The sky has always fascinated me as a kid and that is probably true for all of us growing up. Superman comic books were cool because they showed he could fly anywhere in the skies, even space. Even my kids and grandkids loved playing Superman or Wonder Woman.
Getting back down to earth, it was 1957 and I was living in Utica, Missouri when I first saw a handcrafted paper airplane that flew like a real plane. I was just a first grader and all the planes I had built previously would go straight up and straight down. Back then the second graders were in the same class room with us, and one boy knew how to build a plane that would do loops, turns, and glide to a safe landing!
Everyone wanted one, so we all got out a sheet of our Big Chief paper and followed along one step at a time as he folded his plane. In no time at all, we each had our own plane to fly! However, we soon learned that each plane seemed to fly a little differently. Some of us would add our own little tears and folds to make air foils that would make them loop more and/or turn in the directions we wanted. We would have contests with them during recess.
By the third grade, I attended Central School in Chillicothe. I found a little nearby grocery store called Butcher's that sold balsa-wood planes that allowed you to slide the wings and tail onto the body of the plane. Now this plane could fly very well without much extra effort. My friends and I would fly them off the Washington Street viaduct down to the railroad tracks just to see how far they would go.
With the trains passing through and electrical wires down below we would lose a plane now and then---but the fun we had was worth it. Then there were the planes with a rubber band and propeller. These were the ones that tore our fingers up! We were also looking for new rubber bands because we seemed to break them continually. When we flew one of these off the viaduct it was like watching a real plane in flight!
Later, Butcher's sold a styrofoam plane with a 3-foot wing span. We coudn't wait to throw one of those off the bridge. But, that one got caught on the power lines below. The gas-powered planes on a string that Butcher's kept on display were always out of my price range, but they still made it to my dreams!
It was in Mrs. St. John's fifth grade class at Central when I got into some trouble with paper airplanes. My best friend Billy Jones and I sat side by side on the back row, but not for long. We could do all kinds of things out of the teacher's sight back there, or so we thought.
We had each made a paper plane, the same kind had I made in the first grade. Billy dared me to fly it to the front of the room. I never turned down a dare, so I waited for the right time to do it. It was reading time and teacher was looking out of the window as she watered her plants on the window sill. Mrs. St. John was not very far from us. When I was certain she wasn't looking, I threw my plane towards the door at the front of the room.
It headed in the right direction until suddenly it turned to the right and headed back toward me. However, it didn't make it all the way back before it turned again and headed toward the window. It made a perfect landing right in front of Mrs. St. John!
I didn't know it at the time but she could see the whole class from the reflection in the window. I must have been the biggest dummy of the year for that trick. A whole week of my recess time "bit the dust" that day!
Through all the years of teaching kids in our church programs, I have always taught them to make paper airplanes. I think it's a good thing pass along some of the little things from the our past to children today. The only problem with paper planes is they seem to fly where they shouldn't...