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Published: Saturday, 12/9/2000

Senior knows the wonder that model airplanes supplied

John Blank with a model that a man gave to him. Mr. Blank founded the Toledo Model Airplane Supply Co. in 1934, but World War II forced him out of business. John Blank with a model that a man gave to him. Mr. Blank founded the Toledo Model Airplane Supply Co. in 1934, but World War II forced him out of business.

Search your attic or basement and if you are extremely lucky you might find an old miniature model plane made from a kit.

These balsa wood airplanes were relatively commonplace in the Toledo area during the 1930s, but now few exist.

Even John Blank, 88, of Maxwell Road, who once turned them out by the thousands, has no idea where samples of his work have gone.

He rarely attends flea markets these days and has no idea where any of the kits or completed plane models can be found.

In 1934 - until World War II put an end to the business - Mr. Blank operated a profitable Jefferson Avenue shop, turning out thousands of kits, which sold nationwide for 25 cents to $2.75.

A Scott High School graduate, Mr. Blank gave up his University of Toledo engineering studies to devote his full attention to the Toledo Model Airplane Supply Co., which he founded.Later, however, in middle age, he completed his interrupted education, obtaining his degree.

Also in the '30s, Mr. Blank flew his own single-engine plane, a Porterfield, which he based at Franklin Park Field, now a major shopping mall. The airplane was taken over by the government as a military trainer at the start of World War II.

“Confiscation put an end to my flying and I never went back to it,” he recalled. “The war also made materials hard to get and ended my model plane business.”

Affiliating with Owens-Illinois as a research engineer, he remained with the company until his retirement.

With a passion for fashioning things and using his hands, he built a 21-foot power boat, which served the family well for many years.

He devoted 26 years of his spare time to the creation of a basement model railroad, then after the 1991 death of Ruth, his wife of 55 years, he lost interest and dismantled it.

Until the onset of severe arthritis, Mr. Blank kept busy, turning out five grandfather clocks. One he gave to a son, John, and another to his daughter, Bonnie Jean.

He kept one of the clocks for himself, the only remaining example of a lifetime of craft work.

Mr. Blank has disposed of his power tools and does not intend to create any new items. Most of his efforts, he said, will be focused upon an attempt to regain complete health and agility.

Millie Benson is a Blade Columnist.

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