I like plastic. Most modern scale model construction kits are made of polystyrene, perhaps the most famous plastic. Airfix, perhaps the most famous brand name in plastic kits, has relied on injection-moulded polystyrene since the early 1950s. I like Airfix and have been lucky enough to write books about the brand.
I’ve written other books, some about toys and some focussing on wartime subjects such as the air battles during the Battle of Britain or the threatened Nazi amphibious invasion of the UK in 1940. Nostalgic fascination is my passion. But history isn’t always about grand things and a recent purchase in Brighton’s Snooper’s Paradise, one of my favourite emporiums, got me thinking about other things that were a significant influence on my childhood.
Founded by American Ron Popeil in 1964, Ronco was all pervasive when I grew up in the 1970s, sharing prime-time TV advertising slots with K-Tel, another US icon, founded by Philip Kives, a salesman, who incidentally bought and marketed a number products from Seymour Popeil, Ron Popeil’s dad. Which man can be truly credited with introducing the suffix ‘-O-Matic’, I don’t honestly know, both Ronco and K-Tel’s catalogues were full of Veg-O-Matics, Dial-O-Matics and Brush-O-Matics. Sadly, in 2017, Ronco filed for Chapter 11 in the US. K-Tel is still with us, leveraging its enormous back catalogue of hits which include Chubby Checker’s The Twist, Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti and Surfin’ Bird by The Trashmen.