ensure that modelers always had cool kits to build! The one with the Cheerleader is dedicated to Susan, but, if you want to know the story, you’ll have to visit the museum! He had a lewd sense of humor! :-) Don passed away in his 80s some time ago.

226. This steam tractor was donated to the museum by Robert L. Meyers, the father of Andy Meyers, a Mastercon regular and a fantastic modeler!. Andy’s dad attended several master cons with Andy. He was a great guy and seemed to really enjoy the shows each year. One year, Andy talked him into bringing one of his own models and enter the competition. It took some talking but Robert finally agreed! He won a gold medal and was so shocked!. Robert passed away recently in his 90s. I know how close Andy was to his father and my condolences go out to him. He was a father to be proud of Andy!

Originally, on this post, I had mistakenly identified this model as one built by my partner Ralph Koebbeman, (in the museum). Ralph had built one of the same kit and I assumed it was his. Getting senile folks! Ralph owned a collection worth more than $3 million dollars worth of models, not just our kind, but he had several craftsmen in Europe and even Russia building miniature rifles, pistols and cannons. They were all functional. He had a cannon with full caisson and horses made from sterling silver. He had .45 automatics with clips of bullets that fired just like the real thing that were the size of a quarter. He had hundreds of things like that. He also owned all the best examples of Lewis Pruneau’s dioramas. He owned all of Shep Paine’s shadowboxes and so much more. After 4 years of bickering, he bought my first diorama, The Winds of War. I’ve regretted it since, but the money he offered was an offer I couldn’t refuse on a cop’s salary. After that, I never sold another one. Back in 1987, at the RHCTA show in Chicago, a representative from Metro Goldwyn Mayer offered me a sum of money for Legacies II that I still wonder if I was crazy to turn it down! Ralph died in 2010 at the age of 98 and to this day, nobody knows for certain where all those models and dioramas are.

227. Gold and Silver medals from Mastercon. They are ones we had left over. I didn’t allow employees, (Including myself), of VLS to compete in the Mastercons, much to the chagrin of several! The Dairy Queen Truck in the background was a Snap-tite kit in 1/32nd scale. Somebody gave it to me and I built it as one of the many for the Nationals in Phoenix, 1993. Such a simple kit, I felt guilty when it took first in it’s category.

227a. The owner of CRM Hobbies, Chris Merseal, My Doberman, Southern Star, me, Ken Jones and Chris Mrosko. Taken in 2008

227c. One of the 57 books published by Letterman Publications, Panzer Tactics, in English and German, 2001. A book on Chris Mrosko’s models.

227d. Chris Mrosko’s Super Bee Dodge truck w/Hemi, 1999.

228. Now this photo has a story. I was contacted many years ago in the early nineties by Phillip Mallard from New York. . He told me the story of his grandfather who entered a competition hosted by Fisher Body, a division of General Motors back in the day. They held an annual competition for young wannabe designers and the winner was hired to work in their design division creating the latest styles of car bodies and experimental designs. That was a tradition that endured for years. His grandfather built this coach from scratch out of wood in the early 20s. You can see a photograph of the grandfather and the boy who inherited it. He is now in his 50s and lives in, I believe, the Borough of Manhattan. It has been in the museum for 26 years. He originally sent it to me in the mail to be displayed in the museum. When I got it, it was in a hundred pieces. It took me two weeks to rebuild it. It still belongs to him, but I refuse to mail it back as I don’t want the responsibility. We still stay in contact via email. Maybe someday he will come and get it. I hope so, I just won’t accept the responsibility of mailing it back to him. He isn’t a modeler and I know he could never rebuild it if it was returned in the condition I received it.

229. Another Don Kanaval piece. It is dedicated to my late partner, Ralph Koebbeman. All of these incredible jewels Don created came with an elaborate story. Don had an incredible mind.

230. More Streets of Laredo box art. I painted the box art for all the models for that line.

231. And another Don Kanaval diorama. This was a joke on me. It was made about the time that VP started releasing those 120mm tanks. As I was always building large dioramas to promote those releases, Don envisioned a release of 3 to1 scale tanks. The text bubbles say, “WE have to ship four of these to Letterman, he’s making a shadow box diorama”. Jef, meaning Jef Verswyvel, “Is sculpting figures, He’s over at Mount Rushmore”. And another saying, “Well there it is Francois, a 3 to 1 scale Jagdpanther.”

232. Horse apples was Kanaval’s first entry at the first Mastercon. It won a gold, Susan told him she loved it and he gave it to her! It’s a little jewel!

233. “Advance on The Rhine”. Richard Mitchell was a great modeler and consistent winner at Mastercon. He was retired army. He died in 2000. After he passed, we learned that he was a heavily decorated master sergeant in the Vietnam war. He was the recipient of the DSC, Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest Army decoration, second only to the Medal of Honor. Richard was a good friend and during all those years of Mastercon, he gave me many of his dioramas. More of his work to come.

234. More Custom Dio Box art,

235. This is a 120mm diorama, roughly two feet by two feet by Vietnamese modeler, Alex Buey. He came to Mastercon twice in the 90’s and won golds, then asked me to put them in the museum as he didn’t want to carry them back on the plane. Very nice work! They’re still here Alex, wherever you are.

236. This is a great piece. Gordon Stronach built the plane. You guys may remember Gordon as the man behind all the “Planet” websites. Planet Armor, Planet Figure, Planet diorama and Planet Aircraft. I am still on Planet armor, after it has changed owners four times, I’m not sure if the others are still around. Anyway, Gordon worked as a pattern maker for years at VLS. He gave it to Lewis to place in a diorama, Lewis put it in water and added the details and this was the result! I’m very proud of this one!

237. Another team effort by some “greats”. This diorama was built by Lewis Pruneau, The 1/16th scale M-113 built by Verlinden, and the elephant built by Joe Porter, a former VLS art department manager. They gave the models to Lewis who added the base and figures.

238. Ditto.

239. A 1/48th F-14 Tomcat by John Bowery, a longtime member of Modelers Alliance, who has switched from aircraft to figure painting and has amazed everybody with his talent! The F-100 Super saber is by none other than Francois Verlinden from way back in the 1970s.

239a. John Bowery, Susan and me. taken on a visit back in 2010.

239b. John Married up as many of us did. Here is an old photo of them back in the day! Maureen was simply beautiful!

240. A Verlinden F-100 super sabre, and a German Ju-388 airplane by Alan Griffith. Alan is a guy from Cedar Rapids Iowa I met back in the early 80s. His specialty was aircraft, but, vacuum formed aircraft. To those of you who haven’t built a vacuum formed aircraft, you don’t know what you’re missing! Alan was always easy to spot. At 6; 10” and 350 pounds, I could spot him a mile away! Note the business card. It is from 1982 when I started VLS. It was originally known as WarWinds Militaria and Hobby Limited. :-)

241. Various VP aircraft accessories built and painted by Pruneau!.

241a. A visit to Pruneau’s. This was taken in 1996. From left to right. Wes Bradley, My doberman Warlock, me, Wes’ wife, Kay, Benny, an employee from Belgium who came over with Verlinden when they moved to help out. And, of course, Lewis! Susan’s Yorkie, Cagney is at the bottom!

241b. The Verlindens, Lewis and Susan in front of my corvette, 1984.

241c. Lewis and Wes playing around in the Plaster building room.

241d. Lewis in the plaster room, doing his imitation of Hitler! 1984.

241e. Me and Lewis, 2009.

241f. Lewis and me at a Mickey-Ds in 2011.

241g. Lewis and a girl friend heading on a VLS company trip to Las Vegas, 1989.

242. Some of my business cards over the years. Then, if you look closely, I had pins made by the thousands of VLS and it’s top two manufacturings companies, Warriors and Custom Dioramics.

243. Davis Harper was a guy I had known for some years when I hired him in 1999 out of Portland Oregon to head up the VLS art department. Over the years, Dave and his buddy, Bill Chilstrom, a professional figure sculptor, Susan and i became close friends. Dave and Bill came to the house every tuesday night for dinner and whatever the best new release DVD was at Blockbusters. They travelled with us in our second and third motorhomes as far away as the west coast. Dave should have been a comedian, he kept us in stitches all those years on the trips. He was one of those people who was naturally funny. Dave designed most all of the artwork for VLS including not only the new logo for VLS, but all the 15 manufacturing companies under the VLS corporate umbrella. A photo of D-Man.

243a. My talented and very funny friend and co-worker, David Harper!

243b. Bill Chilstrom, Dave harper and MA’s own Mr. T., Terry Barrow, 2009. In Kansas City at Jack Stacks Barbecue. Awesome barbecue place!

243c. Dave at our outdoor table on the patio, Jack Stack’s.

243d. Dave Harper at Eaglequest, 2008. He went to Dallas with VLS and other employees when we sold to MMD. We went down to enjoy the show.

243e. Just a tiny bit of Dave’s artwork!

243f. After the split, we moved into the new building and I asked Dave to clean up an aerial shot of the new building and use it in our catalog and newsletters. I didn’t see it until it came from the print shop. He had added his designed VLS Logo to one half the roof and a Belgian flag with a slash through it on the other. They had already been shipped to customers so there was no changing it. Dave loved to do things like that! :-)Nobody either noticed or didn’t get the point, but we never heard anything about it!

243g. Dave, while he was undergoing chemotherapy for multiple cancers. The last photo I have of him. His hair actually grew back in before he died.

243h. Bill Chilstrom, Dave Harper’s buddy and a fantastic figure sculptor. This was taken at the new Marine Museum at Quantico, Virginia, when it was being laid out. Dave and Bill built several dioramas and worked as advisors on the project.

244. More Box art, a Tamiya bottle opener, a pin from the Euromilitaire and a matchbook from one of our favorite restaurants in St. Louis

245. Box art plus a check stub for one of the articles in Fine Scale Modeler. Not much, but, what the hell? Right? In the back, a one of a kind kit, at least in America. The Korean company Seil who made figures and VLS was their American distributor, created something they thought would be a great seller for the American market. They sent me that as a sample, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as they were because I knew Disney was a fierce enforcer of copyright and I told them so. They were unimpressed and sent us 400 of the figures. Customs seized the shipment in Seattle and they were never produced again. On the left is a VLS men’s watch and a Mastercon 12 sticker.

246. A 1/16th scale Verlinden resin Tiger I ausf E. Wes Bradley built this one for display at trade fairs. I painted and weathered it in a big hurry! :-(On the left, you will see a pin with a VLS and a slash through it. When Verlinden Productions began producing update kits for aircraft and armor kits, (The very first to do so), some modelers weren’t happy. The guys who took all the trophies at shows in particular. They said it wasn’t fair, that average modelers could then equal all their work just by buying an update set. This was in 1984. I attended the Chicago figure show and somebody was passing those out! It was a first and last time thing! I kept one for memories. I never knew who had those made? Next to that is a Honorary membership to a Houston IPMS club. Over the years I have been sent a lot of honorary memberships. I kept them all!

247. Yep, another Box Art model. This one is special to me because it was the very first box art I ever built and painted for Custom Dioramics shortly after I bought the company from two Canadian partners. While partners with Verlinden, he always painted the box art with only a couple of exceptions. Now that task fell to me after we split. This was the very first Custom Dioramics New release after we bought the company. Below is an ancient VLS employee name tag. When we went to shows around the country, I had bought gray blazers for the crews that went, usually 8 to 10 per show. Then they wore their own black trousers or slacks if female, white dress shirts and I supplied the maroon ties. The name tags clipped into the blazer pockets.

248. A medieval diorama by Lewis Pruneau. In 120mm scale. Verlinden knights, all else scratched. Immediately in front of it is a roll of shipping tape from VP when they were in Belgium!

249. This is another of the three “Superdiorama” Kits I designed for that series. The base was a marine styrofoam casting and the buildings were plaster. It came with all the resin accessories. This was the Box Art. They were essentially a “Diorama in a box”.

250. Another vacuum formed German Blohm and Voss BV 222 Flying Boat in 1/72nd scale built by Alan Griffith

251. This one is a mystery. When we closed the commercial location of the Museum in St. Charles, we had more than a hundred models and dioramas on loan. We called the owners and had them pick up their work. This was the single one we never could figure out. No idea who built/owned it. The closing there was 15 years ago, so I will probably never know? It was probably a local builder as it used the St. Louis McDonnell-Douglas markings!

252. This was built by William Konn of Chicago. This tractor-trailer unit with the Israeli modified British tank required a lot of research and work. Built in 1/25th scale. Bill was a close friend of Jim Stephens and a frequent competitor at Mastercons.

252a. A photo of Bill Konn (Left) being presented an award by Tony Eads, VLS’ Sales manager at Mastercon 14.

252b. Another photo of Tony Eads at a party in my family room way back in 1985. From left to right, Mickey Eschevarria, a buddy of mine, Tony, Kyle Mullin, Our computer programmer and Mike Rudolph, a nine year old neighborhood kid that mowed our lawn way back in 1971, who we sort of became his second family. He came from a troubled home and his mother was happy to let us take him places. We are still in touch to this day.

252c. In 2008, we had a VLS reunion in my backyard. Here you see Tony on the left and Chuck Stuckenburg on the right. I hired both out of high school. Both went on to become very successful in life I am very proud of them both!

252d. A close up of Chuck!

252e. Herb Rigg. Many will recognize Herb as the bus driver at Mastercons. Herb worked for VLS for many years after retiring from the post office. Herb and I are still good friends and keep in touch. Herb was so well liked, the Mastercon members voted him the recipient of the Gil Godfrey award! Our great personality award!

252f. Tammy Tucker. Tammy worked in the warehouse for many years. Always cheerful and happy, she was great to work with. She also moved to Springfield a year or so earlier than Susan and I.

252g. Steve Hoard. Steve started in the warehouse, then worked his way up to the art department and eventually took David Harper’s place when Dave went to Texas. Steve and I became friends and after VLS moved to Texas and i retired, him and Wes helped me set up the museum in the building I had built in back of our house. He is still a Facebook friend of Susan’s. Many will remember Steve from the Mastercons.

252h. One of the original employees of VLS was Don Wardlaw. Don was our original art guy. He created all the original ads in the model magazines. He still lives in St. Louis. I last ran into him at CRM hobby shop about two years ago! this photo was taken in the very early days of VLS. Probably 1985. Damn, we both looked really young back then. Don was very tall, a couple of inches taller than Lewis Pruneau! To get an idea, I am 5 feet, eleven and a half inches tall.

252i. Nancy Hovanissian who worked in shipping and receiving for a long time. During that time, Chris Mrosko was moved to St. Louis after I purchased 70% of Warrior’s shares from John Rosengrandt. Chris retained his 30% of Warrior shares. Chris and Nancy fell in love and were married in the lobby of VLS by the Mastercon chaplain, Del Miller, in full uniform of a British para. (Del was into re-enacting)! It was a cool ceremony that everybody will remember! This is Nancy in Susan’s office.

252j. My messy office just before we retired in 2007.

252k. Of course, I can’t forget my better half of now more than 51 years. We have been through the wringer together. I can’t even remember when she wasn’t by my side! Susan Letterman.

252i. Two very historic photos, at least in my life! In July, 1984, I went to the Atlanta IPMS Nationals. VLS was tiny back then but we still had the largest number of vendor tables in the vendor room. That was where I met Verlinden and Jos Stok, (The “S” in VLS). We had plans to go to Europe the following week with Wes to locate some product lines we could import. They invited us to come to Belgium and we did. Stok invited us to dinner and we went. He was an amateur chef and very wealthy. He had in incredible kitchen built into this house that would rival any grand restaurant in Europe. He hired the great chefs of Europe to spend a week cooking at his house and teaching him. Unfortunately, Jos was fantastic at investing, but his cooking was, well… not so good. He also loved modeling but was terrible at that as well. These two photos were taken that night and was the very beginnings of what would become the VLS corporation. Left to right. Wes, Jos Stok, Susan with her back to the camera, Jos’ son, Lilliane and François Verlinden.

252j. Another photo, this time with me, (Looks like I was posing for something?) These photos bring back so many memories from so long ago. It seems like another lifetime.

252k. To prove how dedicated i have always been to the military, this was taken in 1943 when i was two years old. My mother was only 18. My father was the same age serving in the Pacific. I was born when they were both 16!

253. Various memorabilia. Verlinden model rifles. A photograph of the VLS crew at our booth at of the Trade fairs in Chicago. Left to right, Tom Gerringer, me and Herb Rigg. In front is an entrance tag to the Nuremberg Germany International Toy fair. The largest in the world!. Susan’s name tog when she was a member of the local chapter of the IPMS club and a tag from Mastercon 13.

254. One of the first resin 1/15th scale products from the 1980s. Our own Alex DeLeon had built a 1/16th scratch Nebelwerfer. It was featured in one of the Verlinden magazines. A Chinese company, Kirin, was competing with Verlinden resin products, bought the diorama from Alex, took it apart, made molds and began producing it. Not to be outdone, Verlinden had Jef Verswyvel build a master, produced and released one as well. This is the Verlinden kit..

255. An American flag flown at the American base, Danang, Vietnam. One of “Blinder’s” donations.

256. A ship diorama built by Dr. John Leyland. In my early days with IPMS, John and Loren Perry were fantastic ship builders. They worked in different scales, Loren was all large scale ships and John made the teeny tiny ones. Both always won the Judges Grand Awards at the IPMS Nationals in those days. One of the best ship modelers in the world, John scratch builds all his tiny dioramas and I have seen him do mid-world war carriers, using human hair for rigging and scratch building microscopic biplanes under the deck and you can see them through open portals. John Leyland and Loren Perry are the two best ship builders I have ever known! This Leyland model, USS Ward DD 139, shown here, fired the first shot in WW II near Pearl Harbor.

257. Another Superdiorama Kit designed by me for the series. I built and painted the box art, The Dragon Wagon and Sherman tank was built by Dan Clover of California, an old friend!

258. US Navy Petty Officer’s service cap. St; Louis Police ball cap.

259. A London Bobby’s service helmet. One year we took two couples to Europe and gave them the grand tour, we covered a lot of countries. In Paris, we didn’t have a lot of time, so I took them on a walking tour as they wanted to see all the famous places. It stretched from the Eiffel Tower all the way to Montmarte and the Sacre’ Coeur Basilica. As close as i can figure, we walked them close to 40 miles, (60km), that day. When we see them today, they always refer to it as “The Paris Death March”. One of the guys when we got to London, went somewhere on his own and came back with a London “Bobby’s” helmet. It was so cool! The next time we went, I walked into a Police Station, not only got my own helmet, but after showing them my badge, they offered to let me and Wes ride on patrol with them. During that 4 hour event, they got a call for an assault at a housing project. The dispatcher gave a description of the suspect and they asked Wes and i to wait in the car while they handled the call. While waiting, I saw the suspect, patted him down for weapons and arrested him. When they returned from the call, I had him in the backseat of the patrol car. Both of them freaked out! :-) True story!

260. A Paris France Gendarme’s Kepi. A Danish police casual cap in the background.

261 Tokyo, Japan Police service hat.

262. German Wehrmacht artillery officer’s peaked hat. (A replica).The Iron Cross is an original!

263. Belgian Police antique service hat.

264. Czech army service cap

265. A US army steel helmet from Vietnam. (From Blinder). Complete with the Marlboro pack, etc.

266. Russian Officer’s service hat. (1970-80s).

267. US Army Air Force cadet’s service cap, WW II.

268. Soviet Marine Officer’s hat

269. Czech army Pile cap 1980s.

270. Iraqi helmet, First Gulf war 1991.

271. Lots of police memorabilia, St. Louis in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. .38 Police Special revolvers, nightstick, “brass” knuckles, rights card, etc.

272. Police shoulder patches from around the world.

273. St. Louis Chief of Police gold badge. My partner of 15 years, Joe Mokwa, became the youngest Chief in St. Louis history. I broke him in well! :-) I retired many years before he made chief. He gave me a copy of his badge for my 70th birthday.

274. More police shoulder badges from around the world.

275. Complete Soviet Tanker’s Uniform including Infra-red gear.

276. Soviet pilot’s cap WW II. Various Soviet decorations, 1980s.

277. Periscope from a Soviet T-72 tank. Pile cap, Tanker’s head gear.

278. Georgie Patton. George Patton has been my hero since the 1950s. I believe I have read every book ever written about him, including his memoirs. I built the original Legacies diorama around him, and the current diorama I am building is about him as well! The American Flag flown at VLS headquarters 1985 to 2007.

279. US Tanker’s gas mask WW II, plus German military decorations.

280. A gold medallion, cast in commemoration of the Battle of trafalgar. A Euromilitaire stick pin, Both gifts of Ken Jones. A US Flight deck crewman’s head gear. Some German decorations.

281. A police service cap from the Netherlands. Behind that is a Belgian state police service hat. The girl on the left is artwork by Willy Peeters, the multi-talented artist from Verlinden Productions and later co-owner of KMC. (Kendall Model Company).

281a. Photo of Willy Peeters taken in 2005.Willy was the artist in the original Verlinden Productions company that created most of the printed products as well as the dry transfers and books. In 1995, Willy and Jef Verswyvel left Belgium and immigrated to America. Kendall, Florida to be precise. There they founded Kendall model company! Willy is currently a free lance designer and author.

281c. A photo of the other half of Kendall Model Company. Jef Verswyvel. VLS eventually brought out Kendall Model Company’s masters. They were re-released under two of the VLS production’s labels. Jef went on to found Black Box models, and an armor company, Combat Series. VLS carried both product lines! He is currently an executive with MMD/ Squadron and doubles as their in house master modeler.

282. US Army artillery service hat, WW II.

284. Hawaii State Police, (Five-O) ball cap! Two of the old Verlinden Aces II ejection seats.

285. US Navy Petty officer’s work cap, 1980s.

286. Schweig-Holstein, Germany State police service cap.

287. US army Field Grade Officer’s formal cap, Current.

288. US army peaked service hat 1940s.

289. M2 Bradley Tankers helmet and an East german helmet from the 11980s

290. US army enlisted peaked hat, 1940s.

292. Various US Hand grenades from WW II to current. 2 120mm Desert Storm army figures.

]

293. Back in 1983, we belonged to a local model car club in St. Louis. This was taken at an annual picnic. I can’t remember some, but on the far left is Susan, my wife, in the middle is Wes Bradley, acting like he is being hung from the tree, then Lewis Pruneau and my buddy Mickey Eschevarria, 34 years ago!

293a. Ditto. Wes, a car model trader named Steve Lovan. Steve bought out my entire model car collection, more than 500 models, for a tidy sum that allowed me more seed money to invest in the fledgeling Warwind’s Militaria and hobby, LTD, which would eventually come to be named The VLS Corporation. I haven’t heard from Steve in years! The guy on the right is John McGuire. He had a collection of some 10,000 kits back then!

293b. It was about the same time i was elected vice-president and Wes, President of our local chapter of IPMS. Here we are at an annual dinner. I chose a guest speaker a WW II veteran named Chester Klier. Chester had flown thirty missions over Europe with the 8th Air Force. He had written a book about his experiences. Flight crews in those days had only a 21% chance of surviving 30 missions. Susan, me, Wes and Chester. 1983.

293c. Fast forward ro 33 years later. Chester Klier came to our house in St. Louis to see the museum. Denny Klier, his son and former St. Louis County police helicopter pilot, drove him out. He was wheel chair bound and well into his 90s. It was New Year’s eve in 2013. He passed away later that year. He seemed to really enjoy himself at the museum. I think it brought back a lot of ancient memories!

