Yours Truly (Kirt Blattenberger) with Cox PT-19 Trainer in back yard at 114 River
Road, Edgewater, Maryland. My Estes rocket field box did double duty as a model airplane field box.
Read the complete Christmas Eve
1969 edition of the Evening Capital newspaper. We had a rare white Christmas that year!
114 River Road, Edgewater, MD 21037 (originally Rt. 4 box 504)
is where I grew up - or more appropriately, got older - and spent as much time as possible building
and flying every kind of airplane, rocket, and helicopter I could get my hands on. It has been close
to 20 years since going back there (both parents died many moons ago), but thanks to the miracle of
Google Earth, I was able to grab this satellite image of the old stomping grounds (see
It looks pretty much the way I remember it. My father and I built the addition on the southwest end,
and the porch on the southeast side. That section of sidewalk that goes nowhere now used to terminate
at a 10'x10' steel shed. Those two outbuildings in the back yard are new. In the zoomed out view of
the Google map (below) you can see the entire neighborhood of Holly Hill
Harbor. Explanations of the markings will be given later in the story.
The yellow circle is approximately where I flew and eventually crashed many control line airplanes.
After destroying the first couple Cox plastic models I received as presents at Christmas and/or birthdays,
I finally got wise and bought a Cox PT-19 Trainer.
It was with the PT-19 Trainer that I finally learned to fly a control line airplane. Previous attempts
were similar to what many (dare I say most?) people new to control line
do, where after finally getting the engine to start and stay running, I would feed in up elevator to
make the model struggle into the air long before it should have, and then as it stalled or began to
climb and dive, I would feed in full up elevator until it eventually crashed. Back in those days, there
was no kind of adhesive that would successfully hold the molded styrene plastic back together sturdily
enough to let the darn thing fly again, so into the trash they would go. I do recall one time trying
to weld the cracked fuselage on a Corsair back together using a soldering iron, but all that did was
get me yelled at by my mother for stinking up the house. Come to think of it, I got yelled at a lot
for the things I tried.
My childhood house in Holly Hill Harbor
Eventually, my good flying buddy, Jerry Flynn, and I were building balsa models with Silkspan covering.
Neither of us had much money, so we learned to stretch a buck pretty good. We flew many a C/L combat
contest in that back yard using Carl Goldberg kits with Cox Baby Bee .049 engines. We usually didn't
have anyone to launch for us, so one of us would first launch the other, and then frantically try to
start the other plane and self-launch by holding the lines way up near the airplane and slowly feeding
them out between our fingers. It was quite a trick, and probably would be deemed very unacceptable by
today's safety standards.
Fortunately, the good times outnumbered the bad times with all my models, so my interest has lasted
a lifetime (51 years as I write this).
Also in that very same back yard were launched many an Estes rocket. As you can see, the tree line
along the back, combined with a lot of other trees and house roofs, made for a somewhat hostile environment
for launching model rockets. I would typically use no more than a "B" size engine. After a while, I
got pretty good at adjusting the launch pad angle to compensate for wind. Most of my parachutes had
holes cut in the tops to help bring the rockets down as quickly as possible without damaging them. I
managed to get most of the rockets back, but occasionally one would stray into the woods. Bing a stupid
kid, I would gladly risk life and limb to recover a rocket from the highest of trees. If my mother knew
some of the trees I climbed, she'd have had a fit. On its maiden flight, my
Gyroc, twisted itself down into the top of a tree that
was easily 80 feet high. It took a couple attempts of after-school searching
(no binoculars, but 20/15 vision then) to even find it, and then a couple attempts to retrieve
it. It was pretty scary being up that high.
My paper route domain in Holly Hill Harbor
If you take a look at the Holly Hill Harbor map, you will see an area labeled "B." That is a big
field that - hard to believe - is still a big field. A very generous family by the name of Klinken owned
it, and graciously allowed just about anyone who did not abuse it to use it. At one time there was a
baseball diamond set up for the area little league games, but judging from the photo it does not appear
to exist anymore. It was referred to as "Klinken's Field." Jerry and I used to launch our rockets there,
which greatly improved our chances of recovering rockets. At least that is what you might expect, except
that the bigger area gave us more courage to use even bigger rocket engines. Estes "C" engines became
the preferred series, and man, did those suckers fly!!! No longer were our rocket chases confined to
within a couple hundred feet of the launch site - now we regularly chased them across entire neighborhoods!
When we graduated to larger control line models, like Sterling's Ringmaster and Sig's
Akrobat, using Fox .35s and 70-foot steel lines, my back yard
no longer sufficed, so we moved that activity to Klinken's Field as well. As with the rockets, it provided
a greater opportunity for greater losses. We did not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity.
