NEW YORK — Lou Boselli is a kid at heart--and at work. Boselli, 53, is Peter Pan with a pair of tiny wrenches. Two years after taking early retirement from his job at West Point, he travels the country making new-fangled creations from an old-fashioned toy: the Erector set.
"Talk about dying and going to heaven--I'm in heaven, and I didn't have to die," Boselli said, standing amid his models and a Christmas crowd in FAO Schwarz. "Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be called in as an Erector consultant."
Those dreams started at age 9, when Boselli received his first Erector set from his parents. His first creation was a Ferris wheel, and he was hooked for life.
His newer works are on a much larger scale: A 40-foot Eiffel Tower displayed at the Wollman Rink, an eight-foot Empire State Building complete with stuffed King Kong. It took him two weeks working with the small metal parts to finish that project.
"I was mechanically inclined," he recalled. "I think my parents saw that, and they decided I should try my hand at an Erector set. They were right--I made a career out of it."
Actually, a second career. Boselli worked as a tool and die maker for three decades.
At West Point, he designed special teaching tools for cadets: Scale models of weapons and tanks, special engines, gun mounts and anything else the nation's military minds conjured up.
When called on to create bridge models, Boselli turned to his hobby for help.
Over time, Boselli's obsessions grew. He began collecting old Erector sets, visiting church sales and flea markets, and eventually assembling 30 different sets dating to 1915. He joined a club with other enthusiasts. He began visiting toy fairs to display his vintage sets and his creations.
At a 1987 toy fair, Boselli met an Erector official and eventually received a part-time job.
In 1991, Boselli took early retirement and officially became the company's "Erector Master." In addition to the fun he has at work, Boselli delights in telling disbelieving folks what he does for a living.
"I tell 'em, 'I build models with Erector sets.' They say, 'Yeah, 20 or 30 years ago. What are you doing now?' " Boselli said, laughing. "And I patiently explain the whole thing."