Remembering hobby shops …

slot car race track

Cecil Adams writes fondly about the hobby shops of yore:

Model airplanes figured prominently, but you could also find battleships, submarines, missiles, tanks, artillery, and other warlike gear, plus a smattering of sports cars, trucks, and similar objects of boyish fascination. … Each kit had numerous parts, many of them tiny, which were to be assembled in accordance with detailed numbered instructions, a process that could take days. It’s fair to say a good deal of extraneous detail was omitted by the more impatient participants, because the fate of the typical military model was to be blown up with firecrackers or filled with lighter fluid and thrown off the porch. I however was more punctilious about it, believing this to be in the national interest. To this day, were a crisis to arise, I’m sure you could find lots of ex-ten-year-olds capable of assembling a Nike Ajax antiaircraft missile, but if they’re anything like my brother they’ll slobber glue on the warhead and mount the thrusters cockeyed on the launch rail, to say nothing of omitting the decals. Should the Iranian air force come with nukes, therefore, be sure you stick with me.

Later he mentions passing the torch to his sons:

Years later a hobby shop opened up near my house. I took the little researchers there a few times to purchase B-17s and such, till one day a sign announced a going-out-of-business sale — everything half or more off, including a formidable inventory of trains. Here was an opportunity. The kids demanded their own locomotives, showing an impressive eye for quality, and naturally I felt the need to purchase a couple additional items just to fill things out. Before I knew it I had spent, well, a lot. We took it all home and set it up in the basement, and for quite a while thereafter had an extravagant display, with a tangle of switches and crossovers and multiple circling trains worthy of Casey Jones on drugs. Eventually it had to make way for a Ping Pong table, so we packed the trains away. Maybe someday I’ll take them out again, maybe I won’t — the essential goal had been accomplished. Some will deride this as a sign of eternal adolescence, but to me it merely shows a dream deferred isn’t necessarily a dream denied.

I loved hobby shops as a kid. We had one in Evanston, at Central and Green Bay Road, just a block from where we lived. They raced slot cars. I was about six years old, and I can vividly remember to this day walking in there on a Saturday morning and being mesmerized by the HUGE track they had set up. Of course, everything seems huge when you’re six, but that is part of the wonder of that age.

When I got a little older, I used to build models, too. Planes, tanks, ships. I remember distinctly building the Bismark battleship. It took quite a few days, if I remember correctly, but it was so cool when it was done.

I see there is a place called Oakridge Hobbies and Toys in Downers Grove, not all that far from here. They’ve even got slot cars and a track. I’ll have to check that out, and maybe I can get my kids interested, too.

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