February, featuring fabulous fotos!

Alliteration, boys and girls. It’s known as alliteration.

Thus, with such a delightfully educational intro, let’s get right to the photos!

February 2018

We start off with this great Baja Breaker variation (courtesy Big Tractor Mike; photo by Original Ken). This is “Motocross Team”, part of the Scene Machines series.

1979 was a very creative year.

1979 was a very creative year.

Next is this 1978 Holden Pick-Up (courtesy Big Tractor Mike; photo by Original Ken).

...Which is *not* 1977's '56 Hi-Tail Hauler(!).

…Which is *not* 1977’s ’56 Hi-Tail Hauler(!).

I have to say, I am very impressed by the level of detail on these bikes.

They even went so far as to give them different numbers.

They even went so far as to give them different numbers.

O’Ken goes big-time with this 1/24th-scale John Force funny car by Winner’s Circle from BTM. Unboxing it for these photos was quite a project. I think it took Ken about ten minutes!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The chassis and everything else is plastic; the body shell is surprisingly heavy metal.

And now presenting: Another New Feature! BTM asked me if it was possible to have the post photos (which I’ve standardized to 550 pixels wide) link to larger versions. There are in fact several methods; but the easiest option seems to be to use something WordPress offers: the Gallery.

Now, generally speaking, each of these posts, with its collection of photos, can be considered a gallery. But WordPress’ gallery function is a browser script which provides an interactive display. In fact, the slideshow, which I first used in August of 2017, is a variation in the gallery settings. I created larger photos here, some as wide as 1,000 pixels. I then chose various display settings (in this case, three columns of circular previews), and inserted the gallery.

To view the larger images, simply click on any preview. This will open the gallery to that image. You can then go from one photo to the next using the left and right arrows (screen or keyboard). To exit the gallery, click the X near the upper right corner, or press the Escape key. Enjoy! (And post your opinions on this new feature in the Comments.)

BTM has been having trouble with his e-mail, so I’ll have to wait for him to post info about these models in the comments.

As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to our Find of the Month item, often one model just stands out; yet sometimes I have to choose between two. I have in fact done dual FotMs. But this meeting was unique, in that I honestly was equally impressed with all the models.I have chosen to forego “multiple” FotMs, because I think that’s a bad precedent. So I carefully reviewed the photos, and one finally began to draw me in. So, for its working gate, its real metal chains, and its beautiful hand-cut wood siding, this custom by Doug for BTM is Suncoast DiecastersFind of the Month(*) for February 2018.

Not your typical Woodie.

Not your typical Woodie.

See you at our March meeting!



K-Day Update

I reported back in November the sad news that our local K-mart would close (and it has). I didn’t know if Mattel would continue the K-Day tradition in light of all the store closings, or whether our county’s last K-mart store would be included if it did continue.

I recently received e-mails from Hot Wheels Collectors advising of the next K-Day event. Per the store list, it has in fact been moved to our last Pinellas K-mart, and the details are on our Calendar.

(I won’t be attending. Once again I’m uninspired by the event cars, and that’s too long a drive just to see what else shows up in the boxes.)

January 2018 Update: Great Start to the New Year!

You may recall that previous years’ January updates were lightweight affairs. Post-holiday wind-down, attendance was low, and few if any trades took place. This year, our January meeting was radically, wonderfully different — a good crowd, and some serious treasure-tradin’ and car-findin’!. So get to the photos!

January 2018

You’ve seen various farm dioramas from Big Tractor Mike before. Well, sir, I walked into our January meeting and hardly got situated, when I looked over and saw the biggest display BTM had yet brought in. BTM asked for several photos; I took ten photos overall, including a few focusing on a certain special black truck. Later I’ll update this update with info from BTM on what you’re seeing here. In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ed was in attendance, and brought in a wonderful variety of models: Treasure Hunts, almost all in Kar Keepers; quality loose models in Jammers; packaged sets; and … the cardboard box.

