An article published on July 30, 2015 in the web magazine RCGroups  at the time that the Hobby Lobby building was torn down. The building had existed in that location since 1972.


The End of an Era - Hobby Lobby Building Torn Down


The building that so many of us bought our hobby goods from is gone for good.


By Jim T.Graham


A Sad Day for the RC Hobby


I found out through the grapevine that they were tearing down the original Hobby Lobby building in the next few days. That's a sad thing to think about for many of us in the RC hobby. I thought I would take this time to write some recollections of that place as a former HL employee and prior to that a customer.

Some Hobby Lobby History

Hobby Lobby was founded by Jim Martin in 1964. It had humble beginnings in the back of his store in Nashville. He built the Hobby Lobby building in Brentwood, TN in 1970. At the time it was a piece of cheap farm land.

Prior to starting HL Jim flew refueling tankers for the Air Force. He always had an RC plane ready to fly and most of the time that plane was a glider. Jim loved flight and Hobby Lobby was the culmination of that love.

What I'm about to say is a bold statement, but I believe it's true. Hobby Lobby is the reason our hobby is electrified. Jim Martin saw what was happening in RC in Europe around 1967 and how they were using electric motors instead of glow. When he came home he embraced electric flight and soon the Hobby Lobby catalog was full of electric power plants. The key word in those days to describe the power was "anemic" but as power systems improved things changed. HL was the first company to list "Everything you need" with each plane so you knew what to buy. Prior to this the US hobby shops were all glow and gas. Jim Martin endeavored to persevere with his crazy electric power sources and by doing so he changed the hobby forever. The big boys took notice after a while and now the majority of of RC planes are electric. It was not so before Hobby Lobby.

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  2. 2Hans Graupner and Jim Martin in the Graupner warehouse - mid 1970's.











What the Building Meant

That building meant a lot of things to a lot of people. Everything in our catalog was there. RC pilots across the US would pour over the HL magazine. When they hired me I had it memorized! When you finally figured out how to get to the building there would be a certain excitement. You were excited because you knew all the things you needed, and more importantly, the things you wanted, were inside. There was always someone on the counter that had an intimate knowledge of the batteries, motors, ESCs and planes that hung on the wall. For an RC pilot it was a special place. For the folks that worked there it was a home where your RC family lived.


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  2. 2The "lobby" of Hobby Lobby.









In reality the building was not fancy. It was the people and activity that made it special. You could tell who were the real RC nuts at the shop when the UPS truck showed up. We knew in those boxes were planes that no one had ever seen before. Prototypes that were the first of their kind. We would all gather around the boxes as Mike Hines would open them with the skill of a surgeon. Then when he finally withdrew the treasures that were inside you would here slight gasps of awe and words of praise for the designers. It was an RC pilots dream job.

Where I Got My Start

I'm pretty close to this topic because Hobby Lobby is where I got my start. I was just a guy that stick built RC planes and documented what I did on web forums. Evidently Jim followed my posts because one day a stately gentleman with a white beard approached me at our local field. He said he read my posts and hoped one day I could work for him at Hobby Lobby. I'm glad I went flying that day. Running into Jim Martin changed my life.

Soon I was the marketing person for Hobby Lobby. I handled all online ads, contests, reviews and print. We had this new product called a "lipo" battery and these new motors called "outrunners." Little did any of us know at HL we were about to revolutionize the hobby. It was an exciting time! We were also one of the first companies to see the value in online advertising. We put ad money into this little site called "RCGroups.com." We changed our banner ads every week. We ran huge online sales. We went to events and took photos. The marketing was changing and HL was right there at the leading edge. I use the skill sets I learned at Hobby Lobby every day as the admin of multiple RC forums today.

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  10. 16The old exterior of Hobby Lobby prior to the demolition.



Hanging with Jim Martin


As the marketing person I spent a good deal of time talking to Jim Martin. As he would talk to me about the topic of the day my eye always ended up on the photo of the T-28 that Jim flew in the Air Force. The plane was in the middle of a refueling during a flight. There was also a photo of Jim with all his Air Force buddies in front of that plane in 1956. It just blew my mind that was the same person sitting in front of me explaining why I should not use exclamation points (it's like laughing at your own joke)!

