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Plastic models and hobby shops

Posted by Dennis H 
Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 07:19AM
This is probably more general nostalgia than Dallas related: I was an "addict" for building plastic models---planes, ships, tanks, cars, you name it. No telling how many brain cells I lost just smelling the ambient fumes from the glue--never on purpose though.
Ah, the vendor names: Aurora, Revell, Hawk, Monogram, Lindberg(h) Line, Airfix, and more.
One could buy model kits at 7-11 (from a revolving display tree), Skillerns, and dime stores. My first kit though that my father bought for me in Houston around 1958 was from a hardware store. It was the USS Nautilus. Still have a model of it I bought off eBay.
My favorite source of models was a hobby store in the shopping center off NW Highway and Marsh or Webb Chapel near Bachman Lake. There was also good one in Wynnewood Shopping Center in Oak Cliff.

Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 02/08/2012 03:17AM by Dennis H.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 07:25AM
I still have some plastic and balsa wood models(unassembled) in the original boxes that I outgrew. (circa 1953-19555) Jim
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 07:41AM
There was a great hobby shop on Greenville across the street from the Arcadia Theater in the 40s and 50s--maybe later. I recognize the name if I heard iy; maybe Clements? First kit I got there was a Strombecker balsa wood model of an American Airlines DC-4. That was followed by a Strombecker F(P)-80 Shooting Star.

I don't remember the first plactic one, but I do recall that instead of plastic glue, I used Carbon Tetrachloride from a pint (or larger) bottle that my Dad got at the drug store. Much cheaper. His only caution was "Don't breath the fumes." Talk about not knowing any better!
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 11:15AM
dennis i think you may be talking about walnut hill shopping village at n west highway and webbs chapel
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 12:39PM
I used to love to build models. My first ones came from Kresge's in Wynnewood and Mott's in the Clearview Shopping Center. After my parents moved out of their old house, I found a box of my completed ones in the attic: P-51 D Mustang, P-38 Lightning, B-29A Superfortress, P-61 Black Widow, P-47 Thunderbolt, F4-U Corsair, B-24 Liberator, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell, P-40 Warhawk, PBY Catalina and a P-39 Airacobra. I never did like jets much but I love the old WWII planes.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 02:27PM
The shop across the street from the Arcadia was Johnny Clemens' Hobby Counter, which has been mentioned in earlier posts on this forum by folks who remember it much better than I. The earliest American plastic kits--at least those generally available--were those of Hawk. They were in the shops by the late 1940s and were not beyond the manual skills of third graders such as myself.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 03:42PM
Indeed it was Walnut Hill Shopping Center! Thanks, Rojinks!
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 07:14PM
My memory of the hobby shop on Greenville is that it was on the west side of the street, same as the Arcadia. but in a block further south. I suppose that was what was meant above by across the street. It was a wondrous place for a kid. Hall's Hobby House was even better. and I think has been wxtensively discussed on this board in the past. Closest hobby shop to me fronted on Hillcrest on the east side of Snider Plaza near Doc Widemon's garage. That particular space eventually became a bicycle shop and that was the last name I remember being applied to it - The Bicycle Shop. For a while there was a good tropical fish store just north in the same row of stores and then Messina's (?) shoe repair shop. I have no idea what is in any of those spaces today, or if the basic building is still there.

I can remember what a great thing the plastic kits were for someonce like me with very limited modeling skills. I remember also some of the little flying model kits available during World War II. Balsa wood mostly went for the war effort, life preservers maybe. I think some of the kits I'm thinking about had ribs and formers printed on card board and a little bit of really lousy balsa for stingers / longerons. IIRC they cost a dime. Later when there was some sheet balsa for ribs, etc., it often defied my efforts to cut out the pieces. And the rubber for the motors was as bad as the balsa.

Die cut ribs were a great advance for me even after I had a good Xacto, just like plastic solid models.

Sure was fun to do to that place on Greenville though, or Hall's..
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 04, 2012 07:22PM
I remember B's Hobby Shop in Webb-Royal shopping center, great selection of models but usually a bit higher price than Skillerns and certainly more expensive than Woolco or FedMart. Every nickel and dime saved on purchase price of the kit went toward a new paint.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 05, 2012 02:57PM
Mine came from Cearview Mott's too. I worked there as stockboy from 1958 to 1960.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 05, 2012 03:44PM
The first model car I built was probably a Pyro brand that I got at Motts in Deer Path Shopping Center. My mom said I wasn't old enough to build it, but I was stubborn and got it anyway. She was right of course.

