Bob Letterman

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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.

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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!