294. A “Fake” M-16 rifle. It works, but only fires .22 long rifle ammunition.

295. Various items, a bayonet, a hand made Bowie knife and 20mm rounds, (Inert), from an M-2 Bradley main gun.

296. WW I relics. A WW I Helmet and campaign hat, a “Photogram” from WW I.

298. Various documents from WW I, plus an award, dog tags from the era, a service cap, some /50 Cal. ammo belt and a “Fake” Luger German pistol.

299. The smallest diorama I ever built. Souvenirs is a 120mm Scale diorama of German soldiers bartering with French and British souvenirs to a cavalry officer. During the move, this was totally destroyed. It was in at least a hundred pieces when it arrived. It all went back together and looks as good a new!

299a. Ditto.

300. A civil war diorama by Lewis Pruneau made in 1998. It featured mostly VP products in 120mm scale.

301. This lighted case was at the entrance of the Miniature World Museum in St. Charles.

I have enjoyed many years posting and reading posts with all the members here at modellersalliance.com! I hope to spend many more years doing the same! Here are some Photos and captions not necessarily in order of occurrence, but that I wanted to include before ending this story! Due to my antiquated computer skills, I had some help from Laurence Maftei, (White Wolf), and Bob Britt, (Moon Puppy), especially in posting the two videos that follow shortly! Thanks, all you guys for many, many hours of enjoyment!

301a. The diorama that started it all, “The Winds of War”. It was the original “Superdiorama”, that I built in the late 1970s. No aftermarket, barely any scale figures, I had never heard of a “wash” or “dry-brushing”. I used furniture antiquing stain and a wide brush with small amounts of paint to weather everything. There were 300 miniature grain of wheat bulbs throughout. I had no idea when building it that it was different in any way. When we carried it into the St. Louis Marriott convention hotel in July, 1982, (It took six men to carry it), I was shocked to realize that it was “larger” than the other dioramas in competition. This photo was taken by the Post Dispatch reporters for their newspaper and later, sent to me in a stack of photos they had taken. I was 42 in that photo, 34 years ago! It’s the only diorama I ever sold. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse by a collector that drove me crazy for 5 years before I finally gave in. ! If I had it all to do over again, I would never have sold it. The quality of the work in it is pretty bad compared to the state of the art today, but, for me, it has a significant historic and sentimental attachment. I have no idea where it is, the last I heard, it was in a town in northern Illinois, near Chicago.

301b. In 2005, Shep Paine called and told me I had been chosen to receive the Phillip Stearns award, an award for Lifetime achievement in the industry. Here is what Shep reads from from the engraving, on the video, but can be difficult to understand;

Few people achieve success in both the modeling and business sides of the hobby industry. Bob Letterman has gained great renown throughout the world, primarily for his super sized dioramas. His ambitions were no less lofty when he started VLS, one of the great success stories of the model industry. In his soft spoken way, he has touched the lives of modelers all over the world, and we are proud to honor him with this award.

The World Expo is a traveling convention and that year it happened to be in Boston, Massachusetts. There was so much going on at the time at VLS, there was no way I could make it. Chris Mrosko had already made preparations to attend and I asked him if he would accept the award for me and he agreed to.

Now, for a little background. Chris was a vice president of VLS at the time and Dave harper was in charge of the advertising and art department. Chris had came to VLS from the west coast when I bought Warrior’s from John Rosengrandt. Chris was a part owner in that company and decided instead of selling his shares, he opted to come to VLS and manage production. Shortly after I split with Verlinden, I lost a key employee in the advertising department. I hired Dave Harper and moved him and Bill Chilstrom from Portland Oregon to Missouri. Bill would sculpt full time for VLS.

There was a small problem in that Dave and Chris were not particularly fond of each other. They had known each other before coming to VLS. I remember on a couple of occasions when I had to insert my 190 pound frame between Chris, at 450 pounds back then and Dave who was closing in on 300. Two memorable experiences! From April 1999, to January, 2007, when I sold VLS to MMD, there were numerous heated discussions between the two which I ultimately had to deal with over those almost eight years.

Ken Jones, the now retired editor of Military Modelling Magazine in England, attended the World Expo in Boston, and videotaped Shep announcing my award and Chris accepting it. Ken gave me the tape and I turned it over to Dave to burn as a DVD. When he finally gave it to me, I filed it away and forgot about it. Fast forward to 2009. I was putting together some DVDs for my daughter Gail about my model career. I played the DVD while making a copy and realized that, Dave being typical Dave, he had modified it to his own liking. The last time I talked to him via Skype, I told him I had just seen the DVD. He laughed like hell and all I could do was shake my head. Dave was a natural born comedian, a million laughs, he could keep me and Susan laughing 24/7. We talked on Skype for about two hours that evening and the following morning, Bill Chilstrom called to tell me Dave had went into a coma overnight. He never came out of it. He died of a severe and all consuming cancer after being in a coma for nearly a month in October, 2010.

Here is that video that Dave made for me. :laugh:

https://youtu.be/0RMlLMnXVdI

301c. In 2006, I was invited to the IPMS National Convention in Kansas City to be the Guest of Honor. They set aside and area with tables and roped it off for me to display 4 or 5 of my smaller dioramas. I took a combo video player/Television screen and asked Dave to put together some of his video he had taped since I began building “Logistics”. He asked me when I thought I would be finished with it and I told him possibly in 2007. That turned out to be a real joke as it was that year I began negotiations to sell VLS to MMD/Squadron. So, here is the video Dave composed, just ignore the “Coming in 2007″. And don’t laugh! What was that? Ten years ago?  :yipee

https://youtu.be/AG60q-X3SgQ

302. For Wes Bradley who was with me throughout it all and still is to this day! Wes on a recent visit. We are still best friends after all those years. Wes is now 63. When we met, he was a 28 year old crazy kid who worked in my favorite hobby shop! I was 40 at the time!

303. Bob Britt, a really great guy and a damned good webmaster! :-) :yipee

304. For Phantom II, (Christian), Adam Baker and his lovely bride, and of course, Bob Britt, The Moon Pup, all of whom Susan and I had the pleasure of meeting in South Carolina and hope to do so again in Atlanta this year!

305a. Lewis and I are still modeling the same as ever, maybe a bit slower now. This was taken fairly recently when he brought his latest diorama by the house to show me. It is now 2017, I am 75 and Lewis is 72. We’re both still in good health, and working on new dioramas.

305b. François Verlinden, a recent photograph, from what I hear is doing well too. I think he is the same age as Lewis. He is retired and from what Lewis tells me, still modeling. Once you are hooked on this hobby, you can never stop!

306. This is the last photograph I have of Shep Paine. The Hobby lost a major player a year and a half ago!. Shep sat on a throne in the world of modeling and he will never be replaced. Rest in peace Shep.

Well, this is definitely the longest post of my life. There are hundreds of more stories and photographs/ Some friends and relatives have told me I should write a book because of the vast amount of material I have. I have thought about in from time to time, and I have discussed a joint project between Ken Jones and I. Between the two of us, I think we know just about everybody who is or was anybody in the modeling community. I told them I would give it some thought, but for now, NO MORE PROJECTS! My undivided attention from this point forward will be finishing the diorama Logistics. It’s been too long! I have already been working on it again for the last two weeks and will soon have enough to make my first modeling post in a long time.

Thanks for reading!

The Golden Years Model Museum Part 3

April 26th, 2017 by admin
Chapter Three
Part Seven.
The Glass Cases

.

151 Book Covers, Newspaper articles and a very special letter, (In white and Blue), inviting Susan and I to the White house, 2004. Two Who’s Who plaques on the left.

152. A photo of a stereo I built back in the 60s taken by Stereo Review magazine. The Old Mastercon Logo I commissioned to Don Kanaval. It was behind the dais for 16 Mastercons! The Three flags of VLS, Belgian, American and Dutch. (Verlinden, Letterman and Stok).

153. A photo in Japan with me and Susan talking to Freddie Leung, the CEO of Dragon and all their subsidiaries. Model Fan, a major model magazine publisher in Germany gave the medallions at the Nuremberg show for best manufacturer, 2002, (VLS Production companies). A letter from the Soldiers Memorial Museum in St. Louis in reference to their featuring my diorama, The Winds of War, as a centerpiece for their WW II exposition from January, 1983 to January 1984. Thank you letters for sponsoring awards at four IPMS National conventions.

153a. Something you may not know. When I first entered competition, I went to the IPMS Nationals in Phoenix, AZ. There was a celebrity there who was getting a lot of attention. His name was Nate polk and he owned Polk Hobbies in New York. To those who have seen the movie, The Godfather, when Tom Hagen exited the store at night, carrying an armload of toys, just after Vito Corleone had been shot, Virgil Sollozzo approached him and pushed him into a car. The shop Robert Duvall walked out of was Polk’s Hobbies!

154. Selected catalogue covers of VLS Mail Order beginning with the very first, (The tiny blue one from 1984 to the ones in the 1990s). VLS Published it’s last catalog in 2007.

155. Medals from a show in Indiana back in the 80s. More bowling trophies. (Not for bowling, they were model trophies back in the 80s before the familiar wooden plaques became popular). The Scabbard, a publication by the Military Miniature society of Illinois. Shep Paine’s club and annual competition. Lewis took his Vietnam Riverine dio and I took the first version of Legacies. Lewis entered and won best of show. I had retired from competition and took mine to display only. Both ended up on the cover of the Scabbard.

156. Some more awards, my university and Law School diplomas, an arial photo of the last VLS facility, a 40,000 square foot building on five acres. We moved into this in 1999, after the split with Verlinden and remained here until I sold the business to MMD/Squadron and the Building to a giant plumbing company with 27 crews of repairmen.

157. Flags from around the world. When the museum was in St. Charles, we had all the flags of the world in a larger size hanging throughout. No way I could fit them all in here, so I replaced them with these smaller versions.

158. Awards from an IPMS regional convention in 1984. A VLS women’s hat and a US army engineer’s hat with the unit I served with, the 87th Engineer battalion. I was given that hat by an army buddy I served with in the same unit, Harry Puncec. That was in 1959, almost 60 years ago, and we are still buddies! The 10 year award from the National Federation of independent Businesses.

158a. PFC Harry Puncec. Now retired with grandchildren. Still buddies!

159. More awards, a piece of leather from the seats of the Mercedes staff car used by Hitler in the 1930s and 40s. An article in a St. Louis paper about my diorama, “The Winds of War”. 1982.

160. A practice bomb from Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack in 1941. A history of the Miniature World Museum, it’s three locations from 1993 to 2005, compiled by my now deceased partner, Ralph Koebbeman. More awards on the inside of the window frame.

161. The bomb again, more awards and the dark blue cap is from the Olympics in London.

162. Awards from the IPMS National Convention in 1983 in Phoenix, Arizona. On the right in silver, is the first place award from the St. Louis IPMS National convention for “The Winds of War. 1982. My first military diorama that brought so much notoriety, It was featured in books and magazines all over the world within three months of accepting that trophy. I have always believed if not for that single trophy, VLS would have never existed. (Long Story).

163. More awards and a silver tray awarded to the VLS staff for their dedication to the hobby. There is a hat from the Olympics in London and another from Normandy on the celebration of D-Day, 1944 to 2014. On the far left is a trophy from an IPMS national for first place awarded to a 1/12th scale red Porsche in 1985. It was my final entry in competition.

164. The entrance to my model workshop, plus some more awards, Pierre, the chef welcoming to my man cave! And some political awards.

165. Ditto, Pierre, my chef, welcoming people to the museum and my very different man cave. Also note the cover of the second issue of Fine Scale Modeler, February, 1983, with “The Winds of War” on the cover.

165a. John Rosengrandt. An incredible modeler who is now head of one of the biggest and best special effects movie studios in Hollywood! I bought Warriors from John.

165b. John, when much younger with Chris Mrosko in the, (Then), Stan Winston Studios.

165c. Taken in the early 90s, at Verlinden’s son’s wedding in Lier City Hall, Belgium, where I was best man. A photo of Jos Stok, my Dutch partner. He is on the far left with white hair. He was an extremely wealthy man. Jos passed away about 12 years ago. Also in the photo is Lilliane and François Verlinden and relatives. Susan and i are in the back on the right.

165d. A photograph taken in front of the VLS facility in O’Fallon, Mo, in 1992. Jef Verswyvel, my doberman Warlock, me and Susan. To the far right, François is standing.

165e. On Grand opening day at the O’fallon location, the entire city council, mayor, police chief, fire chief and many others in attendance, Susan, in black, takes a break with some of our personal friends. The Guy sitting on the desk with Susan is a long time friend. He was an atomic physicist for Monsanto with a very odd name of Dyke Simer. Everywhere we went, people always thought we were brothers. His blond wife Debbie and the dark haired Bonnie were Susan’s best friends. You can see on the wall a display and behind Susan a diorama. Both are in the museum today.

165f. A really old photo of me at age 26 and Susan at 21. I had just graduated the St. Louis Police Academy, it was summer, 1967. We lived in a little apartment in a town now famous, then a peaceful little suburb of St. Louis, called Ferguson.

165g. A Newspaper article from 1982 during the National IPMS convention in St. Louis that started everything!

165h. I have previously mentioned my custom car/hot rod phase in my teens. This was my 52 Ford while in the army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I was stationed there for almost a year before shipping out to France. I did all my own flame jobs and scallops back then and even made some money on the side doing others. Altogether, I had seven custom cars and hot rods back in the day!! The girl in the photo was my main squeeze then and worked as a secretary for the F.B.I. Her father was an agent. We were both 18.

165i. When I got out of the army in 1962, the flames and scallops had pretty much went out of style. Clean lines and power had succeeded them. My first car in ‘62 was an almost new 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air two door hardtop. Here’s a couple of photos.

165j. Ditto, interior. Center console with tach, tape recorder, etc. Tuck and roll upholstery, floor shift, swivel bucket seats and an aircraft type steering wheel! Even a padded dash before padded dashes were normal!

165k. Later, I got a 1962 Corvette. It was one of the hottest cars in town! 327 cu. in. bored out to 60,000 over, Duntov Cam, solid lifters, Edlebrock manifold, Twin Cadillac Four Barrels and a 4:56 rear end.

165l. I loved this car. Wish i still had it. tThey go for more than a hundred thousand today when you can find them!

165m. Susan and the Vette on our honeymoon at the brand new “Over the highway” McDonald’s in 1966. It is still there, just north of Tulsa OK. I have had six Corvettes in my life. That was the first!

Part 8 Militaria.

166. Us Navy A-6 Intruder pilot’s uniform. I have a storage unit filled with this kind of military and even dioramas I had no room for. I plan on rotating them from time to time.

167. Then a Soviet MIG-21 pilot’s uniform complete with parachute, oxygen equipment, and so on.

168. And an F-16 fighter pilot’s uniform from the 1990s. It is complete down to the last detail. I should mention a modeler in Seattle, a Vietnam gunship gunner, who had been exposed to far too much Agent Orange. He always used his nickname, “Blinder”. He was so in love with the idea of the museum, he donated many items such as this uniform, He was a dealer in Militaria and we were good friends. I met him in person back in 1990 I think, at the IPMS Nationals in Seattle. For many years, he emailed me daily. He wasn’t married and had no family. One day, the emails stopped.

169. This is a “Boots and Coots” firefighter’s suit. It was used to extinguish the oil rig fires in Kuwaiti during the first Gulf war. It can withstand 2000° (F) for an hour. Original cost? $100,000.00! It was also donated by Blinder. Boots and Coots are the :Other firefighting company, their competition being the one that John Wayne made Famous in the movie, “Hellfighters”.

170. Various Militaria. Where did I get all this and much, much more in storage? Besides Blinder, VLS customers sent it to me requesting I commission my sculptors and pattern makers to do them in miniature. They wanted in return a half dozen or a dozen products when they were released. I made it a practice to send them a dozen kits for each item sent.

172. A US Carrier flight deck crewman’s head gear. A WW II US gas mask, various country’s military medals, a Gold coin from the Tower mint in London commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar, 1n 2005, as well as a tie tack from the Euromilitarie Figure exposition. Both were given to me by Ken Jones.

173. Various hats. Soviet pile cap, A Dutch police officer’s service cap, Two Belgian police service caps and a WW II G.I.s Dress cap.

176. A really special item. General Colin Powell’s Desert Storm Kevlar helmet. This came from the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back in 2001, along with artifacts from Schwarzkopf as well. (See later artifacts). to the left are Inert hand grenades of several types, and some Desert Storm 120mm figures. VLS had customers throughout the military including those in the Pentagon. To the right are two VP 120mm figures from Operation Desert Storm.

176a. Ditto. That’s a Miniature World Beer Mug from the gift shop back in the 90s.

177. During Operation Desert Storm, some of our military customers in Kuwait, had this shipped to me complete with name tag and a combat infantryman’s badge. I have learned that people who model are diverse, but, there is an unusual number of Police Officers, the Military, Doctors and especially Dentists involved. Go figure! That’s an inert Laws rocket on the right. And an imitation M-26 rifle on the left. It fires .22 long rifle only. The uniform is complete with the “Fritz’ helmet. The photograph of the girl in the background was one of the tour guides in the museum. All the employees wore those uniforms.

178. A North Vietnam regular’s sun helmet from the 1970s. Several gas masks from different countries and eras plus some 120mm figures.

179. More gas masks and an NBC chemical head cover. An Arab head dress is in the center.

180. A 37mm shell taken from the back of an American aces ejection seat. It didn’t explode and the pilot survived. A rifled grenade cartridge, (Inert). Two Chopper crew helmets, Vietnam vintage, and a very rare Inmates cap with Jewish star embroidered from Auschwitz Concentration camp.

181. A WW I steel helmet and a campaign hat. (In very bad condition, it’s a hundred years old this year! Also several VP product displays built by Lewis Pruneau in the 1980s.

185. The main hat case. Military and police hats from various countries. (More on that later).

186. Ditto.

187. Police patches from all over the world. In the background is the academy notebook I compiled in 1966 at the st. Louis Police academy.

188. A tactical Operations uniform, (complete with kevlar helmet, all riot gear, boots, gloves, black ski mask and so on. (St. Louis County Police)

189. “Upgrade”, 1980s, I built this after visiting the California Highway Patrol facility in San Diego, California. With my press pass, but even more so with my retirement badge, they gave me the grand tour of the place, I took lots of photographs. The diorama’s subtitle is, “What if the California Highway Patrol had a Lamborghini Diablo”? It features Verlinden 1/24th car series figures and a 1/25th Fujimi Lamborghini Countach and an AMT Ford Taurus Police Car. On the wall behind it is one of the photos in a magazine article about the diorama.

189a. Another angle.

189b. Another angle.

190. Back in the early 80s, on one of my many trips to Europe, (I’ve crossed the Atlantic more than 200 times in my life. I’d like to have all the money I spent on those trips!) I stopped in a Kaiserslautern police station. I showed them my retirement badge and told them I collected police equipment, (“Sammalung” in German = collection). I met a patrol officer named Klaus Sinner. We became friends over the years and I went on patrol with him a couple of times! That is his work uniform in the photo. Police work is much the same the world over. Except that Europe had far less crime, at least when compared to St. Louis. They gave me an commanding officer’s uniform, trousers, shoes and all. At the time, it actually fit me! No comments!  :laugh: It was soooo cool! Klaus and me beside his patrol wagon.

190a. The German Police Uniform.

191. These model buildings are all box art. I think I built and painted all the box art for several of the brands from 1999 to 2007. As soon as a new release came off the line, production would bring all the parts, I would build it, paint and weather it and then photograph it and send that to the art department where they would make the labels. VLS’ 15 production companies had a total of 2,200 products when I sold the company. The photo was taken on a cruise to the Caribbean with the Verlindens back in 1986. Susan is behind me and Francois’ wife, Lilliane, is in the green dress.

Part 9. The Glass Cases.

192. More box art. There is a beer stein from Miniature World in the center. Name Tag from Euromilitaire to the left.

193. Ditto.

194. More Box art, there is the jungle hut I posted on my forum here. Dave Harper photographed it as i painted. He was obsessed with the Pacific theater of WW II. Above is a massive photo-etched fence and gate in 1/35th scale. It was one of the Tech Star products.

195. More Box art.

195a. Ditto.

196. More Box art. A name tag from the Chicago Trade fair. A Japanese pilot’s headband, WW II. Note the DCS box in the back. When Verlinden first started making plaster buildings in the 1970s, they were called DCS productions. A man I came to know well from Belgium, moved to St. Louis and, with Verlinden’s permission, started producing them in America. His name was Richard Mottard. Later, in 1984, he returned to Belgium and started a figure company. VLS carried them until Richard had a heart attack and died while at the second Euromilitaire show out on the balcony overlooking the channel coast. His company was Belgo figures.

197. For years, VLS commissioned sculptors and pattern makers from around the world. One of our primary pattern makers was Carles Elias from Portugal. He was a friend of Mig Jiminez who you all are familiar with. One day, I got the photograph you see on the glass wall behind the model buildings. He had taken it on a trip to Russia. He had offered it to Mig to paint like the photograph. Mig told him he should give it to me. Long story short, I painted it, it became a best seller in the Custom Dioramics line and later, I converted it to the white building and we sold a lot of them as well.

198. More box art!

199. More box art and some Verlinden figures. Lewis Pruneau worked for VLS from 1985 to 1990 and he painted many Verlinden products for us to display at trade fairs. These are examples. Note the case and women’s wrist watch. We had both men’s and women’s watches made with the VLS Logo on the dial. Sold a lot, all the employees got one and they made nice gifts to business vendors and customers.

200. More box art, (Now maybe you can understand why my dioramas kept being put on the back burner during those years). A white coffee mug from Miniature World. We did a lot of merchandising during the VLS years! A photo of Susan and I on a Caribbean cruise on The Norwegian ship, “Sovereign of the Seas”, with the ship’s captain.

201. More box art and a product Verlinden created from a real F-16 fighter plane. We sold hundred’s of those silly things! I still have three myself! Then an HO trolley. I used it to give pattern maker Ben Jacobsen the idea I wanted for the Custom Dioramics Trolley. That was one of our best sellers and it retailed for a hundred dollars. BTW, Ben was also a friend of Chuck W. on MA and passed away in November of last year.

202. Ditto plus another DCS product!

203. One of my most treasured dioramas. The late Shep Paine built this for Monogram back in 1972. One 0f the 8 wheeled armored cars is stock and one is converted to a command vehicle. He made many of these dioramas for Monogram and they used them as artwork for their “Tips on Building Dioramas” brochures, including them in their armor and aircraft kits in the 1970s. It is extremely rare and collector’s would die to get their hands on one. Back in 1986, after VLS had been growing to include all the plastic manufacturers in our wholesale inventory, The president of Monogram at that time, Bob Johnson, took us, Wes Bradley, Susan and I on an elaborate tour of the factory. When we walked into their conference room, I spotted this on a shelf. Naturally, being a modeler who had not yet became so used to models as I would be later, freaked out. The president asked me if I would like to have it. I’m sure you can’t guess my reply! I have now owned it for the last 32 years. I have had many inquiries about buying it, but, not a chance! The two figures to the right in the second angle shot, were sculpted and painted by Mike Good, a very well known sculptor and figure painter from back in the 1980s and 90s. I lost contact with Mike several years ago! The last I heard was he had moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico to join an art community there.

203a. Another angle showing the “Tip Sheet”.