Jim taught me lessons that I use to this day. Hobby Lobby was my first job in the RC industry and I'm certain it paved the way for what has turned into a career in radio control . I have that chance meeting and interest from Jim Martin to thank for that.

Working at HL

A couple of days a week we would all get together and head out for lunch. This was my first real office job and I have to say I couldn't have been surrounded by better folks. It was truly a family. If you had a birthday you knew there would be a cake for you at lunch and that everyone would meet in the warehouse to eat cake and celebrate

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  2. 2A HL employee group shot outside the building.

  3. 3Kevin Butts and Jim Martin inspect a wing in the warehouse.
















Funny Side Stories

For years I wondered about a piece of metal on one of the walls. You see there was a buck shot pattern in it from a shotgun. The thing was the blast obviously came from the inside! I finally asked Jim Martin how that came to be there. He said there was a bird trapped in the building and he asked a worker to get it out. When he came back the bird was gone but the shotgun blast was there. It turns out his employee was in the building shooting at the bird with a .12 gauge! Jim Martin was not happy!

If you are an RC old timer you surely remember the Senior Telemaster produced by Hobby Lobby. The image on the box and in magazines was of the plane in a field with a lovely lady leaning next to it. A beautiful site. One day I was in the warehouse next to that box when Jim's wife walked up. As she spoke to me I looked at her and then glanced at the box. Then I realized...the girl on the box was Jim's wife JoAnne!! When I verbalized my realization she whacked me on the shoulder and told me not to tell anyone!


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  2. 2The author flying the Mini GeeBee from Mike Glass.

  3. 3Here is the famous photos of JoAnne Martin with the Senior Telemaster.







Girls coming into Hobby Lobby was a very rare occurrence. So rare that sometimes shipping guys and salesman might come out of the dark corners of the warehouse to behold the strange event. One thing was certain though, we all knew they were there by accident. We would tell them how to get to the Hobby Lobby craft store and off they would go, until the next lost lady showed up.

As the marketing person I was always on RCGroups. When users started cutting their own foamy planes I was intrigued. Then the foamy 3D planes started showing up. I tried and tried to get HL to sell these foamy 3D birds. I flew .40 balsa profile planes at the time and I vividly remember when Jim Martin approached me and said, "What you're doing in the air isn't flight, it's a travesty!" It still brings a smile to my face. We finally released the 3D Gee Bee by Mike Glass and it became a number one seller. Then we released more and the 3D foamy was born.

From Jason Cole

That building was my second home for almost 10 years. It was my first "real" job and I made so many friends and memories during that time. I remember flying Piccolo helis in the warehouse when electric helis barely flew. I remember test flying prototype airplanes in the narrow parking lot. I'll never forget the photo room where Mike Hines and Max Wensell took all the product photos for the catalog and website and the R&D room next to it where I spent time building planes. That building is an iconic piece of r/c history and it's a sad day to see it being torn down.


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  2. 2Kevin Butts, Jason Cole and Mike Hines get ready to put up a sailplane.










Sad Day

It's a sad day in the hobby to look at that photo and know the building, the fun, and the people have been disassembled and scattered to the winds. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust I guess. We all still keep in touch. We even have lunch sometimes at the same restaurant we used to frequent. With Facebook we can still interact but the days of the "Lobby" are gone forever. That place meant so much to so many in this hobby.

JoAnne Martin Sums it Up

I worked at HL for 40 years, met and married my husband there, and absolutely loved my job! My husband was the owner and the employees were my family! I watched both flourish and succeed! I still have my husband and I still have my family! Maybe the business and building are gone but memories will never go! I am happy knowing that my family loved it there and have moved on as "kids" will do. I think no one will ever forget their days at Hobby Lobby!


