My desire to own a Thompson started when I was a kid growing up in Ft. Smith, Arkansas and watching John Wayne and Robert Stack mow down Japs and Bootleggers on TV. The Tommy gun always fascinated me. Every time I would talk about one with my Dad (he was a bird hunter who had no use for much of anything other than hunting guns) he would snort "Costs ya $200.00 a YEAR to own something like that and you'd have an FBI man coming to the house all the time asking what you are doing with it, so you aren't ever gonna have one." In the 1950s, $200.00 was not a LOT of money, it was ALL the money! So I figured Dad was right.
Ft Smith was sort of a crossroads for the 1930s hoodlums. It is a matter of historical record that Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd and his wife and son lived under an assumed name 3 houses from my mother and father on N. 34th Street for several months. Relatives in the restaurant business claimed to have served both John Dillinger and (separately) Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow at various times. Dad was formally acquainted with US Federal Judge Hartsil Ragon who, ruled the National Firearms Act of 1934 was unconstitutional. I had no idea that US v Miller had originated in the Western District Court until I read Unintended Consequences. Likely as not, Dad was a lot MORE acquainted with Mr. Miller as Mr. Miller's profession meshed very well with Dad's avocations!
Sometime in about 1964 or 65, as a teenager, I even wrote to Numrich Company asking if they ever had any semi-auto Thompsons for sale. This was long before I ever heard of a Model 1927 or understood things like 'readily convertible', 'short-barreled rifle' or 'Any Other Weapon.' Oddly enough they actually ANSWERED my letter and said a semi-auto Thompson was planned and would be in production in a few years. Not sure when the modern 1927s came out of West Hurley, but I don't think it was for about a decade or more after that exchange of letters.
I've always liked to think that that crude letter from a teenager in Arkansas helped spur Mr. Trast and Company to resurrect the Thompson in all its later forms.
My first chance to actually see and handle a Thompson came (I thought) when I was in high school and the Ft. Smith Police Department had an Open House one Saturday. I had been told for years that they had a Tommy Gun and so I went down to take the tour. The officer giving the tour showed us a collection of their guns, some confiscated, some duty weapons including some 1st Generation (If its Mattel, its Swell) M-16s. "Where is the Tommy Gun?" I asked. The cop smugly said, "We traded that old thing in for these new, modern rifles." He couldn't understand why I wasn't elated. The Fort Smith Tommy Gun and I had another encounter of sort's years later - but that's another story.
As I grew up, I found that Dad was a very wise man about a lot of things, but he didn't know crap about firearms laws. About the time I went off to college, the buying and selling of machineguns came out of the dark thanks to the late Mr. J. Curtis Earl and some other machinegun dealers who advertised their inventory and debunked the old wives tales about owning a full-auto weapon. Yet, the minimum wage at the time was $ 1.60 an hour, you could buy a new Chevelle for $3,700.00 and the $200.00 transfer tax still was a LOT of money even if only paid onetime.
Vietnam and winning the Draft Lottery firmed up my desire to go into the USAF and fly jets and all my guns took a backseat to the F-4 Phantom for several years. Lieutenants and junior Captains didn't make that much money back then anyway. The only machinegun I was getting intimate with was a M-61A1 20mm Vulcan on the F-4 - but that's another story. The candy-ass Air Force wouldn't even let me shoot a M-16 on full-auto when I'd snivel my way onto the range to shoot it (normally all I had to qualify with was a .38).