Walter Soplata is the man behind a hidden gem in Newbury, Ohio that has caught the attention of millions. As his son noted in 2007, "his father grew up fascinated by airplanes during the Great Depression, using whatever money he could scrape up to build balsa model aircraft." His hobby for collecting planes increased ten-fold over the years, and it wasn't until recently when a photographer named Johnny Joo took a camera into Walter's collection.
Walter Soplata was discharged from the military due to his stutter, so he channeled his energy into warplanes like this one.
Directly afterward, he took a job in a Cleveland, Ohio scrapyard.
There, he helped move thousands of old warplane engines that were suddenly declared surplus.
After World War II, he had a feeling that his favorite warplanes were going to go extinct in a matter of years, so he got an idea.
In 1947, he used a piece of land in Newbury, east of Cleveland, and started his collection with a late-1920s American Eagle biplane.
Here is the inside of one of the planes. Although it may not look like much, to Walter they were memories that needed to be preserved.
He primarily focused on the rare types of planes such as, a prototype North American XP-82 Twin Mustang, an F-82E Twin Mustang with Allison engines, an early Jet-Age, Chance-Vought F7U Cutlass, and a prototype of the Douglas AD Skyraider series.
By the early 1950s, Walter and his wife had five children. Only one of which pursued a career in aviation.
Walter would rarely pay more than a couple hundred dollars for an airplane or parts.
Each aircraft had to be transported on the highway to the scrapyard, so the size of them had to be measured carefully.
All wings, doors, and whatever else protruded out of the body of each plane, had to be removed beforehand.
Even at home, Walter had engines and warplane parts lying around the yard.
His kids enjoyed the scrapyard, of course. They even made a clubhouse out of one of the fuselages.
Walter died several years ago. Out of respect, his family promised to keep the warplane collection in its place.
The family agree to not sell the land or anything inside his collection.
They also maintain the scrapyard regularly.
Walter's dreams came to life in a magnificent way. Now, these planes get to have a proper place to fade away in peace, a far cry from where they began.
Credit: Dose | Johnny Joo