COMMENTS

ronin4740

Wandering IT geeStates, NV, Reno

4,373 Posts

Sad to see. If it weren't for the LHS near where I lived (Mark Twain Hobby in St. Charles MO) I never would have acted on my desire to learn to fly RC airplanes. Never would have gotten the advice (you really ought to by that trainer instead of that P-51 for your first plane!) which let me have a chance of succeeding on my own.


I'm certain that many people local to Hobby Lobby would say the same!


While forums are a great place to share and exchange ideas they just aren't the same as a good Hobby Store with knowledgeable employees for both the beginner as well as the seasoned customer.


Sadly there's just too few brick and mortar stores full of RC excitement and wonder left in the world these days...



edbu1

What, Me Worry?oined Feb 2007

302 Posts

I sure do remember the Hobby Lobby catalogs! Getting a new one in the mail back in the 1970s was real excitement. Remember, this was before the internet existed. information on any R/C airplane came from magazines and catalogs. And other R/C flyers, if you lived near any, which I did not. Spent many of my teenage years drooling over that Hobby Lobby catalog, my book of R/C wishes.


RIP, Hobby Lobby!!



jbrundt

Serenity Now!1,332 Posts

A sad day.......


I was only able to visit the store 3 times but each time was a wondrous (and expensive  ) experience.



MK

1,470 Posts

I never got the chance to get down to TN and step foot in the building but every year that I attended the WRAM show in Westchester, NY, there was Hobby Lobby and the gang in the back just before the stage, with the biggest booth. What a good bunch of people!


And Jim, you are absolutely right! I often tell people that it was Hobby Lobby that started the electric plane phenomenon which we now know is the "standard". The young ones say "Who's Hobby Lobby?" and the old ones remember it well.


To this very day I still have a few copies of the catalog. When I get a new one I would pour over it again and again and again, wishing that I had the money to buy one of each. Those were exciting times.



Blueabyss

Blueabyss

Florida

I lived in a small town outside of Nashville TN and bought many planes and parts from HL over the years. I now live in florida, can fly all year long. It was sad news hearing HL is gone. I totally agree that HL is responsible for the evolution of electric flight in the US. Many years ago I had a gentle lady glider that I decided to cut the nose off of and retro fit a speed 400 from HL. It ran on a nicad...lol... At that time there were very few electric gliders under 500.00. People would just marvel at my "invention"...lol..


Chris



LJH

Joined Sep 2000

4,321 Posts

That is sad to see, for the better part of 3 decades I looked forward to the old Hobby-Lobby catalog as they were one of the few mail order shops that specialized in gliders and e-power. Sorry to see the old building gone but even more sorry to see what Hobby-Lobby (Hobby Express) has turned into.....I really miss the awesome selection of odd-ball items that the old HL carried while the new Hobby Express reminds me of Hobby Town USA.


Cheers,

Jim



E-Challenged

Registered User

12,899 Posts

Remember the Esskay 400XT outrunners that HL used to sell on specials for around $20. They were a versatile replacement for geared speed 400 brushed motors. The were just right for GWS models, Pat Tritle 40" + w/s lightweight scale models and old Berkeley and Sterling scale models that popped up on Ebay.. I still use these motors and they just keep going like that bunny with the base drum. I think that my first successful electric model was a "Chubby Lady" imported by Hobby Lobby from Czechoslovakia . What a fun little park flier, looked like a cartoon.


I miss a number of great Hobby suppliers from the 60's and later like ACE RC headed by Tom Runge, especially their thick catalogs full of motors, speed controls, NiCad chargers, model Ace kits and especially their Pulse Commander single channel and galloping ghost stuff for 1/4A and 1/2A glow powered models . These were the days before RC Groups and other hobby forums. We had Air Trails and later a number of other great model plane magazines full of tantalizing ads, free plans and build articles , There was also Polk's and Americas Hobby Center.

There were great hobby shops that carried everything you needed to build dream models. Ahhh Yup!

