Tag Archives: hobbies

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL P-51 LVR License Plate cropped


“Flying a good airplane doesn’t require near as much attention as a motor car.”  —Charles Lindbergh

* * *

I love flying.  I’d do more if I could, for I have no fear.  But bad back and arthritic knees make for discomfort.  I cannot imagine an eighteen-hour flight nowadays.  Maybe at one time.  There was that trip to Frankfort then on to Istanbul; or the New York to Athens, non-stop; and my six visits to the UK (Anglophile? and summer school at Cambridge University); and I’ll always have Paris (2013).  Still, my bucket list contains the word “Reykjavik.”  Maybe.  Someday.

iceland mapIceland Map

My flying life began in spring 1961.  I was a passenger, with a gift-ticket from my parents, to visit home for Easter Break.  Saint Louis to Midway Airport, Chicago, a four-engine turbo-prop…  I’ll Never Forget My First–within the wispy clouds of the heavens.  And so it began, little by little, but enough for me: a DC-3 and others, graduating to the luxury of a British Airways 747, bigger and better.  I have been fortunate to see the Concorde, up close and personal, and in a museum, sitting in its rather futuristic seats.  Indeed, I have seen it fly, even take off and land.

As an airplane enthusiast, I’ve made trips to airshows and aviation days (Duxford, England, even); I have listened to stories told by fighter pilots, collected books and magazines.  I have visited with World War II bomber pilots, have tried to squeeze my portly non-regulation body over the catwalks in the bomb bay of a B-24.  No way could I make it into the pilot’s seat.

However–oh, my!–what a birthday gift from my wife: One Ticket to Ride in the Collings Foundation B-17G.  One hour.  What a present!  Ten passengers.  During takeoff, I was in the pilots’ compartment, sitting on the floor, hearing every command, feeling every bump on the runway.  Reaching altitude, flying above Fort Myers, Florida, and Sanibel, out over the Gulf, and back to Page field, we riders were allowed to walk through the plane, from tail area to look through the Plexiglas nose.  I even stuck out my head, able to look at the tail as we cruised at many miles an hour, my head being blown about.  (That hour flew by…)  Speechless.  In awe.

B-17 Flight Birthday Gift Oh, The Places We WentJimmy in Birthday Present Ride B-17

[Aside anecdote: That B-17 ride?  I was so child-like nervous-excited (at age 50) that I had to make two visits to the WC before takeoff.  Then one more, as I was about to crawl into the plane: “Do I have time…?”  The plane had to delay takeoff to wait for me from my third “potty stop.”]

collings b-17GCollings Foundation B-17G

I am a dreamer, though, dreaming, hoping someday, of being in the cockpit of the Cadillac of the Sky, the P-51 Mustang.  If I can fit. 

Mustang LoverJimmy Dreamer Next to His Favorite Plane


The dreams, though, actually began long ago, those memoriesofatime.  That early airplane- enthusiasm life began with balsa wood, hanging around hobby shops, smelling Testor’s paints and glues.

testors-full-paint-setModelers’ Dream of Testor’s Paints

Real stick models, tissue-paper sides.  Then came “Plastics!”  Snap-apart-parts then glue-together models, fighters and bombers from World War II especially, sizes 1/32, 1/72, or 1/48 scale mostly.  And metal: lead and zinc: Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Maisto, others.  No more toy soldiers for me that I had made in my own little foundry when I was young; I had metal airplanes for a while.  And then?

Then I put away, for a very long time, “the things of a child.” (“When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  Paul 1Cor. 8.11).

The lure of metal airplanes became strong, stronger, as I neared retirement age: “Diecast metal construction with some plastic components.  Realistic panel lines, antennas, access panels, and surface details. Pad printed markings that won’t fade or peel like decals.  Opening canopies, revealing detailed cockpit interiors.  Interchangeable extended/retracted landing gear.  Presentation stand.  Accurately detailed underside.”

In addition, more and more companies moved into the market, while others, like Franklin Mint moved out.  Others began to attract older collectors who grew up with those plastic models, now making transitions to Corgi, Witty, Hobby Master, Dragon Wings, and Gemini Aces, detailed with the “fiddly bits” that made authenticity and squadron markings paramount–and arguable for “purist collectors.”

I became a collector, a hobby-addict.  It’s not all ordering and unboxing, displaying and dusting.

Hobby Master warning label.jpg “Some Assembly Required.”

There can be research, reading, movies to see, stories to read.  Oh, airfields to visit–and even cemeteries to walk

I am not fanatical about my hobby.  I enjoy what I can, see what I can.  As I have previously written, here is what I have learned: The more I learn about one little bit of this or that, the more I realize how impossible it is to really “know it all”–like trying to collect it all.  When it comes down to it, as all know, it’s “whatever turns your crank,” isn’t it?  What I collect, how I collect, why I collect makes me, me.  It is fun and enjoyable.  That works for me–and guides me.

Some LVR s Models Small Part of the Collection

And that’s my story–so far, since once upon a time.  (And, happily, I no longer collect old razor blades.

 © JAMES F O’NEIL 2018







By: James F. O’Neil

When my boys were in high school, deciding on college life and careers, both chose to apply to military service academies.  The application process was rigorous and tiring.  One item on the initial application had to do with hobbies.  This small item on the long application fascinated me.  What importance was a hobby to a service academy appointment? 

West Point USMA

(West Point Photo: Wikipedia)

Admission to West Point is very competitive; candidates need to do their best in everything they do, including items counted in the “subscores,” or part of the whole score.

How far back in time is a candidate to “do best”?  Some hobbyists are “late collectors,” or come into a coin collection from a relative’s donation.  Others are Scouts from the very first, working on merit badges long before any thoughts of West Point or the Naval Academy [in Annapolis, Maryland].  Or what about having American Girl or Barbie collections, or miniature china tea sets, or even Cabbage Patch dolls piled neatly around a bedroom? 

And what about the young boy-child who collects paper bus and streetcar transfers?  Would he later be entitled to a “whole-man score”?

Recently, watching a city bus, I found myself wondering for a moment about all the bus transfers I collected from my days of boy-child.  I used to have piles of used transfers, punched and returned by a bus driver or motorman (on a trolley car or streetcar). 

Transfers back then were pieces of paper, the size of a narrow dollar bill, white, printed with a type of clock face at one end, and the route on the rest of the transfer.  It was to show with a few punches where a passenger got on and then how much time to get to another location. 

Garfield Blvd Transfer

(Photo: Chuckman’s Photos)

I lived but a few city blocks from a large streetcar, later bus, “barn,” as we used to call it.  This large interchange saw end-of-the-line tracks going in and coming out, streetcars lined up and put to sleep for the next day.  As buses replaced the trolley system, the buses found their spots to rest, interchange, or be repaired in “the barn.”

chicago-cta-bus-garage-5800-w-95th-street-interior-buses-parked-1953  chuckman's photos

(Photo: Chuckman’s)

 1973 Chicago Bus Barn

In late afternoons, I used to make my way through the parked trolleys or buses, sneaking along, looking inside for books of transfers, or single transfers.  Many an empty streetcar or silent open bus allowed me to rummage around, adding to my collections–and never being caught.

So this was a collection: paper transfers from all over the city, all organized into zones, dates, routes.  For what end?, I ask.  What I collected, how I collected, why I collected was for fun, and was enjoyable. 

Perhaps I gained some organizational skills, or some sense of what is “worth” something.  Perhaps this has all made me a “Whole Man.”

So, what’s my score?

 –“If something exists, somebody somewhere collects them.”

©  James F. O’Neil  2013

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