It was about a foot square, and loaded with loosies priced at “priced to move” prices. A few guys began cautiously picking through the box. Then Ed, to ease their hunting, unceremoniously dumped the whole thing out onto the table:



From this forlorn pile of rejectlings several treasures were found. For example, here are the ones Original Ken acquired:

Matchbox ambulance, and High Speed police car.

Matchbox ambulance, and High Speed police car.

Matchbox Mayflower moving truck with opening rear doors (and without rear axle).

Matchbox Mayflower moving truck with opening rear doors (and without rear axle).

Ferrari Testarossa, a transitional Corgi casting issued by Hot Wheels. The blue Malibu with flames is a Jada, from Big Rob's son Robby

Ferrari Testarossa, a transitional Corgi casting issued by Hot Wheels. The blue Malibu with flames is a Jada, from Big Rob’s son Robby

Speaking of Kar Keepers: I told you I would, and I did. I asked around at the meeting if anyone had a Kar Keeper or Protecto Pak. Big Tractor Mike demonstrated some left-over holiday spirit and RAOK’d me with a P’Pak! Later, I secured my Milano as promised.

See? The one Milano is safely MOC in the shell, while the other can be displa-- THE DEATH STAR HAS CLEARED THE CARDBOARD! THE DEATH STAR HAS CLEARED THE CARDBOARD!

See? The one Milano is safely MOC in the shell, while the other can be displa– THE DEATH STAR HAS CLEARED THE CARDBOARD! THE DEATH STAR HAS CLEARED THE CARDBOARD!

Ken got this sweet Zee (Zylmex) school bus from BTM. Overall the package is in really nice condition, with beautiful artwork.

I'd give this Zee an "A".

I’d give this Zee an “A”.

By the way, I was originally going to not point out the vintage price tag, as Wal-mart is quite contemporary. But then I thought about the fact that Zylmex has been gone for a while. In fact, according to the Zylmex Tribute Page, the company went out of business in 1996. As of this writing, that’s twenty-two years ago — in other words, nearly a quarter of a century. I guess that’s pretty darn close to vintage.

(I haven’t included a separate photo of the price tag because this image is very close to the original’s size, and is quite clear.)

Big Rob had a nice assortment of Johnny Lighting Lost in Space miniatures, and sold this Robot B-9 to … somebody. Seriously, neither Rob nor Ken nor myself can remember who bought this. Even so: Enjoy your recent purchase, Unknown Suncoast Diecasters Member!

Mystery Collector; Are you ready for your Mystery Collector?

Mystery Collector; Are you ready for your Mystery Collector?

As club photographer, I’m always taking photos of people’s treasures. But at this meeting, something unique and wonderful happened: Ken took photos of my treasures! Ken was impressed by the cars I found, and snapped photos for our club’s Facebook page. For example, from Robby, Big Rob’s son, I bought this NASCAR Stocker. Very good condition. This is the version which says “Racing Stocker” on the base. While not the exceedingly rare “Mountain Dew Stocker” version, I am nonetheless very happy with this model.

Although, to be honest, I'm a Coca-Cola man myself.

Although, to be honest, I’m a Coca-Cola man myself.

From Ed’s pile-o-playthings, I found three cool models. First is this Mercedes convertible by TootsieToy.

This is a really good-looking casting.

This is a really good-looking casting.

Then I got these two unusual Hot Wheels models:

Okay, that … that photograph might be a little misleading. Actually, I posted it to proved these are Hot Wheels-branded. Further, they’re copyrighted 1985. And that’s all we know about them. Here are the actual models:



As you can see, they’re somewhat cartoonishly proportioned. Both have the same base, and the same construction: The one-piece engine/interior simply snaps into the body shell. Both have friction motors. The blue is gummy, and goes neither far nor fast. The red on the other hand still performs relatively well.

However, quite seriously, no-one in the club has any idea where these models are from. Not even Ed, who had them in his cardboard box. So if any of you fellow collectors out there can shed any light on these mystery mobiles, please let us know in the Comments. Thanks!

