Hundreds of years of history are packed into Phil Stratton's Sturgeon Bay basement. The 63-year-old Vietnam War veteran has made a hobby of collecting and building model ships and airplanes. He also enjoys painting historically-accurate uniforms onto tiny military figures and their mounts.
Phil Stratton spends his free time painting small figurines, and when he's not painting them he's reading books about the uniforms he paints onto the figures. Eventually Stratton says he'll be able to make a diorama using the figures.
History is Stratton's passion. He holds a master's degree in the subject and the number of books lining the walls of his basement provides plenty of evidence. Stratton estimates he has about one thousand books, not counting those that he’s donated throughout his lifetime, and he’s read them all.
Vietnam veteran Phil Stratton has a whole bookshelf dedicated to the presidents of the United States. Each book contains the personal letters and notes that each individual president wrote while in office.
Atop of one of the dozen bookshelves sits a ship built by Stratton's father, John. That's how Stratton got his start building model ships and airplanes. Each model has a story behind it.
Stratton cannot recall how long ago his father built this model ship, but he says he could never build a model as well as this one. It's the inspiration he needed to begin building models.
Stratton also has models of the ships that he, his father and his brother each served on during their time in the Navy. Phil served four years before going to school. His brother Charlie served for four years while their father served for 20 years. Building models and painting figures is Stratton's way of honoring military men and women who have served.
This bookshelf holds the medals Stratton's father earned during his 20-year career in the Navy and a model of the ship his father served on. Stratton's brother Charlie is shown in the larger photo on the left, while his father is on the right.
Since 1993 Stratton has been substitute teaching for the Sturgeon Bay School District, and his favorite class is still history.
Butch O'Hare is just one of the military heroes that Stratton honors. Stratton built a replica of O'Hare's plane, a Wildcat F4F-3, shown at left.