Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Circle is Now Complete

Photo by Chad Slattery

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...."

As you all know by now, Chad Slattery did a nice article on the Northrop Grumman Display Model Shop for the September 2009 Air and Space Smithsonian magazine. Along the way, he did this neat photo of me surrounded by many of our recent projects. (Incidentally, Chad has informed me that he is now the first person to have both a major article and the cover photo in the same Air and Space issue - congratulations, Chad!)

The reason I bring this up is this whole process has been a serious case of deja' vu for me, with a profound sense that life has indeed come full circle. Let me explain:

A long time ago, in the winter of 1983, about 17 months before I hired into the then-Northrop Corporation, I bought a magazine. It was the January/February issue of Airbrush Digest. Featured in that issue was a nice long article on Dick Guiselman and the Northrop Display Model Shop. The lead photo in that article was this:

Photo by Steve Steckly (?)

A bit more formal, but the similarity is eerie.

When I read that issue, I was working as a model maker for a small defense contractor based in Irvine, CA. While what I was doing was really neat (more on that another day), airplanes were my first love and seeing what these guys were doing absolutely floored me. In my wildest imagination I could not conceive of the possibility that I would ever work for Northrop, especially in that cool looking shop. Yet less than a year-and-a-half later, I would be there, working for Dick and with all those people I saw featured in the magazine.

And now, here we are - twenty-five years later, and I'm the one running the shop and getting my picture taken with lots of neat models. I cannot begin to describe the feelings in me when I look at those two photos. The sense of symmetry is powerful; and yes, a bit of irony is there as well. Who'd a thunk it?

There is something else at work here, too: the symbolism of continuity. The wide-eye young man who stared and drooled over that amazing article in Airbrush Digest is now the one being photographed as his shop gets featured in a national magazine. What new crop of wide-eyed young people are reading this latest story and seeing for the first time the possibilities? Will I inspire somebody to give it a try? Will they one day take my place and be written about in a future article of their own? Given the state of the industry today and the dwindling demand for our services, I don't know.

But I'd like to think so.

And yes, I still have that old magazine.

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