So, let me make this official: 2018 starts off grandly with Dual Finds of the Month(**): Ken’s classic Zee bus, and my Hot Wheels oddball unknowns. Three cheers and a tiger for us!

…And, our January updated was posted with a tiny little sliver of January left! Celebratory victory dance!

See you at our February meeting!


December 2017!!!

A holiday family gathering…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With appropriate musical accompaniment…

So, let us get to the photos!

(Oh, and our Calendar has been updated for 2018.)

December 2017

Our Christmas bonus for 2017 came in the form of a new member. We have Original Ken and Emergency Back-up Ken, and now along with Big Tractor Mike we have a bonus Michael! He’s a friend of BTM, and brought in some handiwork. The green-&-white tractor is BTM’s; Michael fixed the wheels and axles of it for him. The silver tractor is Doug’s, and Michael cut some clear plastic sheeting to make windows for its cab.

By the way, both models are 1/64th-scale.

By the way, both models are 1/64th-scale.

Michael also made the tanks. They were plain cardboard tubes with plastic endcaps. He painted them white, then bent thin steel rods to make the pipes.



Who’s that handsome fellow hiding in there?

Not it!

Not it!

Clearly that’s Doug’s tractor. But the real point here is not who’s hiding, but where the hiding is happening:

The broad side of a cliché.

The broad side of a cliché.

This is another custom build by Doug for BTM. I don’t recall what specific type of structure it is (I’m still a-waitin’ for an informative e-mail), but even though Doug says it’s not yet finished, I can tell you it’s really quite impressively detailed.



Heck, I’ll even show you!

All pieces hand-cut and hand-assembled by Doug.

All pieces hand-cut and hand-assembled by Doug.

Those square structures above Doug’s tractor are the bottom ends of these square structures.



I did say it’s impressively detailed, did I not?

Well, actually I typed it, but still...

Well, actually I typed it, but still…

The holiday spirit was flowing freely, as Tom RAOK’d Ken with two wonderful items. The first is this Dale Earnhardt-themed photo album.

(The pockets inside are empty; it's the cover that makes it collectible.)

(The pockets inside are empty; it’s the cover that makes it collectible.)

The second is this magnificent Brickyard 400 commemorative mug.



In keeping with the holidays, I merrily declare this genuinely wonderful (and wonderfully generous) dual gift to be Suncoast DiecastersDual Finds of the Month(*) for December 2017. Congratulations, Ken! (And thank you, Tom!)

This grumpy old race car I know once told me somethin': it's just an empty cup.

This grumpy old race car I know once told me somethin’: it’s just an empty cup.

See you at our January (2018!) meeting!


Christmas in Florida

I really have to thank the Lord for this photograph. I was going to post just the photo, no text or commentary, but it all went so well that I have to tell you about it. It was taken out on the Causeway, about mid-day with the sun behind me. I piled up some sand to form a raised surface for the props, rather than shooting “down the slope”. I found a somewhat flattish rock to set the camera on.

There was no way for me to get down and accurately aim using the optical viewfinder. And of course, the sun essentially washed out the camera’s LCD preview screen, so I couldn’t tell if I was centered on the props or where the focus landed. In particular, I had no way of knowing whether the waters of the Sound provided the background I hoped they would. I was going to shoot multiple photos using different flash settings, just to see if one worked better that the others. But once I realized I was, as it were, “shooting blind” because of the sun, I simply went with the one photo, with the flash off and using only natural sunlight. I used the timer for stability, because even my lightest press on the shutter button would’ve jostled the camera on the rock.

After the shutter clicked and the camera finished processing the image, I previewed the photo by cupping the camera right up to my face. I had made no adjustments to the zoom setting, other than changing from Normal to Macro because the camera was so close to the mound, so I was surprised — and concerned — when I realized the props took up only a very small portion of the total image, as if I had shot from farther back. But I knew I could not improve upon the circumstances, and headed home accepting that however the photo came out, that’s all I had to work with.

