WOLFEBORO – The 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon will be here Saturday, and Lakes Region science-fiction buffs will have their shot at rubbing “elbows” with a “space traveler” of a different stripe at a new shop in downtown Wolfeboro.
The robot from the 1960s television series “Lost in Space” — known officially as the B-9 — will make an appearance at the Wolfeboro Bay Hobby Shop on Saturday.
The hobby shop rendezvous on the day Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon is not a coincidence, said shop owner Rob Olive, who opened just three weeks ago.
“I was planning on doing something special, anyway, with my Apollo and lunar landing and space-shuttle model kits and stuff like that, so having the robot here is an added bonus.”
The man who made it happen is Daniel Schroeder of Laconia, who serves as custodian for the robot and takes it around to shows — like the NorthEast Comic Con & Collectibles Extravaganza — for the Massachusetts owner who had the robot built in 2006 under a licensing agreement with Irwin Allen Productions.
Allen is best remembered as the creator of such television classics as “Lost in Space,” “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “The Time Tunnel,” and he also produced films like “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure.” The latter films earned Allen the nickname “The Master of Disaster.”
While the robot that will spend Saturday at Olive’s Wolfeboro hobby shop isn’t the same one that appeared in the TV series (and made catchphrases like “that does not compute” and “Danger, Will Robinson,” famous), it’s a pretty sophisticated replica.
“This one is animated,” Schoeder said. “It turns at the waist, left and right. It has almost 500 phrases.”
The panels on the midsection light up and, when the bubble on top of the robot is fully extended, it stands almost 7 feet tall.
“The robot, it’s a big draw,” Schroeder said. “People, first thing they see it, they know what it is. People think ‘Lost in Space, that silly ‘60s TV show,’ but it was a big hit in its time and it’s still on somewhere. It has a big following.”
Based on the reaction he’s seen on social media thus far, he thinks Saturday’s visit will have a strong turnout.
Schroeder said it’s not unusual for people to line up by the hundreds to get their picture taken with the robot, and Olive is hoping that is the case on Saturday, which is also the grand opening of the Wolfeboro Bay Hobby Shop.
“It’s free,” Olive said, noting the robot will be there from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. “You can come in and take a picture with him. He’ll be in the store and be talking and hopefully moving around.”
They’ll even take a photo of the robot cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the store, Olive said, though that will be a little bit of fiction: The robot’s claws don’t actually work, but the arms can be positioned for posing, Schroeder said.
Olive, who taught English for 30 years at the high school and middle school levels, said he opened the shop because “I decided I wanted to do something fun for a change.”
He first visited northern New England when he was living in New York City and came up to teach archery at a summer camp in Maine, about an hour from Wolfeboro.
He loved the community and, when he was ready to give up teaching, Wolfeboro beckoned. “I said, ‘It’s a little town, I think they’d appreciate a throwback mom-and-pop hobby shop.’”
The fact that there were no chain hobby stores in town offering models, magic kits and other items was a huge plus, Olive said, and he relished the opportunity to realize a dream.
The shop is big on models — including those from the Lost in Space, Star Trek and superhero franchises, along with assorted muscle cars — and Olive also carries model and coin-collecting supplies, ventriloquist dummies and a lot of other items he will gladly list for you.
Olive also found a local sweet spot of sorts with the “Archie” comic book series, which was created by the late Bob Montana of Meredith.
“I bought, like, 118 of them off eBay,” Olive said. “People sell their collections, so I thought, ‘Oh, this would be fun to have in the store.’ Well, I’ve already sold 48 of them in two weeks. They go for $2 each, and they’re selling like crazy.”
“I’m originally from Texas and, when I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, we always had the local hobby shops, and that’s what I wanted to re-create,” he said, noting that a model train makes the rounds of the Main Street store overhead. “I really want it to feel like an old store from the ‘50s.”
In other words, a place that could evoke the era before man walked on the moon.
Intern Carson Doherty contributed to this story.
To contact Roger Carroll, email him at email@example.com.