204. This diorama was featured in The Verlinden Way, Volume 2. I met François Verlinden for the first time in 1984 at the IPMS Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia. I had read his first book, The Verlinden Way Volumn One, and we had, by coincidence, had articles, back to back in the second issue of Fine Scale Modeler magazine. I was still a cop, and had started a company I called Warwinds Militaria and hobby Ltd. I ran it out of our basement on a couple of work tables and some old shelves. The agenda back then was to travel to as many weekend shows as possible, Susan and Wes would man the vendor tables and I would compete. In Atlanta, Verlinden and Stok came to find a distributer for his products in the states. We had 12 tables and had brought Lewis Pruneau and a couple of other guys along to help! We turned out to be the largest vendor at the show. I was selling Verlinden’s books and plaster buildings I was buying through Lynn Sangster of Historex Agents in England. (Lynn recently passed away). Long story short, Francois and i hit it off and Warwinds eventually became his exclusive American distributor. We did so well in fact, that in August, 1985, Stok and Verlinden asked me to become partners with them. The rest is history. He gave me this diorama and another one shortly after we became business partners.

205. This truck was built by the late Duane Phister of Southern California. He was the primary modeler for the California magazines, Scale Modeler and Military Modeler for many years. Duane was a Master’s Group member for many years as well, and he rarely missed a Mastercon, even though he wouldn’t fly and always took Amtrac to and from the show. The truck is 1/16th scale. Duane and I partied together many times! He passed away 6 or 7 years ago.

205a. Duane Phister receiving a Best of category from me at Mastercon 12. I met Duane when we were in Verdun France. I was 20 and he was 17. Almost the time when I was going home for a discharge, a young recruit Duane was just arriving. We met on an army bus that ran between Verdun and Etain Air force base. When Duane came to mastercon every year, we’d sit down over a beer or two and reminisce about old times!

206. This bust was painted by Hal Sanford. You may remember the book, “Modelaholic” from the 1990s. Hal was the author. He was a regular at Mastercon, one of the “Old Guard” and one of the nicest and funniest guys I have ever known. We still keep in touch and he continues to attend the show in Dallas, now called Eagle Quest. In the background, a Christmas card from Shep Paine. We exchanged cards from 1982 until he died. I kept them all. The Mercedes Staff car was a product we produced in the Trakz range. Now there are a ton of plastic German staff cars. For years, they were non-existent!

206a. Hal Sanford, (left) and Shep Paine. Mastercon 12.

207. You may recognize the F-16 cockpit from the Verlinden books. It was painted by François and is the original Box art.

208. Heavy Flak Emplacement. A new Verlinden product back in 1986, I built the Tamiya 88 and Pruneau put it in the emplacement and detailed it out. A side story with this dio. Back in the early 1980s, I built a very large number of models each year. Building my “Superdioramas” with dozens of vehicles and hundreds of figures, required me to learn short cuts and techniques to speed up my building and painting. Some of the guys in my IPMS chapter became suspicious. They didn’t believe I could build all those so quickly. One evening, at a meeting, Susan came to pick me us and was talking with other wives in a room adjacent to where we met. In the conversation, one of the women asked her why she was always with me at shows, meetings and so on. She then said the wrong thing. She said, “Bob and I do everything together”, we always have”. The next thing I knew there were rumors that Susan was building the sub-assemblies for my models. That was considered a capital crime in IPMS competition, so I had to put it to rest! In short, I had a one of the doubting Thomases come over on a saturday morning, I opened the box of the Tamiya 88 kit, built it, painted it and mounted it on a base during the nine hours he was there. I took it to the nationals that year and it took a second place in it’s category. BTW, that didn’t stop the rumors! :-) That gun was the one I gave Lewis to put in the diorama. Don’t you just love old IPMS stories?

209. A very early model in my military modeling phase. A British Centurion Mk 5 and one of my first attempts at serious figure painting. 1981. Below is a photo taken at a Mastercon. That is Carlos Andrea of Andrea Miniatures in Spain in the white shirt awarding a trophy to a modeler. Carlos and I have been friends for many years. He began his professional career sculpting figures for Verlinden. From that small beginning, he created an empire becoming the largest figure company in the world. Behind him on the left is Lewis Pruneau and on the right is Joe Porter.

210. Another very early model of mine. A German Field kitchen built back in 1982.

211. Another of my favorite dioramas. Modelers Alliance’s own Ian Hil’s diorama from way back in 1991? A Panther workshop! Very busy and clearly shows the budding talent of a fellow member who has went on to do much greater things. Ian came to Mastercon back then and gave it to me before departing back to Australia. I can’t believe that was 27 years ago, and we’re still connecting, both on this website and via email!

212. Yet another one of my favorites. Lewis Pruneau scratched this 1/16th scale BMW motorcycle and converted the 120mm figures to go with it! I believe he did this one in the late 90s. It has always been a favorite in the museum.

212a. Another angle.

213. You guys may remember Jim Stephens from the Shep Paine How-to books which featured several of his dioramas and models. He liked to scratch build in 1/24th scale and he was damned good at it. IMO, he was the best ever with pastels, the forerunner of the pigments many of us use today. All the weathering on this truck was done with pastels. He was a Chicago cop while I was still carrying a badge. We had a lot in common and he was a fun guy to hang out with.

213a. Me and Jim Stephens at one of the Mastercons, probably in the mid-1990s.

214. This German Hetzer dio was built by Gordon Stronach. Gordon worked for VLS for many years as a in-house pattern maker. An amazing painter, he built the best painted aircraft I have ever seen. It was a 1/48th scale Stuka with a winter white finish that caught my eye at a Dallas show. I located him, with the help of Joe Porter, who knew him well, offered him a job and moved him to St. louis. That Stuka was flawless! There is a Christmas card behind it. That was one of many I exchanged with the owners of Mascot models, Roger and Janet Styles from England. VLS carried their products for decades. The figures were all nude/semi-nude female figures in all kinds of outfits and from all different countries. Him and his wife were very young and looked like the teenagers next door. Roger always reminded me of a young Paul McCartney. Both seemed so innocent. Their figure kits were so much unlike them, I always had to laugh! Some were downright raunchy. They used live models to sculpt them and, one Christmas, they sent me a folder with dozens of photographs of the girls who modeled for them and I don’t mean scale models! The guys at VLS relentlessly pestered me to check out that folder!

214a. A photo of Gordon Stronach at my house eating some Australian Lammingtons I made from a recipe given me by a girl once a part of this website. :laugh: Gordon was the founder of all the Planet model websites, Planet Armor, Planet Figure, Planet Aircraft and Planet Diorama.

214b. The Lammingtons I made that day!  :laugh:

215. This is the other Verlinden Diorama he gave me when we became partners. It is a German Rathaus, (City Hall), and an abandoned German 88 gun. It was also featured in The Verlinden Way, Volume 2 among other publications as well as the Box art for the product.

216. A tiny GMC gasoline truck in 1/72nd scale I built in 1982. I opened up the hood and scratched a tiny little GMC motor. It won a first place in it’s category in the Phoenix IPMS Nationals back in ’83. Not very impressive today, but I was proud of it back then!

217. Two more 1/35th and a 1/72nd vehicles I built 35 years ago for the Phoenix IPMS Nationals of 1983. A 1/72nd French AMX-30, A 1/35th German Hanomag, and an M-32 Sherman ARV. I took 37 entries, in all, and drove all the way in my car as obviously I couldn’t take them on a plane. It was my first competition after winning the Nationals in St. Louis with the Winds of War. I brought home 47 awards, every single entry won at least a second place and three took best of categories. I was in heaven! Those were such glorious times! They seem like another lifetime!

218. Mort Schmitt from Kentucky, was the official VLS Photographer for several years. He was also an excellent modeler. I have several of his models and this M3A1 Stuart is one of his best! It won a gold and Best armor. It was in 1/16th scale. The “nose art” was hand painted. Mort passed away at a very young age a few years ago.

218a. Mort Schmitt. Mort passed away at a very young age a few years ago.

219. The old Esci kit in 1/8th scale Zundapp motorcycle and sidecar, that I also built for the Phoenix Nationals way back when.

220. Robert Oehler, a great modeler and author for several British magazines and books publishers. He lives in California and is still active in the hobby! He was also a Mastercon regular. He gave this M-47 Jordanian Patton tank from the West Bank, 1967, to me after one of the Mastercons he attended.

220a. Robert Oehler giving a seminar at one of the Mastercons/

220b. Another modeler buddy of mine is Frank Stumpo. Frank was an N.Y.P.D. cop who was laid off back in the 80s. He then applied to the Houston, Texas department and moved there. Susan and I used to spend our first summers after retirement in Kemah, a resort suburb and we hooked up there with Frank. We also met him at an AMPS show in Maryland and the last time we saw him was when my daughter, Gail and I went there for a week, we had lunch in a Mexican restaurant with him. Frank and Jose Rodriquez of Tiger Models are coming to visit in June to see the museum this year. Below: Me, Gail and Frank. 2013.

221. George Woodard was considered one of America’s best armor modelers when I joined IPMS back in 1981. There were three master armor builders in the club I joined which just happened to be the largest chapter in the world, more than 150 members! When those three went to a National, or any convention, for that matter, nobody else won in their categories. This was an almost scratch built M-3 Lee. The entire aircraft engine was scratched, (Check it out at the rear of the tank), and most of the model as well. It had a complete interior that was lighted. George is still in the hobby in St. Louis! This was built during the 1970s and early 80s.

222. Some more box art I built and painted from the VLS line, “Streets of Laredo”. That was a line that featured the old America West. Buildings, horses and figures. One of my bucket list projects in the future is an old west town. Ken Jones gave me the Andrea “General” locomotive, I have all the kits from the Laredo series, plus a lot of Andrea and other western figures and accessories from other companies. Note the upper right hand corner. A photo I took of The Tamiya building in Shizouka Japan.

223. More Streets of Laredo Box art. Note the coffee cup from Riga, Latvia, former home of the infamous German Concentration camp! Plus some Indians and Cavalrymen from the VLS line, “Legends and Lore” in 120mm.

224. Another Don Kanaval diorama. Don always earned a gold medal for every entry. Mastercon was unique at the time as I had made the rules so there were no judges. If you had an entry, you had two votes and you couldn’t vote for yourself. In the background, Verlinden magazine published an article on Don for his famous “Nose Art. What an incredible artistic talent! Don made everybody look bad!

Continued in Chapter 4
Chapter Three
Part Seven.
The Glass Cases

.

151 Book Covers, Newspaper articles and a very special letter, (In white and Blue), inviting Susan and I to the White house, 2004. Two Who’s Who plaques on the left.

152. A photo of a stereo I built back in the 60s taken by Stereo Review magazine. The Old Mastercon Logo I commissioned to Don Kanaval. It was behind the dais for 16 Mastercons! The Three flags of VLS, Belgian, American and Dutch. (Verlinden, Letterman and Stok).

153. A photo in Japan with me and Susan talking to Freddie Leung, the CEO of Dragon and all their subsidiaries. Model Fan, a major model magazine publisher in Germany gave the medallions at the Nuremberg show for best manufacturer, 2002, (VLS Production companies). A letter from the Soldiers Memorial Museum in St. Louis in reference to their featuring my diorama, The Winds of War, as a centerpiece for their WW II exposition from January, 1983 to January 1984. Thank you letters for sponsoring awards at four IPMS National conventions.

153a. Something you may not know. When I first entered competition, I went to the IPMS Nationals in Phoenix, AZ. There was a celebrity there who was getting a lot of attention. His name was Nate polk and he owned Polk Hobbies in New York. To those who have seen the movie, The Godfather, when Tom Hagen exited the store at night, carrying an armload of toys, just after Vito Corleone had been shot, Virgil Sollozzo approached him and pushed him into a car. The shop Robert Duvall walked out of was Polk’s Hobbies!

154. Selected catalogue covers of VLS Mail Order beginning with the very first, (The tiny blue one from 1984 to the ones in the 1990s). VLS Published it’s last catalog in 2007.

155. Medals from a show in Indiana back in the 80s. More bowling trophies. (Not for bowling, they were model trophies back in the 80s before the familiar wooden plaques became popular). The Scabbard, a publication by the Military Miniature society of Illinois. Shep Paine’s club and annual competition. Lewis took his Vietnam Riverine dio and I took the first version of Legacies. Lewis entered and won best of show. I had retired from competition and took mine to display only. Both ended up on the cover of the Scabbard.

156. Some more awards, my university and Law School diplomas, an arial photo of the last VLS facility, a 40,000 square foot building on five acres. We moved into this in 1999, after the split with Verlinden and remained here until I sold the business to MMD/Squadron and the Building to a giant plumbing company with 27 crews of repairmen.

157. Flags from around the world. When the museum was in St. Charles, we had all the flags of the world in a larger size hanging throughout. No way I could fit them all in here, so I replaced them with these smaller versions.

158. Awards from an IPMS regional convention in 1984. A VLS women’s hat and a US army engineer’s hat with the unit I served with, the 87th Engineer battalion. I was given that hat by an army buddy I served with in the same unit, Harry Puncec. That was in 1959, almost 60 years ago, and we are still buddies! The 10 year award from the National Federation of independent Businesses.

158a. PFC Harry Puncec. Now retired with grandchildren. Still buddies!

159. More awards, a piece of leather from the seats of the Mercedes staff car used by Hitler in the 1930s and 40s. An article in a St. Louis paper about my diorama, “The Winds of War”. 1982.

160. A practice bomb from Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack in 1941. A history of the Miniature World Museum, it’s three locations from 1993 to 2005, compiled by my now deceased partner, Ralph Koebbeman. More awards on the inside of the window frame.

161. The bomb again, more awards and the dark blue cap is from the Olympics in London.

162. Awards from the IPMS National Convention in 1983 in Phoenix, Arizona. On the right in silver, is the first place award from the St. Louis IPMS National convention for “The Winds of War. 1982. My first military diorama that brought so much notoriety, It was featured in books and magazines all over the world within three months of accepting that trophy. I have always believed if not for that single trophy, VLS would have never existed. (Long Story).

163. More awards and a silver tray awarded to the VLS staff for their dedication to the hobby. There is a hat from the Olympics in London and another from Normandy on the celebration of D-Day, 1944 to 2014. On the far left is a trophy from an IPMS national for first place awarded to a 1/12th scale red Porsche in 1985. It was my final entry in competition.

164. The entrance to my model workshop, plus some more awards, Pierre, the chef welcoming to my man cave! And some political awards.

165. Ditto, Pierre, my chef, welcoming people to the museum and my very different man cave. Also note the cover of the second issue of Fine Scale Modeler, February, 1983, with “The Winds of War” on the cover.

165a. John Rosengrandt. An incredible modeler who is now head of one of the biggest and best special effects movie studios in Hollywood! I bought Warriors from John.

165b. John, when much younger with Chris Mrosko in the, (Then), Stan Winston Studios.

165c. Taken in the early 90s, at Verlinden’s son’s wedding in Lier City Hall, Belgium, where I was best man. A photo of Jos Stok, my Dutch partner. He is on the far left with white hair. He was an extremely wealthy man. Jos passed away about 12 years ago. Also in the photo is Lilliane and François Verlinden and relatives. Susan and i are in the back on the right.

165d. A photograph taken in front of the VLS facility in O’Fallon, Mo, in 1992. Jef Verswyvel, my doberman Warlock, me and Susan. To the far right, François is standing.

165e. On Grand opening day at the O’fallon location, the entire city council, mayor, police chief, fire chief and many others in attendance, Susan, in black, takes a break with some of our personal friends. The Guy sitting on the desk with Susan is a long time friend. He was an atomic physicist for Monsanto with a very odd name of Dyke Simer. Everywhere we went, people always thought we were brothers. His blond wife Debbie and the dark haired Bonnie were Susan’s best friends. You can see on the wall a display and behind Susan a diorama. Both are in the museum today.

165f. A really old photo of me at age 26 and Susan at 21. I had just graduated the St. Louis Police Academy, it was summer, 1967. We lived in a little apartment in a town now famous, then a peaceful little suburb of St. Louis, called Ferguson.

165g. A Newspaper article from 1982 during the National IPMS convention in St. Louis that started everything!

165h. I have previously mentioned my custom car/hot rod phase in my teens. This was my 52 Ford while in the army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I was stationed there for almost a year before shipping out to France. I did all my own flame jobs and scallops back then and even made some money on the side doing others. Altogether, I had seven custom cars and hot rods back in the day!! The girl in the photo was my main squeeze then and worked as a secretary for the F.B.I. Her father was an agent. We were both 18.

165i. When I got out of the army in 1962, the flames and scallops had pretty much went out of style. Clean lines and power had succeeded them. My first car in ‘62 was an almost new 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air two door hardtop. Here’s a couple of photos.

165j. Ditto, interior. Center console with tach, tape recorder, etc. Tuck and roll upholstery, floor shift, swivel bucket seats and an aircraft type steering wheel! Even a padded dash before padded dashes were normal!

165k. Later, I got a 1962 Corvette. It was one of the hottest cars in town! 327 cu. in. bored out to 60,000 over, Duntov Cam, solid lifters, Edlebrock manifold, Twin Cadillac Four Barrels and a 4:56 rear end.

165l. I loved this car. Wish i still had it. tThey go for more than a hundred thousand today when you can find them!

165m. Susan and the Vette on our honeymoon at the brand new “Over the highway” McDonald’s in 1966. It is still there, just north of Tulsa OK. I have had six Corvettes in my life. That was the first!

Part 8 Militaria.

166. Us Navy A-6 Intruder pilot’s uniform. I have a storage unit filled with this kind of military and even dioramas I had no room for. I plan on rotating them from time to time.

167. Then a Soviet MIG-21 pilot’s uniform complete with parachute, oxygen equipment, and so on.

168. And an F-16 fighter pilot’s uniform from the 1990s. It is complete down to the last detail. I should mention a modeler in Seattle, a Vietnam gunship gunner, who had been exposed to far too much Agent Orange. He always used his nickname, “Blinder”. He was so in love with the idea of the museum, he donated many items such as this uniform, He was a dealer in Militaria and we were good friends. I met him in person back in 1990 I think, at the IPMS Nationals in Seattle. For many years, he emailed me daily. He wasn’t married and had no family. One day, the emails stopped.

169. This is a “Boots and Coots” firefighter’s suit. It was used to extinguish the oil rig fires in Kuwaiti during the first Gulf war. It can withstand 2000° (F) for an hour. Original cost? $100,000.00! It was also donated by Blinder. Boots and Coots are the :Other firefighting company, their competition being the one that John Wayne made Famous in the movie, “Hellfighters”.

170. Various Militaria. Where did I get all this and much, much more in storage? Besides Blinder, VLS customers sent it to me requesting I commission my sculptors and pattern makers to do them in miniature. They wanted in return a half dozen or a dozen products when they were released. I made it a practice to send them a dozen kits for each item sent.

172. A US Carrier flight deck crewman’s head gear. A WW II US gas mask, various country’s military medals, a Gold coin from the Tower mint in London commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar, 1n 2005, as well as a tie tack from the Euromilitarie Figure exposition. Both were given to me by Ken Jones.

173. Various hats. Soviet pile cap, A Dutch police officer’s service cap, Two Belgian police service caps and a WW II G.I.s Dress cap.

176. A really special item. General Colin Powell’s Desert Storm Kevlar helmet. This came from the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back in 2001, along with artifacts from Schwarzkopf as well. (See later artifacts). to the left are Inert hand grenades of several types, and some Desert Storm 120mm figures. VLS had customers throughout the military including those in the Pentagon. To the right are two VP 120mm figures from Operation Desert Storm.

176a. Ditto. That’s a Miniature World Beer Mug from the gift shop back in the 90s.

177. During Operation Desert Storm, some of our military customers in Kuwait, had this shipped to me complete with name tag and a combat infantryman’s badge. I have learned that people who model are diverse, but, there is an unusual number of Police Officers, the Military, Doctors and especially Dentists involved. Go figure! That’s an inert Laws rocket on the right. And an imitation M-26 rifle on the left. It fires .22 long rifle only. The uniform is complete with the “Fritz’ helmet. The photograph of the girl in the background was one of the tour guides in the museum. All the employees wore those uniforms.

178. A North Vietnam regular’s sun helmet from the 1970s. Several gas masks from different countries and eras plus some 120mm figures.

179. More gas masks and an NBC chemical head cover. An Arab head dress is in the center.

180. A 37mm shell taken from the back of an American aces ejection seat. It didn’t explode and the pilot survived. A rifled grenade cartridge, (Inert). Two Chopper crew helmets, Vietnam vintage, and a very rare Inmates cap with Jewish star embroidered from Auschwitz Concentration camp.

181. A WW I steel helmet and a campaign hat. (In very bad condition, it’s a hundred years old this year! Also several VP product displays built by Lewis Pruneau in the 1980s.

185. The main hat case. Military and police hats from various countries. (More on that later).

186. Ditto.

187. Police patches from all over the world. In the background is the academy notebook I compiled in 1966 at the st. Louis Police academy.

188. A tactical Operations uniform, (complete with kevlar helmet, all riot gear, boots, gloves, black ski mask and so on. (St. Louis County Police)

189. “Upgrade”, 1980s, I built this after visiting the California Highway Patrol facility in San Diego, California. With my press pass, but even more so with my retirement badge, they gave me the grand tour of the place, I took lots of photographs. The diorama’s subtitle is, “What if the California Highway Patrol had a Lamborghini Diablo”? It features Verlinden 1/24th car series figures and a 1/25th Fujimi Lamborghini Countach and an AMT Ford Taurus Police Car. On the wall behind it is one of the photos in a magazine article about the diorama.

189a. Another angle.

189b. Another angle.

190. Back in the early 80s, on one of my many trips to Europe, (I’ve crossed the Atlantic more than 200 times in my life. I’d like to have all the money I spent on those trips!) I stopped in a Kaiserslautern police station. I showed them my retirement badge and told them I collected police equipment, (“Sammalung” in German = collection). I met a patrol officer named Klaus Sinner. We became friends over the years and I went on patrol with him a couple of times! That is his work uniform in the photo. Police work is much the same the world over. Except that Europe had far less crime, at least when compared to St. Louis. They gave me an commanding officer’s uniform, trousers, shoes and all. At the time, it actually fit me! No comments!  :laugh: It was soooo cool! Klaus and me beside his patrol wagon.

190a. The German Police Uniform.

191. These model buildings are all box art. I think I built and painted all the box art for several of the brands from 1999 to 2007. As soon as a new release came off the line, production would bring all the parts, I would build it, paint and weather it and then photograph it and send that to the art department where they would make the labels. VLS’ 15 production companies had a total of 2,200 products when I sold the company. The photo was taken on a cruise to the Caribbean with the Verlindens back in 1986. Susan is behind me and Francois’ wife, Lilliane, is in the green dress.

Part 9. The Glass Cases.

192. More box art. There is a beer stein from Miniature World in the center. Name Tag from Euromilitaire to the left.

193. Ditto.

194. More Box art, there is the jungle hut I posted on my forum here. Dave Harper photographed it as i painted. He was obsessed with the Pacific theater of WW II. Above is a massive photo-etched fence and gate in 1/35th scale. It was one of the Tech Star products.

195. More Box art.

195a. Ditto.

196. More Box art. A name tag from the Chicago Trade fair. A Japanese pilot’s headband, WW II. Note the DCS box in the back. When Verlinden first started making plaster buildings in the 1970s, they were called DCS productions. A man I came to know well from Belgium, moved to St. Louis and, with Verlinden’s permission, started producing them in America. His name was Richard Mottard. Later, in 1984, he returned to Belgium and started a figure company. VLS carried them until Richard had a heart attack and died while at the second Euromilitaire show out on the balcony overlooking the channel coast. His company was Belgo figures.

197. For years, VLS commissioned sculptors and pattern makers from around the world. One of our primary pattern makers was Carles Elias from Portugal. He was a friend of Mig Jiminez who you all are familiar with. One day, I got the photograph you see on the glass wall behind the model buildings. He had taken it on a trip to Russia. He had offered it to Mig to paint like the photograph. Mig told him he should give it to me. Long story short, I painted it, it became a best seller in the Custom Dioramics line and later, I converted it to the white building and we sold a lot of them as well.

