BPMS MEMBER INTERVIEWS: Frank continues the interview column. This month we have long-time member and Membership Director Russ Holcomb.
BPMS Interview -- Russ Holcomb
Russ Holcomb retired from a 40-year career in civil engineering with a sizeable stash of model kits. He explained, “I figured, ‘I’ll build when I’m retired,’ Now that I’ve retired, I see how big a job I’ve given myself.” Scale modeling and engineering have always gone hand-in-hand for the Brooklyn native. “I was in construction management for a while and also did design work. I don’t know if engineering helped my modeling or if modeling helped my engineering in terms of visualizing plans and how things went together. It was complementary.”
Russ grew up near Marine Park and first took notice of plastic modeling when his older brother Jack assembled the Lindberg Space Station. When he was seven or eight, Russ made his own first project, Precision Hobby Kit's U.S. Navy Frogman. “I wasn’t hampered by references, so I painted it very quickly.” Kits were plentiful when his parents introduced him to Thrift Town on Nostrand Avenue. “When I figured out where it was and I could get there on my own, that was a big deal.”
Russ’ modeling interests centered on armor, and as a teenager he learned of a new Brooklyn model club from Walt’s Hobbies in Bay Ridge. “They were offering discounts if you were a club member, so I went to some of the meetings at the Clotheshorse on Kings Highway,” he recalled. “It didn’t click for me then, but I kept building.” Years later, a Brooklyn Plastic Modelers Society display at Floyd Bennet Field led Russ to a long-lasting membership including two terms as BPMS president.
Russ builds in his basement work area. “You don’t have windows to see if it’s raining or sunny, but it’s out of the way and you can come back later and pick up where you left off.” His wife Jeanne suggested rolling carts for kit storage. “Aircraft are here. Ships are here. Armor is here and here, and here and here. . .”
One of Russ’ favorite kits to build in the last five years was Tamiya’s Char B1-bis tank. “That one stands out in my mind as well-engineered. Everything just sort of clicked into place.” He is cautiously optimistic about the future of the hobby. “The positive side is that kids are building Legos and things like that. I think that kids who are interested in putting things together would build models if they were aware models were out there. The negative side is models are just so expensive now, and many are so complicated, they don’t lend themselves to younger builders.
“There was a satisfaction you got as a kid when you could build something in an evening. You put decals on it and you were happy. You get older, and you say ‘I can improve this and improve that.’ You slow yourself down and lose some of the joy you used to have when you built something for the fun of building it. “