How James May boosted South Shields business

The Hobby Shop.
The Hobby Shop.
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Following the recent picture spread, showing old photos of shops in South Tyneside, it was great to hear from the owner of The Hobby Shop, which we featured in the page.

Gordon Walker, has been trading at the Frederick Street shop since 1983, offering a vast array of goods for sale, including model kits, such as Airfix.

And it was interesting to hear that the sale of scale model aircraft and the like have really taken off in recent times – thanks mainly to TV celebrity and one-time Top Gear presenter James May. But more on that later.

First off, 62-year-old Gordon explains that little has changed in the shop since the photo, which appeared in Time Of Your Lives last Monday, was taken.

“Basically I sell a lot of models, such as Airfix kits, and collector’s items such as coins and medals, and old militaria. I do a lot of medal mounting for the Armed Forces.”

Gordon also stocks equipment for outdoor activities, such as archery, though this tends to be seasonal.

“I sell a lot of things that other shops wouldn’t dream of selling,” he says.

Over the years, The Hobby Shop has stocked and sold lots of model kits – something which has seen a huge upsurge in popularity.

“The models are the big thing at the moment,” explains Gordon.

“There’s been a big revival in the kits, along with the sale of model-making paints and glues.

“It started off when James May did a series of TV programmes about Airfix, Hornby and Lego.

“Now model-making seems to have been given a second wind, with older men, who now have a disposable income, remembering the old days when they made Airfix kits, buying them, along with a lot of children, whose parents want them off their computer for a while.”

Gordon, who now owns one of the longest established businesses in Frederick Street, says model-making teaches people of all ages “history, dexterity and patience”.

Mind you, when I was a lad, building one of the many Second World War aircraft that I spent my pocket money on, patience was not one of the virtues that I possessed.

For I couldn’t wait to move from one part of the build to the next.

So having snipped the various parts of plastic from the sprockets, I’d eagerly glue them (and my fingers) together. But instead of allowing the glue to set, I’d snatch up my paint brush and smother the assembled model in green, grey and brown paint. Worse still, I’d stick on the transfers, long before the glue was even tacky.

Still, I had hours of fun assembling various Spitfires, Hurricanes, Messerschmitts and Heinkels. What are your memories of such model making?

Meanwhile, many thanks to South Tyneside resident Margaret Walker, who got in touch having seen the old photo of Woolworth’s in South Shields.

“I have a clear memory from before the Second World War of going to our local Woolworth’s on Shields Road, Byker,” she says.

“My father would come home from work, have his tea, then we would go to Shields Road. I can clearly remember him lifting me up to see little tortoises on the counter. That must have been about 1938 or 1939.

“I have few memories of the local shop as I am not from this area, though I live here now.”