198. More box art!

199. More box art and some Verlinden figures. Lewis Pruneau worked for VLS from 1985 to 1990 and he painted many Verlinden products for us to display at trade fairs. These are examples. Note the case and women’s wrist watch. We had both men’s and women’s watches made with the VLS Logo on the dial. Sold a lot, all the employees got one and they made nice gifts to business vendors and customers.

200. More box art, (Now maybe you can understand why my dioramas kept being put on the back burner during those years). A white coffee mug from Miniature World. We did a lot of merchandising during the VLS years! A photo of Susan and I on a Caribbean cruise on The Norwegian ship, “Sovereign of the Seas”, with the ship’s captain.

201. More box art and a product Verlinden created from a real F-16 fighter plane. We sold hundred’s of those silly things! I still have three myself! Then an HO trolley. I used it to give pattern maker Ben Jacobsen the idea I wanted for the Custom Dioramics Trolley. That was one of our best sellers and it retailed for a hundred dollars. BTW, Ben was also a friend of Chuck W. on MA and passed away in November of last year.

202. Ditto plus another DCS product!

203. One of my most treasured dioramas. The late Shep Paine built this for Monogram back in 1972. One 0f the 8 wheeled armored cars is stock and one is converted to a command vehicle. He made many of these dioramas for Monogram and they used them as artwork for their “Tips on Building Dioramas” brochures, including them in their armor and aircraft kits in the 1970s. It is extremely rare and collector’s would die to get their hands on one. Back in 1986, after VLS had been growing to include all the plastic manufacturers in our wholesale inventory, The president of Monogram at that time, Bob Johnson, took us, Wes Bradley, Susan and I on an elaborate tour of the factory. When we walked into their conference room, I spotted this on a shelf. Naturally, being a modeler who had not yet became so used to models as I would be later, freaked out. The president asked me if I would like to have it. I’m sure you can’t guess my reply! I have now owned it for the last 32 years. I have had many inquiries about buying it, but, not a chance! The two figures to the right in the second angle shot, were sculpted and painted by Mike Good, a very well known sculptor and figure painter from back in the 1980s and 90s. I lost contact with Mike several years ago! The last I heard was he had moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico to join an art community there.

203a. Another angle showing the “Tip Sheet”.

204. This diorama was featured in The Verlinden Way, Volume 2. I met François Verlinden for the first time in 1984 at the IPMS Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia. I had read his first book, The Verlinden Way Volumn One, and we had, by coincidence, had articles, back to back in the second issue of Fine Scale Modeler magazine. I was still a cop, and had started a company I called Warwinds Militaria and hobby Ltd. I ran it out of our basement on a couple of work tables and some old shelves. The agenda back then was to travel to as many weekend shows as possible, Susan and Wes would man the vendor tables and I would compete. In Atlanta, Verlinden and Stok came to find a distributer for his products in the states. We had 12 tables and had brought Lewis Pruneau and a couple of other guys along to help! We turned out to be the largest vendor at the show. I was selling Verlinden’s books and plaster buildings I was buying through Lynn Sangster of Historex Agents in England. (Lynn recently passed away). Long story short, Francois and i hit it off and Warwinds eventually became his exclusive American distributor. We did so well in fact, that in August, 1985, Stok and Verlinden asked me to become partners with them. The rest is history. He gave me this diorama and another one shortly after we became business partners.

205. This truck was built by the late Duane Phister of Southern California. He was the primary modeler for the California magazines, Scale Modeler and Military Modeler for many years. Duane was a Master’s Group member for many years as well, and he rarely missed a Mastercon, even though he wouldn’t fly and always took Amtrac to and from the show. The truck is 1/16th scale. Duane and I partied together many times! He passed away 6 or 7 years ago.

205a. Duane Phister receiving a Best of category from me at Mastercon 12. I met Duane when we were in Verdun France. I was 20 and he was 17. Almost the time when I was going home for a discharge, a young recruit Duane was just arriving. We met on an army bus that ran between Verdun and Etain Air force base. When Duane came to mastercon every year, we’d sit down over a beer or two and reminisce about old times!

206. This bust was painted by Hal Sanford. You may remember the book, “Modelaholic” from the 1990s. Hal was the author. He was a regular at Mastercon, one of the “Old Guard” and one of the nicest and funniest guys I have ever known. We still keep in touch and he continues to attend the show in Dallas, now called Eagle Quest. In the background, a Christmas card from Shep Paine. We exchanged cards from 1982 until he died. I kept them all. The Mercedes Staff car was a product we produced in the Trakz range. Now there are a ton of plastic German staff cars. For years, they were non-existent!

206a. Hal Sanford, (left) and Shep Paine. Mastercon 12.

207. You may recognize the F-16 cockpit from the Verlinden books. It was painted by François and is the original Box art.

208. Heavy Flak Emplacement. A new Verlinden product back in 1986, I built the Tamiya 88 and Pruneau put it in the emplacement and detailed it out. A side story with this dio. Back in the early 1980s, I built a very large number of models each year. Building my “Superdioramas” with dozens of vehicles and hundreds of figures, required me to learn short cuts and techniques to speed up my building and painting. Some of the guys in my IPMS chapter became suspicious. They didn’t believe I could build all those so quickly. One evening, at a meeting, Susan came to pick me us and was talking with other wives in a room adjacent to where we met. In the conversation, one of the women asked her why she was always with me at shows, meetings and so on. She then said the wrong thing. She said, “Bob and I do everything together”, we always have”. The next thing I knew there were rumors that Susan was building the sub-assemblies for my models. That was considered a capital crime in IPMS competition, so I had to put it to rest! In short, I had a one of the doubting Thomases come over on a saturday morning, I opened the box of the Tamiya 88 kit, built it, painted it and mounted it on a base during the nine hours he was there. I took it to the nationals that year and it took a second place in it’s category. BTW, that didn’t stop the rumors! :-) That gun was the one I gave Lewis to put in the diorama. Don’t you just love old IPMS stories?

209. A very early model in my military modeling phase. A British Centurion Mk 5 and one of my first attempts at serious figure painting. 1981. Below is a photo taken at a Mastercon. That is Carlos Andrea of Andrea Miniatures in Spain in the white shirt awarding a trophy to a modeler. Carlos and I have been friends for many years. He began his professional career sculpting figures for Verlinden. From that small beginning, he created an empire becoming the largest figure company in the world. Behind him on the left is Lewis Pruneau and on the right is Joe Porter.

210. Another very early model of mine. A German Field kitchen built back in 1982.

211. Another of my favorite dioramas. Modelers Alliance’s own Ian Hil’s diorama from way back in 1991? A Panther workshop! Very busy and clearly shows the budding talent of a fellow member who has went on to do much greater things. Ian came to Mastercon back then and gave it to me before departing back to Australia. I can’t believe that was 27 years ago, and we’re still connecting, both on this website and via email!

212. Yet another one of my favorites. Lewis Pruneau scratched this 1/16th scale BMW motorcycle and converted the 120mm figures to go with it! I believe he did this one in the late 90s. It has always been a favorite in the museum.

212a. Another angle.

213. You guys may remember Jim Stephens from the Shep Paine How-to books which featured several of his dioramas and models. He liked to scratch build in 1/24th scale and he was damned good at it. IMO, he was the best ever with pastels, the forerunner of the pigments many of us use today. All the weathering on this truck was done with pastels. He was a Chicago cop while I was still carrying a badge. We had a lot in common and he was a fun guy to hang out with.

213a. Me and Jim Stephens at one of the Mastercons, probably in the mid-1990s.

214. This German Hetzer dio was built by Gordon Stronach. Gordon worked for VLS for many years as a in-house pattern maker. An amazing painter, he built the best painted aircraft I have ever seen. It was a 1/48th scale Stuka with a winter white finish that caught my eye at a Dallas show. I located him, with the help of Joe Porter, who knew him well, offered him a job and moved him to St. louis. That Stuka was flawless! There is a Christmas card behind it. That was one of many I exchanged with the owners of Mascot models, Roger and Janet Styles from England. VLS carried their products for decades. The figures were all nude/semi-nude female figures in all kinds of outfits and from all different countries. Him and his wife were very young and looked like the teenagers next door. Roger always reminded me of a young Paul McCartney. Both seemed so innocent. Their figure kits were so much unlike them, I always had to laugh! Some were downright raunchy. They used live models to sculpt them and, one Christmas, they sent me a folder with dozens of photographs of the girls who modeled for them and I don’t mean scale models! The guys at VLS relentlessly pestered me to check out that folder!

214a. A photo of Gordon Stronach at my house eating some Australian Lammingtons I made from a recipe given me by a girl once a part of this website. :laugh: Gordon was the founder of all the Planet model websites, Planet Armor, Planet Figure, Planet Aircraft and Planet Diorama.

214b. The Lammingtons I made that day!  :laugh:

215. This is the other Verlinden Diorama he gave me when we became partners. It is a German Rathaus, (City Hall), and an abandoned German 88 gun. It was also featured in The Verlinden Way, Volume 2 among other publications as well as the Box art for the product.

216. A tiny GMC gasoline truck in 1/72nd scale I built in 1982. I opened up the hood and scratched a tiny little GMC motor. It won a first place in it’s category in the Phoenix IPMS Nationals back in ’83. Not very impressive today, but I was proud of it back then!

217. Two more 1/35th and a 1/72nd vehicles I built 35 years ago for the Phoenix IPMS Nationals of 1983. A 1/72nd French AMX-30, A 1/35th German Hanomag, and an M-32 Sherman ARV. I took 37 entries, in all, and drove all the way in my car as obviously I couldn’t take them on a plane. It was my first competition after winning the Nationals in St. Louis with the Winds of War. I brought home 47 awards, every single entry won at least a second place and three took best of categories. I was in heaven! Those were such glorious times! They seem like another lifetime!

218. Mort Schmitt from Kentucky, was the official VLS Photographer for several years. He was also an excellent modeler. I have several of his models and this M3A1 Stuart is one of his best! It won a gold and Best armor. It was in 1/16th scale. The “nose art” was hand painted. Mort passed away at a very young age a few years ago.

218a. Mort Schmitt. Mort passed away at a very young age a few years ago.

219. The old Esci kit in 1/8th scale Zundapp motorcycle and sidecar, that I also built for the Phoenix Nationals way back when.

220. Robert Oehler, a great modeler and author for several British magazines and books publishers. He lives in California and is still active in the hobby! He was also a Mastercon regular. He gave this M-47 Jordanian Patton tank from the West Bank, 1967, to me after one of the Mastercons he attended.

220a. Robert Oehler giving a seminar at one of the Mastercons/

220b. Another modeler buddy of mine is Frank Stumpo. Frank was an N.Y.P.D. cop who was laid off back in the 80s. He then applied to the Houston, Texas department and moved there. Susan and I used to spend our first summers after retirement in Kemah, a resort suburb and we hooked up there with Frank. We also met him at an AMPS show in Maryland and the last time we saw him was when my daughter, Gail and I went there for a week, we had lunch in a Mexican restaurant with him. Frank and Jose Rodriquez of Tiger Models are coming to visit in June to see the museum this year. Below: Me, Gail and Frank. 2013.

221. George Woodard was considered one of America’s best armor modelers when I joined IPMS back in 1981. There were three master armor builders in the club I joined which just happened to be the largest chapter in the world, more than 150 members! When those three went to a National, or any convention, for that matter, nobody else won in their categories. This was an almost scratch built M-3 Lee. The entire aircraft engine was scratched, (Check it out at the rear of the tank), and most of the model as well. It had a complete interior that was lighted. George is still in the hobby in St. Louis! This was built during the 1970s and early 80s.

222. Some more box art I built and painted from the VLS line, “Streets of Laredo”. That was a line that featured the old America West. Buildings, horses and figures. One of my bucket list projects in the future is an old west town. Ken Jones gave me the Andrea “General” locomotive, I have all the kits from the Laredo series, plus a lot of Andrea and other western figures and accessories from other companies. Note the upper right hand corner. A photo I took of The Tamiya building in Shizouka Japan.

223. More Streets of Laredo Box art. Note the coffee cup from Riga, Latvia, former home of the infamous German Concentration camp! Plus some Indians and Cavalrymen from the VLS line, “Legends and Lore” in 120mm.

224. Another Don Kanaval diorama. Don always earned a gold medal for every entry. Mastercon was unique at the time as I had made the rules so there were no judges. If you had an entry, you had two votes and you couldn’t vote for yourself. In the background, Verlinden magazine published an article on Don for his famous “Nose Art. What an incredible artistic talent! Don made everybody look bad!

Continued in Chapter 4
Chapter Three
Part Seven.
The Glass Cases

.

151 Book Covers, Newspaper articles and a very special letter, (In white and Blue), inviting Susan and I to the White house, 2004. Two Who’s Who plaques on the left.

152. A photo of a stereo I built back in the 60s taken by Stereo Review magazine. The Old Mastercon Logo I commissioned to Don Kanaval. It was behind the dais for 16 Mastercons! The Three flags of VLS, Belgian, American and Dutch. (Verlinden, Letterman and Stok).

153. A photo in Japan with me and Susan talking to Freddie Leung, the CEO of Dragon and all their subsidiaries. Model Fan, a major model magazine publisher in Germany gave the medallions at the Nuremberg show for best manufacturer, 2002, (VLS Production companies). A letter from the Soldiers Memorial Museum in St. Louis in reference to their featuring my diorama, The Winds of War, as a centerpiece for their WW II exposition from January, 1983 to January 1984. Thank you letters for sponsoring awards at four IPMS National conventions.

153a. Something you may not know. When I first entered competition, I went to the IPMS Nationals in Phoenix, AZ. There was a celebrity there who was getting a lot of attention. His name was Nate polk and he owned Polk Hobbies in New York. To those who have seen the movie, The Godfather, when Tom Hagen exited the store at night, carrying an armload of toys, just after Vito Corleone had been shot, Virgil Sollozzo approached him and pushed him into a car. The shop Robert Duvall walked out of was Polk’s Hobbies!

154. Selected catalogue covers of VLS Mail Order beginning with the very first, (The tiny blue one from 1984 to the ones in the 1990s). VLS Published it’s last catalog in 2007.

155. Medals from a show in Indiana back in the 80s. More bowling trophies. (Not for bowling, they were model trophies back in the 80s before the familiar wooden plaques became popular). The Scabbard, a publication by the Military Miniature society of Illinois. Shep Paine’s club and annual competition. Lewis took his Vietnam Riverine dio and I took the first version of Legacies. Lewis entered and won best of show. I had retired from competition and took mine to display only. Both ended up on the cover of the Scabbard.

156. Some more awards, my university and Law School diplomas, an arial photo of the last VLS facility, a 40,000 square foot building on five acres. We moved into this in 1999, after the split with Verlinden and remained here until I sold the business to MMD/Squadron and the Building to a giant plumbing company with 27 crews of repairmen.

157. Flags from around the world. When the museum was in St. Charles, we had all the flags of the world in a larger size hanging throughout. No way I could fit them all in here, so I replaced them with these smaller versions.

158. Awards from an IPMS regional convention in 1984. A VLS women’s hat and a US army engineer’s hat with the unit I served with, the 87th Engineer battalion. I was given that hat by an army buddy I served with in the same unit, Harry Puncec. That was in 1959, almost 60 years ago, and we are still buddies! The 10 year award from the National Federation of independent Businesses.

158a. PFC Harry Puncec. Now retired with grandchildren. Still buddies!

159. More awards, a piece of leather from the seats of the Mercedes staff car used by Hitler in the 1930s and 40s. An article in a St. Louis paper about my diorama, “The Winds of War”. 1982.

160. A practice bomb from Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack in 1941. A history of the Miniature World Museum, it’s three locations from 1993 to 2005, compiled by my now deceased partner, Ralph Koebbeman. More awards on the inside of the window frame.

161. The bomb again, more awards and the dark blue cap is from the Olympics in London.

162. Awards from the IPMS National Convention in 1983 in Phoenix, Arizona. On the right in silver, is the first place award from the St. Louis IPMS National convention for “The Winds of War. 1982. My first military diorama that brought so much notoriety, It was featured in books and magazines all over the world within three months of accepting that trophy. I have always believed if not for that single trophy, VLS would have never existed. (Long Story).

163. More awards and a silver tray awarded to the VLS staff for their dedication to the hobby. There is a hat from the Olympics in London and another from Normandy on the celebration of D-Day, 1944 to 2014. On the far left is a trophy from an IPMS national for first place awarded to a 1/12th scale red Porsche in 1985. It was my final entry in competition.

164. The entrance to my model workshop, plus some more awards, Pierre, the chef welcoming to my man cave! And some political awards.

165. Ditto, Pierre, my chef, welcoming people to the museum and my very different man cave. Also note the cover of the second issue of Fine Scale Modeler, February, 1983, with “The Winds of War” on the cover.

165a. John Rosengrandt. An incredible modeler who is now head of one of the biggest and best special effects movie studios in Hollywood! I bought Warriors from John.

165b. John, when much younger with Chris Mrosko in the, (Then), Stan Winston Studios.

165c. Taken in the early 90s, at Verlinden’s son’s wedding in Lier City Hall, Belgium, where I was best man. A photo of Jos Stok, my Dutch partner. He is on the far left with white hair. He was an extremely wealthy man. Jos passed away about 12 years ago. Also in the photo is Lilliane and François Verlinden and relatives. Susan and i are in the back on the right.

165d. A photograph taken in front of the VLS facility in O’Fallon, Mo, in 1992. Jef Verswyvel, my doberman Warlock, me and Susan. To the far right, François is standing.

165e. On Grand opening day at the O’fallon location, the entire city council, mayor, police chief, fire chief and many others in attendance, Susan, in black, takes a break with some of our personal friends. The Guy sitting on the desk with Susan is a long time friend. He was an atomic physicist for Monsanto with a very odd name of Dyke Simer. Everywhere we went, people always thought we were brothers. His blond wife Debbie and the dark haired Bonnie were Susan’s best friends. You can see on the wall a display and behind Susan a diorama. Both are in the museum today.

165f. A really old photo of me at age 26 and Susan at 21. I had just graduated the St. Louis Police Academy, it was summer, 1967. We lived in a little apartment in a town now famous, then a peaceful little suburb of St. Louis, called Ferguson.

165g. A Newspaper article from 1982 during the National IPMS convention in St. Louis that started everything!

165h. I have previously mentioned my custom car/hot rod phase in my teens. This was my 52 Ford while in the army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I was stationed there for almost a year before shipping out to France. I did all my own flame jobs and scallops back then and even made some money on the side doing others. Altogether, I had seven custom cars and hot rods back in the day!! The girl in the photo was my main squeeze then and worked as a secretary for the F.B.I. Her father was an agent. We were both 18.

165i. When I got out of the army in 1962, the flames and scallops had pretty much went out of style. Clean lines and power had succeeded them. My first car in ‘62 was an almost new 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air two door hardtop. Here’s a couple of photos.

165j. Ditto, interior. Center console with tach, tape recorder, etc. Tuck and roll upholstery, floor shift, swivel bucket seats and an aircraft type steering wheel! Even a padded dash before padded dashes were normal!

165k. Later, I got a 1962 Corvette. It was one of the hottest cars in town! 327 cu. in. bored out to 60,000 over, Duntov Cam, solid lifters, Edlebrock manifold, Twin Cadillac Four Barrels and a 4:56 rear end.

165l. I loved this car. Wish i still had it. tThey go for more than a hundred thousand today when you can find them!

165m. Susan and the Vette on our honeymoon at the brand new “Over the highway” McDonald’s in 1966. It is still there, just north of Tulsa OK. I have had six Corvettes in my life. That was the first!

Part 8 Militaria.

166. Us Navy A-6 Intruder pilot’s uniform. I have a storage unit filled with this kind of military and even dioramas I had no room for. I plan on rotating them from time to time.

167. Then a Soviet MIG-21 pilot’s uniform complete with parachute, oxygen equipment, and so on.

168. And an F-16 fighter pilot’s uniform from the 1990s. It is complete down to the last detail. I should mention a modeler in Seattle, a Vietnam gunship gunner, who had been exposed to far too much Agent Orange. He always used his nickname, “Blinder”. He was so in love with the idea of the museum, he donated many items such as this uniform, He was a dealer in Militaria and we were good friends. I met him in person back in 1990 I think, at the IPMS Nationals in Seattle. For many years, he emailed me daily. He wasn’t married and had no family. One day, the emails stopped.

169. This is a “Boots and Coots” firefighter’s suit. It was used to extinguish the oil rig fires in Kuwaiti during the first Gulf war. It can withstand 2000° (F) for an hour. Original cost? $100,000.00! It was also donated by Blinder. Boots and Coots are the :Other firefighting company, their competition being the one that John Wayne made Famous in the movie, “Hellfighters”.

170. Various Militaria. Where did I get all this and much, much more in storage? Besides Blinder, VLS customers sent it to me requesting I commission my sculptors and pattern makers to do them in miniature. They wanted in return a half dozen or a dozen products when they were released. I made it a practice to send them a dozen kits for each item sent.

172. A US Carrier flight deck crewman’s head gear. A WW II US gas mask, various country’s military medals, a Gold coin from the Tower mint in London commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar, 1n 2005, as well as a tie tack from the Euromilitarie Figure exposition. Both were given to me by Ken Jones.

173. Various hats. Soviet pile cap, A Dutch police officer’s service cap, Two Belgian police service caps and a WW II G.I.s Dress cap.

176. A really special item. General Colin Powell’s Desert Storm Kevlar helmet. This came from the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back in 2001, along with artifacts from Schwarzkopf as well. (See later artifacts). to the left are Inert hand grenades of several types, and some Desert Storm 120mm figures. VLS had customers throughout the military including those in the Pentagon. To the right are two VP 120mm figures from Operation Desert Storm.

176a. Ditto. That’s a Miniature World Beer Mug from the gift shop back in the 90s.

177. During Operation Desert Storm, some of our military customers in Kuwait, had this shipped to me complete with name tag and a combat infantryman’s badge. I have learned that people who model are diverse, but, there is an unusual number of Police Officers, the Military, Doctors and especially Dentists involved. Go figure! That’s an inert Laws rocket on the right. And an imitation M-26 rifle on the left. It fires .22 long rifle only. The uniform is complete with the “Fritz’ helmet. The photograph of the girl in the background was one of the tour guides in the museum. All the employees wore those uniforms.

178. A North Vietnam regular’s sun helmet from the 1970s. Several gas masks from different countries and eras plus some 120mm figures.

179. More gas masks and an NBC chemical head cover. An Arab head dress is in the center.

180. A 37mm shell taken from the back of an American aces ejection seat. It didn’t explode and the pilot survived. A rifled grenade cartridge, (Inert). Two Chopper crew helmets, Vietnam vintage, and a very rare Inmates cap with Jewish star embroidered from Auschwitz Concentration camp.

181. A WW I steel helmet and a campaign hat. (In very bad condition, it’s a hundred years old this year! Also several VP product displays built by Lewis Pruneau in the 1980s.

185. The main hat case. Military and police hats from various countries. (More on that later).

186. Ditto.

187. Police patches from all over the world. In the background is the academy notebook I compiled in 1966 at the st. Louis Police academy.

188. A tactical Operations uniform, (complete with kevlar helmet, all riot gear, boots, gloves, black ski mask and so on. (St. Louis County Police)

189. “Upgrade”, 1980s, I built this after visiting the California Highway Patrol facility in San Diego, California. With my press pass, but even more so with my retirement badge, they gave me the grand tour of the place, I took lots of photographs. The diorama’s subtitle is, “What if the California Highway Patrol had a Lamborghini Diablo”? It features Verlinden 1/24th car series figures and a 1/25th Fujimi Lamborghini Countach and an AMT Ford Taurus Police Car. On the wall behind it is one of the photos in a magazine article about the diorama.

