Sunday, August 27, 2023

Sad Times


In So Many Ways He Made It Possible

The year was 1972. Jim Wogstad and I had finally gotten to the place where we were ready to spring a mutual dream of ours, the original print edition of Replica in Scale, on an unsuspecting modeling world. That first issue, known to us then and now as I/1, was a success in spite of itself, largely because we had great people helping with the project and an idea that turned out to be more than merely viable. Maybe it was luck, or maybe something else, but we had the skill sets required, and we actually managed to have a dollop of financially critical advertising from our very first issue to help us get started. What we didn't have was access to original photography for the articles we were planning to run or the expertise to understand the ins and outs of America's aviation assets. We never doubted that we'd get where we wanted to go, mind you. We just didn't know how it was going to happen, and that's the way things were until our first 1,200 copies of the magazine landed on the shelves of the handful of hobby shops willing to take a chance on us. It was in one of those shops that we began our climb to respectability and a modicum of fame.

Dibbles Arts and Hobbies was, and is to this day, a brick and mortar shop in San Antonio, and for decades it was the go-to place for anyone seriously interested in plastic model airplanes and living in the South Texas area. One of those many Dibbles patrons was an Air Force noncom then assigned to Lackland AFB named Norm Taylor, who saw and purchased a copy of our first issue during a visit to the shop. Jim's contact information was published in the front of the magazine since his home was serving as our offices and Norm wasted no time in making the phone call that, in so many ways, set the tone for Replica in Scale, Aerophile and, by osmosis and imitation, any number of other periodicals to follow us. In the space of that one phone call an offer was made to help us with photography should we need it, along with an equally kind offer to introduce us to other national and international caliber photographers and aerospace collectors and historians. One man made one phone call and suddenly our entire project became viable. We were on our way!

Norm was able to help us for a couple of years but eventually the Air Force decided they required his services more than we did and he was transferred to Japan, but the folks he had introduced us to were still around and that allowed us to perform the research we'd so often dreamed of way back in the beginning. Our dream had actually become reality, albeit for only a few brief years before changing circumstance did us in. Our day in the sun with the print version of Replica in Scale was a short day indeed but in so many ways a successful one, and in great measure we owed it all to Norm. 

It's amazing how few people in the hobby know who Norm Taylor was, since his impact on it was so massive. He was one of those quiet and unassuming men who didn't brag or do things to draw attention to himself. He didn't have to, because his photography and his willingness to share his collection spoke for him. He's been called the dean of American aviation photographers on more than one occasion, and it's an accolade that fits. His composition and technical skills were superior to most, and he had The Eye, a gift he used to advantage every time he walked on a ramp with his cameras. His photography, either by his direct contribution or via the shared collections of others, literally filled the aviation periodicals and books of the 1970s and 80s. Both he and his work were ubiquitous. He took the bar and helped to substantially raise it. 

We all moved on with Life as the years passed and Norm slowly slipped out of the mainstream, something that happens to most of us sooner or later. Those of us in the community spoke of him and his work often but few of us were in direct communication with him anymore, although the word was out that his health had declined over the past several years. Things didn't look good.

We found out a couple of weeks ago that Norm had passed. It's an inevitability of living that eventually happens to us all, but it's also painful each and every time we lose a friend. It never gets any better.

There's a bright side, though, because Norm, and all the other friends we've lost over the past several years, are still around. The photographs they took, the books they authored, the knowledge they all so freely shared are still there and in that respect they live on, both in our hearts and on our bookshelves and in our photo collections. They were all greater than life, each and every one of them: Norm, Corsair Jim, Marty, Dave, Maddog, and all the others who have gone West during the past few years. Legends to a man, they were also among the most modest and humble of human beings. They were, and they remain, special, and it doesn't matter whether you're a photographer or an enthusiast, or a modeler. If your interest lies in American military aviation, your life has been enriched beyond measure by these humble giants. 

Thanks, Norm, for what you did for Replica in Scale, and for us all. Blue Skies, Amigo!

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