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A Day in the Life of a Hobby Dealer
November 1962 American Modeler

November 1962 American Modeler

August 1961 American Modeler magazine cover - Airplanes and Rockets Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

It's a good bet that many modelers, myself included, have dreamed about owning a hobby shop. How nice it would be to spend our days amongst walls, shelves, and display cases filled with every type of modeling kit and accessory. Melanie and I actually looked into buying one when we lived in Colorado Springs in the early 1990s. It's a good thing we didn't in retrospect, given the way the local hobby shop (LHS) has suffered tremendously since Internet-based purchases have become so popular - especially being tax-free in most areas. There are still big hobby shops left, but they are few and far between. I'm as guilty as the next guy for not doing more to support my LHS (we have two hobby shops in Erie - both gone now), but usually it's for convenience sake more so than price and not paying sales tax.

This article from the November 1962 edition of American Modeler magazine, a time when local hobby shops were still the rule rather than the exception, is a humorous "day in the life of a hobby dealer." You can just imagine how plausible the scenario might be. Not all days could be that bad, however, or they would have all shut their doors. I colorized the drawings.

A Day In The Life Of A Hobby Dealer

A Day In The Life Of A Hobby Dealer, November 1962 American Modeler - Airplanes and Rocketsby Dick Schwartzchild

If you feel strong enough, join us as we attempt to shine a faded beam of light into a typical day in the life of your local hobby dealer. This should also serve as inspirational reading for those who would like to join our ranks. It is an established fact that one of the quickest ways to make a great deal of money in a hurry, even retire to the sunny sands of Florida before the age of 17, is to own a hobby shop. Since this easy way of life holds so much appeal, let us follow Harry Hobby from his first joyful eye-opening moment one morning.

4:30   (A.M.) Jangle of phone wakes Harry as boisterous chap who purchased pool table from local gas station last Christmas wants to know if hobby shop repair department can grease the unit.

4:32   Back to sleep. Dreams of skin-diving and shooting sharks.

4:59   Call from youngster asking if store will be open in time for him to purchase one yard of plastic lace (3¢) before school opens.

5:00   Back to sleep. Dreams of lace-curtained schoolhouse.

5:18   Call to inquire if hobby shop carries pints of model airplane fuel. Harry asks what kind. Caller answers ... "clear."

5:19   Back to sleep. Not clear what nightmare is all about.

5:36   First call of day asking for a contribution. Is two-part request 1) Money; 2) Blood.

5:37   Since further sleep is out of the question, Harry arises, clothes himself, stumbles out back door to his. spiffy 1913 station wagon. Drives to his spotless store, gathers up accumulated cartons and garbage, and heads for city dump.

8:38   Returns home from dump. It doesn't open until 10:30.

8:45   Sits down for breakfast as phone rings. "What time does your store open?"

8:46   Returns to table for meal. Wife points out that if he can break away before midnight he will have seen his children at least once that month.

8:52   Climbs back into chariot and hurries to store. Notes that carefree youngsters have spread chewing gum across front window. Admires art work.

8:58   Eventually gets door open - after getting gum out of lock, flips on lights. Listens to purr of the light meter as it spins merrily while adding up his bill.

9:00   Opens safe (stout cigar box) and fills register with receipts from yesterday. Makes mental note to get more change in the event someone shows up with a 50-cent piece.

9:03  First customer! No, just a den mother from an out-of-state troop looking for a contribution.

9:31   First phone call asking ... "What time do you close?"

9:48   Mother with slip of paper in hand which neither she nor Harry can decipher. Says mom, "Too bad, he told me you would be sure to have it."

Customer asks to see large wood boats - Airplanes and Rockets10:03   Fella looking for change for parking meter.

10:36   Mailman staggers in under heavy load of bills. "Nice day, isn't it?"

10:54   First customer of the day buys 10¢ tube of plastic cement.

10:55   Tube of cement returned - customer needs dime to make phone call.

11:11   Working on "strength-in-numbers" theory, 16 mothers march in to request contribution for man who would like to open a hobby shop down the street.

11:13 -12:02   (P.M.) Slight ear chewing by non-buying visitor who describes minutely all of the wonderful hobby merchandise he picked up while out of town.

12:03   Ambulance leaves from front of store now nontalkative ex-non-buyer.

12:09   First big sale of day. Customer spends 12 minutes picking out three 6¢ strips of balsa. Customer questions, "How come you only have 238 pieces of this size for me to look at?"

12:27   Business picking up. One woman informed repair department doesn't put new soles on shoes. Another told most hobby shops no longer carry a complete selection of crutch tips. Elderly gentleman advised best place to obtain a book on mushroom raising would be in Kennett Square, Pa., or the public library.

12:30   Lunch time, but with grand total of 18¢ in till, Harry decides to wait until he can afford a dessert at least.

12:56   Customer asks to see large wood boats. Harry shows him models in $20 range. Customer asks to see even larger ones. Harry pulls out all the stops. Customer walks out commenting, "Just wanted to see how large they make them."

1:04   15¢ bottle of dope sold to woman to paint daughter's ballet costume .

1:19   European fireman stops in for contribution to his outfit's "checker fund."

1:28   Busy businessman rushes in to get paint brush. Unhappy as to high (10c) price. Leaves with brush but vows to turn entire matter over to Better Business Bureau.

1:35   First real break in the day. Customer turns out to be the meter reader for the gas company.

1:49   Man stops in to have Harry put three drops in each eye from bottle of eye drops.

1:58   Woman returns ready-to-fly plane purchased day before. Only prop hub remains. Says woman, "Can't understand it ... all my son did was just turn the propeller once by hand ..."

2:18   Salesman for water pistol manufacturer comes in to demonstrate product. Pistol drips all over newly waxed floor. Salesman departs without order ... Harry looks for mop.

