Russian Modelers Seek Service in Salt Mines!
November/December 1963 American Modeler
This short tongue-in-cheek article about the use of salt mines in Communist countries like Romania for indoor free flight contests was written in 1963, a time when the Cold War was in full swing, your neighbor might have built a nuclear shelter in his back yard, and kids practiced getting under their desks in the event of a wave of incoming ICMBs tipped with MIRVs. In fact, the FAI world championships have been held in Romanian salt mines a few times, and they will return there in 2014. BTW, for those too young to remember, it used to be a common joke to talk about sending someone to the Siberian salt mines as a form of punishment.|
Russian Modelers Seek Service in Salt Mines!Life-under-Communism, as any right-thinking person knows, is supposed to bear somewhat the same invidious relationship to Life-under-Capitalism that an old broken down GHQ (with no points) in some dark, forgotten corner of a dirty basement does to the latest factory tuned O.S. Max singing sweetly in the August sunshine. But we always figured that there must be some advantage to living under Communism. We had almost despaired of finding what it was, but now we think we have the answer. Salt mines!
"Hey, wait a minute," a little voice says. "Did you say salt mines?"
That's right, salt mines!
Hm-m-m. But what do salt mines have to do with model building?
Well, to illustrate, let's get back to the tag ends of my thumbnail sketch of the short history of the difference between life under Communism and Capitalism. A bad Capitalist, as every right-thinking person knows, is a sort of robber baron who steals indiscriminately from the rich and poor alike, goes to church on Sunday, is envied by anyone who has one drop of American laissez-faire free enterprise blood in his veins, and dies rich. In contrast every bad Communist goes to Siberia or to the salt mines. Or both. That's the difference between the two systems and it's also the reason why it is much better to belong to the Capitalist system.
You make it sound (the little voice again) pretty grim. It's not too grim because there are also good Capitalists.
They steal only from the rich, go to church on Sunday, found philanthropic foundations, are not envied by nearly so many people, and die rich. No one ever wonders what happens to a good Communist because, as every right-thinking person knows, there are no good Communists.
Yes, but I still -don't see what this has to do with building and flying model planes ...
Well, the point is this: When Ivan (that's our bad Communist) is bad he gets his come-uppance in one of those salt mines.
So, for years everyone has been feeling very sorry for Ivan, because work in the salt mine is very difficult. (Color it White, Ivan, not Red.) But Ivan the Bad asked for it and he got it. Of course, there are a lot of people, including some not so bad Communists, who would like to help Ivan, but the salt mine is part of the system, like City Hall. And you can't fight City Hall.
I suppose not. But what's the connection between salt mines and model building?
I'm coming to that. All this work in the salt mines is, naturally, very hard on Ivan. As you can well imagine, the Ivans get used up at a terrific rate. Fortunately, there are plenty of bad Communists to replace the old worn-out Ivans. There's also a silver lining to every cloud, but no one ever saw it.
Why, the salt situation, of course. Everyone had all the salt he wanted. No more tasteless caviar, no more bland anchovies. The production quotas for steel might be lagging, but not for salt.
But what about model airplanes?
Don't you see? When you take salt out of the ground it leaves an enormous hole. Every time somebody in Minsk or Pinsk salts his cabbage soup the hole gets bigger.
And people fly models in those salt mines. You're kidding!
Nope! They fly smack-dab in those ever lovin' salt mines.
It may be the nuttiest thing you ever heard of but it's true ... I swear on my current AMA card and my tarnished Junior Birdman pin. Right inside those old salt mines.
That is the nuttiest thing I ever heard of.
Let me tell you that it was some salt mine, too. This one is in Rumania (not all salt mines are in Siberia) and from top to bottom it measures 230 feet. And that makes it some flying site. All I can tell you beyond that is that 45 indoor builders had a contest there recently and that one of them, Otto Hinks, did 20:05 with a small indoor model.
That's really something.
It sure is. It also has tremendous political ramifications.
As almost every right-thinking person knows, we are perhaps a couple of steps behind the Communists in the race for Outer Space. Unless we start rigging salt mines in a hurry, they're apt to beat us all hollow in the race for Inner Space as well.
There's only one solution, men ... To the salt mines!
Posted May 26, 2013