Imagine my absolute delight and pleasure when, after offloading the image to my PC, finding that not only were the props very near the center, but also that the focus was just about dead-on perfect. There was actually very little I needed to do to the photograph. In fact, the single biggest change was rotating it a few degrees so the horizon was actually horizontal. I was also happy to see that the waters of the Sound fill about the middle third of the background. Otherwise, it was simply cropping it and a few other, very minor edits. Speaking of cropping, even though the props were very little of the images’ full “real estate”, even when cropped they were larger than the size I’ve standardized for our photos, so I actually had some working room for the edits.

So, despite not having anywhere near the control of the set-up that I typically have for our in-meeting photos, the Lord gave me a holiday photograph which required very little hands-on effort on my part. Even that flattish rock was a miraculous provision. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a mediocre Festivus, and a Happy New Year!

Re-gifting a Web Page

If you’ve spent any time perusing the Suncoast Diecasters website, you know one of our pages is a Christmas Panels gallery. Similarly, if you’ve spent any time perusing our website, you know of our problem with PhotoBucket. I have uploaded copies of our Christmas Panels images to our local WordPress space, and replaced them all on that page, which has also been updated to include Christmas 2016. So, please enjoy our freshly re-worked, re-wrapped and re-gifted Christmas Panels gallery!

November 2017 Update – now with text & photos!

Been putting in extra hours at work because of the holidays. Nice for my wallet, not so nice for my free time. Particularly, it’s been impacting relatively frivolous things such as club site updates. That’s also why it took so long for me to post my lament on the closing of a K-Mart. So, no silly intro this month. Just get to the photos!

November 2017

Emergency Back-up Ken brought in this fabulous BMW Isetta 250. The Isetta has had a bit of a resurgence in pop culture popularity, thanks in part to TV shows such as Family Matters and American Pickers. Among toy car collectors, it’s probably best known for its super-powered appearance as Hot Wheels’ Whatta Drag. The Isetta is classified as a microcar due to its small size. Just how small is the Isetta?

Well, this is a 1/43-scale model ... and it's *barely* the size of HW's VW Drag Bus.

Well, this is a 1/43-scale model … and it’s *barely* the size of HW’s VW Drag Bus.

What’s this?? (asked William Dozier):

The zippest car collection, indeed.

The zippest car collection, indeed.

That’s the back (or front, same view) of an unopened shipping pack of Inside Stories (“Storys”?), courtesy of Big Tractor Mike. BTM explains that this is how Hot Wheels were shipped way back when: A box, not dissimilar to the boxes one sees at a K-Day event, contained not a well-organized arrangement of ready-for-hanging mixed models but rather the lot of identical models bagged thusly. That this set is still in its original bag is of course super-rare and thus super-special. Upping its specialness (in case you missed it in the above photo) is this neat detail:

Practically a brand unto itself.

Practically a brand unto itself.

Yes, these are from the near-mythical and poorly-documented Leo editions from India. With the exception of a “native language”-edition backer, one usually has to do some research to determine which country a particular Hot Wheels model is manufactured in. The Leo models, in contrast, are always clearly identified.

Now, here’s the hard choice for the serious collector: to open, or not to open? If one opens the pack to better display the models, the value of it being specifically an unopened shipping set is immediately lost. On the other hand, the set as it is … is frankly not much to look at display-wise.

Tom continues his reign as Suncoast Diecasters‘ Viscount of VWs with this purchase from BTM. This is the Volkswagen 1500 Saloon, (No. 15), a limited model in production only from 1968 through 1972. He paired it with a custom re-paint by Jim in the form of a candy-apple red Ice Cream Truck.

Note Jim's rustic hand-hewn lettering.

Note Jim’s rustic hand-hewn lettering.

Original Ken was RAOK’d via BTM using this custom edition of Jaded. This one features an illustration of that incredibly popular and very well-known DC superhero who developed bird-like superpowers after getting bitten by a radioactive raven, and who was advised by an old man, Remember, if you ever get superpowers, you should probably use it to do some good, instead of not doin’ some good.

