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  1. #1

    Default silverstine's army surplus

    My dad worked at Silverstine's Army Surplus on McNichols back in the 50's. Sometimes he was the guy who gave out free toys to kids.

    To a kid like me, that place was a wonderland. They had periscopes, gas masks, dust masks, huge lenses, parachutes, dummy ammo, wheels, infantry field message books with quadruplicate carbons, bayonets, big magnets that would crush your fingers, hand crank generators and motors of all sizes, huge weather balloons, CO2 cylinders, canteens, ammo belts, pouches and backpacks, helmets, knives and machetes, collapsible shovels for digging foxholes, field telephones, canvas tents, stakes, ropes, early "computers" of some sort, all kinds of meters and gauges and wires, sockets, connectors and binding posts, joysticks, electronic and gear assemblies that did god-knows-what, wood and metal boxes-- and all really high quality, with brass fittings, no plastic shit. It was amazing. I even remember how the stuff smelled, especially the dime-a-bottle army surplus insect repellent.

    For a kid, this was the best of all possible places to have your dad work, because he would always bring something home for us in his lunchbox or trunk.

    At dinner, he would tell stories about his co-workers and customers, like how the old man (Nate Silverstine) hated unions, ("I'm rich. I don't need this place. If anybody tries to start a union here I'll just shut the son of a bitch down and you'll all be out of a job. I don't give a good goddamn one way or the other") or how one of the managers, who was a millionaire himself, only put in 4 cents instead of a nickel to the coffee fund because he "didn't use cream or sugar."

    Silverstine had a great business model while it lasted, lot of connections in the surplus business. He'd buy something that originally cost the government thousands of dollars, for a few pennies, take it apart and sell the parts for a few dollars.

    Those were the days.

    Any more memories of that place? Anyone know when it finally closed?

  2. #2

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    Not to mention the amphibius army vehicle out in the parking lot!

  3. #3

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    McNichols and Sherwood right?

    I went for a tumble off my old chopped harley one summer night in '77 at that corner.

    I don't remember it being open around that time. Went by it often.
    Last edited by Dan Wesson; September-10-15 at 03:39 PM.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Wesson View Post
    McNichols and Sherwood right?

    I went for a tumble off my old chopped harley one summer night in '77 at that corner.

    I don't remember it being open around that time. Went by it often.
    Yes, that's the place. Near Mt. Elliot. Web says that Silverstine himself died in 1968, but I don't know if the place closed before or after that.

  5. #5

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    They had the fuselage of a bomber with no wings in the middle of the store. i don't know if it was a B-17, B-25, or B-26, but kids were allowed to crawl though it and it in the bombardiers nose, the pilot seats, and the tail gunners post. They also a couple of navy life boats in the yard. My father took us there a lot and all of my Boy Scout camping gear was war surplus.

  6. #6

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    I think that's where my Mom bought the nylon parachute material used to make her wedding gown in '47.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brock7 View Post
    I think that's where my Mom bought the nylon parachute material used to make her wedding gown in '47.
    Get out, Really? Any pictures?

  8. #8

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    This was one of my dad's favorite shopping haunts. Pics would be great, my memory is getting fuzzy 55+ yrs ago.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brock7 View Post
    I think that's where my Mom bought the nylon parachute material used to make her wedding gown in '47.
    Parachutes were often made of silk back then which would explain using them to make a wedding gown.

  10. #10

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    Hers was nylon as I stated. I still have the dress that her godmother sewed as well as a roll of the fabric. It's a heavy gauge. I never asked, but I suspect that even if they'd had silk parachutes in stock she still would've got the nylon as I expect it would've been lower priced. I'm not sure I'm ambitious enough to dig out her wedding album and the scanner but it looked as nice as any other wedding gown.

    I remember her taking me with her to Silversteins a few when I was a kid, but mostly I remember having to wait in the car for her a very long time before she came out.

