The Toy Aisle at Thrifty's
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, a huge portion of our Thrifty's Drug Store toy aisle was taken up by plastic models of cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships, along with the paint, brushes and glue needed to build them. Building models was how my friends and I spent a lot of our indoor time back then. My dad bought me my first models when I was five. I remember going down to Ed's Hobby Shop on Lincoln Avenue and buying three WWI bi-wing airplanes. He did most of the work, demonstrating the process as he went, then attached them to the ceiling by thread as though they were engaged in aerial combat. Other models I had included the Gemini space capsule, a 1955 Nomad station wagon, several Deal's Wheels airplanes, the Beer Wagon, a visible engine, and the Pink Panther show car, among many others.
On Christmas vacation in 1969, my cousin Tom stayed over for a few days. I was ten and he was a few years older and as usual, we paid a visit to the toy aisle at Thrifty Drug Store on the opposite side of the Almaden Expressway. We scanned the rows of models until we came across one that caught our attention. It was the Red Baron show car by Monogram, and not only included a small model of the Red Baron triplane, but was a limited edition that included the Red Baron Hot Wheels car inside the box! There were several boxes on the shelf so we could each get one, but they cost $2.25 each and between us we had...well, next to nothing. We were determined to get those models though, so walking back home we strained our brains to figure out some way to come up with $4.50, as my mom certainly wasn't going to just give it to us. As we were walking along, my cousin suddenly said, "Hey look at all the leaves on everybody's lawns." Yup, you guessed it, we ran home and grabbed a couple of rakes and nine houses later at fifty cents each, we had enough money for two models. That was quite satisfying, just one of many fun adventures with my cousin. I remember building the model while watching Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates on TV, and I still have the Hot Wheel thanks to my sister who kept it safe for many years.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my older cousin Tom Bailey (Tom-Tom). Besides building models and collecting Hot Wheels, we enjoyed playing army, going camping, and even appearing on the Mayor Art Show in San Francisco. When Tom began driving, he included me on trips to Santa Cruz or to the movies. Once he came over just spend the afternoon driving me up a nearby hill so that I could coast down over and over again on my Flexy racer. I didn't have an older brother, so I guess I was pretty lucky to have Tom growing up.
Further Reading in the California Room
- Looking Back: My Favorite Christmas by Ralph Pearce
- California Room Index: Christmas
- SJPL Catalog California Room Search: REF CAL Christmas
- Looking Back: Bay Area Kids Shows in the 1960s and 1970s by Ralph Pearce