Next Christmas morning while your neighbors' kids terrorize your street with a
radio controlled monster truck, remember your debt of gratitude to Mr. Colby Evett,
owner of Evett's Model Shop on Ocean Park Boulevard for the last fifty-nine years.
"I could see back in '48 that radio control was the wave of the future,"
says the white-haired, 84 year old Evett. He is the inventor of the first multi-toned
transmitter and receiver. Multi-tone transmission allows an RC-controlled vehicle
to conduct more than one function at a time, for instance, move forward and
That makes Mr. Evett the Elvis of the RC hobby. He is swarmed at every RC conference
he attends, and has been the focus of many national and international magazines.
He shows me a picture of himself from an early '60s Japanese publication. In
it he looks like a NASA engineer.
Walk into his store and you are suddenly in an arcade of 20th Century American
boyhood. Suspended from the ceiling are models of B-52 bombers, Blue Angels
jets, WWII corsairs, camouflage-painted F4 Phantoms and a wood-and-fabric Spirit
of St. Louis.
The walls are lined with boxes of other model kits: Sherman tanks, battleships,
alcohol burning funny cars, the first lunar module, submarines, the Titanic,
and yes, the Visible Body kit.
Here you can buy the kinds of rockets you shoot over the airspace of a city
park to have drift down to earth on a tiny parachute. There are cabins made
of balsa wood and functioning metal draw bridges. There are displays of paints
and glues and brushes and tiny instruments to work on these small scale engineering
In glass cases are the guts of the now modern and high-tech RC operational
systems, all carrying a bit of the genetics of Mr. Evett's own original invention.
Evett runs the store with his second wife, Yvonne, who he calls "hon."
It is busy even on weekdays.
When I was visiting, an artsy-looking young man in paint-splattered jeans came
in, looking for the tiniest and most obscure gear for an airbrush. Evett had
one for him.
A father walked in with his daughter, who picked out a solar powered windmill
kit. A young man came in looking for a small bottle of "hunter green"
paint for a model he was building. Evett pointed out the color from a rack of
tiny Testor's bottles.
Later a mother came in with her son on an expedition for a model airplane to
build. The boy was sulking and bored.
Evett shook his head and leaned into me to explain, "Parents come in trying
to get their kids off of video games," as if describing a gambling addiction,
"but a lot of kids' hearts just aren't in it any more."
Evett, a South Carolina native, landed at Douglas Aircraft months before Pearl
Harbor. Once the war broke out, while most young men his age were being drafted,
he received a deferment, given his work in a vital defense industry.
It was at Douglas that he met his first wife, Mary, one of the Rosie the Riveters
at the plant. She passed away in 1996.
He picked up a box containing a model of the Douglas A20 bomber, to show me
the aircraft he worked on during the war years. "I was foreman of a line
of 30 men responsible for bolting the wings onto the fuselage, and install other
That small equipment was electronics, which gave Evett his expertise.
By the end of the war, which eventually included a short stint in the Navy,
he had established a good name for himself at Douglas. But he couldn't
stay put. He knew that somehow he would put his knowledge of small
electronics and the model planes he loved as a kid together and
make it into a business. He didn't know yet at the time that he
would make RC history.
"The rest of your life is a long time," warned Evett's boss. Good
for us Mr. Evett took the leap.