In this scene, he's battling ... I don't know, Godzilla, I guess.

In this scene, he’s battling … I don’t know, Godzilla, I guess.

(Ahem) It reads: ‘From a time when nearly all businesses depended upon these versatile small commercials to deliver a variety of goods throughout the country.”

Please read along silently, as I type aloud.

Please read along silently, as I type aloud.

And just what is it delivering?



Courtesy Emergency Back-up Ken, this is the Scammell refuse lorry, a 1:76-scale three-wheeler from Oxford Diecast. Of course, it does not deliver garbage. It collects waste material from the residence or office, and carries it to a waste handling and processing center. Which … is … in actuality, delivering something from point A to point B. So, yeah, this thing really does deliver garbage!

Honestly, I don't know why you were giving me such a hard time about it.

Honestly, I don’t know why you were giving me such a hard time about it.

For its recognition and celebration of mundane workhorse vehicles, its well-sculpted detail, and for simply being a really good-looking model, I declare the Scammell refuse lorry to be Suncoast DiecastersFind of the Month(*) for November 2017.

Congratulations, EBU Ken!

Congratulations, EBU Ken!

See you at our December meeting!


K-Day: A Bittersweet Farewell…

First, the bitter:

As I approached the store, I stopped suddenly, frightened by the presence of printed signs taped inside the doors. I was still too far to read them, but I feared the worst: that another K-Day had been postponed, or even cancelled. I walked up to the doors, and read the signs:

And then he fainted.

And then he fainted.

I had a brief moment of relief, learning that it was about layaways. Then the weight of those last two words started to hit me:

Store closing. Store closing.

Store. Closing.


Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.

I really couldn’t comprehend it. Yes, I know K-Mart and its strange bedfellow Sears have really been struggling for quite some time. Yet, with each new round of store closings, this one remained. And it made sense to me: It’s on a very busy corner, and is easily accessible from several directions. Heck, it can even be approached from its back lot, as long as one drove slowly and minded the pallet debris. There’s as Burger King just to its north — good placement for dining and shopping — and a Toys ‘R’ Us a block to its south. It’s across US 19 from a major mall, and the rather well-designed over/underpasses make it easy to go from one to the other from both the north and the south. I’ve done that crossback myself numerous times. And this store was always busy.

Well, I’ll get back to these lamentations later in this post.

And now, the sweet:

(Again, thanks to the Lord that I even learned of this K-Day event, almost literally at the eleventh hour. I discovered later that the e-mail notification for this event went to my spam folder.) I can honestly say that this was the most enjoyable K-Day I’ve attended in some time. And that includes the post-Irma rescheduled K-Day, which itself was very good. Several long-timers such as Steve and Jayce were there, as well as new attendees such as Joel and Louis. There was joking, talking, complaining, reminiscing and sharing all around, almost literally like a Thanksgiving family reunion. If this was indeed my last K-Day, the Lord certainly made it a good one.

One of the things I picked up was the mini-poster for the very attractive ’56 Chevy Convertible mail-in promo. I usually don’t get these, and in fact the last one I got several years ago I ended up giving to a young nephew. But I wanted to get as much out of this K-Day as possible, so I took one. And that Chevy does look sweet. (No, I won’t be ordering one; I stopped that years ago too.)

Free mini-poster + Dollar Tree frame = Happy!

Free mini-poster + Dollar Tree frame = Happy!

As I have stated numerous times over the last many K-Day cycles, I had not been moved by the Special Colors or First to Market offerings. Yet when I saw the Baja Hauler on the HW site, I thought I just might enjoy getting that one. And I still can’t figure out why. I usually don’t collect trucks; I don’t collect “baja” versions of vehicles; and I’ve never cared for the “art car” variations. This thing is all three of those, and I still bought it. Heck, I really don’t even like its plastic, chintzy-looking, candy-colored cab and stacks; yet I like the model as a whole. Eh, I guess there’s no accounting for taste. Or buying decisions.

