This is a very interesting article in part because
its author rues the disappearance of opportunities for "today's" kids to participate in types of exploration
and creativity common in yesteryear --- and that was in 1957!!! Nowadays we lament about kids' faces
and hands being glued to cellphones, video games, and computers all day. "... And the new nature is
the world of manufactured articles, and even manufactured games and pleasures." It just goes to show
that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Here is Peter. E. Siegle's assessment based
on his research commissioned by Monogram Models.
Why DO You Build Models?
One of the interesting things about American life is the manner in which we tend to develop trends
which permeate the whole society, and which embrace all levels, all classes, men, women, children, boys,
girls, rich, poor, etc.
Probably the most significant example of this aspect of our culture is that which is considered recreation
A first aspect of American attitude toward recreation and leisure is the way in which it tends to
be a leveling off process.
A second aspect is the feeling that leisure ought to be constructive, a tendency which stems from
the old American puritan tradition which we ell share regardless of our origin as Americans.
A third is the egalitarian spirit manifest in the great American dream as seen in the earliest days,
throughout our history, in Jacksonianism, Populism, New Dealism, and even in BBD&O-ism, the belief
that anybody can be anything he wants to be, and Horatio Alger told us so.
A fourth is a curious
paradox: in a country in which it is clearly believed that each of us can be what he wants, there is
a constant push toward being a specialist, a situation which forces us into a search for outlets other
than our work for the satisfaction of needs and desires related to being so many things besides an "economic
man. Specialization is a condition which narrows, pinches, and confines a man, limiting him severely
in a very important percentage of his daily waking hours. It binds him to a bench, a typewriter, a set
of books with lines and figures, a drawing board, or n'impotre quoi. Gone are the days when a man was
a master mechanic, the machinist who could fix anything. Gone are the days when a football player plays
many positions, or even both offense and defense (I forgot, they changed the rules back).
Fifth, we are a mass production people. Our greatest expertness lies in making possible assembly
line production, not only of goods and materials, but also of ideas, styles, mode of dress, and even
Sixth, individualism . . . as manifest in economic or social life . . . is becoming more difficult
to express. And it is the great conflict between conformity and individualism which constantly gnaws
at each of us. We yearn for opportunities to plan and execute, to see things through from beginning
to end. We yearn for the opportunity to be an individual without facing the possibility of failure and
ridicule in the public view. Hence controlled creativity as made possible in the model kit, helps make
Seventh, we are a country which has moved quickly and consistently from the rural to the urban to
such a degree that much of our feeling and our value system is conflicted, partly reveling in the joys
of city life, and partly yearning for the bucolic frontier.
Eighth, we are a people who refuse to grant honor and status to age, a condition which makes each
of us reticent about growing old, and causes us to cling as long as we can to our youth, and to yearn
for our lost youth when we feel that we have moved over the hill.
Ninth, Americans are constantly being faced with a new and relatively unheard of phenomenon, increasing
leisure which within the puritan tradition cannot be wasted, must be constructive, and even perhaps
Tenth, still another phenomenon in the American attitude toward leisure and/or recreation is that,
whenever possible, it should be educational. This goes for reading (and accounts in part for the tremendous
popularity of historical novels) and so-called hobbies. Hence, the more they can be related to real
life and real events and real things, the more likely are they to be considered valuable and desirable
Eleventh, on the other hand, they must be compensatory, satisfying needs which are not assuaged in
the normal course of daily life.
This means frequently that they are successful when they offer vicarious experiences, often even
in the realm of fantasy.
The foregoing observations are the result of thinking which arose from interviewing some 268 individuals,
in groups and singly, about their attitudes towards hobbies in general, and towards handwork at home
and model-building in particular. How these observations are related specifically to model building
will be seen as we take some of them up more-or-less seriatim in this section.
We interviewed 61 females and 207 males. They represented all social classes, including individuals
and families of ditchdiggers, white collar workers, skilled workers, college professors, executives
of large and small corporations, and unskilled factory workers and their families. The sample would
be considered, for this purpose) highly representative since the interviewees not only represented a
variety of socio-economic levels, but also different age groups (children, adults, and old people) and
people from different regions of the country, and a very few foreigners.