Did I mention that neither Jerry nor I had much money? Well, because of that inconvenient fact, we did
not have an electric starter for the engines. Anyone who has owned a
Fox .35 engine knows what a challenge it is getting them
running in the right direction by hand-flipping the propeller. We did not have very good batteries,
either, so that just added to the challenge. Odd as it may seem, there was actually great joy in kneeling
by the model, endlessly flipping the prop and waiting for that sudden sound of the engine springing
to life. One more bit of nostalgia about those Fox .35s before I move on... they would commonly backfire
after becoming flooded, and would catch on fire. That necessitated picking up the airplane and frantically
swinging it around in the air trying to put the fire out. Good thing Mom didn't know about that, either,
or she might have insisted that I take up team sports instead of model airplanes and rockets ;-)
If you have bothered to read this far, then maybe you are also interested in the key points flagged
on the Holly Hill Harbor map. Point "A" is my boyhood house (well, my parent's
house, technically). Point "B" is Klinken's Field. Point "C" is the neighborhood pier, where
many a fun time was had. Jerry Flynn and I also got radio controlled boats at the same time
(we were around 16 by then), and we ran them there often. Those engines
we equally troublesome to get started. Again, with no electric starter we had to resort to looping a
piece of string around the grooved flywheel and hand crank them. I had a
Pride of Pay N Pak and Jerry had a Miss Budweiser
(unlimited hydroplanes by Dumas). When the engine quit and the boat was too far away to toss the ball
tied to the fishing line over to retrieve, guess how we got them back? Yup, time for a swim. One time
around March my hydroplane quit, so into the frigid water I went. Guess who was not pleased when I came
in the door at home soaking wet? But I digress.
Point "D" is the little shopping plaza where I had my first real job other than a paper route. I
worked for a sporting goods/hobby shop part-time stocking shelves and sweeping floors. Unfortunately,
the store did not last long. Point "E" is (was) a large section of wooded area where all the guys in
the neighborhood (and some of the girls) would play war, ride our bikes,
fight, build little fires to melt the plastic 6-pack can holders and listen to the cool ffft, ffft,
ffft sound as the plastic dripped into the fire. It was a very hilly area as well, and we cleared long,
winding paths to facilitate high-speed races on our bikes. We'd get banged up from time to time, but
it came with the territory. Oh, and there was no such thing as a bicycle helmet in those days. On the
NW side of the area were cliffs about 20-30 feet high. They seemed many times higher to us. There was
a huge tree with a huge branch that extended out over the water, and some kind soul had tide a thick
rope to it as a swing. Thick rope was plentiful in that area because of all the boats that used it.
The most daring of kids (I probably was not one of them) would stand up
on the top of the cliffs and jump off with the rope to swing way out over Bear Creek and usually ended
up doing a belly flop or some other ungraceful maneuver into the water. I preferred to execute my belly
flops from lower altitudes.
By the way, Holly Hill Harbor is so-named because of abundance of holly plants that grew there naturally.
We always had holly for Yule logs and wreaths at Christmastime.
Point "F" is where Jerry Flynn lived with his grandparents in Ponder Cove. I don't know how much
pondering was done in that cove, but it's a cool name. Going "outside the neighborhood" was considered
a great privilege and sign of maturity whilst in your early teens in the 1960s & 1970s, and even
though we were separated by less than a hundred feet of woods, there was something cool about having
a friend in Ponder Cove.
Point "G" is where a horse-sized Weimaraner dog named, appropriately, Schultz, lived. His sole purpose
in life was to wait for me to arrive on my bicycle each afternoon with a newspaper bag slung over my
shoulder. He stood at the end of the cul-de-sac and dared me to advance. We're talking almost every
day. There were times I had to jump off my bike and keep it between Schultz and me until he got tired
of playing with the human and went away. When I would call the owners (who were
not customers, by the way), they constantly assured me that good old Schultz wouldn't harm a
fly. Too bad for me I wasn't a fly, or I would have had it made. My father, who worked as the classified
ad department manager at the newspaper (The Evening Capital, now just
The Capital) asked at
work of people in the circulation room how other carriers handled such a dilemma. Their method worked
like a charm - hairspray. Employing such a technique today would land you in jail, but back then most
people considered the safety of human beings more important than the well-being of a dog. Yeah, it only
took a couple times of Alberto VO5 hair spray in the face to convince Schultz to find a new form of
afternoon entertainment. From then on, I always packed a can of spray in my paper bag.
Speaking of paper routes, the green outline represents the region that I served on my route. Boy,
could I fill the page with stories of the paper route saga - from other canine encounters to encounters
with humans not much better than the dogs.
That concludes this chapter of the life and times of Kirt Blattenberger. I kept waiting for someone
else to write the story, but nobody has, so it's up to me. I'm glad to do it.
If there are any of my friends from the old "Hood" out there who see this story and care to chime
in, please do so either below in the comments area, or send me an
e-mail. It'll be good the hear from you.
October 2016: The Enchanted Forest
My sister, Gayle, sent me some old slides a year or so ago that had images from a trip to
Forest, in Elliot City, Maryland, back in the 1960s. I did an Internet search looking for info on Enchanted
Forest and did not find much. I just repeated the search and came across this major source of photos
of the work performed by Clark's Elioak Farm. WTOP ran a feature titled "Maryland Woman Works to Preserve Enchanted Forest Memories," that describes a
bit of the place's history. It opened in 1955 and closed in the 1980s. The photos on
Forest website show both old and new exhibits. I hope to soon post a few more photos from the
Enchanted Forest in the 1964 timeframe.