Monday 6 March 2023

Dinah and Jay by Mark Smith and Dennis Naylor - Part One

AoJ Texas correspondent Mark Smith takes us on another enchanting trip down memory lane for a nostalgic, two-part remembrance of the Marusan 1/50 scale Ki-46-III kit of 1961 and modelling pioneer and author the late Jay Dial, with memories of him by Dennis Naylor. Over to Mark then:-

'“The Iron Dog.  A disheartening description for any aircraft designer to hear applied to his creation…”  When I think of the late Jay Frank Dial, this remark that opens his 1967 Aircraft Profile on Larry Bell’s sleek P-39 is usually not far behind.  It reflects the salty nature that marked his style as a writer and person.  While his subject was the technical and historical, the men who designed and flew the machines featured prominently.  Jay and David Aiken were members of IPMS North Central Texas (IPMS-USA’s founding chapter), which met monthly at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Dallas. They were the first people I remember meeting who shared my passion for Japanese aircraft of WWII.  Each was kind to share reference material for model projects – and I was only one of many to benefit from their generosity.  Sadly, both are gone now. 

Marusan 1961

'Jay had a house in Arlington, David an apartment in Irving.  The most difficult part of each visit was finding a place to sit!  Each was an Aladdin’s cave of sorts, and that passion had overtaken almost all available space.  In the late sixties and early seventies, information on our beloved subject was almost always in Japanese: books, magazines, and photocopies I couldn’t read. The color gatefolds in Koku-Fan, Cyclone, and Aviation Journal, sometimes accompanied by a smaller page of color side views, seemed quite exotic in those days.  Jay somehow had a pretty complete collection of most of these magazines he’d begun collecting in the fifties, and some Japanese pen-friends who could offer selected translations and memories.  He introduced David to some of them, as I recall.  As a fairly new enthusiast I was typical; I wanted some hard and fast answers so I could accurately paint models - ha! I wanted a little more certainty about some things, but certainty was seldom on offer.  Both Jay and David certainly had a cryptic side, but looking back, much of that mirrored the hesitancy of their own Japanese sources to serve up simple dogma on the subject.  Jay was the first person to suggest to me that Japanese perceptions and descriptions of colors could differ notably from Western ones.

'Jay Dial’s seminal 1964 book, 'United States Camouflage World War II' (shown above), self-produced and published, was an early authority for many on that subject, well worth getting today if one can be found.  It included color paint chips inside each cover that, carefully overseen by Jay throughout, nevertheless proved the most trouble and greatest expense of the project.  Both his research and the production of those charts had assured him that the subject of aircraft colors involves untold vagaries and that color standards, at best, are only that: standards that in practice could yield remarkable variations.  

Marusan 1963

'Jay was also a 1/48 scratch builder who produced some beautiful work.  He showed me the model of Walker ‘Bud’ Mahurin’s P-47, “Pride of Atlantic City N.J.” which he had built out of basswood to present to the pilot, quite fine.  He built two; the first one was stolen (at a model show, as I recall!), so he did it again.  Looking at the second one shortly before its delivery, I admired the hand-carved propeller and sleek razorback fuselage.  I asked “Where do you start?” and received his all-purpose answer, “You just carve away everything that doesn’t look like a P-47”.  Pressed further, he said, “Study lots of photos and find the best drawings.  Start from there”. 

Marusan 1967

'He was frankly a little disdainful of plastic models.  But he must have not have been immune to them, for he had many, with a special weakness for Japanese kits.  There I saw the Okamoto Ki-115, the Otaki 1/90 Lily and 1/40 Judy, among other rarities.  Like the magazines and books, they were not organized in any discernible fashion, but he knew where everything was.  If not in sight, he knew what it lay beneath.  Jay was in a wheelchair, however.  If he couldn’t reach it with his trigger-handled grabber, access to most items might depend upon the next visitor.  There at his house I first spied the box-end of the Marusan 1/50 kit of the Ki-46-III Dinah.  Gold!  Gold I’d only heard about.  Having asked permission, I made it through a tunnel of kits and magazines without upset of either, and fished it out.  And I began to covet.  After managing the words, “Is there any way that…” he cut me off at the pass.  “Oh! – it’s not for sale or trade,” he said, eyes brightening and smiling now, relishing the moment.  With that voice, the goatee, dark eyes, and iron grey hair, he would have made a fine Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust. "Which is a shame, as it’s a very accurate kit". There for a moment I’d thought he might have pity on me for my youth, a common misconception among the young.  “It was designed by Kikuo Hashimoto, after his own drawings".

Fuji Issue 1960s

Fuji Issue 1969

'When I finally found one for myself at a model show, it was in different guise, under the UPC label (heading image).  A little flash was all that distinguished the difference.  I built it during most of 1981, with an excellent (Bunrin do) FAOW (FamousAircraft of the World) title and the 1978 Maru Mechanic already available then, which between them portrayed most detail areas that might interest modelers.  Time has been a little unkind to the finished model.  In the last ten years, the wings have started bowing upwards, from the engines out, and through several house moves, a few things have been knocked out of alignment; the same for me though.