What was the big Hobby Shop on Jefferson, just west of Zang? I didn't think I would ever forget that guy's name, but time marches on. I bought several modeling magazines there. He had a small HO scale slot car track upstairs.
I did buy some balsa wood there.

In the early 60s, the Dallas Morning News had a story in the Sunday supplement magazine about lead soldiers. The cover showed a man painting a lead soldier. I wanted to do this and got my mom to find a hobby shop that sold these. Somehow we wound up on Camp Wisdom Rd. at the Hobby House in Duncanville. They had some huge slot car tracks. They didn't have lead soldiers but they had some small HO scale figures that I bought. She also took me to a place in the Quadrangle that sold lead soldiers.

There was Toy World in Wynnewood where I bought Matchbox cars. I also bought some Plasticville buildings in HO scale. I never built a railroad layout, I just liked those little buildings and houses.

In my teen years I bought a ton of model cars at the Gibsons in Duncanville. They were $1.98. Now those same kits sell for $19.00 at Hobby Lobby. There was a mail order place called Auto World that sold kits and supplies by mail.

It's odd that I found this thread today because I was just thinking about my model building days and the different paints you could buy. There was Pactra brand and Testors Pla brand. The Pla bottles were smooth and the the Pactra bottles were carved like crystal.


P.S. Where was Clear View shopping center?




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/05/2012 03:46PM by Mac.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 05, 2012 05:20PM
The Clear View Shopping Center was at Hampton Road and West Illinois.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 05, 2012 07:28PM
In the 40s & 50s the Clemens Hobby Shop was definately on the east side of Greenville and about half a block north of the Arcadia which was on the west side. I think I remember that in the 60s or perhaps later, it may have moved down Greenville to the west side in the block below the Arcadia. By that time, I had moved from Dallas and don't remember every going there--just driving by.

As to Hall's, I've been a pretty serious model railroader for 40 plus years, and I frequented Hall's Hobby House well into the 90s. Knew Mrs. Hall and Guy --can't recall his last name-- who seemed to manage the shop. I still have several Hallmark brass models and a number of other locomotives Guy custom painted (or had painted) for me for the Texas & Pacific, Katy/Frisco Texas Special and others.

Cherished possessions.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 05, 2012 08:49PM
Have to disagree about the location of Clemen's, although I readily confess I was not so serious a modelr as you, and that I did do much as as a teenager. I moved from Dallas in the early sixties myself and it had been some time since I had more than driven by the place, but my visits as a kid were to a shop on the west (Arcadia) side. Maybe someone else will weigh in on this.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 05, 2012 10:05PM
"What was the big Hobby Shop on Jefferson, just west of Zang? I didn't think I would ever forget that guy's name, but time marches on. I bought several modeling magazines there. He had a small HO scale slot car track upstairs.
I did buy some balsa wood there. "

I can't remember the name of that place either, although I can remember where it was.I never went in there very much because Mama always hoped I'd outgrow the "tomboy" stuff and she discouraged trips to stores that were, in her mind, "for boys". My granddaddy was the one who took me there the few times I got to go. It is funny that the woman who hoped I'd outgrow those things was the one who stored my planes in the attic instead of throwing them out.

Yep. Clearview later came to be known as Hampton-Illinois and served as a major teen hangout spot for quite a few years.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 06, 2012 03:22AM
I remembered the answer to my own question. The hobby shop on Jefferson was Bernie's. In the 90s when Radio Controlled planes became popular he had a small shop at Wheatland and Hwy. 67 and he gave lessons on how to fly the RC planes.



Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 06, 2012 10:17AM
Yes, Johnny Clemens' Hobby Counter was further south on Greenville, on the same side as the Arcadia. It was just before Alta, and in the next block was the Greenville Avenue State Bank, which later became Tango. It moved to another location (don't remember exactly where, maybe a block away?) after being destroyed in a February, 1987 fire that was caused by burglars who were intent on covering their trail. Johnny passed away June 13, 1991, according to an archive search of the DMN (article date was 06/15/91).

I can remember going there first in the late '60s, when 1:25 scale model car pricing was just going up from $1.75 to $2.00. I bought many model car kits there over the years, including some still-unsold $1.49 kits form the early '60s, and a few die-cast cars, too. I can still remember the pressed tin ceiling, the older R/C planes hanging from that ceiling, and the handwritten "You Open It, You Buy It" signs. It was quite a place.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 06, 2012 05:18PM
I lived in / grew up in Dallas between 1942 and 1961, We used to drive south on Greenville to reach the Sear's store on Ross which was several times a yer. Possibly I was in the hobby shop I've mentioned on the west side of the street as early as 1946 although I can't pin point a date and it may have been later. I also recall the several models hanging from the ceiling. Seems like one of them was an enormous very 1930's highwing cabin monoplane. One of the models, perhaps the one just mentioned, was uncovered. I did not really remember the name of the shop although I agreed above that it was Clemen's. The "Hobby Counter" part of the name mentioned above seems right though. But I would not have said "Hobby Counter" on my own any more than "Clemen's". Nor do I remember the Greenville Avenue State Bank except as a name. It was good to see sharkins in agreement about the hobby shop being on the west side of the street.