In making the following analysis, unless otherwise indicated, we shall be talking about the men and
boys of the sample, because the females turn out to be a rather special case which we shall deal with
separately or at least in another context.
As far back as any of us can remember, Americans have had hobbies; games we played, things we did
with our hands which were part of our leisure-time activities, and as children were part of our play.
Girls had their dolls, the dresses they made, etc. . . . , and the men had their whittling, their model-building
(remember the ships in the bottle, the knitting of the British and "New Bedford sailors), their mechanical
gadgets; women, their knitting and weaving.
Time was when we really looked upon these activities as recreation, as part of the need for breaking
away from the hum-drum activities of our long daily tasks. They were things which we wanted and needed
to do, and we did them alone, as individuals, and did not feel the need for having them institutionalized
and commercialized for us. A piece of wood and a knife were always available, and when you had them
in your hand, you were in the act of creation ... AND recreation. Today much of this is gone. The knife
and the wood are not so easily available. And our hobbies are packaged for us.
The reasons are many.
• We have more time to spend in recreation and leisure and paradoxically less of nature to deal with
in the ordinary pursuit of our daily lives.
• Except when we are on the move, traveling in our can or by fast public transportation, we are confined
to passive or spectator leisure rather than active leisure. Even in the home, we have radio and TV to
entertain us, assuage our boredom, and reduce the tension of so many frustrations in our working life.
• The further away we get from the soil the more we long to do things with our hands.
• The more we long to do things with our hands, the less available the opportunity in the urban environment.
Hence, somebody has to make it possible for us, and packaged hobby seems to be a natural answer to a
peculiar dilemma, the individual in the mass society.
In discussing hobbies with people one becomes easily aware of some of the very specific needs which
are being met by certain sedentary yet active experiences ... in the home . . . in the family
• .. and often alone.
For example, contrast the meaning of essentially the same activity for the parent and the child.
In working with a model, the father may be keeping young, while the son is weaving a wonderful tapestry
of adult adventure. The father is reminded of his childhood dreams; the son is having his, dreaming
of being • heroic adult, flying a jet plane to everlasting glory. His is much less the joy of building
than it is the adventure associated with the finished product For father the building is often more
Adults expressed several reasons for enjoying working with models:
1. It is something parent and children can enjoy together. Even though each age level enjoys the
experience at a different level of complexity: the exact same model seems often to have different levels
2. It makes possible active, creative leisure at home. Fathers indicated that working on models
has been a point of contact which otherwise had been unobtainable, and that it managed to involve even
the female members of the family although they were not necessarily engaged directly in the process.
3. Apartment dwellers pointed out that working on models made it possible to work with their
hands at constructive tasks at home where they could not have their own work bench or complicated machinery,
or crude working area.
4. As one parent put it, "when I work with my son at a model, it has one meaning for him and
another for me, and we both enjoy it ... like when we read Winnie the Pooh and Stuart Little together"
5. Models are often a compensation for childhood frustrations. Many parents simply enjoy working
with the things they did not or could not have when they were children. It's very much like the electric
train which fathers buy for their first sons much earlier than the son can can enjoy it, because the
father wants the son to have the train the father never had, or he still wants to play with it himself.
6. For children living in the city and in the well-ordered suburbs of modem America, model
building becomes a substitute for the nature games of childhood in the country or the open spaces. Many
parents recalled that as children they made things that were in the streets, and in the fields where
they played. They remembered roasting "spuds," making bubble pipes and less innocent pipes out of acorns
and torn cobs, carving chestnuts and cherry wood, whittling, etc. . . . Such childhood adventures are
gone today. The trees aren't there. The days are busy with an kinds of schooling and organized play.
