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Rocketships and Accessories, South Street

When I was a nerdling, there was no internet to speak of, and no easy way to find like-minded folk in the world. I was really lucky that there was a local gaming store with a back room where people could play strategy games, Dungeons and Dragons, what-have-you. There I fell in with the first tabletop gaming group I ever had that wasn't neighborhood kids, a bunch of folks of assorted ages but most of them older. It was eye-opening that there were folks out there with the same nerdy interests who were educated, had jobs, lives, other interests - were productive members of society.

As is often the case with the gaming hobby, they were all very smart, very well educated, and all a somewhat Misfit Toys. They were great friends and mentors, kind and encouraging. unclekage was one the crew, though he went on to do great things after leaving the Philly area for Dartmouth. Anyway, back in the 80's, anime (then known as "Japanimation") was nothing but an obscure and severely nerdy thing that only a few people were interested in. We had to go to downtown Philly (really it was Rittenhouse Square, I think) to meet up with the Philadelphia Japanimation Society once a month or so. There we'd watch whatever thrice-copied video that someone's sister's boyfriend's cousin had brought back from a trip to Japan. There were no subtitled or dubs, so either we just had to guess what was going on or maybe someone had a ditto sheet with a rough translation or plot-guide from someone's uncle who spoke a little Japanese. Afterwards we'd often go to South Street, then the Philadelphia capital of outsider culture.

Something today brought to mind the musty glory of "Rocketships and Accessories" - a store on South Street that had vintage and imported ray-guns, rocketships, robots, etc. A lot of it was the atomic age tin-toys from America, but there were also Japanese imports which at the time were extraordinarily exotic. I loved that store. I can still smell the aged cardboard of the garishly illustrated boxes, the muggy Philadelphia summer night, the wet street outside. I was hit full-force with a nostalgic blast from that more-innocent time, when I had no idea what half characters were. When it was just amazing to realize that I wasn't some weird and singular misfit, but other people had similar interests, and it was okay to be strange. A cheesesteak at Jim's Steaks, or maybe a gyro at South Street Souvlaki (is that still there?), ice cream from Ishkabibble. We'd cruise through Zipperheads (what was the name of the other punk rock shop that used to be down the street? I once got an awesome pair of used boots there that I would kill to have today!), check out Tower Records (after it opened) making sure not to miss the Classical Annex. I mean, a whole store of nothing but Classical Music? I doubt it's still open today, it's probably a Gap or something.

I miss Philadelphia, but it's more that I miss a particular spot in time in Philadelphia. Summer on South Street, late 80's, before it was sanitized and commercialized. When it was still magical, or maybe when I was less mundane.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mark Gradwell
Jun. 21st, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
South street
South street souvlaki is still there. The other punk shop you are thinking of was probably Skinz. I miss that place. I never made it to rocketships and accessories, but I had their catalog and still do today.

It's too bad south street is pretty much just an outdoor mall anymore. I think even zipperhead has closed.
John Pelura III
May. 12th, 2013 06:34 pm (UTC)
This is one of the few References to Rocket Ships and Accessories on the internet. When I was a kid, and still today, I was a huge Dr. Who fan. For my 13th birthday in '85, I asked my parents to embark on the hour journey from South Jersey to Philly so I could visit the store. When I walked in I was thrilled there were others like me there. I ended up getting few Dr. Who items and a keychain which I still have.

Sadly, I think it's a tattoo shop now.
May. 13th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
It's a lost treasure, I tells ya. But on the other hand, it's great that what was the lot of lonely outsiders is now fairly mainstream. There are whole tv channels dedicated to us! And Dr. Who is more popular now than ever. These days you can tell someone you're a Whovian, and they'll say, at worst, "Oh yeah, I've heard of that British show, right?"

But still.

I wish Rocketships and Accessories still existed. There's a robot store in the valley, out here in LA that's as close as I've ever found.

I wonder whatever happened to the mad glorious bastard that opened that shop up?
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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