By Ann K. Williams
July 6 -- The day before the Fourth of July, a dad
in a baseball cap and his two teenaged sons in summer garb
stopped by the local hobby shop to check out model fighter
They may not have known it, but the well-mannered shopkeeper
showing them a video of the latest remote control beauties
was one of the first to wed radio technology to airplane models,
a father of the popular hobby.
and his wife, Yvonne. (Photo by Ann K. Williams)
And they surely didn’t know that come next summer Colby
Evett’s model shop on Ocean Park Boulevard will likely
shut down for good after 60 years in business, another victim
of Santa Monica’s rising rents.
Evett expects the rent to double, as the landlord brings
the rents up to market value on the storefronts along Ocean
Park Boulevard between 16th and 17th Streets.
“You’ll no longer be able to have a mom and pop
type business here,” said Evett.
Evett’s Model Shop has spanned the decades from the
late 1940s just after World War II ended into the 21st century.
The model rockets displayed in the front window are artifacts
of the space age that was just a dream when he and his first
wife, Mary, started up the business.
She was a “real Rosie the Riveter” who was looking
for something to do when Douglas laid off its women war workers,
Evett said, and he had just come back from a stint in the
Navy as a machinist’s mate.
“When we opened the store in 1948, I felt radio systems
would be the future,” Evett said, as he showed his well-worn
but neat and organized workshop in back of the store.
A bank of dials set in sheet metal backs one workbench where
he repairs radio parts. It looks like the set of a 1950s science
The odor of varnish permeates the workshop and spills into
the jam-packed store, where biplanes and air force fighters
hang at all angles from the ceiling. The display cases harbor
a wonderland of miniature parts, kits of all kinds, from corvettes
to spitfires to sailboats, stunt kites, beakers and petri
dishes, bead sets, even a hologram of a toy pig.
But there’s more to Evett’s shop than hobby kits.
“I worked for all the studios,” Evett said. One
of his models “dropped bombs on Wonder Woman,”
and another, a 50-foot train, was the star of “Avalanche
“We blew up the last three cars,” he said, adding
that the title avalanche was a torrent of margarita salt.
One long weekend, he worked overtime to build a model of
a plane in time for a trial about a plane crash. And he produced
three giant model jets for a movie shot in Butte, Montana,
though by the time he got them there, they’d been cut
from the script.
A recent job involved rigging up a jumping skittle bag for
a TV ad, using his radio technology.
“It’s been a busy 50, 60 years,” Evett
said, as he ticked off the various challenges to his skills
as a master model maker.
“My work was in the forefront of radio control,”
he said. “Everybody who had a question, they’d
come to me.”
Even now, in the day of computer generated special effects,
his expertise is still in demand.
School children building “mousetrap” cars for
their science classes at John Adams Middle School and Boy
Scouts trying to win the pinewood derby seek him out, as do
hobbyists who’ve bought kits off the Internet, but don’t
know how to make them work.
“There’s hardly a senior citizen in Santa Monica
who hasn’t been in here at some time in their life,”
His shop has something to appeal to everyone.
“A lot of mothers come in buying kits to try to get
their kids off the TV games,” he said.
Evett has plenty of retirees among his customers. Often,
they’re former cabinetmakers or airline personnel who
finally have the time to devote to their hobby, he said. “It
keeps their minds going.”
And it keeps Evett going strong well into his 80s.
“This is his life,” said his second wife, Yvonne.
“I never, ever heard him say, ‘I don’t want
to go in.’”
When she isn’t volunteering as a hospice care worker,
Yvonne helps out with the steady stream of customers who come
into the store.
“Every year for at least 45 years, we never had a down
Evett said. But that may not be enough to hold on beyond
next summer. That’s when this year’s lease runs
“He’ll eventually put us all out, change the
face of Ocean Park,” Yvonne said.
In the meantime, they’re going strong.
When Evett finished helping the teenage boys pick out their
models, he loaded them up and sent them off with a smile,
just as he’s been doing for nearly 60 years.
“Okay boys, you should have a going battle there.”