Some of the over 15,000 visitors to the RC Groups Internet forum that discussed the end of the business that I founded:


DAVID HOGUE:


I never went to the store, but spent plenty of time drooling over the catalogs and later the website. I recall meeting Jim at the Atlanta IMS shows while that lasted. One of my fav HL memories was getting a black friday order with an Alpha Mig in it that I didnt order or get charged for. Contacted Jason and he said,"Our mistake, just keep it, Merry Xmas"! They were always willing to stick a tx in your hands(even mine??) at SEFF and let you fly that model you were thinking about, which of course often ended in a sale. The new company just isnt what HL was, which is an owner and a group of employees that genuinely cared about the hobby and the people involved in it. Thanks to all of you guys

I still have a Mini Geebee in the box!!


DAVID HENDERSON:


Hobby Lobby and their ads in RCM often got me to purchase stuff from them to me whether it was here in Australia or when we were living in the UK. Thanks Jim and Hobby Lobby


Flying W:

There was never anything better to read while spending quality time in the bathroom than those early Hobby Lobby catalogs with all the Graupner, Aeronaut, Robbe, Kavan, and all the other amazing bits for electric power. With those catalogs and with Bob Boucher's Electric Motor Handbook I felt like I was in Heaven.

By the way, I still get PFM at Hobby Express..


REGISTERED USER:


In those early days of electric flight, we could count on the items in the Hobby Lobby catalog to give us a fair chance of success. Yes, much of the good stuff came from Germany (thanks in part to Jim's and son David' s relationship to the Kavan family). A long time ago I reviewed several ofHobby Lobby's distributed kits, which were well designed and manufactured. Jim is a great guy. I used to see him at the trade shows. Also, while on a work-related assignment, I visited the warehouse and went out to dinner with Jim and JoAnn. I was sorry to see him retire and sell the business. Now, regardless of where Hobby Express is located, I wish them well.



RCSUPETHERO:


Thank you for basically starting this RC Hobby- Much respect!

I too remember getting and ordering from Hobby Lobby!
May God bless you  It looks like you have a great family and Much love.
well wishes to all of you : ) -Greg Tanous


STANGROB:


I got my first RC plane from HL (a Telemaster 40).
I got my first electric "ARF" from HL (one of the Czech EPP Christian Eagles)
I got my first "serious" brushless motor from HL (a Jeti inrunner with matching Jeti 40a controller).
I bought that and a lot of other stuff from HL. And I truly enjoyed their Black Friday deals- remember always dashing off at the top of the hour to see what new stuff had been posted.

Sad to see it all gone. Sure, "Hobby Express" is still around, but HL had unique stuff.

I remember ogling all the Graupner stuff. I couldn't afford it at the time, but when I came across a Graupner Comet EDF kit recently I had to pick it up. That darn HL catalog cost me a lot of $$$ over the


STEVEN HORNEY:


Boy does this bring back some wonderful memories - and a definite sadness at seeing the building destroyed. I had the wonderful blessing of being the editor of the E-zone for a few years, during which time I was doubly blessed in getting to know Jim Martin and the staff of Hobby Lobby. I remember Jim Martin telling me we were really on to something with the E-Zone web site; he figured (correctly) that the internet was going to revolutionize the hobby, and he wanted to be in on it early. We started with some banner ads and went from there, and watched the hobby, The E-Zone, and Hobby Lobby, really grow. 

I made several visits to the store while travelling in Tennessee, and had the special privilege of being shown all through the place, including seeing many of the new items Hobby Lobby would be preparing to carry at the time. Talk about a dream for a model plane enthusiast! Jim and the crew would send along lots of awesome planes for reviews, giving me and a number of others the opportunity to fly some real cutting edge aircraft. HobbyLobby always seemed to carry some of the most interesting aircraft and power systems in the hobby! I still miss reading the old catalogs and seeing the really neat stuff Jim would get from Europe. 

Most of all, I really miss knowing Jim and the Hobby Lobby team; all the employees were both very knowledgeable and exceptionally gracious. Jim even sent flowers to my father-in-law's funeral - something that forever left an impression on me about the character of Jim. It was a sad day whenHobby Lobby was sold. Thanks for many good memories! May the Lord bless you all!



