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My First Model Kit


JohnRatzenberger
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I think we had a thread on this a while back ....

 

I have long held the thought that my first kit was some kind of wooden stage coach, sometime about 1951-ish when I was 6-ish. I have a clear picture of me sitting at my little table in the kitchen of the house we moved from in 1952/53 so the time period is about right. But that is about all, until recently. I had made a few tries over the years to find that kit but not put much effort into it because I really had no specifics.

 

At our chapter contest this year one of the vendors, Lance Bevins of Wilmington, NC, had a Old Ranger kit of a 20-Mule Team Borax Wagon, still in the original mailing box. Interestingly enough, it was mailed from Clinton, Iowa, where my Mom's sister and family lived for decades. Anyway, I bought the kit and took it home to do some research (and of course build it … sometime).

 

old-ranger-1_s.jpg

 

These were promotional items -- send in a coupon and a dollar sort of thing. 20-Mule Team Borax was a famous laundry soap, sponsor of the radio and TV western series "Death Valley Days", hosted by several people including Ronald Reagan. But the longest running television host was "The Old Ranger", Stanley Andrews, from 1952-1963. Since the box features The Old Ranger, one has to assume the kit was produced in that time period, although the presence of zip codes on the box indicate it was mailed in 1963 or later.

 

old-ranger-2_s.jpg

 

It's a great plastic (ABS) kit -- 2 borax wagons plus a water wagon, 2 drivers, 20 mules (actually 18 mules & 2 horses), complete instructions including how to turn a corner with a team of mules, which is an interesting problem once you think about it. But this isn't my first kit, although it did cause a couple blurry flashbacks that suggest I had one of these in my past, or maybe it's just the TV show.

 

Anyway, in the course of my research, I ran across another Borax Wagon kit -- a wooden kit issued by Frontier Manufacturing Co, of Los Angeles, CA. Now here was a kit similar to the "Old Ranger" kit, but wooden -- a minor flashback triggered. Further searching over a few weeks produced two E-bay auctions -- one for the Frontier Borax Wagon kit, and one for a printed catalog. I bid early and high, and stayed on them, getting both for actually very little.

 

When they both arrived, flashbacks went off all over the place. The Borax Wagon kit seemed to be familiar, particularly the yellow plastic wheels.

 

frontier-borax-1_s.jpg

 

The catalog was undated, but contained a 1954 price list, so it placed them approximately the time I was building my first model. Further research yielded nothing on the company, their history, or fate.

 

frontier-cat-1_s.jpg

 

Kit #1 in the catalog was a stage coach -- it had to be it. Size/scale, 1/2"= 1 foot, or 1/24, was about right. The yellow box clicks.

 

frontier-cat-2_s.jpg

 

I set an E-bay search for the product line. In a few weeks, I was rewarded with another wooden kit, the Ranch Wagon -- it wasn't complete, but had the instructions and the plastic wheels so the rest can be made from stock balsa to the full-size patterns on the instructions. Interestingly enough, the catalog says the ranch wagon was a plastic kit, but what I got is wooden. Then, a few weeks later, I scored the Surrey, this one an all-plastic kit, as the catalog said it was.

 

Finally, one day, the search turned up a Stage Coach & I bid the rest-of-annual modeling budget. No sweat, no opposition, got it for a song. And here it is -- when I pulled it from the packing box, I became sure this was my first kit -- the flashbacks were popping all over.

 

frontier-stage-1_s.jpg

 

The kit is started -- it belonged to the seller's grandfather. He has done a very nice job on the body and the rest of the parts are present or can be made from balsa stock.

 

frontier-stage-2_s.jpg

 

So, here I am, almost 60 years later, with what I'm pretty sure was the first kit I ever had. Note "had" -- I know I worked on it, but I have no recollection about finishing it. Wherever our old family photos may be, I doubt there is one of little Johnny and his model stage coach .... I have no idea how or why it was given to me.

 

You may think it odd that the first kit of a 6-year old was a rather complicated wooden kit -- no, I was not a child modeling prodigy, or if I was, it sure didn't carry along to my adult life. I'm sure I received some help from Dad on it, but that was also probably the last time, as he was never really supportive of my modeling and I suspect Mom had a lot to do with my getting a workspace in the basement of our new home.

