Of new homes and AT-STs…


By Shawn Robare

The more time I spend gliding through this wondrous existence I can’t help but keep coming back to this underlying thread of kismet that has ruled my pop culture collecting.  Not trying to toot my own horn here, but I try my very hardest to put out as many good vibes as I can into the collecting and nostalgia community as I can afford.  I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get satisfaction from sharing my collection, through this site and often just sending out pieces to those that I find are looking.  The point is, that I enjoy sharing the love so to speak, and every so often, that love comes back my way and for that I am grateful.

A few year ago I wrote a little bit about my childhood experience with a very particular Star Wars toy, the AT-ST Scout Walker released by Kenner back in 1983.  As I mentioned in that piece my family was uprooting itself from Tampa, Florida and the 1st home that I spent any substantial time in.  My father had landed a new job a couple of hours east in Orlando, and we were in the midst of packing everything up.  I was preparing to leave behind everything that I knew, five years worth of friends, secret short-cuts throughout the neighborhood, and the only house I could remember.  It felt like a pretty big deal at the time, I’d just turned six and hadn’t realized that moving was something that people did.

house in tampa

Before we completely pulled up stakes and left Tampa for good, we took a couple of exploratory trips to the suburbs of Orlando looking for a new house.  Again, this idea was pretty alien to me, and we ended up going to a series of house showings that had a very weird effect on me, in particular I was introduced the concept of coveting other people’s junk.  There were a couple of experiences I had during these trips that had a pretty big impact on me as a kid.  Growing up in the small neighborhood in Tampa we our family lived often times felt very communal.  For instance, there was an old couple at the far end of our oval-shaped development that had a pool that was open to all the neighborhood kids.  All you had to do was knock on their door and ask and you could swim to your heart’s content.  It also seemed like all of the friends I had at the time were really good about sharing our toys.  We were always borrowing each other’s Star Wars or Masters of the Universe figures with little to no squabbling (like in the picture below where I can be seen holding a friend’s Millennium Falcon with joy.)

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But the first time we scheduled a house showing at a home that was still occupied by the family trying to sell it, well, that’s when I first started to covet.  What was the object of my affection?  A lone Star Wars AT-ST Scout Walker toy that was perched up on a chest of drawers in the kid’s room in the house we were walking through.  Being six, the thought hadn’t occurred to me that the stuff in the house wasn’t part of the bargain.  In fact, I spent the next three hours trying to convince my parents that out of all the houses we’d looked through to that point, this last one was obviously the one we should go with.  I mean it was two stories, had hardwoo…screw it, it was because there was an AT-ST in one of the rooms that I really freaking wanted.  After it was explained to me that buying a house didn’t quite work the way I’d hoped (and boy was I a tad relieved when they pointed out that if it had I’d be losing all MY STUFF to some other kid), I was a little crushed.  Getting to have Hungry Howie’s Pizza later that night really didn’t make it better.  Getting to listen to my Michael Jackson Thriller tape on infinite repeat during the two hour trip back to Tampa only helped a little.

At-ST

That one encounter in some strange kid’s room was the only time I ever saw an AT-ST toy in real life.  None of my friends had one, and none of the friends I’d eventually make in Orlando did either.  As much as I wanted one, it was six months until Christmas, and in kid time comprehension that was like years.  So I’m pretty sure that I let it slip from my mind, and by the time Christmas of 1983 rolled around I was probably begging for some other toy that had caught my eye.  If I have to be honest I’ve always sort of had an AT-ST-shaped hole in my heart over the years though.  I never sought it out, mainly because by the time that I was starting to have nostalgic pangs for old Star Wars toys they were already becoming collector’s items and were way outside of my budget.  But also, as I’ve mentioned in the past, there’s this idea I subscribe to, that the hunt is more than half of the thrill of collecting.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I think I knew that I should just hold off.

