Central Hardware, St. Louis history

Central Hardware, St. Louis history

St. Louis-based Central Hardware was one of the first big-box home improvement chains. It peaked in 1993 at 39 stores in six states in the midwest, employing 3,700 people. It was once the 19th largest hardware retailer in the United States.

Central Hardware’s motto was “everything from scoop to nuts,” a play on the English idiom “soup to nuts,” which means beginning to end. Their inventory was over 40,000 SKUs, comparable to today’s home improvement stores. Its stores regularly exceeded 50,000 square feet. That’s about half the size of a typical home improvement store today, but it was large for the 1970s and 1980s. Traditional hardware stores ranged in size from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet. Its employees wore orange vests so customers knew who to ask for help.

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Coleco Gemini: An Atari 2600 clone from 1983

Coleco Gemini: An Atari 2600 clone from 1983

I spotted it on page 597 of the 1983 Sears catalog. “Two big names play the same games,” the headline boasted. Next to the venerable Atari 2600, Sears presented the Coleco Gemini, an Atari 2600 clone.

In 1982, Coleco built an add-on to make its Coleco Vision game system Atari 2600-compatible. Atari sued. And then Coleco poked the bear by making an outright clone.

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What happened to Compuserve?

What happened to Compuserve?

Compuserve was an online service for dialup modems from the 1970s to the 1990s. It was a way of getting online and communicating with others before the Internet was generally available to individuals. Later, it became a primary way for individuals to connect to the Internet. But over time, it faded away into history. Here’s what happened to Compuserve.

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Marx William Crooks locomotive

Marx William Crooks locomotive

In 1959, Marx attempted to cash in on the popularity of TV westerns by creating an 1860s style locomotive. Today, the Marx William Crooks locomotive is one of the rarer and more desirable Marx locomotives. You don’t often hear the words “rare” and “Marx” together.

The Marx locomotive was a recognizable model of the real William Crooks locomotive, a St. Paul and Pacific 1861-era engine that still exists today.

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What did a Commodore 64 cost?

What did a Commodore 64 cost?

It’s pretty widely known that the Commodore 64 was the first 64K computer to sell for under $600. But what did a Commodore 64 cost over time?

At its introductory price of $595, the price was revolutionary. In December 1981, an Atari 800 with 32K of RAM cost $1,000.

Not only that, Commodore dropped the price very aggressively. The reason was that Commodore expected the Japanese to enter the computer market and undercut prices.

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The Marx factory fire in Girard PA

The birthplace of scores of classic toy trains fell victim to the Marx factory fire in Girard, Pennslyvania.

The old Marx factory stood at 227 E Hathaway in Girard, Pennsylvania. For a time in the 1950s, Marx was the largest toy manufacturer in the world. Marx made toy trains at the site, which caught fire on July 12, 2016. There were no immediate reports of injuries, fortunately. There was very little news coverage of the fire.

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Save money on appliances

Save money on appliances

If you want to know how to save money on appliances, I have some unconventional advice: Buy used. Yes, really. Here’s how to buy used (or refurbished) appliances and save big money without getting ripped off.

I’ve had a number of friends get hit recently with appliance breakdowns they couldn’t afford, and since I’m a landlord, I’ve probably bought a lifetime’s worth of appliances in the last seven years. A dead appliance doesn’t have to turn into a financial catastrophe.

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Marx vs. Lionel

In the 1950s, Marx and Lionel took turns being the biggest toy company in the world, largely riding on the popularity of O gauge trains. Neither company particularly liked the other, but both owed some degree of their success to being compatible with one another. Because of their interoperability, the two makes of trains are frequently compared and contrasted even today.

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What it was like owning a Commodore in the 1980s

Since questions occasionally come up, and I remember well what it was like owning a Commodore in the 1980s in the United States, I’ll share my recollections of it.

It was very different from computing today. It was still interesting, but it was different.

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Remembering Dolgin’s

Growing up in Missouri, a lot of my Christmas gifts when I was young came from a catalog showroom called Dolgin’s. One of my earliest memories is going to Dolgin’s with my mom and aunt, who showed me some Tonka trucks and asked me which ones I liked best.

I know a lot of people remember going through Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, but I remember Dolgin’s catalogs the best. Read more

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