189a. Another angle.

189b. Another angle.

190. Back in the early 80s, on one of my many trips to Europe, (I’ve crossed the Atlantic more than 200 times in my life. I’d like to have all the money I spent on those trips!) I stopped in a Kaiserslautern police station. I showed them my retirement badge and told them I collected police equipment, (“Sammalung” in German = collection). I met a patrol officer named Klaus Sinner. We became friends over the years and I went on patrol with him a couple of times! That is his work uniform in the photo. Police work is much the same the world over. Except that Europe had far less crime, at least when compared to St. Louis. They gave me an commanding officer’s uniform, trousers, shoes and all. At the time, it actually fit me! No comments!  :laugh: It was soooo cool! Klaus and me beside his patrol wagon.

190a. The German Police Uniform.

191. These model buildings are all box art. I think I built and painted all the box art for several of the brands from 1999 to 2007. As soon as a new release came off the line, production would bring all the parts, I would build it, paint and weather it and then photograph it and send that to the art department where they would make the labels. VLS’ 15 production companies had a total of 2,200 products when I sold the company. The photo was taken on a cruise to the Caribbean with the Verlindens back in 1986. Susan is behind me and Francois’ wife, Lilliane, is in the green dress.

Part 9. The Glass Cases.

192. More box art. There is a beer stein from Miniature World in the center. Name Tag from Euromilitaire to the left.

193. Ditto.

194. More Box art, there is the jungle hut I posted on my forum here. Dave Harper photographed it as i painted. He was obsessed with the Pacific theater of WW II. Above is a massive photo-etched fence and gate in 1/35th scale. It was one of the Tech Star products.

195. More Box art.

195a. Ditto.

196. More Box art. A name tag from the Chicago Trade fair. A Japanese pilot’s headband, WW II. Note the DCS box in the back. When Verlinden first started making plaster buildings in the 1970s, they were called DCS productions. A man I came to know well from Belgium, moved to St. Louis and, with Verlinden’s permission, started producing them in America. His name was Richard Mottard. Later, in 1984, he returned to Belgium and started a figure company. VLS carried them until Richard had a heart attack and died while at the second Euromilitaire show out on the balcony overlooking the channel coast. His company was Belgo figures.

197. For years, VLS commissioned sculptors and pattern makers from around the world. One of our primary pattern makers was Carles Elias from Portugal. He was a friend of Mig Jiminez who you all are familiar with. One day, I got the photograph you see on the glass wall behind the model buildings. He had taken it on a trip to Russia. He had offered it to Mig to paint like the photograph. Mig told him he should give it to me. Long story short, I painted it, it became a best seller in the Custom Dioramics line and later, I converted it to the white building and we sold a lot of them as well.

198. More box art!

199. More box art and some Verlinden figures. Lewis Pruneau worked for VLS from 1985 to 1990 and he painted many Verlinden products for us to display at trade fairs. These are examples. Note the case and women’s wrist watch. We had both men’s and women’s watches made with the VLS Logo on the dial. Sold a lot, all the employees got one and they made nice gifts to business vendors and customers.

200. More box art, (Now maybe you can understand why my dioramas kept being put on the back burner during those years). A white coffee mug from Miniature World. We did a lot of merchandising during the VLS years! A photo of Susan and I on a Caribbean cruise on The Norwegian ship, “Sovereign of the Seas”, with the ship’s captain.

201. More box art and a product Verlinden created from a real F-16 fighter plane. We sold hundred’s of those silly things! I still have three myself! Then an HO trolley. I used it to give pattern maker Ben Jacobsen the idea I wanted for the Custom Dioramics Trolley. That was one of our best sellers and it retailed for a hundred dollars. BTW, Ben was also a friend of Chuck W. on MA and passed away in November of last year.

202. Ditto plus another DCS product!

203. One of my most treasured dioramas. The late Shep Paine built this for Monogram back in 1972. One 0f the 8 wheeled armored cars is stock and one is converted to a command vehicle. He made many of these dioramas for Monogram and they used them as artwork for their “Tips on Building Dioramas” brochures, including them in their armor and aircraft kits in the 1970s. It is extremely rare and collector’s would die to get their hands on one. Back in 1986, after VLS had been growing to include all the plastic manufacturers in our wholesale inventory, The president of Monogram at that time, Bob Johnson, took us, Wes Bradley, Susan and I on an elaborate tour of the factory. When we walked into their conference room, I spotted this on a shelf. Naturally, being a modeler who had not yet became so used to models as I would be later, freaked out. The president asked me if I would like to have it. I’m sure you can’t guess my reply! I have now owned it for the last 32 years. I have had many inquiries about buying it, but, not a chance! The two figures to the right in the second angle shot, were sculpted and painted by Mike Good, a very well known sculptor and figure painter from back in the 1980s and 90s. I lost contact with Mike several years ago! The last I heard was he had moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico to join an art community there.

203a. Another angle showing the “Tip Sheet”.

204. This diorama was featured in The Verlinden Way, Volume 2. I met François Verlinden for the first time in 1984 at the IPMS Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia. I had read his first book, The Verlinden Way Volumn One, and we had, by coincidence, had articles, back to back in the second issue of Fine Scale Modeler magazine. I was still a cop, and had started a company I called Warwinds Militaria and hobby Ltd. I ran it out of our basement on a couple of work tables and some old shelves. The agenda back then was to travel to as many weekend shows as possible, Susan and Wes would man the vendor tables and I would compete. In Atlanta, Verlinden and Stok came to find a distributer for his products in the states. We had 12 tables and had brought Lewis Pruneau and a couple of other guys along to help! We turned out to be the largest vendor at the show. I was selling Verlinden’s books and plaster buildings I was buying through Lynn Sangster of Historex Agents in England. (Lynn recently passed away). Long story short, Francois and i hit it off and Warwinds eventually became his exclusive American distributor. We did so well in fact, that in August, 1985, Stok and Verlinden asked me to become partners with them. The rest is history. He gave me this diorama and another one shortly after we became business partners.

205. This truck was built by the late Duane Phister of Southern California. He was the primary modeler for the California magazines, Scale Modeler and Military Modeler for many years. Duane was a Master’s Group member for many years as well, and he rarely missed a Mastercon, even though he wouldn’t fly and always took Amtrac to and from the show. The truck is 1/16th scale. Duane and I partied together many times! He passed away 6 or 7 years ago.

205a. Duane Phister receiving a Best of category from me at Mastercon 12. I met Duane when we were in Verdun France. I was 20 and he was 17. Almost the time when I was going home for a discharge, a young recruit Duane was just arriving. We met on an army bus that ran between Verdun and Etain Air force base. When Duane came to mastercon every year, we’d sit down over a beer or two and reminisce about old times!

206. This bust was painted by Hal Sanford. You may remember the book, “Modelaholic” from the 1990s. Hal was the author. He was a regular at Mastercon, one of the “Old Guard” and one of the nicest and funniest guys I have ever known. We still keep in touch and he continues to attend the show in Dallas, now called Eagle Quest. In the background, a Christmas card from Shep Paine. We exchanged cards from 1982 until he died. I kept them all. The Mercedes Staff car was a product we produced in the Trakz range. Now there are a ton of plastic German staff cars. For years, they were non-existent!

206a. Hal Sanford, (left) and Shep Paine. Mastercon 12.

207. You may recognize the F-16 cockpit from the Verlinden books. It was painted by François and is the original Box art.

208. Heavy Flak Emplacement. A new Verlinden product back in 1986, I built the Tamiya 88 and Pruneau put it in the emplacement and detailed it out. A side story with this dio. Back in the early 1980s, I built a very large number of models each year. Building my “Superdioramas” with dozens of vehicles and hundreds of figures, required me to learn short cuts and techniques to speed up my building and painting. Some of the guys in my IPMS chapter became suspicious. They didn’t believe I could build all those so quickly. One evening, at a meeting, Susan came to pick me us and was talking with other wives in a room adjacent to where we met. In the conversation, one of the women asked her why she was always with me at shows, meetings and so on. She then said the wrong thing. She said, “Bob and I do everything together”, we always have”. The next thing I knew there were rumors that Susan was building the sub-assemblies for my models. That was considered a capital crime in IPMS competition, so I had to put it to rest! In short, I had a one of the doubting Thomases come over on a saturday morning, I opened the box of the Tamiya 88 kit, built it, painted it and mounted it on a base during the nine hours he was there. I took it to the nationals that year and it took a second place in it’s category. BTW, that didn’t stop the rumors! :-) That gun was the one I gave Lewis to put in the diorama. Don’t you just love old IPMS stories?

209. A very early model in my military modeling phase. A British Centurion Mk 5 and one of my first attempts at serious figure painting. 1981. Below is a photo taken at a Mastercon. That is Carlos Andrea of Andrea Miniatures in Spain in the white shirt awarding a trophy to a modeler. Carlos and I have been friends for many years. He began his professional career sculpting figures for Verlinden. From that small beginning, he created an empire becoming the largest figure company in the world. Behind him on the left is Lewis Pruneau and on the right is Joe Porter.

210. Another very early model of mine. A German Field kitchen built back in 1982.

211. Another of my favorite dioramas. Modelers Alliance’s own Ian Hil’s diorama from way back in 1991? A Panther workshop! Very busy and clearly shows the budding talent of a fellow member who has went on to do much greater things. Ian came to Mastercon back then and gave it to me before departing back to Australia. I can’t believe that was 27 years ago, and we’re still connecting, both on this website and via email!

212. Yet another one of my favorites. Lewis Pruneau scratched this 1/16th scale BMW motorcycle and converted the 120mm figures to go with it! I believe he did this one in the late 90s. It has always been a favorite in the museum.

212a. Another angle.

213. You guys may remember Jim Stephens from the Shep Paine How-to books which featured several of his dioramas and models. He liked to scratch build in 1/24th scale and he was damned good at it. IMO, he was the best ever with pastels, the forerunner of the pigments many of us use today. All the weathering on this truck was done with pastels. He was a Chicago cop while I was still carrying a badge. We had a lot in common and he was a fun guy to hang out with.

213a. Me and Jim Stephens at one of the Mastercons, probably in the mid-1990s.

214. This German Hetzer dio was built by Gordon Stronach. Gordon worked for VLS for many years as a in-house pattern maker. An amazing painter, he built the best painted aircraft I have ever seen. It was a 1/48th scale Stuka with a winter white finish that caught my eye at a Dallas show. I located him, with the help of Joe Porter, who knew him well, offered him a job and moved him to St. louis. That Stuka was flawless! There is a Christmas card behind it. That was one of many I exchanged with the owners of Mascot models, Roger and Janet Styles from England. VLS carried their products for decades. The figures were all nude/semi-nude female figures in all kinds of outfits and from all different countries. Him and his wife were very young and looked like the teenagers next door. Roger always reminded me of a young Paul McCartney. Both seemed so innocent. Their figure kits were so much unlike them, I always had to laugh! Some were downright raunchy. They used live models to sculpt them and, one Christmas, they sent me a folder with dozens of photographs of the girls who modeled for them and I don’t mean scale models! The guys at VLS relentlessly pestered me to check out that folder!

214a. A photo of Gordon Stronach at my house eating some Australian Lammingtons I made from a recipe given me by a girl once a part of this website. :laugh: Gordon was the founder of all the Planet model websites, Planet Armor, Planet Figure, Planet Aircraft and Planet Diorama.

214b. The Lammingtons I made that day!  :laugh:

215. This is the other Verlinden Diorama he gave me when we became partners. It is a German Rathaus, (City Hall), and an abandoned German 88 gun. It was also featured in The Verlinden Way, Volume 2 among other publications as well as the Box art for the product.

216. A tiny GMC gasoline truck in 1/72nd scale I built in 1982. I opened up the hood and scratched a tiny little GMC motor. It won a first place in it’s category in the Phoenix IPMS Nationals back in ’83. Not very impressive today, but I was proud of it back then!

217. Two more 1/35th and a 1/72nd vehicles I built 35 years ago for the Phoenix IPMS Nationals of 1983. A 1/72nd French AMX-30, A 1/35th German Hanomag, and an M-32 Sherman ARV. I took 37 entries, in all, and drove all the way in my car as obviously I couldn’t take them on a plane. It was my first competition after winning the Nationals in St. Louis with the Winds of War. I brought home 47 awards, every single entry won at least a second place and three took best of categories. I was in heaven! Those were such glorious times! They seem like another lifetime!

218. Mort Schmitt from Kentucky, was the official VLS Photographer for several years. He was also an excellent modeler. I have several of his models and this M3A1 Stuart is one of his best! It won a gold and Best armor. It was in 1/16th scale. The “nose art” was hand painted. Mort passed away at a very young age a few years ago.

218a. Mort Schmitt. Mort passed away at a very young age a few years ago.

219. The old Esci kit in 1/8th scale Zundapp motorcycle and sidecar, that I also built for the Phoenix Nationals way back when.

220. Robert Oehler, a great modeler and author for several British magazines and books publishers. He lives in California and is still active in the hobby! He was also a Mastercon regular. He gave this M-47 Jordanian Patton tank from the West Bank, 1967, to me after one of the Mastercons he attended.

220a. Robert Oehler giving a seminar at one of the Mastercons/

220b. Another modeler buddy of mine is Frank Stumpo. Frank was an N.Y.P.D. cop who was laid off back in the 80s. He then applied to the Houston, Texas department and moved there. Susan and I used to spend our first summers after retirement in Kemah, a resort suburb and we hooked up there with Frank. We also met him at an AMPS show in Maryland and the last time we saw him was when my daughter, Gail and I went there for a week, we had lunch in a Mexican restaurant with him. Frank and Jose Rodriquez of Tiger Models are coming to visit in June to see the museum this year. Below: Me, Gail and Frank. 2013.

221. George Woodard was considered one of America’s best armor modelers when I joined IPMS back in 1981. There were three master armor builders in the club I joined which just happened to be the largest chapter in the world, more than 150 members! When those three went to a National, or any convention, for that matter, nobody else won in their categories. This was an almost scratch built M-3 Lee. The entire aircraft engine was scratched, (Check it out at the rear of the tank), and most of the model as well. It had a complete interior that was lighted. George is still in the hobby in St. Louis! This was built during the 1970s and early 80s.

222. Some more box art I built and painted from the VLS line, “Streets of Laredo”. That was a line that featured the old America West. Buildings, horses and figures. One of my bucket list projects in the future is an old west town. Ken Jones gave me the Andrea “General” locomotive, I have all the kits from the Laredo series, plus a lot of Andrea and other western figures and accessories from other companies. Note the upper right hand corner. A photo I took of The Tamiya building in Shizouka Japan.

223. More Streets of Laredo Box art. Note the coffee cup from Riga, Latvia, former home of the infamous German Concentration camp! Plus some Indians and Cavalrymen from the VLS line, “Legends and Lore” in 120mm.

224. Another Don Kanaval diorama. Don always earned a gold medal for every entry. Mastercon was unique at the time as I had made the rules so there were no judges. If you had an entry, you had two votes and you couldn’t vote for yourself. In the background, Verlinden magazine published an article on Don for his famous “Nose Art. What an incredible artistic talent! Don made everybody look bad!

Continued in Chapter 4

The Golden Years Model Museum Part 2

April 26th, 2017 by admin
Chapter Two
Part Four
More Details

058. The best part, the bar!

058a. A photo of the VLS Production and packing team. I wanted to have a photo of all the employees, sales, accounting, art department, pulling and shipping and so on, but, unfortunately, the phones and emails and faxes never stop, so you can more than double this for the entire team in 1997.

059. Now, to the large, free standing dioramas. 88 mm revetment, Russia. A collaboration between Lewis Pruneau and Francois Verlinden. Verlinden built and painted the gun, Pruneau created the diorama. 120mm.

060. Pruneau’s V-80 German experimental U-Boot. 1/35th scale. It has working lights and a simulated arc welding unit with sound and light.

061. Another angle.

062. “Knight takes King’s Bishop”. I built this back in 1986. The setting of “Knight takes Kings Bishop was 1982. On June 3rd, the ABU-Nidal faction, a radical Palestinian terrorist group, attempted to assassinate the Israeli ambassador to the U.K. in London. The Israelis responded with attacks against Palestinian terror targets in Beirut. The Palestinians launched barrages against Galilee. In June of that year, the Israelis sent 60,000 troops into Lebanon. This dio is set in Sultan Yackoub during that campaign. The Isaelis are salvaging a SSNP, (Syrian Socialist National Party) Soviet made BTR-60. The Israeli Defense Force salvages all captured equipment and uses them for parts or re-fitting.

063. “Lost Cause” is based on “Operation Market Garden” I started on what, for me, was a small diorama. A Bridge Too Far was a recent hit at the movies, so, I decided on something British. I had a Canadian CMP, (Canadian Military Pattern), C-60L mobile workshop I had built four years earlier. I also had a Daimler Dingo built in ‘84 that I used. Both these vehicles have an SBS on other threads in this forum.

064 When I was running VLS, I was concerned that we were getting so many of the ruined plaster buildings returned due to broken parts. I had this idea to use nothing but returned kit parts to build a diorama. Then the customers would realize that plaster is very fragile, and I have never seen any company’s plaster kits that didn’t arrive broken through the mail or other carriers, but….. with a little white glue, the kit is fixed and ready to begin building!. So, that is how this project got started. I set out to build a castle in the general Bastogne, Belgium area. The castle turned out like this. Every single part of tis building except the roof, the windows and the German insignia came from the returned kits pile. I used both German and American figures. Here we see Germans, dressed as G.I.s taking instructions on American weapons. Behind them is a captured Deuce and a Half, restored to running condition. The snow was made using a dozen coats of hair spray, then dusting with thermo-plastic micro balloons. We sold that stuff in the Techstar line as model snow. It is a pain to apply because the material is extremely fine, but the effect is worth the effort. You can get a dusting of snow all the way to a heavy layer by increasing the number of applications. I called it Masquerade!

065. I called this one “Arrogance” I wanted to depict Goering and the generals on the Channel coast during the failed attempt to invade England. (Operation Sea Lion) This was at a point in WW II that the Germans and the allies both were under the illusion of the German invincibility. The two vehicles are the VP Kubelwagon and the VP Panzer II. This dio is in 120mm. The third vehicle is a 1/16th Mercedes two seater sports coupe. I extended it and made it a four seater so it could become a staff car. I used a stone wall to replicate a “Lookout turnoff with a view of the channel. It is 120mm scale.

066. This is another collaboration of Pruneau and Verlinden. It is 120mm scale and quite large. Verlinden built the WW I German tank and Pruneau created the diorama. There are six German WW I figures in the diorama.

067. This is “Cocoon” A 1/72nd scale dry dock in Northeastern England during WW II. A friend had given me the kit from Matchbox which was really old and really terrible in terms of quality. Anyway, it had been laying around for some time, so I decided to make it the center of another “Superdiorama”. I cut layers and layers of the dry dock sides to create the “Stair” effect. A pity I never took SBS photographs. Although in 1/72nd scale, the dio is the same size as the other “Superdioramas” The dimensions are 8 feet wide, (2.4 meters) by 4 feet wide, (1.3 meters).

067a. Ditto

068. “Comrades”. A 120mm diorama. The building is an old water mill converted into a “Gasthof”, or Pub in Germany. The war is nearing the end, the soldiers weary and tired, but still take time to drink and sing and cook some “Brats”. All the figures were heavily converted VP. The heads sculpted to “singers”. The mandolin was made from epoxy and strip styrene. The piano is a converted doll house piece. The fancy stein was also from epoxy. Furniture, deer head, CucKoo clock, chairs and stool were from plastic sheet and stock.

068a. The 75mm German anti-tank gun was built entirely from scratch using plans of the real gun.

069. Ditto Comrades.

069a Ditto

070. Another 120mm diorama. This was built in 1996. VP had just released the 120mm 88 flak. My partner asked me to create a diorama using the kit, so I built “Quota”. This is absolutely the tallest diorama I have ever built. From the base to the top it is 5 feet, (1.6 meters), and sitting on the floor base, it rises to 8 feet, (2.4 meters). Those who have seen it in publications are usually surprised when they see it in the museum because the top is considerably over their head.

071. Ditto

072. Ditto

073. The Liberation of Sheila. This one is about a German beutepark in WW II, located in Paris-Nanterre. The Germans moved captured Allied aircraft to the units, put them back into flying condition, then, rotate their pilots through to fly them, so they could discover the strengths and weaknesses. They all had German insignia for obvious reasons! This is in 1/48th scale, the B-17 and C-47 were from Monogram and the Mustang was Hasegawa, The vehicles were Bandai and some Verlinden.

074. Ditto.

075. “Legacies II”. My most published diorama. It has been featured in more than 60 books and magazine articles worldwide. I had started VLS in my basement in 1983. By 1985, I had hooked up with Verlinden and Stok. I was distributing to all of America, Canada and South America. I had a deal with Fine Scale Modeler to publish an article when complete and then they had some problems and cancelled all contracts to print books. In July, ‘85, I met Verlinden at the 1985 Indianapolis Nationals, he had seen the progress on “Legacies”, I had told him about FSM canceling the book and he immediately asked me if Verlinden Publications could publish it. He had, up to this time, published the first three Verlinden Way books. I agreed and we set a deadline of December first, ’85, and Superdioramas was born.

075a Ditto

076. “Nest”. Based on a French “Castle Farm” as is found along the Normandy coast. It is in 1/24th scale. The searchlight and buildings were from scratch, the figures were all converted from those four Tamiya figures, 1/24 Rommel, etc., and the Tamiya race car figures. I really detailed the engine and cockpit and there was no aftermarket products back in 1984.

076a. This was built more than 33 years ago! No aftermarket!

077. Russian Siege Gun, by Lewis Pruneau. Lewis built the tracked cannon from scratch using photographs of the actual gun. It is in 120mm scale, the figures are converted VP.

078. The “Figure” case.

079. Ditto.

080. Some of my box art figures. Left to right, A Die Hard figure of Bruce Willis in the Nakatomi Tower. An air force pilot. The Outlaw Josie Wales bust, DeNiro and Pesce in “Casino”, some skeleton pirates and “Al Capone”. More in the rear.

081. A Russian Cossack, Yul Brynner from “Taras Bulba”, Napoleon and Josephine and George Washington in the background! Michael Whitman, “Panzer Ace”, in a formal uniform.

081a. Two figure Vignettes by Alex Buey from Vietnam.

081b. The only photo I have of Alex Buey is this one. The photographer was taking photos of The Master’s members who had served in the military and caught Alex in front of them with his son. The guys in uniform are, left to right; Sgt. Joe Porter, Mastercon Emcee and VL:S employee; Air Force sergeant Mike Rechlicz, An MA member; Major Pat Cooney; Captain Brett Avants; An Army officer I can’t remember his name; Sergeant Richard Mitchell; Air Force Sergeant Bob Waltman; Chief Petty Officer Albert Feltault ; and Petty Officer second class Chris Saulet.

081c. Miscellaneous photos from Mastercons past. Joe Porter as emcee at the podium of the head table. Seated on this side of the podium, François Verlinden, His wife Lilliane, his son, Wim, and his son’s wite, Judith.

081d. Left to right; Del Miller, Mastercon official Chaplain, Pat Stansell, editor of MMIR, Military Miniatures in Review among others; Rick Justice In the green shirt; with her back to the camera, Sydney Gonsoulin; And in the striped shirt, Eric Janssen.

081e. A seminar given by Joe Porter.

081f. Jim Patrick (L) and Don Kanaval.

