Memories and Musings: Failing aerodynamics

Published 9:54 pm Friday, October 29, 2021

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By Gene Gallelli

I’d be surprised to find in the history of childhood any tyke who has never flown a kite and experienced, albeit vicariously, the exhilarating feeling of soaring into space at the mercy of the prevailing winds.

Back in the day on Elm Street, after we finished our World Series – always between the NY Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers – on our narrow, concrete ball field, our thoughts turned to playing Monopoly on Dickie’s porch and flying kites.

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Just to be clear, none of us owned a real Monopoly game, but cardboard boxes, slats from our dads’ starched, dry-cleaned shirts, bottle caps and notebook paper money allowed us to make one that worked just as well. Kites were a different challenge.

Don’t get me wrong. Fancy, superhero-embossed kites and a large ball of string could be bought for 25 cents at the Five and Ten store. However, that required finding and returning to the grocery store 13 pop (soda) bottles worth two cents apiece, which were harder to find during “kite season” than a four leaf clover. So, if we could build a Monopoly game out of cardboard, we certainly should have been able to build a “simple” kite out of household items. How hard could that be?

Dickie, Anna and I – it was a group project – assembled the kite-making essentials: any long, thin pieces of wood, (like window-shade slats), plenty of string (like yarn), large sheet of paper (like a newspaper) and something for a tail (like one of my dad’s favorite neckties).

With the use of screws, a Jack knife, duct tape, glue and string we agreed that we finally had a reasonable facsimile of a kite, minus the paper covering and tail. Using the thick flour and water paste we made, we plastered it all over the string surrounding the kite frame and then laid it flat on a sheet of newspaper. To be on the safe side, we also folded over and glued the dangling newspaper to itself and tied my dad’s necktie on the tail end of the drying kite.

With launch time only hours away, we discussed and decided on a two-person run-and-release strategy . . . in the street.

While waiting for the paste to dry, we square-knotted together all the pieces of string we had gathered and rolled it on a piece of wood, then somehow tied the loose end to the body of the kite. With a perfect fall wind blowing, it was time to launch and explore the heavens with our homemade paper aircraft.

We could almost hear a drumroll as Anna grabbed the roll of string and I held our kite aloft waiting for Dickie’s “Ready! Set! Go!” that would initiate the launch.

On the “Go!” signal, Anna took off like a racehorse and I let go of the kite.

It may have been a beautiful Saturday morning on Elm Street, with no cars in sight, as we watched our kite, covered with day-old news crash to the ground like a lead balloon and then get dragged and mangled until Anna stopped running.

We quietly cleaned up the mess – dad’s necktie was ruined – and spent a few minutes talking about why the kite didn’t fly. Then, undaunted, we ran to Dickie’s porch, played a game of Monopoly and enjoyed the rest of Saturday together.

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.