The Birth of the CoMMiES
It's a familiar story: A boy, about seven or eight, starts building models. He probably picks up the hobby from his father. He gets models for Christmas and on his birthday, and spends the money from a paper route or allowance on models. Then when he is sixteen, he starts spending all his available money on cars and girls, and forgets about models. Fifteen or twenty years later, his kids are about the age he was when he started building models, and in introducing them to the hobby, he reintroduces himself. Model builders all over the world tell this same story, it is very common. It is especially common for men born in the 1960's.
It is not my story. Yes, I started building models at the age of eight. Yes, I picked it up from my dad. Unlike my contemporaries, I never stopped building models. I built all through my teen years, I built when I was in the Army, I built when I was flat broke and in college. That is one of the nice things about the hobby, as long as you've got an old kit or two lying around, you can still build models when you don't have a penny to your name. I entered the annual Star Con Model Show whenever I could. I subscribed to Fine Scale Modeler, and dreamed of writing an article for them one day.
But as I got older the magic started to wear off. I completed fewer and fewer projects every year. By 2000 I was pretty much done with models. I hadn't finished a model in over two years. I hadn't entered a model in the Star Con Model Show in more years than I could remember. I was seriously considering selling off my kits and giving the hobby up for good.
That was the year we finally got internet access. One evening I was surfing around, trying to find something more interesting than movie trivia websites or science fiction BBS's. I typed "Plastic Models" into the web browser, (I don't remember which browser I was using at the time, it was years before Google). Fine Scale Modeler came up, as expected. But so did a website called Starship Modeler. I thought this couldn't mean what it sounded like, but I followed the link anyway, expecting to find pictures of some guy's Enterprise model. If you're reading this, then I'll assume you already know about Starship Modeler, I won't trouble you with details. But right then and there I was born again. It took me almost a week to go through the gallery, which at the time was a tenth of what it is now. Eventually I clicked on the forum link, and it has been my home page ever since.
Two or three years later, one of the Starship Modeler forum members, a guy named Justin Miller from Wichita, sent me a message. He was going to be in Denver for a couple days, and wanted to know if I'd be interested in meeting him for lunch. We met at Red Robin and spent a couple hours just talking. We've been pretty good friends ever since. Later that spring I went to Star Fest, with the intention of actually meeting some of the people who's models I've admired over the years. But unlike Justin I've never been good at walking up to a stranger and starting up a conversation. Dana had to push me toward the crowd and say, "Go, talk!" That evening I met many people who have come to be very good friends of mine. Things were looking up, I had definitely got my model building mojo back.
The following year I spoke with a couple guys on Starship Modeler who were from the Denver area. Kylwell and Jonas Calhoun, aka Robb Merrill and Dan Holmes. We agreed to meet up one day at Colpar Hobbies East, and ended up spending something like three hours there talking. It was like finding a couple brothers we never knew we had. In what has to be the oddest twist of fate I've ever encountered, John Ross showed up there too.
A fellow Starship Modeler from Minneapolis, he happened to be in town for a few hours on layover, and stopped into Colpar to pass the time. He overheard the three of us talking about SSM, and introduced himself.
After that, Robb, Dan and I started meeting at each other's homes once or twice a month. We decided our little three man modeling club needed a name. Dan, ever the wiseacre, came up with Commies, and we quickly turned it into an acronym: Colorado Modeling Militia Enjoying Sci-Fi. That was the birth of the CoMMiES. Justin, who had not been sitting idle during this time, had arranged a meeting with the rest of us, and we soon adopted him into our club. We made t-shirts that read, "The CoMMiES Are Coming" on the front, and on the back, "The CoMMiES Are Going". Justin suggested we induct Matt Jacobson into the crew, and soon we were five. This meant we needed new shirts, "CoMMiES- Now With 20% Less Dan". That 20% figure only lasted a few weeks, for we quickly added several new members.
We also started going to Wonderfest in Kentucky. Again, if you're reading this, I'll assume that you know what Wonderfest is. These annual trips acted as a magnet to our club, and our membership doubled, and doubled again. We are up to around forty members now, including people from Canada, Scotland, England, and Australia. We started working at model make & takes at conventions, airshows, and hobby shops. We recruited Vern Clark, who has been running the Star Fest Model Show for more than a decade. In 2008 we decided to register the CoMMiES as a chapter of the IPMS. I've heard that the other local IPMS chapters barely tolerate us, which makes me happy as a little girl. In February 2010 we held our first stand alone IPMS Model Show. Members from every other club in the region turned up, and we had nearly 200 entries. Not bad for our first show. Now we are committed to doing another show in February 2011. It is certainly a long way from where I stood in 2000, when I was ready to quit the hobby all together. I'm glad I didn't.