OLD RC AVIATOR:


I had often wondered when this event was going to happen. I have fond memories of Hobby Lobby. I was in their craft store in Lufkin Texas just yesterday buying balsa for a Brian Taylor Corsair I am going to build. Only things you can get for the RC hobby there are Cyanoacrylate glue and epoxy and some Xacto products and of course Balsa wood from Balsa USA. That is if the women doing crafts haven't picked it over and broken it into pieces. It's sad to see the old place go. Good things come to an end and Hobby Lobby was a really good thing. I'll miss online shopping there


Just my opinion, Hobby Lobby was gone shortly after Jim Martin sold it to the current owners. They had the same name for a long time but dropped everything but the Telemasters that made them who they once were.


RHINBECK CO:


Talk about the end of an era. I latched on to the electric revolution early on but was terribly disappointed with the performance. Then HL started importing new technology stuff and off it went. I dealt with LA Jonston (spelling) quite a bit and did some beta testing for Hobby Lobby too, I think Larry Eddy was the young man I dealt with back then. In my estimation, Jim Martin was a visionary in this hobby, and thanks to him and a few others we have all these wonderful electrics to fly these days. 

Tom Smith AMA 5953


MEDICAL GEEK:


When my brother and I first got into radio control, it was Hobby Lobby that supplied us. 

We lived in a small town in NW North Dakota (Williston) and winter gave us a long dark cold building season. Model aircraft back then were built from a box of sticks. You had to study the plans carefully and sequentially build. Our first proportional 4 channel radio control system was ordered fromHobby Lobby and was a 12 volt "CB radio frequency" O.S. Cougar system with a strange wood vinyl finish. Strangely enough, our first RC model aircraft was an underpowered foamy. I remember we had to (at times) turn the servos, because the system didn't yet have servo reverse control.

The Hobby Lobby catalog was our virtual "hobby shop" and Tower Hobbies became the competitor.



REGISTERED USER FE BOATER:


Wow, I am very fond of Hobby-Lobby, although I didn't order that often from them, their service was first class and people were friendly over the phone. 
it's sad that the internet has taken over retail shops and catalog outfits where real people can be reached.
I was also very fond of their logo. One time I was driving a trip up the western states and saw a Hobby Lobby store, before I realized it wasn't The Hobby-Lobby shop, I was so excited that I slammed on the breaks, almost causing an accident, lol.......



FOOBLY:


Ahh, I remember that building! I went to school at TN Tech in the 1980's and made it to the HL homebase on several occasions. HL was probably my favorite go to hobby shop back in the day. I remember their imports and while I couldn't afford many of them at the time was a frequent customer. 

Oh, I forgot. I can't count how many folks I've taught how to fly R/C on a telemaster. The original, what a beauty of a plane



DAVEVH:


Thanks for the write-up, it was interesting to read.

I grew up in South Africa and started flying at 11 y.o (1990) in Johannesburg. I remember getting a hold of some magazines that advertised HobbyLobby, and I will always remember the picture of JoAnne with the Senior Telemaster (I think that embodied the business of H.L) that I saw in a catalog. I was in heaven going through the Hobby-Lobby and Tower catalogs of wooden kits.

Shortly after I started flying, my first build was a Telemaster (I believe it was the Telemaster 70 kit). I warped one wing, but it still flew OK until it went into a spin and crashed! I never got a hold of a senior Telemaster, although my oldest brother learned to fly on one in the 80's (don't know what happened to it). Have the plans for one, maybe someday I will scratch it if balsa is still widely available.

Fast forward to around 2007 when Hobby Lobby started selling Lipos and brushless motors and I was in the U.S studying, I was one of the early adopters of the technology and their foamy airplanes (I bought the Reflex among others, and also made a model of it for Realflight G3), and had a lot of fun with them.

I was extremely impressed with Hobby Lobby as a business, their service was second to none, always knowledgeable and friendly when I had to contact them. I wish I had been able to make it out to their store.