Then, in an amazing turn of kismet, everything changed recently.  First off, over the past year I’ve been working incredibly hard with my fiancee to save up a nest egg that we could use to buy a house.  It’s my first time as a home buyer (and not just a goofy little kid tagging along with his family looking for one), and this would be the first honest to goodness house that I’d be living in since the early 90s, back when I was in high school and my family lost ours when we had to downgrade after a rough patch.  The idea of finally biting the bullet and buying a house terrified me as I’d become more than accustomed to living in apartments, but the time was finally right and all of the pieces were starting to fall into place.  It was an amazingly hard process where we pretty much had to deal with every possible thing that could go wrong (buyers on my fiancee’s town-home pulling out at a week before closing, contracts on houses that had Tom Hanks The Money Pit level hidden problems, and shyster real estate agents that were stealing thousands of dollars from us.)  But at the end of the day we finally found the home of our dreams and for the first time in 23 years I was living in a house again…

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It’s a little rough around the edges and needs some TLC, but we love it.  At the same time that we were hip deep in this process and not sure whether or not we’d even end up in a house, I received a very kind e-mail from a reader in the UK named Andrew who had stumbled upon the original piece I’d written about my childhood lust for the Star Wars AT-ST Scout Walker toy.  It just so happened that he was looking to part with his childhood AT-ST and we made arrangements to give it a new home here in the States.  Something about the timing of this filled me with a metric ton of hope while facing off against all the house buying pitfalls we were experiencing.  I just knew that this was all meant to be, again, that the pieces were all falling in place, and that for the second time in my life, while house-hunting I was encountering this specific Star Wars toy!

Long story short, just after moving into our new house, Andrew’s gift arrived safe and sound at its new home (my office) where it will be loved and displayed proudly at Branded in the 80s HQ…

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AT-ST-3   AT-ST-2

Don’t think I can thank Andrew enough for this gift and for convincing me that the best practice is to keep putting out as much positive energy and actions out into the world.  Some day, if I’m patient and lucky, lady kismet will make sure that all my pop culture desires are met, and then some!

  • Love these posts Shawn and congrats on not only the AT-ST but the new home as well! The content coming out of Branded has been incredible lately keep up the excellent work.

    • Thank you kindly sir! Trying to class this place up for the 10th anniversary ;)

  • ShadowWing Tronix

    I still have mine from when I was a kid packed away. It’s fun to play with thanks to the double hatch and the walking gimmick. Battery-powered gimmicks are cool but the ones you do yourself is play.

    • Totally. Even as a kid any manual feature outshined battery-operated, or even wind-up gimmicks. Except Starriirs. That wind-up feature was ace.

  • Kirk Demarais

    Cool toy and great home! Love the stone facing and the dormers. Nice to have trees around too. It has a great ‘classic’ post-war suburban look to it. Do you know what year it was built? Would it be considered a ‘Cape Cod’ home?
    I actually like some my home’s imperfections. I think of it as patina. (Although I need to deal with some of it.) As a kid I had friends with ‘perfect’ homes and I never felt fully at ease.
    Anyway, congrats on both!

    • Hey Kirk! Yeah, it’s a Cape Cod for sure. Built in 1947 and it has a lot of character, which is what we were looking for. Lots of renovations over the years, like this ceiling…

    • And the upstairs rooms are all dormer-y…

    • I also fell in love with these arched doorways int eh kitchen…

    • Lastly, we have stairs that go nowhere! The owners moved the stairs and closed off the old ones…

      • Kirk Demarais

        That’s a beaut! Lots of unique character, like you said. The rounded archways are nice, and those rafters for sure. I always wanted the slanty upstairs ceilings for hanging posters. Those stairs could be some great secret shelves too. You got a real find!

  • Dex

    Hey! Get that AT-AT driver out of the AT-ST! lol

    Welcome to the wonderful seemingly never-ending joy of home ownership.

    • Lol, I wondered how many people would point that out ;) I actually only own three vintage Star Wars figures (AT-AT Driver, Admiral Ackbar and Greedo), so the AT-AT driver seemed apropos.
      Yeah, as far as home ownership goes, sigh, I’ve already had to fix a bunch of stuff and it’s only been 3 months LOL.

      • Dex

        I can impart one piece of incredible knowledge: we have a home warranty through HSA (I think?) and that has saved us a TON of money over the years.
        I don’t know the specifics of how soon you have to get it after buying a house but it covers a lot of things that might go wrong with stuff that was in the house when you bought it.
        We’ve used it to replace a toilet, water heater, and some other random plumbing stuff, just had to pay like $100 deductible. It. Is. Amazing!

        • Whoa, checking that out to-night! Yeah, we’ve already had our home owner’s insurance policy canceled (because of a crack in some brick steps that are no where near where one steps or a structural issue, not to mention it on a side entrance to the house.) We had to argue with the company for hours to get them to reconsider, which they did, but man, it was crazy.

  • Great story! Congrats on the home!