Looking at Saugus resident Marvin Futrell’s garage from the outside, you’d never know how special it is — but open that garage door and you’ll find more than 440 model airplanes hanging from every inch of available space.
What makes his collection all the more special is that Futrell can tell you the history of most — if not all — of those planes and what makes each one unique.
Last weekend, Futrell and his family gathered in that two-car garage among those planes to celebrate his 90th birthday, as he reflected on his life and recounted some of those planes’ histories.
“I’ve never been this age, so I don’t know how you’re supposed to feel,” Futrell said, jokingly.
A U.S. Air Force veteran himself, Futrell has always been interested in planes and recalls building his first model at 10 years old.
“What’s interesting about planes is that almost every plane has a history, whether it’s the first plane or the best plane or fought in some battle,” Futrell said.
While he stopped building planes for a while, Futrell returned to the hobby when his youngest son, Greg, was in Indian Guides, and in the last 32 years since he moved to the Saugus home in which he and his wife, Lois, currently reside, he’s grown his collection more than 20-fold.
After returning from the Air Force, Futrell began his 43-year career as an architect, and building planes became an outlet from the workday pressures.
“I have a variety (of planes). I didn’t discriminate,” Futrell said. “I went with any country that had a model in a hobby shop.”
Planes from around two dozen countries and in all shapes, sizes and scale adorn the garage, from wood planes to drone planes, gathered from hobby shops across Los Angeles County and even Utah when visiting family.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into this — there’s even stuff inside the planes that you never even see … so there’s a lot of work and time and patience,” Greg said. “Dad has obviously put a lot of work into it, and he’s got a lot of knowledge about this.”
Among those planes are some that are personal to Futrell, such as the North Star C-46 he flew in as a passenger from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to Burbank in 1952.
“I had just finished school in the Air Force … and my wife didn’t even know I was coming (but) I flew right over her college,” Futrell recalled. “Almost scared her to death when I walked up on the porch at our home.”
Another was a cargo plane Futrell flew in from Japan to Kimpo Air Base in South Korea — where he was stationed for 11 months — then from Kimpo back to Japan.
On the return flight, Futrell’s plane landed on a carrier ship where Japanese fighter planes typically landed with a shorter runway.
“There were a lot of brakes going on,” Futrell said.
Starting a family
Futrell met Lois in high school, noticing her each day as her locker was right by his classroom.
“I didn’t even know her name when I asked her on our first date,” Futrell said.
The couple was married nearly five years later on June 21, 1953, while Futrell was in the Air Force.
Since then, the Futrells had five children — Ann, Doug, Joan, Karen and Greg — along with 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
As some of those family members gathered in the garage with Futrell among his planes, his son Doug noted the collection is a symbol of his father’s dedication.
“He was dedicated to planes and his family and all his kids individually,” Doug said.
Greg agreed, adding that his father was also dedicated to ensuring his kids learned some of the histories he so cherished.
“He was dedicated that we’d learn a little bit about the history of where he came from, Texas all the way up through Washington, D.C.,” Greg said.
While Futrell still builds planes, he’s certainly slowed down the pace — especially since he’s running out of room — and spends most of his time enjoying life with his wife of 68 years and the rest of his family.