 

After that, I can remember a lot of models, at least vaguely, but that initial foray into wood stuck with me, because up through my teens probably 1/3 of everything I built was wood, most of it flying or floating, and I still have that love of wooden models, and a few in the stash.

 

 

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That is a wonderful and incredible story! John, thanks for posting this; it always feels good to pick up one of your first model kits. I myself have always wanted the Borax Mule Team model but was never able to get it. Maybe someday I'll find it and pick it up.

 

The work you're doing on that stage is spectacular. Keep it up and I am certainly looking forward to seeing more of this.

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That is an excellent story and I'm sure that it provides a ton of good memories to finally acqure another one. Congrats!

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cool story. Man one has to love it when you find a little part of when we were kids.

I searched for info on this kit for a long while and finaly found a cool website that had info on the kit.

I think i am lucky to have one for myself.

 

thanks for the photos. and the cool story.

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cool story. Man one has to love it when you find a little part of when we were kids.

I searched for info on this kit for a long while and finaly found a cool website that had info on the kit.

I think i am lucky to have one for myself.

 

thanks for the photos. and the cool story.

 

What's the website ??

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John,

 

Not sure what you mean by cheaply. However, You have set my mind to do the same. If and when I ever get a chance to buy the Baja Humbug (my first kit) I will. Of course, explaining that to the wife ($$$ spent) may be another story. I will however, refer her to your post!

 

 

Mark

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history of this kit.

kinda cool i might ad,

 

http://www.muleteamkits.com/

 

Thanks, that's about the Death Valley Days Borax Wagon kit -- I already have this link. I thought (hoped) you had a link of the Frontier series of kits .... But, as you say, it is a cool link for the 20-mule team stuff ....

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  • 3 weeks later...

The plot sickens ….

 

I have a search running on E-bay for these kits, and lo, another Stage Coach popped up. However, I noticed that although the box was the same, the kit had more plastic parts than mine. I bid and got it for a song and FREE postage. The description said it was incomplete and I understood that.

 

Sure enough, it was incomplete, but that's OK -- I wanted it for comparison. Now, there is no date, no version, no nothing on either kit or the plans to distinguish them -- they are both Frontier Manufacturing Kit #1 Stage Coach.

 

frontier-stage2-1_s.jpg

 

I assume the wooden one is still the earlier kit of my memories. The "plastic" version does have nicer wheels -- perhaps you can see that the red wheel have wheel nuts whereas the yellow ones do not -- I may use the red ones instead of the yellow.

 

Interesting …. I still have no real documentation on the company or the kit line.

 

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  • 7 months later...

John, I remember this kit from my younger days. My mom ordered me one from Borax and my brother and I built it. When we were finished, we took a piece of 1x4 ( I think) painted it, added some sand and mounted the kit on it. Looked pretty neat in our little 6 year old minds. I can still picture this model. Don't know what became of it but can remember it well. Seems to me sometime in the '70s or '80s I saw a Borax box that had an offer for the model on it. Might be wrong. Would like to have another.

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There is a short history on the development of the Borax mule team kit in the book, Remembering Revell Model Kits, by Thomas Graham. Revell reps went out and took measurements and designed the kits, but Adams produced the molds and distributed the kits. Revell and Adams had a close relationship at the time with Adams developing many of the 1/40 armor kits for Revell.

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Would like to have another.

 

Jim,

Then I advise you NOT TO LOOK ON EBAY!!!!! You can usually find ANYTHING and EVERYTHING your heart desires!!!!!

 

http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=borax+mule+team&_sacat=0&_odkw=1%2F48+machine+gun&_osacat=0&_trksid=p3286.c0.m270.l1313

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Would like to have another.

 

Jim,

Then I advise you NOT TO LOOK ON EBAY!!!!! You can usually find ANYTHING and EVERYTHING your heart desires!!!!!

 

http://shop.ebay.com...6.c0.m270.l1313

 

I know--hint dry.gif -hint dry.gif -wink :smiley2: -wink :smiley2: . Never realized they were still out there. Can't remember what my mom paid, maybe .50c or a dollar. I know, I'll borrow Doc Brown's Deloreon time machine and get one. Thanks Mark.

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Still have no idea what my first kit was. Would have been late 66 or early 67 as I was 6 when I built it. Probably a 72nd Revell single engine fighter as I remember a few of them.

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