Three of these things are not like my others / Three of these things do not belong (in my collection typically)

Three of these things are not like my others / Three of these things do not belong (in my collection typically)

Well, at least it has this super-neato Special Feature:

An opening door on a Hot Wheels model! Will wonders never cease?

An opening door on a Hot Wheels model! Will wonders never cease?

I wonder what’s inside of it…?

"Nuthin'" -- Yukon Cornelius

“Nuthin'” — Yukon Cornelius

Next, I got this cool ’55 Chevy. Jayce, a few others and myself conjectured that this specific variation may be a left-over from a previous K-Day. Regardless, I find it quite attractive and am glad to have it.

Far less expensive than the mail-in promo, and only one year older.

Far less expensive than the mail-in promo, and only one year older.

And now for the item that made this K-Day an over-the-top experience:

"Behold!" -- Drax.

“Behold!” — Drax.

Yep, the Lord blessed me with a model of the Milano, Quill’s ship from Guardians of the Galaxy. Heck, I forgot that Hot Wheels was even offering it. And on those occasions when I did think of it, I presumed it would be part of an expensive, over-packaged “entertainment” series. To not only get one, but to get it at the mainline 1-dollar price is amazing.

And it was a genuine, if amusing, miracle as to how I found it. By this time all the ticket-holders had gone through their boxes, and so now the boxes were being handed back and forth so everyone could take one more look. I grabbed a box, not even really looking for something, just seeing what I could find. As I sifted through the cars (which are lain on their sides in the box), I saw what I could only described as “spindly things” between two models. I pulled it out, honestly expecting something ridiculous such as Purrfect Speed [Dear Mattel: Please cool it with the silly animal-based Hot Wheels models. Thank you.] This moment is recreated for you here in this totally staged-at-home photograph:

Illustrated: Spindly things.

Illustrated: Spindly things.

Imagine my shock and surprise when I realized what I had discovered. I quickly showed it to Jayce, evoking a wry smile from him. I was and am incredibly happy.

And then the Lord blessed me a second time:

“Oh … yyyeeaaahh!” -- Rocket Raccoon.

“Oh … yyyeeaaahh!” — Rocket Raccoon.

I can honestly say that if finding the first one was a miracle, finding the second was even more so. This was very near the end of the meeting, and most of the toys had been spread out on the table by the participants. This was primarily to empty out the boxes (which hold about twenty-four cars) so they could carry their own cars in them, but also to make it easier for their fellow attendees to further look over the cars. I was about ready to leave when I decided to just glance over the table one more time. And there it was, sitting out in the open, near the corner of the table, yet completely ignored by everyone else, as if it were invisible.

Now, at this point, I know what’s going on; we’ve done this dance before. Some of you are getting dizzy, starting to feel light-headed, and wondering if you need to hit 911 on your speed-dial. And the answer is yes. Yes, because I will be opening one my Milanos to display it freely. But don’t worry, the other one will be staying pristine and secure in its blister. In fact I’ll be looking for a Kar Keeper to further untouchify it.

Final thoughts…

After I got back in my truck, I sat there for some time, thinking things over. I realized that once I started leaving, I would literally be driving away from my last K-Day event ever.

My first K-Day was in 2004, which is the year that the Swoopy Do was introduced, and that’s one of the cars I picked up then. One of my favorite K-Days was in 2006. That’s the event during which this older fellow with a baseball cap and pony-tail handed me a flyer for a new collectors’ club. That guy turned out to be Original Ken, and the club was Suncoast Diecasters. I went to that first meeting and had a great time, returning regularly (for the most part) ever since. Within about a year I became the club’s Webmaster and Photographer. Suncoast Diecasters has become a greatly-appreciated Additional Family for me, and it all happened because I attended an event at K-Mart.

