Kites were sold
at the five-and-dimes, Sommer's Rexall Drug on Washington Boulevard and at Ricky
Walker's Dad's toy store on Highland Avenue, among other Beaumont
businesses. There were 2 basic materials used in those kites, a heavy, sort of
waxy paper and the more costly vinyl. Colors and designs on the paper kites were
limited to green, red, blue and orange, maybe yellow but I can't quite recall,
and they were usually stamped with planes and rocket designs. I don't remember
there being a big selection. The paper kites came in an elongated diamond shape
utilizing two crossed sticks and another which resembled a flat roofed house which
used 3 sticks. These sold for a dime, at least during my elementary school days.
The vinyl kites had various, more elaborate designs and were diamond shaped and
sold for between 19 cents and a quarter. Almost no one ever bought a box kite,
but we saw them flying way up high once in awhile. Fifty cents was far beyond
the reach of most of us kids on and around Emile Street. Kite string, or twine,
sold for about a nickel, and if you were smart you saved it to use the following
year, and kite tails were made from strips of dust rags.
roofs and power lines could be the kiss of death to kites, one way or another.
A strong gusty wind could bring a kite down in no time, slamming it into the hard
earth and snapping the orange crate sticks in an instant. Just as heartbreaking
was the sight of someone's kite flying away into the blue after the string had
snapped in a high wind, or because the string was old and dry rotted, maybe.
happy to report I never lost a kite to this particular peril, which was definitely
not due to my skill as a kite flier, but because I never, ever managed to launch
one more than probably 20 feet aloft. I made many a running pass back and forth,
back and forth but to no avail. The other kids critiqued me year after year, the
tail was too long and/or heavy, the bridle was too long, I was running away from
the wind, but the real truth lay somewhere in the vicinity of anxiety that I was
going to lose my beloved kite. I just couldn't seem to make myself pay out the
string as the kite flew higher and finally rode atop a nice steady wind current.
Maybe I just enjoyed the process far more than the end result. Who knows?
year I read a library book about children in China engaged in a kite fighting
competition, and I became mildly obsessed with the idea that I could do this,
wanted to do this and finally, MUST do this. The point of the competition was
to sever the string on competitor's kites using ground glass glued to a certain
length of string, leaving just one winner. The sharp shards acted as a saw when
the string was maneuvered skillfully. I could clearly see this in my mind's eye
and set about making my own Destroyer of the Skies.
It might just have
worked, too, since I planned to keep it a secret until I wowed the other kids
with my superior skill, never mind that I hadn't ever actually flown a kite high
enough to test this prior to that point. That was in the past...this was now.
I'm sure I never stopped to consider how the others kids might feel, or react,
when I had sent their kites to the heavens. Genius often falls short of reality.
I sort of borrowed my brother's tube of model airplane glue, collected a drinking
glass from the kitchen cabinet, actually a tall Bama jelly jar, and the hammer
from the tool kit on the screened in back porch, and was headed back through the
kitchen into the dining room when my mother stopped me in my tracks. Just where
did I think I was going with this assortment of stuff? I can't for the life of
me understand what triggered her suspicion that I was “up to no good.” All I know
is she put the kibosh on my elaborate plans for that kite season with “Have you
lost your ever loving mind, Sissy? Put all of that back where it belongs right
Sorry NASA, I tried.
"True Confessions and Mild Obsessions"
March 5, 2013 Column
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