In recent years though, and the trends toward multirotors and foamies, I have moved away from the hobby, much like H.L is now gone and demolished. My passion for R.C lay in wooden builds/kits, with fussy and noisy nitros (I loved the challenge of getting engines to run flawlessly, and the noise/smell). 

I feel with the convenience of electric, something at the core of the hobby is missing. Electric feels like it has no soul to me


(obviously I am in the minority here), and my last flights with electrics felt very blah and boring with no challenge to it. I never had that feeling flying nitro, which always excited me. Even the chance of a deadstick was fun, I had practiced them to an art so that the stress was gone (I think a lot of gliding experience helped). I could have done without autorotations on my 50 heli though, that was stressful.

Thanks H.L and Co. for all your contributions to the hobby, my early memories of the balsa heyday of RC will always linger!


EPOXYEARL:


We bought a 12' Telemaster, and stuck a G-62 on it. Drove to Danville Virginia to a Giant Scale fly in...It was built using those hardware packages they were famous for- horns, hinges, control ends, bolts , nuts, screws.

Sad to see the demise of the building, but will always remember the great service, and the 'smiling voices', every time we called.



THORSTEN:


I was lucky to meet Jim Martin here in Germany while he was visiting my father sometimes. When I spent 6 months in US back in 2002 I had the chance to travel to HL and I was invited to Thanksgiving Dinner by JoAnne and Jim. We had a wonderful evening which surprisingly ended by offering his guest bedroom to us. So we stayed at Jim's house for the night and had a tour through the HL building the next day. 
It was a great time for me and I am very sad to see this building go. I enjoyed dealing with the whole staff and especially the hospitality of everyone there.
Thanks for a wonderful time....



BEANCOUNTER:


I got my first Hobby Lobby catalog in 1983. It was the greatest piece of literature a teenage boy could get! I wore those things out going from cover to cover. I still miss those even today.



MK:


Here's the oldest catalog that I still have that's easily accessible (I might have more down in the basement). Catalog 19, Winter/Spring 1982. I kept this one because of the cover, an image of a Senior Telemaster flying around the island of Manhattan. Note the World Trade Center Twin Towers in the background on the right. The date this was done was eerily close to Sept. 11th!!!!

The caption was on the back cover:

On September 2, 1991, a team of the Lanci family; Angelo, Chris, Vince Sr., Vince Jr. and Tony Cerasani, Alan Abriss, Albert Finochio, Dr. Gerald Schulze, Paul Benderly, and Richard Turello flew a Hobby Lobby Senior Telemaster nonstop around Manhattan Island! The Senior Telemaster was flown under 19 bridges by two pilots in two separate boats for the 1 hour and 43 minute flight and followed the Hudson, Harlem and East rivers. The hazards of winds, river current, overhanging bridges and power lines, plus flying for nearly two hours in close proximity to ten million people made this one of the most remarkable feats in RC history. Hobby Lobby congratulates the team and thanks them for choosing our Senior Telemaster for this historic flight. Photographs courtesy of Tom Atwood and Model Airplane News.


JAY BURKART:


I sure miss my time at the Lobby...............I started working the shows with them back in 1980 or so and then did Email tech support for about 5 years after I retired from my career in about 2003. I loved helping out other modelers and working on new products. I also built many of the sample models for the catalog pictures and to show at RC shows and we would test fly all of them to check their performance.
Worked for Jim and then the last two owners. The recent owner sold the name rights (copyright) to the Hobby Lobby craft store, then the building and soon pretty much of all the modeling staff left the company after he took over. I don't believe there is any of the long term staff left.