Our relations with nature are formalized. And the new nature is the world of manufactured articles,
and even manufactured games and pleasures. This is part of the "urban pastorale" which replaces
Nature with a manufactured experience much more readily available in the urban setting. Part of that
pastorale is the manufactured game or hobby kit or model-building set.
7. Model building is also a substitute for the world of adventure represented by the things
for which the models stand. In a world of invention; and discovery, the making of the model, working
with it calls up all kinds of vicarious adventure, the jet plane, the rocket ship, the four-master;
adventures none of us can ever really know, yet for which we yearn. It's like reading sea stories or
stories of great masculine heroes whom we emulate in our mind's eye.
8. Model building satisfies the need for wholeness or completion, a rather important need in
a society such as ours where more and more people are becoming so specialized in their economic life
that they rarely ever see the whole of what they are working with. This is true of men who work on the
assembly line in the plant and those who are the white collar workers as well. The opportunity to see
projects through from the idea stage to the ultimate realization is given to only a few individuals
in our society, a condition which did not prevail in the days of the artisans and master workers. What
model building does for these people is make it possible for them to enjoy a full act of creation even
tho it comes in a kit. Each person applies his own degree of perfection and apparently applies also
his own special artistic stamp in the final analysis. This is not to suggest that model building is
a substitute for all creative activity. But it serves well in its "need for wholeness" function.
9. Model building satisfied the need for working with something tangible which can be
started and finished within a reasonable and foreseeable length of time. And apparently there are models
to meet the needs of each degree of attention span. from the very simple, solid-form, four-piece job
suitable for the limited attention span and coordination of the very young, to the extraordinarily complex
models of the specially gifted. Most often in our sample, those who felt this need most were the ones
who dealt with abstractions in their daily activity or were of the white collar occupational group.
10. Many persons indicated that one of the reasons
they enjoyed working with models with their children was the challenge of dealing only with the material
at hand, and not having to invest in complicated tools and equipment. One could start quite readily
at his own level of acquaintanceship with the material, usually self-contained. Thus was eliminated
something of the fear of failure that dogs us when we face the unfamiliar.
11. There is a point of separation between the sexes in the family when the males are working
with models. This seems to be an area which has been assigned to the "men." The women (who often are
quite capable of performing the very delicate and artistic tasks required in model-building) are quite
insistent about keeping a hands off policy, and show no interest in doing those things. The men on the
other hand accept the separation as being a clear line of difference. It has been culturally determined
as a masculine realm, and is one of the few remaining activities that are strictly for the boys. In
asking one interesting question, I learned that more women are interested in going to baseball games
than they are in working with models. None of the women felt at all interested in the latter, whereas
a number of them are interested in the former, an activity which not very long ago was strictly for
the boys. The point here is that although women have the necessary s1cills, they are uninterested. And
MEN WERE PRONE TO INDICATE THAT THEY LIKED HAVING AN ACTIVITY WHICH WAS THEIRS ALONE. They liked doing
what women don't do because more and more they find fewer activities at work or in recreation where
this is true.
12. Model building gives some a feeling of belongingness and control. This was noted by men
who felt that so much of their lives and activities are controlled by others. Working with models, like
other constructive activities, makes them feel that they are in charge of the situation. They make the
major decisions and see the project through from beginning to end. It is a relief nom recreation which
is so often as spectator, passive, and makes. you feel on the outside.
13. As many said, "It's good indoor fun." It is a welcome change. Those who work with their
hands sometimes enjoy more delicate work. Those who push a pencil enjoy working with their hands. Some
of those who feel they do uninspired work on their jobs feel that working with models is a change from
the dull routine to something educational. They feel they learn something about the thing they are building.
For example, people who have never seen a jet plane, feel they know something about them after they
build a model. This, it was felt, was especially true of children.
14. It is apparent that many men enjoy working with models because they feel young when they
do so. Some feel young again; have never grown up; others feel that it is an excellent way to achieve
a better capacity for communicating with their sons, by having a common level of discourse stemming
from a common experience with something outside themselves. American men have to feel young. Some men
feel younger when they can still enjoy things associated with youth and which are nevertheless not an