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Author Topic: Growing up in the Good Old Days - 1965  (Read 3854 times)

Offline CosmicWind

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Growing up in the Good Old Days - 1965
« on: January 09, 2017, 09:35:46 PM »
My Start in Model Aeronautics
October 20, 2016
CosmicWind (see the full article with photos in the newsletters of the Piston Poppers at )

Shortly after joining the Piston Poppers in the winter of 2015, I wrote “Feeling the Pull”. It was a story about how I restarted my model aeronautics hobby. This is the older story of how I originally got started, way back when  . . .
In the mid 1960’s, when I was an elementary school kid in Marshall, MN, model aeronautics, railroads, slot cars and powered Cox cars was going gangbusters. The good stores (those that sold toys) carried Cox, Guillows, and Testors airplanes, along with many plastic airplane models, glues, paints and Cox Fuel. Addison Hardware, a little family hardware store, carried tall 1.5volt batteries for glow plugs.
Christmas time was extra special. Trees and light poles in downtown were decorated. There was ALWAYS fresh snow on the ground, and airplanes and toys filled a good sized niche at Ben Franklin, Woolworth, Gambles and Runnings. We walked with googly eyes up and down the aisles, dreaming about all the fun to be had, if we could just convince someone to buy us a worthy toy for Christmas, instead of socks or underwear.

Somewhere in those elementary years, a series of personal experiences with things that fly brought me to this most excellent hobby.

One day, I’ll say it was Christmas because I just can’t recall, the folks gave each of us youngest boys a Guillow’s wind-up airplane with landing gear. I was amazed! It not only took off from our rough old porch, but it could fly! The rubber band and airplane usually lasted as long as we could control our enthusiasm.
It was around my 3rd grade year, in the summer, when the neighbor kids produced a 5-gallon bucket of plastic model airplanes. We hand-flew the little fighters around the yard, imagining ourselves in the great aerial dog fights of WW2. Mustangs, Spitfires, Messerschmitts and Zeros screamed and turned in our hand as we rat-a-tat-tatted each other out of the sky.

It wasn’t long before my brother Dave and I were assembling plastic model airplanes on tables in our room. The plastic model phase of my hobby continued on and off for several more years, and included an SR-71 Blackhawk, Star Trek Enterprise D, and a giant Apollo rocket with removable command module and lunar lander. I even presented the Apollo in show and tell at school.
It was around my 4th grade year when my friend, Brian Johnson, invited me along to fly his Estes rocket just outside of town. He actually built something he could fly, and boy did it go, and fast! Then the wind, who is not my friend, took the little rocket away, never to be seen again.

Undeterred, positive and impressionable, I purchased an Estes rocket and motors. As I happily built and flew the Alpha, then the Arcas rockets, I dreamt of someday building a more expensive but exceedingly cool multi-stage rocket. I went as far as to submit a detailed X-15 design to Estes, hoping to win a free prize of incredible value so I could afford it. The prize didn’t arrive, and my weed pulling money dwindled.
By 1970, in about my 5th grade year, my brother Mike returned from Vietnam. You may remember him as the brother that carried the Johnston airplanes home from Boise, Idaho.

By some heavenly intervention, he decided to build a Kenhi Cougar in our basement on a sheet of plywood. I watched intently, month after month, astonished at its complexity, his care, and the huge airplane emerging from balsa and Elmer’s glue. Eventually he covered it with tissue, doped it down and mounted a Super Tigre something to pull it through the blue prairie sky.

It was a beautiful work of art that deserved all the attention he lavished on it. I adored that airplane.
Did I mention that Mike had never flown nor built a control line airplane?

He didn’t have the Piston Poppers to teach him to fly, or to help tweak the controls, or to warn him to start with an Akromaster. All my poor brother had available was me, a scrawny 11 years old kid, holding his prized orange and black stunt airplane as its muffler-less engine barked and pulled at my hands, as he ran for the red handle. One incredibly tight inside loop later, it was all over.
Much later, he let me harvest the wing for an airplane with dowels for a fuselage. It never flew again.

One day in maybe 1972, my brother Dave and I were ogling Cox airplanes at Ben Franklin. He eventually purchased a nice-flying L-4 Grasshopper with his lawn mowing money, while I opted for the cheaper Testers Mustang with my worm selling money.  The Testors P-51 was a beautiful, sleek looking silver airplane, with shiny aluminum paint and close-to-scale wings. I was convinced it would fly like a dream. It was solid too, perhaps a little too solid if you catch my drift. When the Testor’s motor would start with our cobbled together flashlight batteries, it would go in a circle when I whipped it a little. It landed rapidly when the fuel ran out, then the silver paint came off. Regardless, it flew and I was a very happy and proud young pilot.
By 1973 I graduated to full balsa kits, building a Guillow’s Cessna, a Guillotine combat plane, and the plastic-bodied Spitfire you see below. Eventually I branched out into a Cox Dune Buggy (the next picture down). That “Little Devil” airplane is my first Frankenstein, using the Cessna wing and who knows what fuselage and tail.
Sometime in there, Mike began work on his second control line airplane, a Carl Goldberg Cosmic Wind. I sat in the basement once again, intently watching his progress. This airplane looked like it could go a hundred miles an hour. This is a picture of Brodak’s Cosmic Wind, based on the Carl Goldberg design. Mike’s was green with a white fuselage.

After completing the Cosmic Wind, and covering it in Monokote, he started driving semi-truck, leaving me to mount my new K&B 35 Stallion. I flew it in the pasture at my sister and brother-in-law’s farm sometime in the mid-1970’s. It was the most amazing flying machine of my airplane career, up to that moment. I even ventured to make a loop or two and flew it inverted without incident.

The Goldberg design, combined with Mike’s meticulous construction, made it one tough airplane. After restarting the hobby in 2012, the old Cosmic Wind came out of storage. With a few minor repairs she was up and flying again. It has endured flights with several novice pilots, and suffered some balsa snapping impacts, only to fly again another day. It currently is in the micro shop for replacement of the fuselage.

That brings us to Discover Aviation Days, and my time with the Piston Poppers.

Well, that’s my story.

Thank you for reading.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2017, 11:11:12 PM by CosmicWind »
Feel the pull!

Offline john e. holliday

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Re: My Start in Model Aeronautics - 1965
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2017, 09:31:30 AM »
Great story.
John E. "DOC" Holliday
10421 West 56th Terrace
Shawnee, KANSAS  66203
AMA 23530  Have fun as I have and I am still breaking a record.

Offline Bill Kuhl

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Re: Growing up in the Good Old Days - 1965
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2020, 09:08:15 PM »
  Great story, I live in Winona MN but grew up in Rochester. I fly it all; RC, CL, and FF.  I am getting my Goldberg Buster flying again that I flew when I was a kid.

Bill Kuhl

Offline kevin king

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Re: Growing up in the Good Old Days - 1965
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2022, 12:58:09 AM »
Aaah the good old days...When two 8 year old kids could go to Kmart and purchase  a can of Cox Racing fuel. Found out later that day that not all flames are visible.

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