Joe Hodge (70), stood with his hands on his hips, squinting with an inquisitive eye as he studied the crowd milling around him. He was behind his dealer’s table at Joelanta 2014, manning a booth full of his expertly assembled, hand-crafted, hand-painted and “ready-to-use” 1:6 scale miniature diorama scenes, all the while watching, waiting and wondering about the fans passing by.
“Hmm…This is a strange crowd,” he mumbled, to no one in particular.
Hodge knows crowds. He can read them like a book. He’s had a lifetime of experience selling to all sorts and sizes, from all around the country. After a stint in the Marine Corps, he worked over 40 years as a professional jacket embroiderer, creating custom-embroidered “show jackets” for owners and fans of collector cars and hot rods. He’d travel from one car show to another on the nation’s busy “car show circuit,” setting up huge dealer tents displaying an array of colorful jackets and then busily embroider elaborate designs of cars, logos and custom names, all made “while you wait.”
Nowadays, Hodge is supposed to be fully retired. But on this weekend, he’d decided to travel from his home in Fountain End, SC to attend the world’s famous Joelanta GIjOE and action figure show in Atlanta, GA, hoping as he said, “to earn a little spending money.” Joe also had some more “personal” reasons for being there. According to Hodge:
“I getting over a bout of cancer. I decided to start making these miniature 1:6 diorama scenes to keep my hands busy. The hardest thing about making ‘em is finding a reliable source of materials. I’m always looking for good wood, styrofoam and other supplies. Sure, I’ll go to Hobby Lobby for the basics, and sometimes I find things at florists and hardware stores, but it’s a challenge! But all it is, is a hobby. I’m not getting rich doing this.”
Intrigued by his story, I studied Hodges “stands” for a while longer and realized that they were ideal for anyone wanting to set up a mini-diorama scene that didn’t require much space on a display table or shelf. Imagine working days or weeks on a custom figure. What do you do with it then? Box it up? Put it in your attic? No! Either PLAY with the blasted thing or DISPLAY it proudly on one of Hodge’s excellent mini-diorama stands! Clearly sensing my thoughts, Hodge lamented today’s fans, saying:
“People and kids today don’t want to PLAY with their toys anymore. But let me tell you—I’ve been playing with toy soldiers ever since I was a child—and I STILL play with ‘em!”
Bottom Line: Joe’s work is top-notch. And his personal example is very inspirational. We’re thrilled to see someone of his age still actively connected with the fun and creativity of the 1:6 scale hobby. Hopefully in the future, there will be thousands of similar “toy soldier” fans still playing with and customizing their 1:6 scale action figures—well into their 80s, 90s and beyond! Finally, if you’d like to contact Joe to place an order, remember that he doesn’t have a website, so you’ll need to pick up the telephone and call him on his old-fashioned “land line.” Remember those, buck-o?