A Brief History of the MSMC

by Mike Richardson

It was in the mid 1960s that model collecting came out of the closet. Dirty raincoats were discarded and at last we pioneers could admit publicly that we bought the Dinkies and Corgis for ourselves, not for an imaginary ’younger cousin’. The hobby had been well established in France and Italy for some years, but they were ‘foreigners’.

From 1963 there had been a magazine, Model Roads and Racing, later to be re-named Miniature Auto, but this majored on slot racing. Stirling Moss wrote the introduction for the first issue. The magazine merged with Model Cars in 1968.

A collectors’ shop, Auto Models in Finsbury Pavement, London, was doing good trade by this time and was importing Solido, French Dinky, Rio, Mercury and Tekno models from Multisports in Paris. They offered these goodies by mail order for those of us who lived in the sticks. They started a club which met in a pub in Clapton and some of the faces who went there are still around today.

Mike and Sue Richardson pictured in the Observer colour supplement, 12 May 1974.

This club encouraged two Maidenhead collectors who met when one advertised in the local paper wanting to buy Matchbox models. The other replied to the ad and so they met. In 1969 Tony Gleave and Bob Ewers put on a display of models at a craft exhibition. Other like minded people saw the show, and joined in. Initially it was just a regular, informal gathering to see, discuss, exchange models, and have refreshments prepared by Bob Ewers’ wife, Pat.

As the numbers increased a decision was made to put the club on a more formal footing and meetings were then held in the Jack of Both Sides pub in Maidenhead. The name was decided on and a committee formed late in 1969. The ‘Static’ part was to warn slot racers that we were not catering for them.

More exhibitions and shows were put on, some as part of craft shows, some tied in with local school Open Days. The Pre-50 American Auto Rally then had an annual show in Maidenhead and the club put large displays in a marquee at these. These were later replaced by a tent at the Littlewick Green show which was visited for many years. The most ambitious display was a 24 foot table at the Model Engineer Exhibition in London. This brought in many new members, a lot of whom are still very active in the hobby today.

The great increase in the numbers of collectors showed the need for organised week-end meetings to allow people to travel further to buy, sell and exchange their models. Dr. Cecil Gibson, the hobby’s ‘founder’ along with Reg Miles, had hosted two such gatherings at his home but these were not widely advertised. It was the M.S.M.C. who organised the first English swapmeet for the general collector. This took place in a small intimate bar with very low light levels in the Monkey Island Hotel at Bray near Maidenhead in January 1971. Someone from the South Coast, no longer with us, was trying to pass repaints off as genuine mint Dinkies - just shows that not a lot has changed over the years!

The venue was too small, and far too dark, and so the meet moved to a primary school in Windsor. We soon outgrew this, also someone’s kid flushed a rare fungus down the loo so we were asked not to come again. The next move was to Trevelyan School, known to the oldtimers as ‘the old school’, in Imperial Road by the roundabout.

This was the last time that tables were free, you just queued up in the playground and at 11am you paid your 25p, rushed in carrying your stock and found a vacant table. If we ran out of space the friendly caretaker would open more classrooms for us. Eventually the meet got so big that we had trouble from the local residents over parking. As most of them had kids at the school the P.T.A. leant on the headmaster and we were forced to move again.

We visited a couple of hotels serving Heathrow airport before settling at the Montem Leisure Centre in Slough where we are still. We have had to hold two meets away from this hall when the staff ‘forgot’ our booking.

Over the years the club has seen many changes. We have organised visits to places of interest, overseas swapmeets and museums. From very early days the club has raised money for charities involving children. It has, until the recent rebuilding, had a permanent display case of members’ models at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu since its official opening on 4 July 1972.

The Joys of being the Toyfair Secretary!

Some notes from the past covering a few of the things which can go wrong.

The night the tables did not arrive: The tables were hired from the Hire Shop to be delivered Friday afternoon. One Friday the Montem manager phoned at 7.30pm to warn us they had not arrived. A visit was made to the Hire Shop, now closed, and a very stroppy note put in the letterbox. We decided that the meet would go ahead with the table positions marked in chalk on the floor and all money refunded. However, after consuming some alcoholic beverage to numb the mind, a phone call was received from the Montem saying all was well - the driver had gone home for his meal first.

Crunchy Sandwiches: We did our own catering in the early days at the old school and served from the canteen. Sandwiches were made a few days in advance to ease the workload on the set-up day and kept in the freezer. One meet they were still in the freezer on the day and early customers got cold crunchy sandwiches. We were later accused by the school cook of “abusing her tea towels”. How this could be done we never found out.

Collapsing Tables: At the Holiday Inn we used their tables, some of which were circular. One day one table was not properly locked in the horizontal position and all Dave Gilbert’s stock slid to the floor with a sickening crash. A few seconds of stunned silence followed, then a few words were clearly heard which we will not quote here. Fortunately very little damage was done.

Children are not welcome: At the Holiday Inn the children were organised by one of the older kids which left the adults in peace to play with their toys. We found later, as the hotel manager told us, that the kids had been riding the lifts, testing the electric shoe polishers and putting ice cylinders from the ice makers on their fingers and dripping water all over the hotel.

Things people leave at meets: When meets started we tried very hard to find the owners of ‘useful’ things left behind. We used to get phone calls like “did you find a box of Yesteryears in the car park?” and “I think I left a Corgi Fire Engine somewhere in the hall”. When we had half filled our shed with old Hornby 0-gauge track, tatty magazines and such we realised that they had been left deliberately. From then on anything left would be added to the stuff auctioned for charity.

Sorry, the Montem is booked that day: We found four days before a swapmeet that a major sporting event was taking over the whole of the Montem and no-one had bothered to tell us. Frantic efforts produced a hall in the Slough Community Centre about half a mile away and the meet did actually go ahead.