  11. #11

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    My father, a veteran in WWII of both Army Air Force AND the Merchant Marine, was crazy about the place.
    I remember he brought home several cases of Army canned water for our half assed fallout shelter in the basement. I still remember seeing those OD colored cans sitting on the shelf. Every once in a while I'd pick one up, shake it, and wonder what it tasted like.

  12. #12

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    My brothers and I were always allowed to bring home one used .50 caliber machine gun shell each, bullet intact, but a hole drilled through the casing so it held no gunpowder.

  13. #13

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    Oh, yeah, I had some of those.

  14. #14

    Default canned heat

    I don't remember the water, but now I recall getting surplus canned heat there in little OD cans.

  15. #15

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    During the war, the government bought and stockpiled some el cheapo gas masks for the civilian population in case the Axis began chemical bombing attacks on the US. My father pickup up two of them for ten cents each (including carrying bag) for my brother and I. They made great space helmets when we were exploring outer space like Captain Video or Tom Corbett-Space Cadet.

  16. #16

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    Don't remember the place, but I remember two surplus stores on Grand River just east of the Sears store at Oakman. One was "Barry's war surplus", the other smaller store was "Harry's". Great stuff in there, also. Smelled like canvas, for some reason.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray1936 View Post
    One was "Barry's war surplus", the other smaller store was "Harry's". Great stuff in there, also. Smelled like canvas, for some reason.
    Harry didn't bathe much......

  18. #18

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    Dad brought home a bombardier's control panel. He had a transformer to power it so all the lights and motors worked. It was about the size of a pinball table. It had four columns of amber lights, representing bombs I think. There were servo switches and glow-in-the-dark switches and a pair of rotating bars to indicate whether the bomb bay doors were open or closed. I suppose it would not be good to release the bombs with the doors closed!

    We've never found a photo of the whole thing but at the bottom was one of these things:


    B-25J Bomb Interval Control

  19. #19

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    It was still open in the early 70's. Not sure of the exact closing date.

  20. #20

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    I'm not sure of the closing either but I did buy a British Fireman's dress coat there- that thing was so heavy! He had all kinds of crazy stuff. What I think I most remember though is the amphibious army vehicle, HUGE tires. I don't recall him having a 'price tag' on that one. Just a really fun place to stroll through- and inhale that 'surplus air'!

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray1936 View Post
    Don't remember the place, but I remember two surplus stores on Grand River just east of the Sears store at Oakman. One was "Barry's war surplus", the other smaller store was "Harry's". Great stuff in there, also. Smelled like canvas, for some reason.
    There was a third War Surplus store there called Anchors. It was small, like Harrys. Story about Barrys...The rumor was if you got caught stealing from there they wouldn't call the Police, rather they would have their young hired help beat the crap out of you. This was back late 40s, early 50s.

  22. #22

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    Interior shot from 1952
    Name:  Detroit_Free_Press_Sun__Dec_21__1952_.jpg
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  23. #23

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    When they opened they did not have a parking lot. You would have to park on Girardin, south of McNichols. The "freebies were right there as you entered the store. Later they opened the parking lot and you could enter the lot from McNichols. What a great store! Better when I was older and had money to shop there. My brother-in-law worked for a chemical company and they purchased quite a few things from the store. Thanks for posting.

  24. #24

    Default Better then Disneyland!

    My dad would take me and my brother in the late 50’s or early 60’s, he served in WWII with the 100th Infantry Division in Germany. I think I still have the old bazooka sight that I bought for 10¢ on one trip. We would always stop at Jack & Jill’s drive-in at 6 Mile & Caldwell on the way back. Happy memories of times gone by.Name:  silverstine's-2.jpg
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  25. #25

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    So, what's there now? Is the building still there or was it demolished?

    Thinking it'd be cool if it was like a time capsule, closed and nearly forgotten, but the stuff still inside awaiting a new owner to reopen. I know that isn't possible ... just day dreaming.

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