EDGEMONT Jorli “J.C.” Sikes of Edgemont is making model airplanes again, a hobby he enjoyed more than 75 years ago when he was a boy.
“Then I went into the Air Force, and they gave me a real one to play with,” the 88-year-old said.
He was a crew chief/engineer from 1950-1970, stationed in Texas, Missouri, Washington and Oklahoma. He said he was responsible for keeping all kinds of planes up in the air.
“The last ones I flew in were C-47s, gooney birds,” he said.
Thirteen of Sikes’ model planes, mostly World War II bombers and fighter planes, are on display at Bentley’s restaurant in Greers Ferry.
“They have drawn a lot of comments,” he said.
Owner Rob Bentley said Sikes has restored wooden chairs in the restaurant almost since it opened 20 years ago. Sikes also built a wooden salad bar that looks like a boat.
Bentley said Sikes showed up at the restaurant with one of his models.
“The first plane, I think, was a P-51, and he said, ‘Here, put this up,’” Bentley said.
“We said, ‘OK, we want every World War II model we can get,’” Bentley said. “As I’m getting more and more planes, I’m getting more and more reaction. Everybody likes them. [They say] ‘Have you got a new plane?’”
Bentley said his father used to have a pilot’s license, and his father-in-law is a retired airplane mechanic, so planes are a family interest.
Sikes, who grew up in Mena, said he was about 10 years old when he started making model airplanes; then a few years later, he got sidetracked.
“Girls came into the picture, girls and cars,” he said.
He said that when he was a kid, the models cost about $1 at the “five-and-dime store.” Today, the kits are $30 to almost $100. Bentley said he pays for the kits that Sikes orders online.
Before he started building model airplanes, Sikes spent hours creating works out of wood — a cedar chest, even a coffin for his sister — but he said a lung problem and surgery forced him to quit a couple of years ago.
As a man who doesn’t like idle hands, Sikes went back to his childhood love.
“I just enjoy having something I can do and stay out of my wife’s hair,” he said of Lola.
The airplane models, which weigh just 10-11 ounces, are made of balsa wood.”If you’ve ever worked with it, you know it’s real touchy and really light,” Sikes said.
People often ask him how long it takes to build one, and he said he can’t answer that.
“You never really know till you get the blooming thing and start on it,” he said.
Bentley, however, said Sikes spends at least 40 hours on each plane.
“They’re just a box of sticks with a set of plans,” Bentley said.
Sikes said the hardest one he’s built so far is the P-38 Lightning, a fighter plane.
“It’s got two fuselages and all that stuff; there’s just a lot of figuring on it,” he said.
He also built the model of Charles Lindbergh’s airplane the Spirit of St. Louis.
Sikes said Bentley wants 20 of the models for his restaurant — Bentley said
he actually wants “20 more.”
“I’m going to keep him busy,” Bentley said.
“I may not live that long, but I’ll make them as long as I can for him,” Sikes said.
“No. 14 is right here on the table; it’s a B-26,” Sikes said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.