Man stops in to have Harry put three drops in each eye from bottle of eye drops - Airplanes and Rockets2:24   Floor dried up in time for muddy-shoe'ed woman (it started to rain) to clomp down the middle of the store then back out mumbling, "I thought it was the public lounge."

2:39   Woman enters to ask where the wintergreen is located. After rather short pointed explanation by Harry woman leaves commenting, "I thought it was a drug store."

2:43   Big sale as mother buys 49¢ kit to mail out of town, Profits diminished when customer demands and gets free gift wrapping, fancy gift card ... plus stamps for mailing.

3:16   Phone call asking, "Do you know where I can get tickets for a bull fight in Mexico?"

3:31   School's OUT and the kids flock IN. Youngster responsible for predawn call actually buys one yard of lace! Three youngsters purchase 10¢ tubes of plastic cement for kits just procured in 5¢ and 10¢ store. Seven find way to magazine to look at pictures of planes and trains. One pores through pricing book for coins. Harry faces major problem answering question from one: "Do you carry three foot sections of flexible HO track?" "Yes." "How long are they?"

3:49   Woman enters to complain about dead fly in window display. Declares she will turn the matter over to the local ASPCA chapter.

4:12   Wandering R/C flyer enters to ask for 6 inches of 1/34,727th rubber which he can't obtain at town's main discount store.

4:13   Ambulance returns for its second call of the day at same address.

4:14   Ambulance serves to remind one youngster to ask for Band-Aid for finger cut with prop bought in store three weeks previously.

4 :25   Customer returns roll of camera film with violent complaints about the store's merchandise. Informed wrong store, no film sold. Complains that store doesn't stock film.

4 :39   Model airplane flyer, member of club sponsored by competing hobby shops comes in to ask for contribution to his club's "fuel fund."

4:47   Phone call asking what time store closes Christmas eve (which is just six months away).

Salesman for water pistol manufacturer comes in to demonstrate product - Airplanes and Rockets4 :59   Youngster matches up to railroad counter to ask, "How much are the 10¢ gliders?"

5 :04   A "much-impressed-with-himself" type father stops in with his son. Dad crushes plastic counter display with ham-like hand. Notices "HANDS OFF" sign when opening fingers, Tells son the product "isn't like they made 'em in the good old days." Lets pieces drop to floor as both withdraw.

5:10   Youngster reports dime lost in soda machine. Dime returned. Youngster purchases glider with dime. Harry puzzles about transaction.

5:19   Phone call asks if store will be open on Thanksgiving Day evening.

5:27   Realization comes that entire "pilfer proof" rack supplied by manufacturer disappeared sometime during afternoon.

5:30   Three fathers arrive to purchase king-sized electric slot-race outfit to extend around entire 80' x 160' basement of one. Leave with a single 49¢ car kit to determine "if we like the hobby."

5:41   Model airplane dripping gas copiously across the floor is carried in. Owner asks where you strap on the battery.

5:57   Phone call asks what time store closes on St. Patrick's Day.

6:09   Big sale of two 10¢ decals breaks early evening lull. Mother who first appeared at 9 :48 returns to explain that her youngster can't figure out his note either, but both know it is quite important. Harry still at same loss. Gives her a free catalog to make her happier.

6:17  Store fills with "just looking'ers." Three sales which result unexpectedly total $846. None of the three buyers has any identification and each wants to pay by check. Harry tearfully returns merchandise to shelves.

6:33   Gas model boat builder comes in demanding "rooster tail" kit to hang behind boat.

6:45   Store closed for 10 minutes while Harry grabs hamburger. Returns to find note on door: "We traveled 340 miles to buy a complete train outfit from you, but since you were shut tight, we went to the drug store down the street to get it. You're no credit to the hobby industry!"

7:07   Lengthy lecture by customer on the relative merits of various local hobby dealers terminates in sale of 8¢ push rod.

7:25   Mother-of-9:48 returns with news that her son is fairly sure he wanted some bottles of chemicals. With 50 different chemicals in stock Harry is tempted ... but sends woman home again with another catalog.

A "much-impressed-with-himself" type father stops in with his son - Airplanes and Rockets7:57   Evening rush starts as hard working dads replace their sons at magazine rack to look at pictures.

8:09   Phone call to ask what is the speed limit on the Turnpike and will the toll booth accept credit cards?

8:11   Women's group stops by to ask for contribution for building of swimming pool to keep youngsters away from those "dangerous model airplanes."

8:21   Salesman appears to make pitch for complete set of books directed to all "executive types." No sale.

8:37   Ferrari pulls up at front door. Owner hops out to ask for model of his car. When 49¢ price tag proves too rich for his blood he leaves without making purchase.

8:40   Adult tap dancing class starts its practice session on floor above forcing fresh-air customers in store to raise voices slightly. (Not too bad in the evenings, but those Saturday afternoon classes are pure torture.)

8:48   Night man at Better Business Bureau calls concerning complaint about 10¢ brush sold earlier that day.

8:59   Preparations made too close store after short 12-hour business "day."

9:00   Key turned in lock. Car races up and woman calls out, "You'll stay open a minute longer for us, won't you?"

9:38   Key back in lock and door again closed. Woman wanted to thumb through all the paint-by-number sets. Offered, upon leaving, if she were ever in the area again, to stop in again for a chat.

10:02   Home, supper, and a phone call, "What time is your store open in the morning?"

Go ahead, show this tale of woe to your local hobby dealer! Ask him if it isn't all true. Then ask him if he wants to sell his business. We'll bet dollars to donuts he wouldn't part with it ... too much fun meeting readers like YOU!



Posted March 11, 2024
(updated from original post on 10/30/2011)

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