081g. Our own Alex De Leon with his Mastercon Best of Show Master’s Eagle.

081h. At the NEW Mastercon, (Eagle Quest), held in Dallas each June. Susan, me, Jef Verswyvel and Jill, his wife. I have known Jef for many years. He was the master pattern maker for Verlinden in Belgium, then left for the states in 1995 to form Kendall Model Company with Willy Peeters. Later he founded Black Box among other companies. He is, in my opinion, the best pattern maker alive today. He is currently an executive with MMD/Squadron in Dallas.

081i. Me and Willy Peeters at Eagle Quest in 2015. Willy is a fantastic artist. He does a lot of commission work and he is capable of almost anything artistic. He photographed and laid out the Verlinden “Lock-On” series,”The Warmachines” series of books, The Verlinden Way and Showcase books, all the photo-etch, dry transfers and the printed accessories in the Verlinden line, plus many similar items in The Custom Dioramics, Tech Star, Trakz and Wingz lines for VLS after 1999. If anybody is looking for somebody to do commission work, contact me and I’ll hook you up with Willy!

081j. At the second Eagle Quest, in 2008, Me, Susan and Dave Harper. Dave went to work at MMD/Squadron when it bought out VLS and stayed there until his untimely death in 2010. And there’s our Mr. “T” on the far right!

081k. Bill Chilstrom. Dave Harper’s best friend and a fantastic figure sculptor. Bill sculpted the majority of figures for the VLS lines, Warriors, Custom Dioramics and 135th Construction Battalion from 1999 to 2007.

081l. My old friend, Chuck Harransky. Chuck spent his life in the model industry. First at a major Didtributor in Ohio for years, then to MMD/Squadron, which he eventually went on to manage in the 90s. He is now retired but stays involved in the hobby!

081m. The company that bought VLS and allowed me to retire. MMD/Squadron of Carrolton, Texas, a Dallas suburb.

082. A Rustle of Silk! One of the Mascot models series of female figures. I gave in and painted one. :-) Behind it is an annual Christmas card I received from Roger and Janet Styles, the owners. Even their Christmas cards were R-rated!

083. A French Line Infantry soldier, built for VLS by a company in Mexico only known as “Armond” They saved me a lot of time by painting the Legend and Lore figures for Box Art and advertising from 1999 to 2007.Then, “Grandpa’s War” by the late Richard Mitchell of Tennessee. He was a Mastercon regular and very popular with the members!

084. More “Armond” figures plus some 1/35th Warriors box art figures.

085. Another Richard Mitchell diorama, “The Last Conference”. It depicts General Lee and his lieutenants prior to meeting Grant at the Appomattox courthouse. The Diorama is in 120mm scale.

085a. Richard Mitchell accepting the Judges Grand Award at Mastercon.

086. Another angle of Mitchell’s diorama and “The Terminator” . My apologies, but I can’t remember who built this figure? It’s 1/6th scale.

Part 5, the Cars

087. The big, octagonal Car and Truck case. After military and aircraft, my third favorite modeling subject is cars!

088. My wife Susan, built this MGTC years ago. It actually won a first place at a model car competition. Behind it is a Yellow Ferrari Testarossa. I recently built it as a group build on modelersalliance.com.

089. A Kawasaki Z-1000 cc quad. I had one of these back in 1976, loved it and had to build a model of it

090. A 1956 Ford Springfield Mo. Police car. (Diecast). I was a Springfield, MO cop from 1962 to 1966 before moving to St. Louis.

091. A Porsche 930 Turbo in 1/12th scale. I retired from competition in 1985. This was my final and only entry. That year It won a first place in the IPMS Nationals. I also owned a full size red Porsche Turbo.

092. Ditto. Rear shot of the engine.

093. Rear of the Ferrari.

094. A Ferrari engine. I had built a diorama of a police car stopping a Ferrari. When it was almost complete, one of my Dobermans walked underneath a small table it was setting on. He raised his head, the diorama went up in the air, flipped over, and landed upside down on the floor. This was all that was salvageable. I started over and built another one.

095. Another view of the Testarossa.

096. A Shelby Cobra in 1/16th scale. Built in 1982, it won a lot of trophies in it’s day! I always wanted to have one of these but never did!

097. A Mercedes 500K from 1982. 1/24th scale.

098. Ditto

099. “Race Over Man” by John, “Buck” McKlin, from Ste. Genieveve, Mo. John built the entire front body panels and hood by burnishing lead foil to the plastic model parts, creating duplicates. Then he painted and added the decals to them to match the rest of the car, then simply pushed it against an brass tube to achieve the crashed appearance. Very effective! John is an old friend of Lewis Pruneau and mine as well! He worked at VLS for a couple of years!

100. Various model cars I have built over the years

Part Five.
More Details.

101. This was built in 1982 to compete in the Phoenix, Arizona IPMS Nationals. It took a first place and Best civilian vehicle. These buses were a common sight it Paris until the 1960s. I actually rode on one in 1959.

102. The other side.

102a The front!

103. A Jaguar XKE in 1/8th scale. The old Monogram kit updated with all working lights, head and tail lights, press the brake pedal and the brake lights come on, switch on the turn signals for either side, horn button honks the horn. Dash lights and flashers work. Interior is upholstered in glove leather, over a thin layer of foam and button tufted. Door windows roll up and down with the cranks, working suspension, and so on.

104. A 1/25th scale Willys Gasser from the 1980s.

105. A 120mm scale War Elephant diorama by Alex Buey from Vietnam.

105a. Ditto. Rear view.

106. A 1/24th scale 1962 Corvette die cast, triple red with fuel injected 283 Cu. in. engine, identical to the one I had when I dated Susan way back in 1965! :-)

106A. Modelers Alliance’ own Eddie Janssens. Eddie and Verlinden were good friends for many years. He still lives in their hometown of Lier, Belgium.

106b. Eddy’s son, Luc Janssens, is an avid car modeler. Luc has visited us many times over the years. Here we are in the VLS facility in Moscow Mills. Luc, his wife Dana and son Alexander live in Antwerp Belgium where he works as an HVAC Technician.

106c. Luc and Susan in front of the VLS building, 2005 We have maintained contact with many of the guys in Lier, Belgium, Luc, Eddy, Stephan, Benny, Jean-jaque and Jean-Pierre.

Part 6 Dioramas, cops stuff and stuff to hang on the walls.

107. This is my current project, about 60% finished. It is central Germany in March of 1945 nearing the end of WW II as Patton’s Third army races through Germany. It will feature 360 figures and 50 vehicles in 1/35th scale. The subject will be General Patton, directing traffic in a snarl at the convergence of intersecting streets. One column of tanks of the Fourth Armored Division and the other column, the XYZ Express, a later and much larger version of the more well known “Red Ball” Express. It will have over 100 civilian refugees moving toward the rear lines and will be extremely busy. I call it “Logistics”!

108. Ditto.

109. Ditto.

110. Ditto.

111. Ditto.

112. Ditto.

113. Ditto.

114. Ditto.

115. An old diorama, “Pierpont’s New Truck”, I built at the end of 1982. A Texaco station with a New Mack Truck. Inside the garage is a Chrysler convertible. From scratch antique gas pumps. I used “Sorry” pieces to make them. I was experimenting with photo-etch for the first time and several other new techniques I had developed. How to books were as rare as hen’s teeth back then. You had to learn techniques through trial and error, mostly error! :-)

116. Ditto

117. My partner in the commercial Museum in St. Charles, Miniature World, When we were putting together the first version of the museum, His wife, Rosemarian, who was 92 at the time, painted each one of us, Ralph and I, to hang in the museum. Ralph died back in 2011 at age 95. Rosemarian taught classes on painting until she was 97. She passed away two years ago. To the left is one of the two framed currency displays.

118. One of two framed currency displays from mine and Susan’s foreign travels.

119. This poster for the movie “U-571″, starring Mathew McConaughey, was due to one of the girls in the sales department of VLS. A Hollywood studio called in an order for some miniatures they needed for props and struck up a conversation with one of our sales girls Becky Domecello. She asked the purchasing agent if he was on the set of the movie at that time. He answered yes and said Mathew McConaughey was sitting in the chair next to him. She asked if she could get his autograph, he asked McConaughey who said sure, He asked for her name, he was a frequent customer and when the poster arrived, there was one for her and one for me that he wrote, to Bob, and signed his name. It is in the upper left hand corner.

120. Susan has collected Elvis and James Dean figures for years, and a lot of figure sculptors and painters have given them to her. She has around 35 or 40 altogether, but these three are her favorites. Left to right, Elvis classic by Bill Chilstrom, and James Dean on the “Giant” set, also by Bill Chilstrom. Then the Jailhouse Rock Elvis sculpted and painted by modelers alliance’s own Joe Hudson.

121. Gas Pedal Stuck, Bob Letterman, 1992. Cop stops speeder. The two figures are the identical originalsI conv erred one to a Hollywood Player, the other to a highway patrolman. If you look at the break on the violators and the Trooper’s trousers, you can see that are the same figure.

121a. Ditto.

122. Police awards, magazine articles, citation from the American Legion, 1967. The bowling trophies are model awards from the early 1980s.

123. Commendations from the Drug Enforcement administration, (DEA), the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, the F.B.I., and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency. (ATF).

124. Various awards from the police department and the Internal Revenue Service, I made cases on some heroin dealers the same way they got Capone back in the 1920s.

125. More awards, Officer of the year, 1973, etc. There were 5000 police Officers in The Metro area. Occasionally, this organization chose one Officer to receive this award. You could only receive it once.

126. Newspaper and magazine articles from the 1970s. On the left are department awards that came with medals and ribbons, much like the military.

127. More newspaper articles, Letters of Commendation, medals, etc.

128. Various Police academy graduation certificates, class photos.

129. All about our dogs, we have had 13 of them in our 51 years of marriage. Four German Shepherds, Two Cockapoos, Four Doberman Pinschers, a Dachshund and Two Yorkshire Terriers.

130. Ditto.

131. Ditto!

132. Ditto, plus training certificates, awards from the American Doberman Society, etc. In the center is a newspaper article with Susan receiving the Heroic Dog of the Year from the Humane Society for her white cockapoo she is holding in the photograph. In 1981, lightening struck our house and caught it on fire while we slept. The dog woke us up with his incessant barking and wouldn’t stop. I finally got up and when I opened the door of the bedroom, there was a pitch black wall of smoke! When that was in the newspapers, one of my buddies said, “Holy Crap, even your dogs get awards”!  :laugh:

134. IPMS National awards 1984.

135. Graduating classes, out takes from magazine articles, etc.

136. Susan and I, 1967, after I graduated from the St. Louis police academy. Various model awards, magazine covers, etc.

137. Book and magazine covers, VLS memories, various buildings as we expanded, the employees, etc. More model trophies. An article from Fine Scale Models, announcing the opening of Miniature World museum which they attended. 1993. All the model awards you see in this post are from 1982 when I first competed until the spring of 1985, when i retired from competition completely. I have never returned and never will.

138. More of the same. Also, some very old newspaper clips from 1967 when i won the F.W. Woolworth’s national model car contest at 27 years old. There were a hundred thousand entries. I won first and third place. Cool at the time as there were thousands of dollars of prizes involved including a new motorcycle! Photos of Verlinden in his hobby shop in Belgium, 1984, Shep Paine in the 1970s, etc.

139. Ditto.

140. Newspaper article about VLS, etc.

141. Old trophies from the 1980s.

142. Ditto.

143. Ditto

144. The original VLS Logo, changed in 1996. Articles, model awards, VLS awards, etc.The plaque above and to the right was when St. Louis County presented VLS with the “Employer of the year” award. It was for hiring handicapped. We let them train in production as the regular employees supervised them. That became a practice throughout the following years. On the far right is a vertical column of newspaper articles about the Museum.

145. Ditto.The original logo was a joint effort. I designed it and Wes Bradley created this great replica using matt board. That was really a great job he did!

146. Ditto, the Lifetime Achievement award from Shep Paine’s World Expo, 2005 in Boston, Massachusetts, etc.

147. Various VLS awards, Museum awards, Model awards, etc.

148. Some of my most valued awards. The gold medal and the photograph of me receiving it from Lord Romsey, the 8th Baron Brabourne, best friend of Prince Charles and who has the reputation in England as a playboy. He is also the grandson of Admiral Lord Louis Montbatten, Viceroy of India. In 1984 at the largest model show in the world, the Model Engineer’s exhibition at Wembley exposition center north of London. The medal is solid gold or so I have been told?, Only two Americans have been the recipients, Loren Perry of model ship fame and me. On the left are articles about my dioramas published in Japan, South Korea and China. Susan and I at the Shizouka Model trade fair in Japan. There are so many of these kinds of things in the museum, some wonderful, awesome memories!

149. Various name tags for shows all over the world.The U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada and South America. Plus more magazine and newspaper articles. Below are various designs of the VLS Newsletters over the years.

150. More awards, a very special plaque, created by Don Kanaval, one of the great artists in the modeling world. He made it commemorating the opening of Miniature World Museum in St. Charles, Mo, back in 1996. Don could do anything if it had to do with art! Then a resin part commemorating the first resin casting to come off the line of Verlinden Productions in America. May 12th, 1996.

150a. In the VLS Conference room. Bill Chilstrom, Dave Harper, me and Luca Marchetti, who owns Pegaso Models inSiena, Tuscany, Italy. Luca, his wife Lilly, and a couple of his sculptors came to several Mastercons, then stayed at our house for a visit afterwards.

150b. Here is Andrea Jula of Pegaso Models giving a seminar at a Mastercon.

150c. Here is Andrea and Pietro, both of Pegaso Models.

150d. Hal Sanford, (L), and Jim Patrick at eagle quest 2008. Both are from the Old Guard Masters from VLS.

150e. I was honored to be guest of honor at the IPMS Nationals in Kansas City in 2005. I brought some of my dioramas and they set up an area to display them.

150f. Modelersalliance’s own John Bowrey at an Eagle Quest awarding a modeler. Behind John is another MA member, Gil Gonsoulin, (L), and Fritz Swanson. Both Fritz and Gil attended the very first Mastercon.

150g. Squadron,s Richard Polson, awarding the Tamiya award to Pat Hutchens at Mastercon 15.. Richard worked for Tamiya America before going to Squadron. Pat Hutchens was one of the original Old Guard at Mastercon.

150h. Me giving Dan Tisoncik a couple of awards at Mastercon 14.

150i. Me going over old times with Jef Verswyvel at the Kansas City IPMS Nationals in 2005.

150j. Every saturday morning during Mastercon, we opened the warehouse to the attendees. It was always a mad rush. As soon as the door opened, in came hundreds.

150k. We usually had four or five check out lanes set up. This one manned by Julie Noah.

150l. Heidi Hogan was checking out customers in this lane. That’s Alleyn Kinney spending his hard earned dollars. Each convention we gave an award to the big spender that year. I remember the most ever spent at all by one person was almost $6000 dollars! The normal take for a warehouse sale back then was around $70-80 thousand. It was four hours long!

150m. Since retiring, we have kept in touch with most of the former employees. This is Kamini Bhatt, from India. VLS was her first job after immigrating here. She handled all the accounting for about seven years. This was taken at our home in Troy, Missouri a couple of years ago.

150n. In 2008, we had a VLS reunion at our house. Pictured here are Herb Rigg, Wes Bradley and Jerry Schulte and his wife. we had a dozen for an outdoor barbecue.

Continued in Chapter 3

The Golden Years Model Museum Part 1

April 26th, 2017 by admin
The New Museum. Chapter I
Part one
The History

This story begins way back in 1945, 71 years ago. I was born four years earlier, before Pearl Harbor. My father, as so many of his generation, joined the army immediately after Pearl Harbor, and was sent to the Pacific. He saw action in all the major land battles of the Pacific War. His first two experiences in combat were at the age of 17. In May, 1945, Dad and a Filipino scout were going door to door in Leyte, The Philippines, searching for Japanese. At one house, a Filipino woman was hiding a Japanese Colonel in a trap door under the floor. After searching and finding nothing, they were walking out the front door when the officer came up through the trap door and shot Dad in the back. The Filipino scout killed the colonel with a blast from his Thompson submachine gun. Dad was taken to Hawaii and subsequently back to O’Reilly general hospital in his home town of Springfield, Missouri. He stayed there recovering from his wounds until July when he was released.

001a. Dad and his buddy who saved his life, a Filipino Army Scout. I never knew his name.

He was then given leave. I lived with my mother and I distinctly remember her picking me up in the back yard where I was playing, took me inside and cleaned me up. She dropped me off at my maternal grandparents where Dad was to pick me up.

Soon, a Yellow cab pulled up in front and out stepped the tallest man I had ever seen. (I was only 8 months old when Dad went to the Pacific, so I had no recollection of him whatsoever). He was in his khaki summer uniform, lots of ribbons and aviator’s sunglasses and three stripes up and three down, a master sergeant! He was 6′ 3″ tall at a time when the average American soldier was 5′ 7″. I went home with him to my paternal grandmother’s restaurant she owned and lived above in an apartment, never to return to my mother. They divorced shortly after and Dad was given custody. As, at the time, he had decided to be a professional soldier, I spent my youth with my grandmother and grandfather.

What has all this to do with models and a museum?

That same summer, Dad took me in tow and walked about a city block to my first hobby shop. I was mesmerized when we entered. So many cool things, I couldn’t focus. He bought a 1/8th scale balsa and tissue model Grumman F4F Wildcat, plus glue, airplane dope and some silk which he preferred over tissue paper. For weeks after, I sat in a chair beside him and watched the plane come to life. It was then and there i became addicted to a hobby that, now at age 75, I still love as much as I did then. I soon started building on my own and continued throughout my life, with only a brief intermission during my teen years after discovering the babes were good for more interesting things than just pulling their pigtails. I even built models during my stint in the army, and switched into high gear after being discharged in 1962.

Until I was in my late 20s, I had only entered one competition when I was a kid. There was an adult model airplane event in a large tent on the outskirts of town in the summer of 1950. My grandmother heard about it, took me there as she had no doubts I would win. (She was a typical Jewish mother except she wasn’t Jewish and she was my grandmother)! I’ll never know how it happened, but I won the grand prize. My little 1/48th scale Aurora MIG-15, built as poorly as any 9 year old you would have imagined, I strongly suspect my win was simply due to the graciousness of the other adult contestants. As a result, I was interviewed on television, KTTS TV, in glorious black and white and on a screen so tiny, it made an I-pad look like a 60 incher. It was taped and shown later. We had to go to some friend’s house as we didn’t have a TV at the time. The segment was full of static, but, hey! I was on TV, Dude!!! A really big deal back then!!

As I was an avid custom car and hot rod teenager, my passion in the early 60s was model cars. I was always a closet modeler, my friends never understanding why I preferred to sit at home and “play” with what they perceived as toys, rather than other activities. I married Susan in January, 1966, and we moved to St. Louis. I have so many memories of modeling on our kitchen table, covered with newspapers to avoid Susan’s dread of my paints and glue. I did it strictly because I loved doing it! Then, F.W. Woolworth’s, (The WalMart of those days), held a national model car contest in 1967 and Susan, (My new Jewish Mom), talked me into entering. I entered two 1/25th scale model cars, there were more than a hundred thousand entries in that contest nationwide! I kept moving up from local to regional to national and finally, I won first and third place. The grand prize was a new 1967 Yamaha motorcycle and hundreds of dollars in kits among other things. I couldn’t believe it! We were pretty poor back then, I sold it and we were able to keep our heads above water for months with that cash!

I had been a street cop for all those years, and between work, overtime, court time and going to college carrying 16 hours a semester, I also had a few part time security jobs to make ends meet. Obviously, Susan and I didn’t get to see a lot of each other. Then, in late 1979, my partner, Joe Mokwa, (who went on to be Chief of Police after I retired), and I were called to the Intelligence unit. There they advised us they had confirmed five contracts for considerable amounts of money on our lives from pissed off Heroin kingpins. They told us our street cop days were over! The department could no longer be responsible. We had been together for 13 years. In the press we were known as The Hippie Cops! It was very sad for both of us. Joe went to the Intelligence unit and I went to the prosecutor’s Special Investigation Unit, (SIU), investigating white collar crime. We are still like brothers and always will be. Throughout those years, St. Louis had the most crimes per capita than any other city in America. It was more like being a combat soldier than a cop. The neighborhood kids called us Starskey and Hutch! :-)

001b. The Hippie Cops, Me, (left), and Joe on the right. 1977.

001c. Me, back in the Hippie cop days.

I hated it!!! It was a 40 hour a week desk job. We investigated things like voter fraud, which was a bi-annual activity, and business crime. Boring! A job for an accountant, not a street cop! However, it did give me a lot more time with Susan and that was great. I was also able to do a lot more modeling than I ever had. I continued on my college degrees and ended up with two Master’s degrees and later graduated Law school.

001d. Law School I.D.

My modeling continued, and again, I never knew anybody who shared this strange hobby throughout all those years. Back in 1975, I had fallen two stories from a rooftop and fractured my spine, I was off work for a couple of months. During that time, I began experimenting with cardboard buildings to use in dioramas. My cop partner had a brother who lived across the street from me named John Levan. He was the first to show any interest in those buildings. He wasn’t a modeler but he thought they looked really cool, so I continued building them and eventually started “The Wind’s of War” diorama that started it all! John is still a good friend although he now lives in Sarasota, Florida. In 1981, I met Wes Bradley who worked at THE best St. Louis hobby shop. He was a terrific salesman and we became friends, eventually best friends. Then he asked me what i was doing with all the models and accessories I bought there. I told him I was building a diorama. When I said it was 8 feet long and 4 feet wide, he, (probably laughing like hell under his breath), asked to see it. He came to the house, saw it and then proceeded to tell me that St. Louis had been chosen that year, 1982, to host the International Plastic Modeler’s Society’s National convention, (IPMS), and that I absolutely had to enter.

He took me to my first model club meeting, I became a member, and then cracked down in order to finish it in time for the competition in Late July. I called my diorama, “The Winds of War”, not having heard of the book of the same name nor the later TV Miniseries with Robert Mitchum. During that period, I met three very important people in my life. Wes Bradley as mentioned, (A current MA member), and who would become the very first VLS employee. Also, a fellow competitor, Lewis Pruneau. Lewis had entered a scratch built 1/35th German 1/35th Railway gun that was very impressive to me, Susan and Wes, but it didn’t place. It was also his first competition. We also became close friends, and he worked at VLS for several years. There was this guy that everybody seemed to regard as a celebrity. I learned he was the head judge. I had bought the book, “How to Build Dioramas” and was totally in awe of the author’s talent, but I never connected the head judge and Shep Paine, the author. until later.

My diorama, The Winds of War, to my shock, won big and a lot of publicity ensued, not only in America, but from all around the world. In hindsight, it was like fate. The more important articles that resulted were the cover of Fine Scale magazine, their second issue, and Tamiya Japan magazine and lessor publications from Italy, Germany, England and Spain. Later, I learned that my diorama had been the center of a controversy during the judging, and Shep Paine settled it by saying, “Yes, it has some flaws, but can any of you even imagine the work that went into this thing”? Had I never met Wes, and never entered that competition, and had Shep never been there, Would there have ever been a VLS or a Museum? I seriously doubt it!

001e. Susan and I during the prosecuting attorney years.

001f. (L to R). Me, Wes Bradley and Lewis Pruneau taken in 2011!

002. The Winds of War Diorama, now a 35 year old antique!

002a. Fine Scale Modeler, february, 1983.