My family moved to Pinellas county in the late ’70s. We’ve shopped at this K-Mart hundreds if not thousands of times. Back then, our store, the Countryside store, had both a sit-down cafeteria at the back of the store, and a deli counter up front. I remember particularly enjoying the chocolate shakes, because after pouring the shake into a cup, the attendant would always put the metal tumbler (holding whatever didn’t fit in the cup) on your tray as well. It was like always getting a second shake free.

I remember one time while lunching there, there was this small paperboard display on our table. I have no recollection of what was promoted on the front, but I recall that it had the names and logos for K-Mart, Kresge and Jupiter on the back. I hadn’t seen those other two names before, but I eventually realized that K-Mart was part of the Kresge family of stores.

My mom almost always got ham at the front deli, as our last stop before exiting the store. She was convinced it was the best. I have no idea what actual brand (Branding!) of ham it was; we just always called it “K-Mart ham”.

I thought back to the last couple of years of my Mom’s life before she got too sick to remain at home. She had developed this somewhat amusing shopping habit. I’d take her to K-Mart, and she’d buy several shirts and slacks, never trying them on in the store; she’d always do that at home. And a few days to a week later, she’d have me take some or even all of them back because they didn’t fit right. This happened several times a year, and after the first few times I came to expect it.

I mentioned near the top of this post the various local details which to me had kept this particular K-Mart going in the face of numerous store closings. I’ve now realized the irony that very similar conditions did not prevent the prior closings of two other stores. There were at least five K-Marts in Pinellas county. There may have been more; I just know the five: this one at Clearwater/Countryside; one south near central Clearwater; one up in Tarpon Springs; one down in Largo; and one way down in St. Petersburg.

The one in Clearwater closed first. It was on Gulf-to-Bay boulevard, a major traffic channel. Its plaza was between two major intersections. Yet these and other factors did not prevent its closing. It was replaced with a Sears Home Goods or Sears Outlet or some such variation; that, too, is now closed.

(This has reminded me of another Sears closing. In Largo, across from Sunshine Mall [also gone] was a Searstown shopping plaza. I never shopped at that Sears, but I always liked the plaza’s classic main sign with its retro, cursive font.)

The Tarpon Springs K-Mart went next. Again, located at a major intersection, lots of traffic, easy to get to … and still not enough. Over the last few years I found Hot Wheels cars there that I wasn’t finding elsewhere. Pure happenstance, certainly, but I found it worth the trip.

The Largo store was the third to go. Sadly, I have to admit it wasn’t so unexpected. That store was always dirty and messy. On top of that, a shiny new Wal-mart moved in across the street several years ago. Ironically, it caused me to visit that K-Mart more often. My only efficient option for leaving the Wal-mart plaza was to turn right out of its north exit. Since I was facing east anyway, rather than turning north at the intersection to go home, I would often just “naturally” roll on through and stop over to that K-Mart.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been having memories of spending a lot of time at the Largo K-Mart, maybe fifteen years ago (the time frame is strictly a guess), shopping in a certain pattern within the store over and over; memories so clear I could almost redraw the store layout for you. The only thing I couldn’t recall was why. The Holy Spirit just brought it back to me: Garden borders. My Mom always kept our yard decorated with trees and gardens. At some point she began buying (and I began hauling) a particular style of scalloped garden border from K-Mart to surround the gardens and trees. But then we couldn’t find them. After several trips in a row with no borders, we asked a cashier in the Garden Center about this. We were told that, for reasons I do not recall, this K-Mart, “our” K-Mart, was no longer stocking them. But, then we learned that the Largo K-Mart was still getting them. So, several times a year, for a couple of years, I would drive down to the Largo store; park by the Garden Center; see how many borders they had so I could see how many I could get on that trip; go inside and visit my favorite departments (Toys, Electronics, Hardware, etc.); make my purchases; and go back out to the Garden Center to get the borders. Honestly, it’s strange how clearly I see myself retracing my steps in that store.