UPC First Issue 1965

'Bud Mahurin lived to be 92, passing away in 2010.  I’ll bet the P-47D Thunderbolt Jay Dial made for him proved more durable over the years than my delicate Dinah – one of the reasons Jay liked to work in basswood and metal wherever possible.  That model wasn’t for sale or trade either.  It was a gift, one of admiration, built twice out of necessity.  I hope someone still has it, and it’s in a place it can be seen and appreciated.  

Sunny Issue (ex-Fuji) 1975 

Arc En Ciel Issue (Korea) 1985

'I was troubled by the fact that when writing this, I could not find one single obituary for Jay Dial in an online search, and could only find his dates (1936-2007) in U.S. Social Security records which tell me he was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Otherwise, my searches mentioned 'Jay Frank Dial' only in relation to copies of his books for sale on various sites.  He was quite a character – how could he be forgotten so quickly?  I wrote to a mutual friend, Dennis Naylor, as I thought he had known Jay better than I.  I didn't realize how much.  Dennis had met Jay a decade earlier as well.  With his permission, it seemed appropriate to close below with the memories Dennis kindly provided:-'  

"Ah, Jay Frank Dial. He was indeed a pivotal figure in local model building history. I met him in the late 50's at Edgar Seay’s MAL Hobby Shop in Irving, Texas. At that time, we didn't see anyone in a wheelchair.  He and Charlie Thompson were the main figures in my taking up model building. Dial was famous for his camo book and 1/72 Corsair vac canopy set that allowed the builder an option to build the birdcage version. If I recall, the canopies were a whopping 25 cents, post included. I couldn't wait for mine to arrive and mounted one asap on the old Hawk kit. Badly. He was a true fan of the F4U (and authored the excellent Profile No. 150 on F4U-4 to F4U-7), and taught me the various cowl ring differences between variants, how to make a dash 2 (with 5 guns!), the clipped span RN types and why they existed at all, that one elevator worked on the right OR left sides, and a million other bits of trivia. He used to call me and without a hello, say something like "what is a Digby?" or "what is a Tarpon?", to which one was to reply ‘B-18’ or ‘TBF’ instantly. I visited him often and we talked aviation and models.

In 1964 Yasuo Oishi published one of the early English language books on  the subject of Japanese colors in collaboration with Dale Norman Flanagan

"He was pals with David Aiken and many others gone today: Lamar Kemp, Jim Sage, Gordon Stevens, Ed Seay, Tom Mitchell, Charlie Thompson, John Pidler, Yasuo Oishi, Bob Davies, Ray Beall, Russ Manning, Tom Ward and a horde of others critically important to the hobby and its growth. All were pals of Dial as well.

"He was a Colonel in the Confederate Air Force, and was very proud of his role in overseeing the "Sea Search" scheme applied to their C-47, and a major figure in the Texas Aviation Historical Society (TAHS) that met monthly at the Republic Bank in downtown Dallas.  Jim Sage brought the first Frog color series kits to these meetings. Talk about exotic!  MS406, Folgore, D.XXI, Baltimore, and other fantastic types. Astounding times for a whelp like me. Sadly, we grew apart over time. Firstly, cars and girls took all the time I could spare in my mid 60s teens. Then Kathy and I married, and the kids followed; jobs and careers required more time and effort. In the days before the American Disabilities Act, his life had to have been a special kind of Hell sometimes. Yet I never heard him complain or whine. I miss him.  

"In closing, I have little physical things or photos from many of my departed pals. He gave Kathy a SAAB J29 he had built as a kid. But when I went to an airliner show earlier this year. Kathy found a copy of the old Aero hardback 'Italian Civil and Military Aircraft'. I told her I already had it, but when she pointed out "this one was Dial's", I bought it on the spot.  It's now a treasure here in my collection of weirdness." - Dennis Naylor 

With special thanks to Mark Smith and Dennis Naylor for sharing these interesting reminiscences.

Image credit: Box art editor persoial collection or via web; Book covers editor


Michael Thurow said...

It's very touching to read about the guys who wrote the magazines that were my treasured references in the early seventies. At that time it was obviously the contents that mattered and not the author. But now that many left us they receive a belated but well deserved attention. Thanks for helping change the perspective, Mark, Dennis and Nick!

Dan Salamone said...

An interesting read for sure, thanks Mark for the memories, and Nick for sharing it with us.

A few years back, my LHS had a copy of the 1/48 Ki-46, and bought it for sentimental reasons (much like the Tamiya 1/50 Ki-43 and Ki-44 kits I found on eBay years ago).


Baronvonrob said...

Such a beautifully written and evocative piece … takes me to another time and place

Thanks to Mark, Dennis, and Nick!

WK said...

Very interesting read about those early days. I get a hit of nostalgia as I remember discovering new Japanese planes and models (like the Fuji Ki-46) in my early teens. It was a great time for me, nothing to do but go to school and read second hand aviation books and build models (start to end in a week, not months like it is now).

Woody K