After that, things moved rapidly. I started going to Model shows and conventions in Europe as well as America. More awards and more notoriety. The following year, I started a mail order company in my basement called “Warwinds Militaria and hobby, LTD.” Naw! That isn’t a pretentious name at all! :-) I was importing model items I had discovered in Europe and England that had never before been imported to the states. It continued to grow. Susan, Wes and I would travel throughout the states on weekends to model shows and set up tables, (Booths), and sell our products. I would also enter the competitions. More awards and more notoriety.

By March, 1984, we were attending shows everywhere. We started a convention in St. Louis at the Kiel Opera center. It was the largest model show I have ever seen in America. Called Hobby Expo 1984, it was hosted by Me, Wes Bradley and two other guys. We had the scale model people, The model RR people, The RC airplane, car and boat people, The Dollhouse people, we had re-enactors, it was really something. Thousands attended. We used a percentage of the proceeds to buy model kits, paint and glue for the patients of the Veteran’s Administration hospital!

003. Hobby Expo ’84. A portion of the massive vendor room. It was 30, 000 square feet in size and it was packed with vendors!

Lewis had been busy as well and he scratch built a 1/35th scale model of the German giant Rail gun, Dora. That was 25 years before it was released as a $1000 dollar kit. It also made the cover of FSM.

In July, 1984 Susan and I, with Wes and some other guys to help with the tables including Lewis, (By then, we were always the largest vendor at the shows we attended), at the Atlanta IPMS Nationals, and i met François Verlinden and Jos Stok. They were looking for an American distributor for Verlinden’s plaster buildings and his tiny book line. We already had a trip planned the following week to Europe and scheduled a stop in Lier, Belgium to talk terms with my prospective business partners. We met, created a temporary agreement, and less then a year later, we all became business partners. The VLS corporation was formed for Verlinden, Letterman and Stok. We had moved into our very first commercial facility three months earlier.

003a. Susan and I in 1984.

004. The first VLS commercial space. No. 17 Cross Keys center.

005. The second VLS Building. No. 25 Cross Keys center, The original seven employees. left to right, Lewis Pruneau, me, Wes Bradley, Tom Gerringer, Judy Baggett, Don Wardlaw, and Jerry Schulte. Judy Baggett and I were exactly the same age. Born on the same date the same year. She worked for VLS for 4 years. She passed away two years ago.

005a. Some of the VLS crew at our booth at the IPMS Nationals in Washington D.C. clowning around. Damn, everybody looked so young! :-)

005b. Lewis at #25 Cross Keys center with his “Riverine: and U-505″ dioramas.

In 1984, Susan, Wes and i went to Europe to find new products. At that time, vacuum-formed aircraft and even armor were very popular. You have to remember, the models produced in plastic then were not anything near the variety of today. In all, VLS eventually acquired 23 lines of vacu-form kits, the vast majority of which are no longer in business today. One of our stops was in the small village in Germany of Albstadt, to visit Richard Frank, of Frank-Modelbau. We came home with an exclusive import agreement, and Wes, to the complete surprise of Susan and I, had found true love! Richard’s Daughter Gabi, had caught Wes’s eye. She later came to visit and shortly after that, Wes moved to Germany. It, unfortunately, didn’t last long and he was back home in a few months.

005c. Frank-Modelbau Hobby shop.

005d. Wes and Gabi in Albstadt, Germany.

Also, in 1984, I entered the competition at The Model Engineer exhibition in Wembley Conference Center, Wembley, England. Then the largest model show in the world. A week long show, hundreds of thousands of visitors attended annually. I won a Gold medal, becoming only the second American to do so, and was presented the award by Lord Romsey, the 8th Baron Brabourne and best friend of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It was quite an honor.

006. Left to right. Baron Brabourne, Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Baroness Brabourne.

The Prosecuting attorney of St. Louis, George Peach and I, had became good friends as my last assignment with the St. Louis P.D. was the S.I.U., Special Investigation Unit, out of his office. We had travelled to Europe with our wives and he knew the curator of The St. Louis Soldier’s Museum. The next thing I knew the curator asked to see the diorama, and afterwards asked me to let him display it in the east wing of the museum. It stayed there an entire year.

All the events above were reported in St. Louis newspapers and TV channels. I knew Vince Schoemehl, the mayor of St. Louis and he proposed a project. The city would provide a brand new building on Laclede’s Landing, a tourist district adjacent to the Gateway Arch, if I would acquire the needed displays for a miniature museum and manage it. At that time, I had a few dioramas and models, but nothing even near what would be required. I was still a detective for the SLPD, as well as running the fledgeling VLS. After a great deal of thought, I finally told him I really appreciated the offer, but just couldn’t handle it at that time. Things like this were happening more and more and I could tell that I would have to retire shortly in order to handle what was coming.

Many things happened in 1984. I finished up Legacies, Lewis finished The Paris Gun and Verlinden Publications published Superdioramas”!

006a. The cover of Superdioramas.

006c. The “Three Musketeers”. 1985.

007. The first version of Legacies featured in Superdioramas.

008. The V-80 experimental U-Boot diorama by Pruneau featured in Superdioramas.

008a. The Paris Gun by Lewis.

From there, we began growing so fast, the buildings I leased would become too small within months. I leased a building in Westport Industrial center with 5000 square feet. During the three year lease, we kept adding adjacent buildings until 1990. As there were no more adjoining buildings, I decided to move and this time, I wanted my own building. We bought 3 acres in Lone Star Industrial Park, hired a contractor and built a 16,000 square foot facility. Within two years, we added a long, narrow rear section bringing it up to 26,000 square feet.

009. Westport Industrial center. VLS’ third building in Creve Coeur, Mo. with the 15 employees in front.

009a. Long shot of the Westport building.

009b. Interior shots of the Westport building and a photo of some of the ordering desks.

010. Ditto, aerial photograph.

Meanwhile, Lewis, in addition to doing commission pieces for VLS, was cranking out dioramas to enter at shows. Here are three he completed while at the Westport location. “The Guns of Corregidor”, “Carrier Deck Crash” and the famous “U-505″.

010a. Our booth at the RCHTA national Trade fair, Chicago. It was an annual event we never missed. Each year, we would take various dioramas that would eventually be part of the museum for display. The three sections of the booth shown here were Verlinden Productions, Verlinden, Letterman and Stok, inc., and Legacy Distribution.

VLS wasn’t like a business in terms of employees. We were more like family. We partied together, every year we went to different cities in America and Canada and visited our hobby shops. It was some wonderful times. Here are some of the guys at our house for dinner, then one of our annual trips was to Manhattan.

010b. At our house for dinner. Judy and Milt Baggett, Wes, taking the photo, Lewis, Tom Gerringer with a girlfriend, me and Susan in the kitchen.

010c. Times Square.

010d. Me at my desk in Westport trying to look all businesslike!.

011. The fourth, newly built and owned VLS building in Lone Star Industrial Park, O’Fallon, Mo. 1990.We now had 38 employees at this location and there were a similar number in Verlinden’s brand new building in the Ondernamerstraat Industrial Street in Lier, Belgium.

011a. Here at the groundbreaking ceremony was, left to right, Wes Bradley, Susan, Tom Gerringer, Khamini Bhatt, our in-house accounting manager, Me, Jay Steinberg, our real estate manager, The Mayor of O’Fallon, The Bank president and the Building contractor.

012. Verlinden’s facility in Belgium. 1990.

012a. I had started a buyers club in 1986 I called the “Master’s Group”. It had grown quickly and we had a membership of just under 3000 members already and they were from all over the world. In 1989, I decided to produce a convention for the members with a new twist. No judges. I had read letters from the world over about the bias in many conventions. The judges with their magnifying glasses and dental mirrors who had never built a model in their lives were a sore spot with contestants everywhere. So, among the original rules there were to be no judges and the entries would be rated by the contestants themselves. It worked and since, I have heard of other shows using that system. Mastercon is now held in Dallas Texas under a new name, “Eagle Quest” and still has some of the original guys attending. I attended in 2015 and we had a great time!

012b. Here is the head table at Mastercon III. The photo was cropped somewhere along the line, but seated, left to right was; Shep Paine, Lewis Pruneau, François Verlinden, me, Wes Bradley, Ernie Petet, the CEO of the Testor’s Corporation, A representative from Monogram, Bob Hayden, editor-in-chief of Fine Scale Modeler and several more.

012c. Mastercon was a “big Deal” in my life. The people involved, the “Old Guard” (What we called the Regulars at Mastercon), became lifelong friends.These are photos taken at Mastercons.

012d. Bob Hayden, the original editor of Fine Scale Modeler at one of the Mastercons.

012e. Gil Gonsoulin, a regular, has never missed a single Mastercon, up to and including today. Him and his wife Sydney have became close friends with Susan and I. He is seen here accepting an award from Shep paine.

012f. Don Kanaval, seen here with Susan at an early Mastercon! He rarely missed a show!

012g. François, me and Joe Mokwa, my police partner of more than a decade, who went on to be the youngest Chief of Police after I retired.

012h. Gil Godfrey, another regular. He was easy to spot as he was 6′ 10″ tall and weighed in the neighborhood of 400 pounds. He was a wonderful, gentle giant! Gill passed away at a very young age in the nineties. Afterward, each year, there was an award for the most sociable guy at each show. We called it The Gil Godfrey award.

012i. Lewis and Shep at one of the master cons. Shep attended four or five as a Guest of Honor!

012j. In better times, at a Mastercon, I was telling jokes with the Verlindens during a break in the activities.

012k. Finally, one of the three day shows over, I am exhausted but happy with the turnout!

Both businesses were doing well and François and I had became close friends as well as business partners..

013. Me and Verlinden on the narrowest street in Lier, Belgium.

013a. Susan, François and his wife Lilliane, Times Square. 1990.

In 1989, Susan and i went to Japan for the annual Shizouka Trade fair. We visited Verlinden production’s Japanese Distributor, Mr. Imura, (Imurasan), wined and dined him in a famous Italian restaurant no less. He sent one of his employees with us on the bullet train to Shizouka, stayed with us and brought us back. He wouldn’t allow either of us to lift a suitcase or anything else for that matter. His name was “Kato”. Here is photo taken by Kato of us with Freddie Leung, the founder of Dragon Models and CEO. Freddie owned many model companies then and even more today. Freddie is in black with his back to the camera, facing me.

It was at this time, I was contacted by a company that produced the TV series, “The Entrepreneurs”, for PBS broadcasting. They wanted to do a one hour show on VLS, the Museum and everything in general. It took days and we were all glad to get back to normal after they left. It was aired several times on PBS as well as placed in libraries in video form for rental all over the country. I heard a lot of feedback about it, all positive!

In 1990, after moving into our new building, Ralph Koebbemann, of northern Illinois, who I knew from The Chicago Figure Show, asked me to be partners with him, merge our two collections and create the world’s first scale model museum. By then, I had acquired a large collection, plus a considerable collection of uniform militaria. Ralph’s collection was incredible and huge and I finally realized a miniature museum was now a viable proposition. I played it safe and agreed as long as we could have it in the new VLS facility so I could run it without going back and forth to another location. We made room for it in the new building and it was opened to the public on Labor Day, 1993. We held the grand opening during Mastercon III, with 600 in attendance. The mayor of O’Fallon was the one chosen to pull the lanyard to fire a miniature cannon, breaking the ribbon.

014. Left to right. Ralph, The Mayor and me on the far right.

015. Ralph and Shep Paine. At the Grand Opening.

016. Shep Paine, Lewis Pruneau and François Verlinden, grand opening, 1993.

During those years, we travelled the world, dealing with manufacturers from places we had never been. We also took our employees to Canada, Las Vegas, Manhattan, Europe, Kansas City, California, even on cruises.

016a. On a cruise with Tom and Tessie Gerringer, 1990.

It remained at the VLS location for four years. Then, my Belgian partner made a decision to move to America. His proposal was that the production portion of the business produced great profits but they were irratic. They were up and down one month from the other. On the other hand, the profits from the mail order/distribution company were smaller but very steady. After much discussion, I finally agreed. Then I realized that not only would I have to move the museum but a building addition would be necessary as well. Construction on the new wing began shortly. Then, news had made it;s way to the nearby city of Str. Charles. The mayor and city council requested a tour of the museum and, afterwards, they made a proposal. There was a 160 year old building on Main street in the touristy Historic section and they would buy the building, totally gut it and restore it. The renovations eventually cost them more than a half million dollars. They brought in a museum specialist from L.A. who designed it and the lighting. The exterior was restored, but couldn’t be modernized as it was registered historic landmark.

In the meantime, three semis moved the museum artifacts, dioramas and models to an underground storage facility where the three trailers were stored for eight months while the building was being renovated. In the spring of 1996, Verlinden and family moved to O’Fallon, bought homes and then the containers from Belgium began arriving. Now the businesses were merged and the building, even with the new addition, was bulging with equipment and inventory. Verlinden was right about the move. It cut costs, allowed prices to come down and was far more efficient. Profits surged. As François was now in the same building, I talked to Ralph and we agreed to have Verlinden become a partner in the Kole Foundation, which was the legal entity that held the assets of the museum. He bought into the partnership. He had quite a collection himself albeit all his own dioramas, but that simply made the museum even more interesting.

In late October, 1996, the building in St. Charles was finally ready to move in. Herb Rigg and Joe Porter, who worked at VLS for years, spent a full 30 days with Ralph and I at the museum beginning the 7th of November. We had a huge amount of work ahead of us. We built a beautiful shadowbox tunnel to display all the Shep Paine items plus other shadow boxes from the Chicago show that Ralph had purchased. My Napoleonic shadowbox, The Limits of Glory ,had been finished and published during this time and was also added. The trucks came and unloaded their contents. I made numerous trips in the van moving the Verlinden collection to the museum. We were finally ready to open on Pearl Harbor Day. It received rave reviews in the newspapers and TV stations. Over the following years, it was visited by people from all over the world. We had put a large map of the world in one of the hallways and a table with a visitor book to sign in, plus a box of short pins with plastic tips for visitors to place on their cities. We had visitors from almost every country in the world, even places as unlikely as Paraguay and Pakistan. We had four employees to run it and the gift shop. It was managed by Tom O’dell during the time it was in St. Charles.

017. The 160 year old building that housed the 10,000 square foot Miniature World Museum.

018. Ditto, the right hand side of the building housed the shadowbox tunnel.

019. The interior.

020. Ditto.

021. One of the three corridors of The Shadow box tunnel.

021a. The Brochure we had printed for the museum. It was much larger than illustrated and was a trifold.

The Museum stayed at the St. Charles location for some time. It received great publicity, including being certified by Triple A as a great American attraction. Meanwhile, in 1999, although Francois and I had never had any problems of significance. There were problems developing between other factions of the Verlinden Productions unit and the distribution. It grew worse and worse until I finally decided to end the partnership. At the time, I believed it was simply a cultural problem. We both lawyered up and spent a year only speaking when it was necessary. In January, 1999, I bought a new 40,000 square foot facility in Lincoln Country Industrial Park, about 20 miles from our current location. We had a final meeting at a bank conference room, with attorneys and accountants and split the company.. Joe Porter was assigned to make the transition as smooth as possible with an emphasis on as little down time as possible. We began moving on April 15th, with half the employees in the old location and the other half at the new one. That was on a thursday, and that afternoon, the first of 23 semis arrived and began loading. The new building had the warehouse floor marked with chalk and numbered corresponding to a shelf in the old location. We had crews disconnecting the shelf units at one place, the movers wrapping them in a clear plastic material, still loaded, and delivering them the same way. At the other end, another crew unwrapped them and reconnected them in place. Other crews were arranging the offices and techs were connecting the computers to the networks. By the following Sunday evening, we were operational.

Part of the separation contract included me trading my shares in the Letterman Group, the real estate holding company that owned the O’Fallon building, for Verlinden’s shares in the Kole Foundation, the legal entity that owned the Museum.

The museum was operating in the red. It was partially due to my inexperience in operating a museum and the ignorance of an idiom of which I wasn’t aware. “Locals do not go to their own attractions”. St. Charles was a tourist location, but, in Missouri, with it’s freezing winters, only attracted tourists in the summer. Beginning in late April, it would boom. We did well from then until September when school started. Then it stopped dead. We would lose money from September to April due to lack of traffic. The city had insisted we stay open year around. I tried to change their mind and let us close it down during the winter, but they were adamant. This resulted in my subsidizing it annually to the tune of about $15K. Not a lot, but, after awhile, If not for the one dollar a year rent the city charged us, it would have been much more than that. My hope, initially, was that it could pay for itself during the summer and have enough left over to cover it in the winter. That was not to be. I finally advised the City council I was closing it. InAugust of 2001, it was moved to the New VLS building. Verlinden had taken his portion in 1999, and now Ralph sent down trucks to take his part back to Rockford, Illinois. It was sad, I hated doing it, but it had became clear it simply couldn’t support itself year round in the location that was a tourist town a few months out of the year! It was sad, especially to Ralph. It had been his dream. There was simply no other way.

It was displayed in the new building in the east wing of the warehouse.

022. The new VLS Building in Lincoln County Industrial Park, preparing to construct the sign, flagpoles, security, Paving the parking lot, etc.

023. The museum was located just to the left of this photo in the VLS warehouse

At a Mastercon in 2001, I invited the Editor of the British magazine, Military Modelling, to visit the show. I had met Ken Jones at the very first Euromilitaire. He agreed and we almost instantly became good friends. In 2002, we invited Ken and his wife Sandra to take a tour of the old south in our motorhome. They agreed and we went on a two week vacation to remember. Since then they have became close friends, we have taken trips together often. In fact, this May, 2017, we are taking another one to Kemah Texas and to the Florida panhandle, with many stops between. I have contacted several modelers along the way, we’ll attend a local model show in Pensacola, and friends along the Gulf coast. We also hope to meet up with Moon Puppy and others in Atlanta as well.

Here are some photos of Ken and Sandra Jones.

023a. In Gulfport, Mississippi, 2002.

023b. Here we are in Kansas City with modelersalliance’s own Mr. T, (Terry Barrow). 2006.

023c. Susan and Sandra, 2012.

023d. The four of us with Chris Mrosko in St. Louis county.2011.

023e. In the CRM Hobby Shop, St. Louis, with Chris Merseal, the owner, 2013.

023f. Our first get-together, 2002. in the VLS lobby.

023g. With Modelers Alliance’s own Alex De Leon in the VLS production manager’s office. 2005. Chris Mrosko took the photo and, as usual, the guns were his idea!

023h. At the Euromilitarie show with mutual friend, the late Lynn Sangster.

023i. The last of our six big diesel motorhomes we had between 1987 and 2012.

VLS and the museum remained at that location until 2007. In August of 2006, I received a call from an old friend, Chuck Harransky, then manager of MMD/Squadron in Dallas, Texas. I hadn’t heard from him in some time. I asked him how things were going at Squadron and how was Jerry Campbell doing, the owner. Chuck then told me that Mike McMahon had bought out Jerry and Jerry was living in Europe. After small talk, I mentioned how lucky Jerry had been. I told Chuck that I was 65 and was thinking of retirement. Several days later, he called back and asked if it would be OK for him and his new boss to attend Mastercon. I had a hunch he wanted to buy me out. They came, I gave them the grand tour and when we returned to my office, he said he was really excited at the prospect of buying VLS. He had been to the Lone Star building and met Verlinden, with the intention of buying both businesses, but had decided against buying VP, and never mentioned why.

Long story short, I drew up the contracts and other legal documents, his lawyers approved them and the closing date was set for January 1st, 2007. In the agreement, Susan and i would stay on for 6 months and manage VLS until it could all be moved to Texas. I put the building on the market and in June, just in time, sold it to a gigantic plumbing contractor with 30 crews.

January 1st, 2007. Me and Mike McMahon shaking hands after signing the contract ending my ownership of VLS.

024. The real estate brochure of the VLS Lincoln County Industrial building.

Suddenly, everything had worked out to perfection, when i realized, “What am I gonna do with the museum”? Squadron had purchased every asset VLS owned. The museum and everything in my workshop belonged to me. I called a friend who was a building contractor and had done work on industrial buildings for me over the years. I asked him to build a 1400 square foot “garage” in the rear of my house. We had more than an acre of land behind us so there was plenty of room. It was built, heated and air conditioned, completely finished inside by the time I had to move it out of the building. Once again, me, Susan, Wes Bradley and another ex-employee, Steve Hoard, spent a month and a half hanging everything and arranging it in that space. It was large enough to easily put 10 cars inside and we made it work. City ordinance limited us to the 1400 square feet for any detached garage.

025. The museum building behind our house.

026. Ditto.

027. Ditto.

028. The Interior.

029. The other side.

We lived in this house for 15 years from 2001 to 2016. We hosted many groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, seniors, veterans groups and a ton of modelers, both clubs and several small groups who asked for a tour, not to mention literally hundreds of single or couples. Then, in 2009, I discovered a daughter I had that I never knew existed. We grew very close over the following seven years, she lived in our old home town and, eventually, we decided to move back after 50 years in St. Louis so we could be close to her and her husband. She was 47 years old and i was 68 when i met her for the first time. We had the DNA tests and were a perfect match.

029a. My daughter Gail taken on a visit with Lewis Pruneau in Ste. Genevieve, his home town.

030. Here is a photo of me and her taken at the Springfield Japanese gardens and my Doberman, Evening Star. Gail was 52 at the time.

030a. In 2012, Susan and Gail and I met Wes and his daughter, Alexis, and Lewis Pruneau in Lewis’ hometown of Ste. Genevieve, Mo. We spent the day touring the oldest city west of the Mississippi, went to two museums where his dioramas were featured, and had lunch at “The Brick House”. a 200 year old restaurant. It was a great time

030b. One of Lewis’ dioramas he created for the state of Missouri. It is a copy of Ste. Genevieve Missouri in 1/200th scale in the 1700s in the museum there.

030c. Throughout my life, I have been involved in many endeavors, but since a kid, I have only stayed with two of them faithfully to this day. Modeling and Power lifting. This photo was taken at age 69. Susan and I still do a mile or two a day with our dogs and go to the gym at least three times a week. On my 70th Birthday, I managed a 700 pound leg press, with a large audience I’m planning an 800 pounder for my 80th! :-).

We have moved 19 times in our 51 years of marriage, not counting the five moves of VLS and four moves of the Miniature World Museum. Hands down, the most difficult one of our lives was the last one from a St. Louis suburb back to our home town, Springfield, Missouri. The move involved three full sized moving vans, a semi-tractor trailer unit and nine men. We downgraded to a 3,800 square foot home from our previous 6,200 square feet n St. Louis. It had became simply too much house for Susan and I to maintain and keep clean now in our 70s! Susan and I, working by ourselves in the museum, and the occasional, much needed help from Wes Bradley, who drove down from St. Louis five times, It was finally completed in November, 2016. It is now in the lower level of our home, and there it will stay.

Part Two.
An Overview.

The following images and captions are dedicated to my late friend and partner, Ralph Koebbeman, who infected me with his lifelong dream of bringing all the best models from the best model builders in the world over to one place. Although he managed to do just that, it unfortunately, never became self-sufficient for a normal year ’round enterprise, but Ralph, if you’re up there reading this, it still exists in a smaller version, it’s on the Internet and we still have group tours for seniors, clubs, and children’s organizations.

Members of modelersalliance.com, have a standing invitation to visit, several have. No admission charges. That ended when we moved it from a commercial facility. Here is a lengthy guided tour. It begins by walking down a staircase leading to the lower level of our house.

031. The dungeon stairs.

032. Entrance to the museum.

033. The Limits of Glory shadowbox. I built this in 1998. Shep Paine had been pushing me to do a Napoleonic Superdiorama for several years. He thought a huge duo with hundreds of figures and horses, carts and wagons of Napoleon’s Grand Army retreating from Moscow in the snow would be would be killer. So did I but, at that time I was running VLS and there was no way in hell I could manage that! He sent me a big box full of reference material on the Napoleonic wars and I felt obligated to do something, so this is was my compromise. He seemed to like it a lot!