Curiously, shortly after the Largo K-Mart closed, Wal-mart closed its new store there, tore down the old K-shell and built a shinier, newier store across the street from its former self. This basically killed the old plaza. Among other stores, there was a Dollar Tree, a relatively new Aldi, and a barber shop which had been there for decades. But when Wal-mart skedaddled across the street, most of the old plaza’s customers went with it. There’s an Old Time Pottery in there now, but most of the smaller spaces are still empty.

The plaza the Countryside K-Mart is in used be almost twice its current size. It was L-shaped, with a big paved gap between the sections so you could use the southwest exit without having to drive all the way around the “foot” of the L. There were probably twelve to fifteen stores there. Beside K-Mart, one of the larger tenants was a Michaels craft store. There’s also a YaYa’s Chicken. (There used to be a Long John Silver’s in a stand-alone building out on the eastern portion of the lot; it closed and the YaYa’s moved in there.) I seem to recall a dry cleaner at the west end of the L-foot. I have no recollection what took up the main part of the foot, but something, perhaps a Jewel Osco, moved in about eight years later. Some time in the ’90s (I think), the foot was torn down, and everything but K-Mart was gutted out of the other section, and a Lowe’s went in there.

By the end of January 2018, it will just be the Lowe’s and the empty K-Mart shell. I don’t know if Lowe’s will expand into it, or tear it down, or if some other store will move in there. I hope a new tenant moves in.

Some people point to K-Mart’s relationship with Martha Stewart as the start of the chain’s troubles. Others fault its purchase of Sears. Neither K-Mart nor Sears seemed to effectively capitalize on online sales. Self-promotional giants Amazon and Wal-mart are harsh competition. Many business writers fault Sears CEO Eddie Lampert. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these things.

And yes, I know, nothing lasts forever. All good things must come to an end. It just bothers me that so many pieces of the fabric of Americana have disappeared. Jackson Byrons (later J Byrons, then just Byrons), gone. Not much for toys, but I remember our family shopping there very often. (That’s another lament for Sears; they had a really nice toy department, at least through the ’80s.) J C Penney is and has been struggling for years. Woolworth’s, Woolco, McCrory’s, Zayre, all gone. The Sears at Countryside Mall (now Westfield Countryside, officially) gave up half its first floor for a Whole Foods Market.

Soon, only the St. Pete K-Mart will be left. I’ve never been there, but I recently found out via their website’s store locator that it’s not tooo far from the Sports Bar & Grill. So, after our December meeting I’ll drive over there and check it out.

I don’t see myself actually attending a K-Day event there, however. As Jacye pointed out at this last K-Day, if the Countryside regulars attend a St. Pete K-Day along with the St. Pete regulars, that seriously reduces one’s odds of getting an early-round draw in the ticket raffle. Plus, that’s an awfully long drive south for that hour of a Saturday morning.

Of course, I say that now. We’ll see what happens when the next K-Day rolls around.

As I said, I’ve been attending K-Day events regularly (with a few misses) since 2004. I don’t know when K-Day started, or when they began doing three a year. But from ’04 through ’17, I’ve had approximately forty opportunities to not only get my hands on the freshest Hot Wheels models, but to also just enjoy the company of fellow collectors.

K-Mart, thank you. I wish things were going better for you, and I hope you get things fixed; but thank you for all those wonderful opportunities. Mattel, thank you. I don’t know if you’ll go in with another store chain if K-Mart finally folds (I hope you will); but thank you for having these little parties for your collectors. Thanks to Jayce, Adam, Steve and all the other Countryside regulars for years of laughs, jokes, complaints, photos (and the associated bragging rights) and the great camaraderie. And thank you, Abba-Father, for arranging to have Original Ken show up with a stack of flyers at that wonderful 2006 K-Day.

To you collectors who’ve never attended a K-Mart Collector Day, if you have a K-mart near you (or reasonably not too far from you), I recommend that you attempt to attend one if you get the opportunity. You’ll meet fellow collectors, and be part of something that’s becoming more and more rare.

And finally … See you at our December meeting!