It is hard to imagine a time when major American corporations sponsored model aviation, car, boat, and rocket hobbies. The U.S. Navy sponsored the AMA Nationals for many years, the Plymouth International Model Airplane Program was funded by the eponymous auto company, and there were many other examples. Today, the companies spend their money paying ransom to special interest social groups that threaten to boycott their products or otherwise give a bad name to the company, rather than supporting productive activities like aeromodeling. Detroit, the subject of this 1962 American Modeler article and once a center of manufacturing and education, is now a run-down heap that has filed for bankruptcy and wants to sell its art collection to help pay off debtors. After decades of offshoring manufacturing jobs and pandering to the welfare class, Detroit looks like an old Soviet city. Once-magnificent buildings and parks are full of filth and graffiti. It is happening all over as the working, productive Middle Class disappears from the face of the Earth.
Detroit's Parks and Recreation Leaders Say "Modelers Are People!"
By Rosalie Vanzant
"Hurry up and wait, you guys." Servicemen long ago made this off-record statement famous. Oddly enough, modelers in search of flying sites may find that these words also apply to their situation.
When you ask for model fields and improvements, the recreation people and the city fathers may be all for you. But often they don't have the money on hand for such projects any more than you do. Cities must operate within their budgets. Some of the best model flying facilities in the nation have come to groups with the patience and good grace to wait their turns to get their projects budgeted.
Of course, you can remind the authorities of your needs with some pertinent facts on the values and aims of your project. They respect a group with drive, purpose and ideas ... if you don't force these facts upon them too often.
In Detroit, Michigan, a city of 1,670,000, where model airplane activities have long been a part of the program of the Recreation Department, modelers are enjoying a $7,000 concrete speed circle at Rouge Park, obtained by this policy of determination, plus patience.
Frank Sposite, model aircraft director in the Detroit Recreation Department for the past 23 years, supported the modelers all the way. There are 15 model airplane clubs in the area so thousands of boys, many of whom are now adults, have been exposed to modeling through the annual winter modeling program of the Recreation Department.
In addition, Detroit is host annually to the Michigan State Model Plane meet sponsored primarily by the Exchange Clubs and Recreation Department. During the late '40's and early '50's, Detroit was the center of the famous Plymouth International Model Airplane Program.
Even with all this modeling interest, the Rouge Park speed circle was in the planning stage for several years. As Sposite stated recently, "We were unable to do anything about the project until funds became available in the budget."
Early morning flying session gets underway.
The flying area had been in use but the circles were grass. The speed flyers' dream was a concrete circle. In agreement was Sposite, a modeler for 35 years and a former manager of the Plymouth Internationals. The modelers were articulate in voicing their needs to the park board. One of the most persuasive was Harold Saincome of the Strathmoor Model Club, one of the larger control-line groups in Detroit.
This club, organized in 1946 and sponsored by the Recreation Department, is an extensive user of the field. The area also serves the needs of modelers for the entire west and northwest areas of Detroit and nearby suburbs. Since the completion of the speed circle, there has come a new organization, the Metropolitan. Speed Association. This group is working for an organized speed "circuit" with other communities.
Adjacent to the Rouge Park speed circle is a grass circle for flying scale and team racing. Across the road are five more circles for combat, stunt, carrier. Sposite hopes to make room here for another two circles. There are some circle lights and the park department takes care of all maintenance. Also, the park has a boat pond, which is big enough to fly float planes.
The Strathmoor Club acts as watchdog for the area and on good weekends upward of 150 flyers turn out. Hundreds of spectators stop by to observe the activities. The service road, which cuts through the flying area, is graded for off-the road, angle parking for both modelers and spectators.
Detroit control-line modelers also have a flying site at Farwell Field in the northeast section of the city. There two circles are surfaced with hard clay. Because of complaints from nearby residents on noise, it has been necessary to establish a restricted schedule here. No flying is permitted on Sundays; week-day hours are 12 noon until sundown. The site is much used during the week.
Indoor flying also is popular in Detroit. In fact, the Balsa Bugs, a Recreation Department sponsored indoor club, has been one of the leading groups in the current revival of interest in these ultra-light craft. In the beginning, most of the flying was done in the gyms of local schools and recreation centers, because they are readily available.
Livonia Rib Crackers hold indoor glider contest.
It wasn't until 1959, through a committee composed of Richard Kowalski, Ed Stoll and Phil Klintworth, that the Balsa Bugs got regular flying privileges at the Michigan State Fair Coliseum with its 70-foot ceiling and 300x100-foot floor area.
The Coliseum was made available to them on weekends when the building is not in use by paying customers, largely through the cooperation of George Brooks, assisting manager of the Michigan State Fair Grounds and a former modeler. No use fee is charged the modelers, but they are required to cave insurance coverage and to pay janitorial fees when such services are needed.
The Balsa Bugs hold regular round-robin contests with the Chicago and Cleveland indoor flyers. Dick Kowalski was U.S. team manager last year at the first Indoor Internationals in England and Carl Redlin, also of Detroit, flew on the team. Kowalski is one of the founders of the new National Indoor Model Airplane Society.
The flying of outdoor gas powered free flight and R/C models within the Detroit city limits is impossible because of the lack of an area large enough to handle these types. Flyers in these categories must travel to outlying sites.
Despite this Detroit free flight and R/C entrants placed well at the 1961 Nats. Tom H. Brett, Detroit R/C Club, took third in multi for a place on the 1962 USA team; Rus Preston, DRCC, was seventh in open rudder and John Krauer, Midwest R/C Society, won second in pylon. In hand launched glider, Douglas Wilson, Strathmoor, won second and John Manning, Detroit Sky Guys, took third. Bob Bienenstein, Balsa Bugs, copped first in free flight gas 1/2A and Kowalski took second in Jet PAA load.
Modeling interest in Detroit began even before Lindbergh's historic flight across the Atlantic. Frank Sposite says that when he joined the Recreation Department he inherited a battered old trophy awarded in 1922 for an air-model event! The program gained impetus in the late 1920's and early 1930's.
New speed circle at Rouge Park is C/Liner's dream come true.
At first flying sites were no trouble ... with gliders and rubber-wound motors any playground or park sufficed. It was after the entrance of gas powered motors that noise and safety factors meant the shifting of outdoor model flying to Rouge Park and Farwell Field.
The community centers are still used for indoor flying and each winter for a model building program under the sponsorship of the Recreation Department.
These construction classes meet once or twice a week at 18 recreation centers; around 500 boys between the ages of 10 and 14 years participate. The youths are taught by competent instructors in the building and flying of three basic models: glider, ROG stick and prefabricated kits. The materials are furnished at cost by the Recreation Department.
At the conclusion of these classes, a series of inter-center and city-wide contests are held. All planes entered must be built from the kits furnished and the contest rules specify what changes are allowed. Prizes at the inter-center meets are trophies and ribbons; at the city-wide contests are trophies and merchandise. These awards are donated by the Exchange Clubs, hobby dealers and other interested parties.
Instructors for these classes are recreation personnel, trained through an in-service program conducted before the start of each season by Mr. Sposite. In four 2-hour sessions, the instructors are taught basic construction and flying and new techniques. Each is required to build a model of each of the three basic planes. After the instructors launch classes at their centers, Sposite gives each periodic supervision and assistance.
The result .of all this is summarized by Edward T. McGowan, deputy superintendent of the Detroit Department of Parks and Recreation: "Building and flying model aircraft attracts an ever increasing number of youths, and, in fact, is one of the finest educational, leisure-time activities in Detroit."
Posted June 7, 2014