There are many stages in life, many stages of childhood. A child’s tastes change many times before they reach adulthood. I recall my focus changing even within my play and entertainment every couple of years. And also through the seasons.
One place that I kept coming back to through my stages was the low white building at the corner of Old Boston Post Road and Main Street. The name was nondescript, Ed’s Enterprises, as if it were a mail order business or something, but their product lines were sports, hobbies, toys, and games.
I think it was the toy department that brought me in first, though it may have been a bike repair. I remember balsa airplanes and jigsaw puzzles being early purchases. But soon it was the plastic models that held my attention the most.
My model building stage was long and varied. It started with a glow-in-the-dark mummy and wolfman, about a foot tall. It soon went to Star Trek models and then to airplanes. But my mainstay became cars by the time I was twelve, and I have stuck with that ever since.
1979,At other times, I bought HO scale train accessories, tracks, and buildings. In 1976, I received the coveted Spirit of `76 train set and soon began collecting bicentennial themed buildings for my train layout. By 1979, my HO city was about 8×12 feet and took up a large section of the attic floor.
I pined for a ten-speed bike for over a year. The bikes in the big windows facing the Post Road seemed to gleam in the sun and call me in. I fell in love with a sparkly blue Raleigh Record and finally received it from my grandmother on my birthday when I was about 11. She and her sister had chipped in and spent well beyond their budget to get it for me.
My bicycles went to Ed’s often. The bike guy’s name was Ralph, I believe. I think they embroidered his name on his uniform. Tall and thin with bushy eyebrows, he seemed to know everything about bicycles. He repaired by five-speed Schwinn Stingray after I got hit by a car on it. He built my Raleigh and fitted it to me. And did all the repairs on it, including replacing a bent rim after I ran into a car in a parking lot in Glenville, NY. He replaced the same rim again after I bent it in a storm drain on West Main Street in Clinton. I was a good customer.
And I rode my bike there many times, too. I would spend hours sometimes looking through the models, buying paints, and looking at the Esty’s rockets. Later, in my junior and senior years of high school, my visits were mostly for the role playing game supplies. AD&D, Traveller, the little fantasy and Sci-Fi figures, and lots of dice.
Ralph took a particular interest in the Traveller gaming supplies. He seemed to like science fiction, and we became friends, often spending half an hour chatting about war games or Star Wars on my weekly visits.
I continued to visit the store after I joined the Navy. They stationed my first ship in Boston for a year and I visited at home once or twice per month, stopping in for figures, dice and conversation while in town.
By age 20, I had moved away completely. I had to find other stores for my game supplies. I never found a bike shop I liked after Ed’s. And I went to hobby chains like Michael’s for models and general hobby shops to look at trains. I’ve never seen another shop that combined them all. I think Ed’s was a rare treasure.
Today, it is a lost treasure. Places like Ed’s and Malloy’s and Patrick’s helped to create the community flavor of Old Saybrook and have left holes by their absence. I’m sorely tempted to bring back a place like Ed’s to Main Street. Something with a wide appeal to the young and young at heart. Where I could promote active, creative, imaginative play and hobbies and support them with classes and group activities. I’d even dress in an old-fashioned service station uniform with the name “Ralph“ embroidered over the breast pocket.