“Rob, if there is one piece of advice I can give you it is to get a good hobby.” This was the advice I got from an old timer on Bowen recently when I asked him the success to a happy retirement.
I’m not quite there yet but I’m definitely in the preparatory phase. I can remember back in the day many of my friends’ fathers had hobbies to fill their after work time. No internet had many looking for interesting hobbies to take a break from the grind of work life. A common hobby was modeling, everything from jet planes to model railways. I was always so impressed by the skill of many of these hobbyists.
My attempts at modeling were to say the least, mediocre. Glue would bulge up all over the place and a piece would eventually snap as I was impatiently trying to fit them together with sticky fingers. I won’t even get to the painting part, painting a wall is one thing, painting a 3mm machine gun on the front of a fighter jet is quite a different story. I still can’t figure out how they managed to do it so perfectly. It must have taken so much time.
I was recently cleaning out my office and under a stack of papers came across an old newspaper clipping that I had cut out of the North Shore News. I had cut it out with the intention of calling up the gentleman, Bob Booth, a well-known local architect, at the time 94 years old, who had been building model railroads for decades. I was hoping to visit him and see his railroads and models, maybe even convince my son to join me.
While I never got the chance to contact him at the time I thought why not give him a call now. It took a bit of sleuthing, unfortunately, Bob had passed away, but I did get ahold of his daughter, Leanne, who was more than willing to fill me in on Bob’s model building exploits.
Bob started modeling trains in the 70s. He was meticulous about the craft and would work on his trains when his kids were asleep.
“He followed/chased the Royal Hudson all over the Lower Mainland and valley, filming and recording the sounds and even riding in the engine,” she said.
It was only his failing eyesight and arthritis that slowed Bob down. Besides his success as an architect and modeller, Leanne remarked that “he was more proud of his work with the Streetcar 153, which is now the centrepiece in the new North Vancouver museum. He was restoration project director and developed the plans that allowed master craftsman Carl Anderson to rebuild the car. He received a personal achievement Award from the city of North Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee in 1992 for his work.
“He bugged the mayor for years to get the car out of Fen Stadium and display it properly. He would be so pleased.”
I regret not seeing his trains, some of which are now located at the railway museum in Squamish, but I wonder how many models from so many hobbyists don’t find an appreciative second home. How much of this history is lost?
I’ll keep exploring avenues to get the hobbyist in me out. It probably won’t involve glue, fine paint brushes or immense amounts of patience but the thought of having an activity that engages me through my later years outside of paid work is exciting.