Zoot's Mixture

February 2011

Living in the past, through periodicals

By Zoot Zoomer    

At the 2010 Northwest Control-Line Regionals, there was a “magazine stand” near the registration table.  Available were issues of old modeling mags dating from the 1940s through the 1980’s from the estate of Wayne Spears.  Sales of the old periodicals were being donated to the coffers of the Regionals.  So, enjoying a spot of CL history now and then and to help out the cause, I decided to pick up a few issues.

I selected a couple of dozen Model Airplane News primarily from the time period of 1949 to 1950.  After reading these issues I am convinced that there could not have been a more interesting window of time in control line history than this. There was so much development and evolution  in the sport going on at this time, it just seems amazing to me. This period of time is of course not long after WW2, and the Korean conflict was looming.

Up until WW2 the modeling game was free flight, control line flying was a new concept and of course everything was somewhat on hold until all the boys came home.  Control Line activity then exploded and was king for many years.  Of course Free Flight remained on the scene with many modelers doing dual disciplines.  Radio control was still mostly a rocket scientist’s type of endeavor and would not really come into dominance for several more years.

Shortly before this period Ray Arden introduced the glow plug and the model engine industry, and hobby, changed overnite.  While it was good for the free flight fellas, it was tremendous for the control line enthusiasts. Now with the elimination of the weight and space of the batteries, coils, and ignition wiring of those cantakerous spark engines, life was greatly simplified and no doubt the planes also flew better.

Virtually the first CL competition event was speed. After all, what is more basic than just trying to go faster than the next guy? The speed classes were at early on given designations of I, II, II, IV, etc., corresponding to engine sizes.  Before long this was changed to the more famliar A, B, C, and D.  The Dyna Jet engine was announced in 1946, and by 1948 Jet Speed was an official event.  1/2 A speed would come along a little bit later after the small size engines became popular. The first appearance of the speed pan concept was seen with the Hell Razor design, the advertising of the day referring to this development as “metal alloy cast bottom”.  The very first version of the monoline control system happened toward the end of 1950, but it would not see popular use until the mid 50’s.  And amongst all of this, many opined that the speeds were too fast!  Jim Walker had suggested that speed flying should be done in caged circles for safety!

However, there were also aerial “tricks” to be done, so stunt flying and the planes used evolved quickly during this period.  It seems that new designs would appear almost every month, whether in a construction article or new kits on the market.  Some of the magazine ads seemed a bit corny regarding the new offerings, such as touting a plane’s ability to do amazing maneuvers such as vertical eights!  The “modern” pattern had not been established yet, so what was being flown in contests then is what we now call “old time.”

Also in the infancy stage was something initially called “Team Speed”and then officially known as Team Racing.  This came from the famous F.A.S.T. club of Southern California.  Team racing would later morph into rat racing and a myriad of other racing classes.

The year 1950 also saw the first incarnation of the Carrier event. And of course there were always Scale enthusiasts modeling various full size aircraft. And flown at first as a novelty, that is, putting two planes in the circle at once towing streamers, the Combat event shortly thereafter came into being.

This time period also saw the formation of the W.A.M. (Western Associated Modelers) organization, which was a big deal back then.  The group was formed primarily as a result of the many clubs in California wanting standardization in how contests were scheduled and operated.  An entire article could be devoted to the W.A.M. history, so maybe that’s another topic for later.

And some things it seems haven’t changed, or put another way, there is very little that is new.  Quite a bit of editorial space in the mags of this era were devoted to such subjects as:  How fair was it that the average Joe Modeler had to compete against the “Modeling Pro”.  There was plenty of criticism on how the A.M.A. operated, particularly regarding the rules making procedures and process.  But this topic blew me away..... it was perceived that there was a “junior problem” at the time, because youth participation was down from the earlier decade.  This goes to show that some things are only relative to the timeframe.  Sure wish we had what were considered reduced numbers of youth modeling back then now in today’s world.

Also interesting to note a name or two from those early magazine pages which relate to our region:  Gerald Thomas, Henry Cole, Earl Cayton, Ted Enticknap, R.E. Nichol, Charles Hollinger,  Wayne Spears, and future NW modeler Charles Schuette.

All in all, kind of fun going thru those old mags, revisiting the old airplane designs, some great and some not so.  And the quaint advertising, with plenty of P.T. Barnum style hype, and of course interesting pricing.  And of course it’s a little history lesson, showing where we have come from.  If you get a chance, do a little digging yourself.

Be cool ya’ll!

-- Zoot Zoomer

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This page was upated Feb. 8, 2011