Category Archives: Life reflections

Up, Up, and Away – –

Jack makes it in time again – just – – –

I came across a photo recently that brought back many memories of one of my teenage passions.

I think I was first introduced to the magic of flying model planes by my Dad – he was recuperating from two broken ankles and built a model glider from a kit. Then a beloved woodwork teacher at the high school I attended started a model building after school club when I was about thirteen. He and some of his adult friends went on to establish Dunfermline model aircraft club and rented an old empty house in a village just outside town. I joined that and could go there any time to work on my models or just hang out with my pals. We also shared copies of two popular specialist magazines – Aeromodeller and Model Aircraft.

We lived on the edge of town with fields right behind the house where I could test fly my planes, but the club had permission to fly on farmland further away. So most weekends when the weather allowed I would walk the thirty minutes to the clubhouse and then a further thirty minutes to the flying site.

Most years a group of us would rent or borrow a van and drive to the Scottish and British championships, although we rarely won anything.

I was most interested in two specialist types of planes – competition free flight and ½ A team racing. Free flight involved the model corkscrewing up vertically under power for 15 seconds and then gliding for as long as possible in circles. You were allowed three flights and if any exceeded three minutes that was termed a ‘max’. All those that got a full set of maxes went on to the next round and so on until you had a winner.

But there was one member of the club who was a few years older than me that became a big influence on me. He introduced me to jazz music and he was snappy dresser, so of course I became a snappy dresser too! Ian wasn’t interested in free flight; his passion was team racing. This involved planes flying very fast (80 – 100 mph) in a circle aiming to be first to finish. They were ‘control line’ models (U control in the US), with the pilot in the middle of a 100 foot circle holding a U shaped handle with two thin wires attached to the plane which controls the up and down movement. The models have a specified size, engine capacity and fuel tank capacity. Up to four planes fly simultaneously with all the pilots entwined round each other in the middle. I was the ‘pitman’ and my job was to refuel the racer and restart the engine while dodging the other ones flying over my head.

I continued as a member of the club until I was about twenty and over time there began to be quite an overlap between models, jazz and eventually folk music.

That link eventually re-emerged when I was booked to sing at Dunfermline folksong club about twelve years ago. My old high school woodwork teacher, George Simpson, was in the audience!

Many years later and after I retired and moved to the US I revisited my teenage passion and discovered that electric motors had taken over as well as cheap and easy radio control. Much less messy and much less likelihood of losing models – or breaking a finger with a back-firing diesel engine!

2 Comments

Filed under between books, crafting, Life reflections, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

A Boy’s Toys – – –

Jack just scrapes over the line with his Wednesday guest post – –

Like most people I have recurring dreams and in one of mine I still have all the cars I owned in my youth but can’t remember where I parked them around my home town of Dunfermline. As long as I can find one I can get to work but where are the others?

So that’s a good excuse to describe these cars in the order that I owned them –

The first was a 1938 Austin ‘Big 12’ which I bought from a workmate in a share with a couple of friends in the late 1950s. It lasted until the tubes started poking through the tires and the muffler fell apart. I was playing banjo in a New Orleans style jazz band so it had a musical send off on its last trip!

The second was an Austin Mini that had seen better days – full of rust and didn’t last long.

The third was when I hitch hiked to Bedford in England and then shared with friends – a 1935 Austin 7. It had cable brakes that never worked but it brought us back to Scotland eventually with smoke coming out around the gearstick every time we climbed a hill!

Fourth was another mini and this time the van version and in better condition so it lasted longer.

Then I got a Morris Minor – the British equivalent of the Volkswagen, that predated the Mini. My main memory is having the cylinder head out and on the kitchen table while I re-ground the valves!

After that a Triumph Spitfire that had the infamous transverse rear spring which produced my first ‘near death experience’. Wet leaves on the road which resulted in cartwheeling down the road from front to side to rear etc. I still have a scar on my forehead from the rear view mirror!

Following that came the most famous one – my 1962 MGB Roadster which was sold to a friend and eventually back to me again to grace the roads of America.

These were the early ones and were followed by a Maxi, a Wolseley 1800 and numerous Saabs.

Leave a comment

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, crafting, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch