Friday, February 25, 2011

Game Stores: Cosmic Aeroplane (Salt Lake City)

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©1985 Steven R. "Steve" Jerman
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Steel Pulse Record Store Appearance. Cosmic Aeroplane
I've been thinking a lot lately about all of the game stores, past and present, that I've visited over the years to get my gaming fix.  I think the news about Border's stores filing for Chapter 11 hit me kind of hard, since the big two-story store in Pasadena was one of my old favorite late night hang-outs (before they changed the hours to close at 10pm instead of 11pm).  When I heard about Border's, it made me think of how much it would suck if I didn't also have a local game store to visit.  Luckily for me, I have a pretty decent store within walking distance of my house, Game Empire

So, this post will serve as the first of a series of "salutes" to game stores I've known over the years. First up: Cosmic Aeroplane in downtown Salt Lake City.

As I've mentioned before, my gaming experience started in Salt Lake City (Sandy, UT, to be proper) when a bunch of my friends taught me the basics of the game and also introduced me to pulp fantasy and science fiction of all kinds.  Back then, most of TSR's (the company that made Dungeons & Dragons at the time) big name products like the D&D Basic Set and the core AD&D hardbacks were available at department stores like Gemco, and at some bookstore and toy store chains as well.  But, I quickly learned that some of the other products I read about in the catalog included in my Basic Set, or in the ads in The Dragon magazine, were not available in these bigger chain stores.

Of course, this was also back before Al Gore invented the Internet, so you couldn't just hop on your Commodore 64 and order up a bunch of stuff.  So, I did what everybody else did back then - pulled out my parents' trusty copy of the Yellow Pages and looked up "hobby shops."  I found two that seemed promising, and if memory serves, they both mentioned they sold D&D products. 

So one Saturday I begged my mom to drive into "the city", which was about a 20 minute drive but for some reason back then it seemed like a major ordeal.  She agreed and 20 minutes later I entered the dark, smoky cavern of the Cosmic Aeroplane.

Now, those of you who grew up in Salt Lake or who visited the Cosmic Aeroplane know that, at its core, it was really more of a combination record shop / head shop / hippie hangout.  But they also sold a lot of alternative press books, t-shirts and other clothes, and in the basement, some RPG stuff.  It was at Cosmic Aeroplane that I first saw support material for Gamma World (rather than just the boxed set of the 2nd Edition rules).  And, my primary purpose in going was to look at their game inventory.  I couldn't have cared less that this was one of the only stores in Salt Lake City with a decent British punk and new wave record collection, and I had no idea what a "head shop" even was back then, so in my heart, Cosmic Aeroplane will always be a game store.

I remember that I didn't have much money and I was sort of paralyzed, and yet sadly somewhat underwhelmed, by the game selection at Cosmic Aeroplane.  I had thought the entire store was going to be dedicated to games, but instead they were relegated to the basement, while the cooler stuff was upstairs.  I ended up purchasing a set of Gamma World character sheets, which I really didn't need, but I kind of liked the artwork on the cover.  To this day, I've never actually ever used any of the character sheets.  They're all still neatly attached.

While looking for a photo of the shop for this post, I read an archived article from the Deseret News newspaper in Salt Lake City that the Cosmic Aeroplane closed back in 1991.  Apparently even by the time I went there in the mid-1980s, it was already on the downward slide from its former glory days.  But to me, the Cosmic Aeroplane kind of set the stage for what a game store is to me: dark, weird, disorganized, and populated by people who actually could have been models for the mutants on the cover of the Gamma World character sheets book. 

I really wouldn't want it any other way. 


  1. Wow, did you just make an Al Gore internet joke?

  2. I just do that to see if you're paying attention.


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