OLD TIMERíS TRANSPORTATION TRAUMA

By Norris Chambers

             It was a very nice automobile Ė nicer than anything I had seen at that time. Of course I was very young and hadnít seen much except Model T Fords. This vehicle was a toy that I received from Santa Claus on probably the first Christmas that I can remember. It was at least sixteen inches in length and ten inches tall. A big winding key below the right running board gave it power to make several trips across the room. As I watched it race around the room I could visualize myself riding it down the road to town. I might have to stop and wind a few times, but that wouldnít take long.

            After breakfast I headed across the yard to the road with my new automobile under my arm. I carefully placed in on the right hand side of the road and pointed it toward our closest little town. After winding it thoroughly, I carefully sat down on it and prepared to push the ďgoĒ lever. Before I could get started there was a heavy clunking sound and the top of my limousine caved in and the wheels collapsed. When I struggled to my feet I saw a mangled pile of junk. My beautiful new car was ruined. What I did was a stupid mistake. But I never tried to ride a wind up car again.

            It must have been the next Christmas when I got a box of sticks and things called an airplane kit. I had seen an airplane or two flying over and I had a pretty good idea what they were. My mother read the instructions and showed me the picture. The airplane looked like a stick about a foot and a half long with thin wooden wings near the front and a fin and smaller wings at the end. There were two wheels under the wing area with an axle and supports formed out of stiff wire. In front was a peculiarly curved piece of wood connected through a metal clip to a rubber band that extended to the tail.

            With the assistance of my dad and mother the kit was assembled and ready for a trial flight. I knew from my wind up automobile experience that I would not be able to ride in the airplane. But it would be fun to watch. The little stick in front with the nicely curved shape on each side was called the propeller and my dad explained to me how the propeller spinning fast would catch air in the curved blades and would pull the plane forward. When it started moving forward the same thing would happen to the airplane with the wind passing over the wings. He pointed out that the wings were mounted with the front edge a little higher than the rear edge. The airplane would be suspended and the prop (a short term for propeller) would pull it forward. It sounded simple so we prepared for the first flight.

            The prop was turned backward and started winding the rubber band that ran from the prop to the tail. As the rotation continued the rubber band started twisting and knotted. When the band appeared to be in double knots the whole length my dad said it was ready to try. He placed it on a smooth section of the space between the front yard and barn and turned the prop loose. The rubber band started unwinding and the propeller started turning very fast. The airplane began rolling along the ground and quickly gained speed. In a very short time it started climbing into the air hurriedly gaining altitude. The little machine was actually flying like a real airplane. The prop quit turning when the plane was about thirty or forty feet high and it continued to glide and gradually descend. It made a perfect landing at least a hundred feet from the take off point.

            The success of this flight was impressive and Clifton and I played with the little flying machine for a long time. We had several accidents with it and did a lot of repair work with glue and paper. Eventually the main fuselage stick was broken. I replaced it with a new one made from an apple box, but it was too heavy and the airplane would not get off of the ground.

            We should have learned that weight is important and that the light balsa wood used in the model was not available. But we didnít. Instead we began making plans for building one large enough to ride in using an old tire inner tube for the rubber band. With a little rough carpenter work we did build one around an old apple box and a tube from a truck tire for the power source. Of  course you have already guessed that it didnít work.  The propeller turned but the airplane didnít move.

            We should have abandoned the project there, but we thought it just needed a boost. After a long struggle getting it on top of the barn we wound it up for the roll down the roof and the anticipated flight. We decided not to try a ride on the first flight. When we got the inner tube motor wound and turned it loose it sped down the roof like a rooster after a june bug, but when it reached the edge of the roof it nose-dived into the dirt.

            We had to admit that the airplane project was a failure. Was this fun? We thought it was. Try it sometime and see if you have fun!   

 RETURN TO INDEX