43 years ago my father brought home a magazine for me to read. It was a Model Airplane News. I had heard of radio controlled models, but had never seen one, not even in a magazine. I was immediately hooked. I think I read that magazine from cover to cover two or three times before I went to bed. I just had to have a radio controlled airplane. Curiously, somehow I convinced my parents to let me have one. Now understand this was the 1970s and a radio set alone was about $200 for an average system with servos. That was a lot of money back then! Like $3,200 in today's dollars. How many working class kids get a $3,200 toy even today?
I read every book I could find on radio controlled models in the local library (I think there were two or three and they were from the fifties) and after two or three failed attempts I learned what would work and what wouldn't work. Remember, I had never seen a real RC model - ever.
Long story short, I finally saved my allowance and bought a Sig Kadet through the mail. I think it was all of $25 with shipping. I remember the overwhelmingly wonderful smell of that wood when I opened the box for the first time. I cobbled it together, working night and day, then it came to covering it. Never thought about it - I had to cover it! Found out there was a material called MonoKote. Too expensive for me at seven dollars a roll, so I lucked upon a material called something like SuperKote that was a little cheaper. Got my pennies together and bought a roll for about five bucks. Bright yellow. It was just enough to cover the plane if I painted the rudder and the elevator.
Now I needed an engine. The only engine I could afford was a K/B .35 r/c. Again, saved my allowance and worked some odd jobs around the neighborhood and ordered one. I think it was all of $19. I already had a radio - my father bought it for me for one of my failed projects that I had given up on.
Finally the day came and it was done. I went to the flying field (my dad had to drive me as I was only 15) and asked one of the locals to give me a hand, which he gladly did. I still remember his name - Paul Anderson. Now understand, by this time I had "seen" a radio controlled model, but only in a hobby shop. I had never actually seen one fly. We got the motor started and checked the radio and into the wind it roared. After what seemed like the longest roll out ever, up it went. Never had I ever seen anything so wonderful in my life. A few passes, a landing, a few trim changes, a quick refuel, and up it went again. This time, Paul yelled, "Are you ready?" He gave me the radio and I was on my own. "Just bump the sticks till you get the hang of it", "Now the other way ..." I was in heaven. Even my father (who I am sure literally had the garbage bag ready) was proud that the plane actually flew. Then it was time to land. I took the plane home and cleaned it off like it was the most important thing in the world.
That day literally changed my life. I have been a radio control nut ever since. I flew that Kadet for several years, and still have some of the parts in my "Parts Bin". The wings and associated parts have been recycled over and over again throughout the years. 43 years later, dozens of projects later, I still love the smell of wood when you open a model kit box. It takes me right back to my childhood and the day I opened that Kadet box. And every now and then I need some piece of wood to finish something and I scrounge around in my scrap box late at night and come across a "Just so" piece that is bright yellow, and I know exactly were it came from.