JIM PETRO:


In the "good old days", I was picked to do a few reviews of HL planes for magazines. My wife and I had reason to do a Florida trip and on the way back I saw 'Brentwood' on the map (that's a big folded paper used for car navigating before GPS). I would be SO close. I seized the opportunity and made the impulsive detour that ended on a service road and a tin building. What a wonderful surprise when I entered the door.
Jim Martin was there and we finally got to meet. In his office they were building the next Catalog of Catalogs. Not on a computer but proof page by proof page spread all over the office. I was familiar with this procedure and my gut clenched. I dared to barely breathe and moved carefully as if in a room full of cobras. When I left his office I prayed that the door opening wouldn't create a mini-tornado and blow them all around.
That period is my permanent memory of a best time, and people and the Man.



CATIRDR:


Great article. Sorry to hear this news. I reentered RC planes when electrics started to actually work. I didn't miss nitro. Hobby Lobby was the best!!! Alfa kits with brushless upgrades were the rage. Good times!

I feel for anyone trying to make a buck in this hobby right now. The competition of the world market is tough but the quickness of trends to change in this hobby have accelerated. How do you predict inventory or product life? Everything is moving at 100mph. 

All the best to everyone from Hobby Lobby. You were a bright spot in my day when the catalog arrived.


DAVID HOGUE:


Back in 2003 I got assigned the review for the Mini Telemaster kit. I got in touch with Jim to try to get a little history, sort of a human interest thing, on HL's long-standing staple kit. What he sent me was not about Telemasters, but rather the story of the man behind the plane. Not surprising at all really, from what I know of Jim, his company, and the way they went about things. That review now has nearly 65,000 views, the most popular one I've done.




The Telemaster has been a part of Hobby Lobby's history ever since I can remember, In fact I don't believe they have ever been without one in their catalog! Over the years there have been several versions and sizes, from the standard 70 inch wingspan and 96 inch senior, up to a 12 foot version, the low winged Funster, and now this 45 inch electric-specific model, designed by Tom Hunt. I emailed Jim Martin asking him for some history about the Telemaster and Hobby Lobby, and he had the following comments:

“The Telemasters were the creation of my friend Alexander Engel of Germany. I guess that the first Telemaster was designed and kitted in the early 1960's, but this is just a guess. The airplane had some design similarity to old free flight airplanes which had lifting stabilizers and quite far aft centers of gravity. The Telemasters flew exceptionally well but that was to be expected as they were almost free-flight designs. Alex did not design them: Karl-Heinz Denzin did as an employee of Engel's. But Alex owned the name and the design. Language experts will notice that the name "Telemaster" has no German root words in it whatsoever -- tele from the Greek and master from English. This is because Alex Engel was a great lover of the United States of America and the English language. I met Alex in 1969 at an international pattern flying contest in Bremen, Germany.

Business -- hell, life itself for that matter -- is uninteresting without people. Alex Engel was one of those people who fills out your life by letting you see how far humanity has evolved. Alex continued to be a major part of my life until he died. He had been in the German army and was a radar operator in Sicily with a small outfit that watched the sea for a possible invasion by the Allies. From this point on I only hope that I'm not exaggerating the story because as I've told it over the years I've tended to embellish it and have lost control over the portions that are pure fact.



One night Alex noticed on his radar screen blips that appeared to be incoming ships -- a lot of ships. In 1944 radars needed interpretation as they were simple horizontal line cathode ray tubes and the objects that the radar sensed were just vertical spikes sort of like what you see on a printout from an EKG. Alex awoke his CO and showed him the radar tube. The CO said that the blips were caused by weather, not ships, as there were too many blips to be accounted for by ship returns. Alex opined that they were ships but the CO told him to go to sleep because it was weather not ships. When dawn came the Germans used binoculars to actually see the largest assault force of ships up until that point in WW2. It was not weather -- it was ships. The tiny radar detachment knew that they were about to be overrun and wanted to surrender as soon as the attacking force got close enough to see the little outpost. The officer in charge of the little detachment called Berlin for instructions and was ordered to hold the position "at any cost." The officer was a Nazi and took his job seriously and told his little group that they were expected to defend their position until death -- 25 men against about 10,000.

