The Coles' Power Models business, founded over 50 years ago by Charles A. Cole, Sr., is thriving today under management of his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Charles A. Cole, Jr.
The corporation is located at Ventura, California. Its clientele covers people in steam, gasoline and electric models, parts tools, supplies and books.
Charles A. Cole, Sr. was interested in steam from the age of 8, and built a small boiler and steam engine at age 10. He studied engineering at Stanford, served in World War I, and settled down to farming and gardening, but continued with steam as a hobby.
He built an English locomotive from castings, and then a steam-powered boat. He wanted to start a mail order business, and got his big break when he met Mr. Stuart-Turner of England at a Rotary convention in Chicago, and won permission to sell the Stuart line of models.
He got out a catalog, and then scaled the 1915 JI Case 65 steam traction engine to a 1 inch model. He made drawings and patterns and the Case has remained in the Cole line from that time forward.
The company's golden anniversary catalog, issued in 1978, shows photos of models. Some of the model makers credited are John V. McDivitt, of Sarver, PA; William H. Eisonlohr, of Bloomfield, NJ; and Walter E. Benson, Whitman, MA.
Betty Cole came into the business when she married into the family in 1958.
'I started by learning the stock and where it was located,' she recalls. 'By gathering the stock requested by customers for shipment, I became familiar with the merchandise. My father-in-law checked each order for the first few months to make sure that I had filled each correctly. I learned little by little from him. He was a very good teacher.'
She enrolled in a junior college course dealing with machinery and various parts to be machined, and learned how to fill orders to the satisfaction of her father-in-law and the customers. When he decided to sell the business or turn it over to his three children, it became the children's firm on the condition that Betty be the manager.
Charles, Sr. consulted with her each week, but then he passed away and Mrs. Cole was faced with carrying on without him no easy matter, but she is still persevering and still learning.
'I find managing our business a continuing challenge and at times very frustrating,' she notes. 'With the help and support of a very loyal staff and encouragement from our dedicated customers, the task is made easier. We are always amazed and flattered when we get letters of praise from all parts of the world.'
Mrs. Cole has made one model, and enjoyed it, but is not pursuing that even though she understands how it can be a passion for other people notably her customers. Her own favorite steam engines are the LaFrance fire engine pumper and the Case traction engine.
Mrs. Cole has two sisters-in-law who have been busy with teaching careers and their families. Her husband, Charles Jr., is working elsewhere but on retirement may become more active in Coles' Power Models.