I also remember a J C Penny's store nearby on the west side of the street. It had the impulse diven trolly carriers for money that went up to the second floor. It was the probably the biggest business in the neighborhood except for the Sears, although it was much smaller than Penny's stores built later in shopping centers. That store was more the size of the Penny's I used to see in small towns in Oklahoma. I think it was mentioned on this message board some years back and there was some disagreement about its existence, just like the hobby shop.

Years later there was an auto parts store on the west side of the street between the Arcadia and Greenville, but I don't remember the name of that business either.

The only businesses I remember on the east side of Greenville from early in the time I lived in Dallas were the Granada Theatre(I liked the idea of the smoking room) and a shop that sold live chickens. I went there with my mother one time and she picked a bird and they killed it and perhaps cleaned it and we took it home. I don't recall if the people in the shop plucked it or if mom did. That was probably before the end of the war or just after. I have no idea if World War II ration stamps were necessqry for poultry. I wonder if a change in the the zoning rules put an end to that sort of business within the city limits. Or maybe just the availability of good packaged poultry in the grocery stores.

Years later there was what I regarded as very good pizza joint on the east side of the street. Again I don't have a name, but they had the best thin crust pizza in my experience in the late fifties. And finally I recall a good Vietnamese restaurant with a green decor on the west side of Greenville in the eighties but again I lack a name.

I have tried to fit the description of the hobby shop by mreagant into my own memeory set, but can't. As I write this I wonder if two different businesses are involved, although I think I would have noticed a hobby shop on the east side of the street.
Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 06, 2012 08:56PM
No, not two different businesses, although ownership may have changed at some point. The hobby shop did have all the planes hanging, but in the early 50s it was NORTH of Prospect of the EAST side of Greenville in a 30s/40s strip center type building that was across the street from the Arcadia. My grandmother worked at the new Sears on Ross which opened in 1948 and before that, during WWII in the Sears location on the WEST side of Greenville in the block south of Axton(?) and the Arcadia center. There was a 5 & 10 (Woolworths?) on the corner of Axton and Greenville, and I think a J.C. Penney's in the same general location. The Hobby Counter must have moved to the WEST side location (as I said earlier) some time in the mid to late 50s or 60s but its location when I went there in late 40s and early 50s was where I stated. If necessary, I'll locate a period phone book and provide street numbers.

I was in born in late '40 and lived just a few blocks away until '49. I returned to the area for summer and holiday visits with grandmothers and aunts well into the 50s. I can confirm that the hobby shop did move, because I recall driving down Greenville several years later, probably in the 60s, noticing that the Hobby Counter was not where it had been, and then seeing it in the location further south and across the street.

Re: Plastic models and hobby shops
February 07, 2012 07:03AM
Thanks Mike. Yes, it sounds like Johnny's shop moved around, and would have moved to the location on the west side of Greenville by the late '60s, when I started frequenting the place. Around that time, it started becoming popular to sniff model glue to get a cheap high (from the ingredient Toluene), so one of the manufacturers (MPC) came out with "Notox" glue, that didn't contain Toluene, and had a citrus smell. After it became available, Johnny and his assistant, who was another older guy (okay, "older" compared to this then-ten-year-old) wouldn't sell you the glue containing Toluene unless you bought a kit at the same time, but they would sell Notox by itself. IIRC, glue then cost around 15 or 19 cents a tube. I later switched to the Tester's liquid glue with the brush, since it offered better control than the stuff in the tube.

And yes, I would appreciate it if someone here could look through a few old phone books from the '50s and '60s and give us some addresses for Johnny's store.

I also remember that Crown Toy and Hobby was located in the same building with the Arcadia - Crown was located on the corner of Greenville and Bell. I also bought kits at Hall's Variety in the Skillman-Live Oak Shopping Center (I still have a '70 Chevy Impala I bought there), along with a couple of Skillern's stores - the one in Lakewood, that, ironically, was also torched by burglars, and the one on Lower Greenville by the Safeway store between Belmont and Richmond.
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