034. Ditto. The shadowbox shows a scene in Napoleon’s office at the Palace of Fontainebleau one evening in 1814, when following the defeat of his armies by those of the Sixth Coalition, Russia, Prussia, Austria and Britain, the Emperor of the French was considering abdication, and was encouraged to do so by his ‘mutinous’ Marshals who had received assurances on the retention of both rank and status if they could get Napoleon to step down. Napoleon submitted his unconditional abdication in April 1814 and went into exile, courtesy of the British, on the Island of Elba. In the room in Fontainebleau Palace, I placed Napoleon conferring with General Bertrand to the left side of his desk, which is centre stage, while behind, the marshals also confer about the Emperor’s abdication – left to right they are, Ney, MacDonald, Berthier and Oudinot. Another marshal, François Joseph Lefebvre receives an aide at the
open doorway, stage right. The whole room exudes opulence, all recreated in miniature, from scratch.

035. On the opposite wall, a collage of photos illustrating the museum’s first location.

036. The second door on the left opens into this corridor, My model room/workshop is behind the door with the sign, “Enter at your own risk”. The awards on that wall are ones given to me in the political arena. (I was never a politician but I associated with many of them).

037. This is a view down the corridor to the back wall. When I laid this out, I created corridors and “rooms” using the glass cases and the larger dioramas in order to make it all fit. This was previously a very large family room on the lower level of the house. It had very few lights, so I had a total of 36 light fixtures, plus two ceiling fans installed. Most are L.E.D.s

038. This is toward the back wall, looking back to where we first came in. The biggest job was designing and arranging, it was the more than 600 items that were hung on the walls. Some are now in storage as I ran out of wall space.

039. One of the “rooms” with some larger dioramas and an octagonal glass case.

040. The other side of the room, again with a few of the larger dioramas.

041. Toward the east side of the room. This area has the diorama that I am currently building on the right, “Logistics”.

042. As mentioned, “Logistics:”!

043. Another corridor, glass cases, more dioramas and the entrance to the museum “media room”. Details later.

044. Another created room, full of glass cases and free standing dioramas.

045. Some of the cases.

046. Ditto.

047. Ditto.

048. A glass case in the corridor.

049. Looking back to the west from that corridor.

050. Doorway to the media room. The name “Mozark” came from an old movie theater that I attended a lot as a child. It was destroyed in 1950 to make way for a department store.

Part Three
Down to Details.

051. The following are photos of the media room. There are more than 4000 DVDs and Blue Ray movies. I think I have every good war movie ever made!

2016 (Gail) Another Trip to Kansas City

May 19th, 2016 by admin

After a couple of years lay off, Gail and i decided to take another Father-Daughter vacation to Kansas City with a side trip to Atchison, Kansas. Back in 1957-58, I lived in Atchison with my father. My grandmother raised me from the age of four and the only time I lived with Dad was then.

He ran a roadhouse in Atchison called “Dot’s”, named after my uncle’s wife who was partners with Dad. Dad was an artist and painted cartoon characters on both the exterior and interior walls of the nightclub. It was, at the time, what they called “The hottest place in town”. Every weekend it was packed and had live rock and roll music from local bands. Below are photos of my 32 year old father in front of Dot’s.

In July, 1958, a disastrous flood and tornadoes destroyed Atchison. It was called “The City that wouldn’t die”. I was 17 at the time and my teenage buddy, Joe were staying in a room in the back of the roadhouse, and Dad was in Kansas city with friends. We were woke up by the floodwater pouring into the room from an outside door. It was jammed shut and after some time and water chest high, finally broke outside and the really fast current of the floodwater carried us a considerable distance, maybe 3-4 miles. There was/is a park on a high bluff overlooking the town that we finally found refuge. A Corps of Engineers motorboat finally rescued us and took us to the high school which had been converted into an aid station. Reporters there from the Kansas City Star photographed us and we were on the front page the following day. This is a photograph of me and Joe taken in 1958. Me on the left and Joe on the right.

I went into the Army shortly after that, spending nearly 4 years in France. When I returned, I went back to Atchison to find it completely transformed. Dot’s Roadhouse was now a salvage yard, but Dad’s cartoons were still on the walls. Later, in 2001 on another return trip, the building had been repainted outside and they were gone forever.

As Gail never knew her grandfather, I thought it would be interesting if just maybe those cartoons were still on the inside walls, so, off we went. The man who ran the salvage yard was interested in the building’s history. He had ran it for 30 years but never knew anybody who had actually lived in the building. When I mentioned the cartoons, he instantly said, “Yes, some are still inside”. We went inside and the walls were covered with plastic sheeting? We didn’t ask why, he just lifted some of it up and lo and behold, there were the cartoons.

It was surreal for both of us, standing there looking at paintings created by my father and her grandfather almost 60 years ago. I took Gail to the bluff where the Engineers picked me and Joe up as well as the high school. Gail on top of the bluff!

We visited some other places in Atchison, Amelia Earhardt’s home and museum. Gail loved that!

We had lunch at Palucci’s. It was there back in the day! Then back to Kansas City and dinner at a Red Lobster.

The following day, we went to the WW I museum in K.C. It was great!

I had done some homework on restaurants in Kansas City to find the most awarded and most popular. I came up with The American restaurant in the Crown Center, overlooking the downtown area. It was really cool and the food was superb!

On Saturday, we shopped, Boy, did we, (Gail), shop! We shopped at the Country Club Plaza, the Oak Park Mall, and various and sundry other stores. My daughter is a shopaholic and never tires of it, ever! Then that evening we had dinner at an “On the Border” Mexican restaurant. I love these but in Missouri, for some strange reason, they are only in Kansas City. None in St. Louis or Springfield!

On Sunday, we went to the Kansas city Marketplace and bought some great veggies to take home. Of course, Gail loaded up on all kinds of things!

Then, to my favorite barbecue restaurant on earth. Jack Stack. For baby back ribs and burnt ends. It was as good as I remembered it. Every time I am in K.C., I have to eat there at least once.

We left for Springfield around two that afternoon. As always things like this go far to quickly, and it seemed over almost before it began. I’ll never forget it though!

Mastercons past

July 6th, 2015 by admin

Here are some photographs going all the way back to Mastercon II. As you will see, most are from Mastercon III, because many were lost during the split in 1999 and the subsequent sale of VLS to MMD/Squadron. I’ll just start with the order the photographs are in and go from there.

Mastercon III, Verlinden, Dave Pescke of Chicago, receiving the Big Master’s eagle, and Bob Letterman.

Mastercon III. Richard Mitchell, headed for the dais to receive and award.

Mastercon III. Tom Gerringer, then vice president of VLS, presents an award to Don Kanaval. Don was a great guy, he is no longer with us but will never be forgotten.

Mastercon III. Richard Mitchell winning the Big Eagle

Mastercon III. Richard Mitchell receiving the big eagle from Verlinden and Letterman

Mastercon III. Richard Mitchell receiving the Verlinden Trophy from Verlinden and Letterman.

Mastercon III. The Dais with the Grand Master Eagle.

Mastercon III. Francois Verlinden, Joe and Jake Porter and Bob Letterman

Mastercon III. Joe Porter Bob Letterman and Tom Gerringer sorting ballots.

Mastercon III. Lewis Pruneau and Shep Paine giving an award to Joe Porter.

Mastercon III. The dais, left to right. Lewis Pruneau, Francois Verlinden, Bob Letterman, Wes Bradley, and Ernie Petit.

Mastercon III The rear of the dais. Left to right. Bob Hayden, FSM Editor, The Tamiya rep. Ernie Petit, Wes Bradley, Bob Letterman, Francois Verlinden, Lewis Pruneau and Shep Paine.

To be continued.

Mastercon/EagleQuest

March 20th, 2015 by admin

Mastercon is the name of a convention I started back in 1992. It was unique in it’s concept as there was a competition with no Judges. It grew to be a much larger show than I had imagined, and we hosted it for 16 years. The last Mastercon was in St. Louis On Labor Day, in 2006. It was then we sold the company including the show and it was all moved to Dallas, Texas. It got off to a bad start there and didn’t fare all that well until 2015. A new CEO, Gwynne Gorr, took over the top spot and asked Susan and I to attend. The attendance was up some 50% offer previous years and it turned into a really great convention, reminiscent of the old days in St. Louis. The following are some photos taken while we were there.

The Banquet room just prior to the awards presentation. Click on photos to enlarge.

Scenes from around the banquet and awards ceremony.

Click on photos to enlarge.

And, my old buddy, Terry Barrow, won the grand prize, known as the Big Eagle. Click on photos to enlarge.

Chuck Harransky, who had been at Squadron/MMD since the 1970s and an old friend for most of those years.

Me with Gil and Sydney Gonsoulin. Gil is the only person to have attended all 24 Mastercons/Eagle Quests. They have been good friends with Susan and i for a long time! Click on photos to enlarge.

Jef Verswyvel, a native Belgian who worked for my former partner, Francois Verlinden, immigrated to America in 1995. Jef produced several brands of kits, the most popular was probably Black Box, now is production manager for MMD. His new wife, Jill, who also works for MMD, with Susan and me. Click on photos to enlarge.

Here I am giving a presentation about my latest diorama, Logistics, as well as dozens of Mastercon photos from the 90s.

Squadron headquarters. Click on photos to enlarge.

Susan with the new CEO of MMD/Squadron, Gwynne Gorr and her husband.

Some of the old guard. Hal Sanford, Greg Pierce, Bob Waltman and his son Tyler, Bill Roberts and Rick Justice. Click on photos to enlarge.

Another old friend from Belgium. Willy Peters. Willy worked for my former partner Francois Verlinden for years He was responsible for many of the books and almost all the printed products. Later, he immigrated to America and did extensive work for many of the VLS aftermarket lines. I first met Willy in 1985 and we have been friends since. Click on photos to enlarge.

Some more of the old guard. Jim Patrick, Greg Stewart, Rick Justice and Bob Waltman.

We had a great time and intend to go next year to the 25th Eagle Quest. Hard to believe that show is now a quarter century old. Click on photos to enlarge.

Next coming up.

Lots of photos from the old Mastercons.

VLS, The early years.

July 22nd, 2014 by admin
VLS Through the years

March 18th, 2012 by Bob Letterman

From 1983 to 1985

This is the first of a series of VLS nostalgia, beginning way back in December, 1983. The first volume is from 1983 to 1985. As I find and process them, I will be adding to all the volumes taking a pictorial history from 1983 to December, 2006, when it was sold to MMD/Squadron. I will add a section on Mastercon to document it’s history pictorially from 1991 to 2006 and beyond! Stay tuned!

These are the fronts of the two original locations of VLS #14 was production (Click on photos to enlarge)

#17 was sales, Wes Bradley and Don Wardlaw plan strategies!

Back then, we sold a lot of vacu-form kits. Airmodel was the top seller of course!

In those days, Don Wardlaw was in charge of our art dept. That is a young Bob beside him! (1985) and a young Don beside Bob!

Then we expanded into #25 Cross Keys, about triple the space. We were planning the remodeling! We had so many big dreams in those days!

Lewis Pruneau was in charge of production and VLS Creative Services back then (VP USA) This is Lewis being Lewis! Probably the single most creative guy I ever knew!

Then, there was the entire crew. How many of you can name this bunch? From left to right. Lewis Pruneau, Bob Letterman, Wes Bradley, Tom Gerringer, Judy Baggett, Don Wardlaw and Jerry Schulte! (1986) Standing in front of a newly remodeled #25 Cross Keys Center.

Photo credits to Wes Bradley

From 1988 to 1991

The first 5 + years VLS was operational. First, from our house, (1983-1985), Then we rented space in Cross Keys Center from 1985 through 1988. Those years were covered in “VLS, The Early Years”. Then in August, 1988, We had been talking to our leasing agent, (A real estate company), about our lease payments and if they would rise when the lease was up September 1st. He assured us that wouldn’t happen, then around August 20th, We received a notice that our lease payments, upon renewal, would almost double. When I confronted my agent, he just smiled and said he had no control over that and besides, there is no way we now had time to move before the lease was up. In that last three years, we had grown within the center from our original 700 square feet to over 11,000 square feet. It was a huge task, he knew it, and thought there was no way we could accomplish a move in that time period.

We started immediately and within 24 hours, we had a new office/warehouse leased in western St. Louis county of 12,000 square feet for the same price as we had paid the previous three years at the original location. The next day, we shut down operations on a Friday, rented three large moving vans, and every employee began helping with the moving. We used the three trucks in rotation, we had two crews, one at each location. By Monday morning, we were totally moved and were operational. The agent met us at the old location and was amazed. It was immaculate and much nicer than when we moved in. He even had to return several thousands of dollars of security deposit. The rest of that story is that the space sat vacant for seventeen years until it was demolished in 2006.

If they hadn’t been so greedy, it would have been occupied for years! Click on photos to enlarge.

Our new location was at 804 Fee Fee road in Westport industrial park. The name of the street was the only downside! This aerial shot was taken by a police helicopter in the area. Then and even now, I have many friends in the department. The first building was occupied by VLS except the two end units and half the building behind served as our production unit!

This was the main entrance. Click on image to enlarge.

The Summer of 1990. At that time, a photo of our crew.

Left to right back row. Tony Eads, Steve Miller, Chuck Stuckenberg, Jeff Raines, Herb Rigg, John Vaughn, Wes Bradley and Wim Verlinden.
2nd row, Tom Gerringer, Bob, Susan, Francois.
3rd row, Sharon Miller, Rene Sullivan and Khamini Bhatt.Click on image to enlarge.

These shots of the merchandise in the warehouse were used for promotional images. About that time was the transition from when color was more expensive to when black & white became more expensive. Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

Tom Gerringer, Vice President, Kyle Haag and Wes Bradley. Wes was VLS’ first employee.

Judy Baggett was our second employee and was operations manager at the time of this photo. Judy passed away in 2013. Click on image to enlarge.

Bob in a staged catalog photo.

Lewis Pruneau and two of his dios, Vietnam Riverine and The Capture of the U-505. Behind him is the original version of Legacies by Bob Letterman. Click on image to enlarge.

Lewis worked for VLS between 1985 and 1990. He then opened his own business, Pruneau Dynamics”. While at VLS he built dios on order for a growing list of clients. The list grew to the point he could no longer do both jobs. It continues to this day.

Back in 1983, when Susan and Bob started the business, these were some of the products they made and sold in their mail order business “Warwinds Militaria and Hobby LTD”. Well, it sounded important at the time! These products grew in numbers and the name was changed from Parts Depot to Techstar in 1989. Click on image to enlarge.

Most of these photos were taken for use as promotional pics. We used them in advertising, newsletters and catalogs. Click on image to enlarge.

A wall in the conference room. I have no idea why we took it!

A promo shot of Bob. Click on image to enlarge.

Gerald Schulte, (Gerry), became our first superstar with customers. He had a following of modelers who would only order from him!

Lewis built this “Carrier Deck Crash” Bob bought it from him and owned it for several years. Ralph Koebbeman, Bob’s partner in the museum that would come several years later, wanted it so bad that Bob sold it to him for what he had paid for it. Click on image to enlarge.

Another Promo shot of the Prez.

Kyle Haag, Graphics dept. and the designer of the Techstar logo among other things. Click on image to enlarge.

Kyle Mullin, VLS’ programmer.

Staged shot in shipping, Tony and Lewis are in the background and Jack Bullard was the shipping manager is in the foreground. Click on image to enlarge.

Another staged shot in production.

Since we had so many units in this building, we had a complex of office space, this being a small part. From front to back, Chuck Stuckenberg, Lewis and Wes Bradley. Click on image to enlarge.

Bob had spent three years in Europe in the military, (1959 through 1962). Beginning in April 1976, Bob and Susan began annual trips to Europe. These became twice annually and after the business started in 1983, as often as six times a year. By 1996, Bob had crossed the Atlantic well over a hundred times. As VLS grew in size Bob and Susan took several of their employees on these tripe with them. This is a trip taken in 1984 with VLS’ first employee, Wes Bradley. Click on image to enlarge.

Wes at the Arc de Triomph.

Bob & Wes at Eiffel Tower.


Wes at the Eagles Nest on the Obersalzburg. Click on image to enlarge.

Bob and Wes at the Cologne Cathedral, (The Dom).

Bob and Wes again at the Sacre Coeur in Montmarte. (Susan was taking all the pictures for Wes). Click on image to enlarge.

When Lewis first completed “The Paris Gun”, this picture was taken among others which are no longer around. Click on image to enlarge.

Bob owned 5 Corvettes during his life. This was a 1976 Sting Ray. Bought new in 1976 for $8000., 14 years later he sold it for $14000. They have phenomenal resale value!

Back then, in 1984 Wes was president of Gateway IPMS, St. Louis Local chapter. Bob was VP and here are Susan, Wes and Bob at a banquet. Chester Klier, a B-25 Mitchell pilot during WW II and the father of Denny and Ron Klier who were cops and friends with Bob. He gave a long talk about his experiences. He had published a book on those experiences and everybody was fascinated with his tales. Click on image to enlarge.

Almost 30 years later, Chester passed away. However, he did make it to the museum several months prior. Shown here wheelchair bound, his son, Denny brought him out on New Years Day, 2013.

Our family room in Florissant. The basement was where both the Winds of War and the original Legacies were built. Also the first home of what would later become VLS. This was taken in 1981, Bob had the first big screen most people ever saw. The back wall in this photo was struck by lightening, caught fire and if not for their little cock-a-poo, Goblin, they would more than likely never made it out. When he awoke Bob, he crawled to the hallway entrance on the far left. The entire room was engulfed in flames. Goblin won the state’s bravest dog award that year from the Humane Society! Click on image to enlarge.

Kickin’ back. Wes, Bob, Wes’ then wife Kay, Benny from Belgium. Benny came over with two other employees of VP to help set up production. Bob and Benny had weight lifting in common and they became friends. Lewis is on the far right. In the foreground is Bob and Susan’s first Yorkie, Cagney and first dobe, Warlock. Warlock was the largest doberman we have ever seen, many thought he was a Great Dane. He was a real sweetie! The river in the background in the Mississippi. Photo taken in Ste. Genevieve, Lewis’ home town. Click on image to enlarge.

In 2008, a year and a half after they retired, they decided to get everybody together from the period of this thread. Several they had not seen in many years. This was Chuck Stuckenberg, who learned computers when he worked for VLS right out of high school at 17. In 1997, he left for bigger and better things. He is now a supervisor of the IT department of one of the largest hospitals in the midwest.

Herb Rigg had previously retired from the postal service and was hired in 1987 by VLS after he had done some remodeling for us. He stayed on until 2000. He primarily worked in production, he became an Icon at Mastercon as the shuttle bus driver, picking up customers and celebs at the airport and bringing them to the convention. Herb has stayed one of our very best friends. Click on image to enlarge. Herb is still doing great at 85!

Left to right. Tony Eads, HIs new wife Melody, Chuck and Susan. Click on image to enlarge.

Herb, Wes and Jerry Schulte. Jerry had changed less than anybody else there. Jerry’s wife is in the foreground.

Tony went on from close to ten years at VLS to Reuters News agency. There he met his new wife and they recently retired, bought a huge yacht and now, during season, charter cruises. There are four guest cabins, the crew quarters and a galley. They now live in the Carribean in season showing tourists from North America and Europe the various islands. They spend off seasons here in St. Louis. Tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!

Here is a final shot of Tony and Melody. Great couple! Click on image to enlarge.

That’s it for this chapter. Later, we will post VLS, The Later Years, and finally, VLS, After the Split! at a later date.

2012 (Gail) A Trip to Kansas City

October 22nd, 2013 by admin

In May of 2012, My daughter Gail and I took a trip to Kansas City, Missouri. It was a four day trip and we stayed in the Embassy Suites hotel in Overland Park. We got two adjacent rooms on the top floor.

Click on image to enlarge.

Our rooms were at the top of the atrium.

We went to the Crown Plaza and shopped in the center there. This was taken in the lobby of the Westin Hotel. One side of it is built into a real bluff with a waterfall. Click on image to enlarge.

Gail and Pop

We went to Westport and walked. Really cool place! Click on image to enlarge.

We went to The Legends Mall in K.C. Kansas and ate at Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Landry’s chain. It was great!

Inside. Click on image to enlarge.

We shopped at the Plaza. Oldest shopping center in America.

We visited Harry Trumans house in Independence, Mo. Click on image to enlarge.

We had some great meals, Jack Stax Barbecue was our favorite. Click on image to enlarge.

Went to the Steamship Arabia museum. It was really cool! A steamship had sunk on the Missouri river back in the 19th century with a huge cargo for the outlaying towns and villages. A hundred fifty years later, it was found in the middle of a farmers field, the river had been diverted at one point, salvaged and tens of thousands of artifacts made into a museum. Boots shoes, guns, china, furniture, buttons, food stuffs, some of which are still edible. Awesome museum.

The artifacts featured seemed endless

There were zillions of buttons! Click on image to enlarge.

Thousands of pieces of fine china.

Tons of keys and locks.

Gail Perusing! Click on image to enlarge.

Furniture, complete bedroom and kitchen sets.

A paddlewheeler. Click on image to enlarge.

At the time of the original incident, all passengers and crew were saved. A man had a mule on board and told everyone he had released it and it swam to shore. When the salvage took place 150 years later, they found the remains of the mule still tied to a rail on the ship. A 150 year old lie was uncovered. Here are the remains.

Our last stop was a very unique resale shop. Very high end with a gourmet restaurant on the top floor. Gail shopped to her heart’s content. We both spotted a really unusual corner curio cabinet that had a nice patina on it. She liked it so I told her I would build her a nicer one for her 50th birthday. Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

If you are interested in seeing the one I built her, go here.

http://www.bobletterman.com/wordpress/?cat=276

We had a great time and promised to have another Father-Daughter vacation next year. We did!

http://www.bobletterman.com/wordpress/?cat=276

2013 (Gail) Trip to the Gulf Coast

September 25th, 2013 by admin

On July 18th, 2013, My daughter Gail and I took a vacation to the Gulf of Mexico. We stayed in Kemah Texas, a resort town south of Houston. Susan and I have spent several winters here when we had the Motorhomes. For the first time in 47 years, we took separate vacations. She went to Vegas with her best friend Sydney, and I did this. We had a great time, went to Galveston, the Kemah Boardwalk, to Malls for shopping and so on. It was a 2400 mile roundtrip, passing through Arkansas, Texas, Houston and Dallas, Oklahoma and back home. Here are some pics I took. Click on images to enlarge.

Gail on the Kemah Boardwalk.

More of the Boardwalk.

Boardwalk. Click on images to enlarge.

The open air Cadillac Bar and Grill.

Some shots of my favorite restaurant on the Boardwalk. Click on images to enlarge.

Landry’s on the Gulf Coast.

More of Landry’s. Click on images to enlarge.

We went to lunch with a buddy of mine, retired Houston cop, Frank Stumpo.

We spent Sunday in Galveston, (More shopping :-))

Galveston. Moody Mansion. Click on images to enlarge.

Gail checking out a Carnival Cruise ship.

Ditto. Click on images to enlarge.

The Elissa Museum. This ship had Galveston as a home port many years ago.

Captain Gail. Click on images to enlarge.

Prior to coming here, she had only seen the ocean from a plane when flying to Rome.

I think she liked it!

To Willy G’s on the Galveston coast for lunch. Crab Towers! Yummy! Click on images to enlarge.

Passed through Dallas on the way home.

A wonderful four days, we really had fun!