At this point in the story Alex simply said "apparently there was sniper fire from the ships and our officer was killed, so we made surrender flags out of clothing." Sniper fire from the distant ships? Well, I guess it could happen that way. Somehow their CO ended up dead. Then the German soldiers attached white underwear to their rifles and waved them back and forth frantically as they watched the largest amphibious landing in history take place in front of them. Alex said that the American troops were green -- none had been in battle and they were very nervous. The Germans were very frightened of them and tried to not make any quick movements. Alex did, however, have the foresight to shoot himself in the foot. His reasoning was that this would get him more gentle treatment and prevent him from appearing to be a threat. He was right. The Americans took him prisoner and sent him to a military hospital in North Africa. From North Africa Alex was sent to a prisoner of war camp in Nebraska.

It was in Nebraska that Alex became an American in every respect except citizenship. He had acquired half of an English language dictionary. It went from A through K and Alex became proficient in the A through K portion of English. His knowledge of English helped him avoid the physical labor jobs that he hated. As long as I knew Alex he resisted any physical exertion. In the Nebraska prison camp they farmed sugar beets and gave Alex a hoe. He described to me his shock at seeing the row that they assigned him to hoe: "In that numbingly vast beet field you could see the curvature of the earth as the rows of beets went over the horizon. There was no way that I would hoe those beets." So, when the camp needed a dental assistant to work with the American dentists Alex volunteered. The young American officers who were dentists had better things to do than dentistry on the prisoners, so they taught Alex how to do virtually everything they did to peoples' teeth and Alex took over the camp dentist office. His English improved steadily and at the end of the war the Americans asked Alex to stay on for a year or more to help with various translating tasks. Alex helped but he was homesick for Knittlingen, his home town a few miles north of Stuttgart and he eventually got back home where he started a model airplane business.

Alex died a few years ago and not a day goes by that I don't have a warm memory of him.”

Jim Martin



STEVE CONDON:

Shock and sadness

I was just up early in my shop and was searching for some Multiplex Connectors online because I want the German ones...I think "Hobby Lobby" will have that. I couldn't find the website...stumbled on to this thread and read your whole post. Thank you for that.

I feel so sad...as a 45 year RC modeler I have bought from Hobby Lobby MANY times over the years...never got to go into the "Lobby" as I am in California, but on the phone you got the same level of service and knowledge.


Thank you for sharing this--it helps a little but I still feel like there was a death in the family.

Happy Landings,

Steve Condon

Oceanside, CA


XLCRLEE::


Life goes on (if you're lucky). I remember the ballet or dance school across the road from HL at the highway exit, and Bob Reuther with the "other" small LHS in West End before Percy Warner Park, whose "competition" I am sure also helped inspire Jim to succeed and outdo Bob. And experienced RCers Mailman Mike, Frank Schwartz and all the good folks from the MTRCS. And having chats with Jim about some new plane I'd invented, with Jim tolerantly bemused. Good times ....


After I moved to EU I'd occasionally run into Jim at the Nürnberg Messe


The disappointment over seeing my business closed is totally wiped away when I get letters like this from a former employee:


“You may or may not remember me.  I'm ----------- and I worked for you through the Overton High School co op program in 1975-76.


I drove by the old building to find it was in the process of being demolished.  I know you sold your business several years ago, but just seeing that brought back so many memories for me.


You were the best boss I ever had.  I was 17 years old and you taught me more about how to treat people and how important it was to have a strong work ethic than anybody else in my life.  I learned a lot from you and respected you very much.  I ended up working in the travel industry for about thirty years and won numerous prestigious awards for job performance and customer service.  You were the person who inspired me to work so hard.  I made a career change about four years ago and I now coordinate a volunteer tutoring program for adult immigrants who are learning English.  My customers have changed but  my work ethic has not. I really love what I'm doing and am making a difference in the world.  Thank you for all you gave me.


I ran into you several years ago at a craft fair at the Belle Meade Plantation.  I just looked at your website and it looks like you are still creating beautiful artwork.  That's just awesome.


I am now 56 years old and I still remember you so clearly from 40 years ago.


I hope you're well and had you on my mind today.”

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