Thursday, January 5, 2012

Go Fly a Kite

The cost of amusing kids has gone through the roof. Most are now into electronic or video games that run around forty bucks on average to buy, not to mention the "box" these games are played on. The cost is not measured in money alone; the real price we pay for kids' addiction to these games is that they rarely play outdoors any more. They become isolated from social interaction with other kids and spend way too many hours playing these games, the worst of which are violent and can desensitize a child to unacceptable behavior. Other games draw kids into fantasy adventures to the point where they develop unhealthy obsessions and blur the line between make-believe and reality.

Fifties kids in Brooklyn never saw forty dollar toys. Sure we had fantasy heroes like Flash Gordon and The Lone Ranger, but when play time was over, we hung up our ray guns and cowboy hats and played baseball, football, punch ball, stick ball and stoop ball. On any given day, we could entertain ourselves for under twenty-five cents. Pea shooters, spinning tops, yo-yos, pitching pennies...all activities that fell within this modest budget. One of my favorite 25-cent toys was a paper kite. We would buy them in Sam's or Louie's candy store for fifteen cents, and add two rolls of string for a nickel each. No kid would settle for flying his kite only as high as one roll would allow; we tied two rolls together to really get that baby up there.

The kites were brightly colored and came rolled around two balsa-wood sticks that needed to be assembled to form the cross-shaped frame of the kite. It took a bit of skill to get the kite together without tearing it. We learned little tricks to keep the kite from breaking apart while being buffeted by the winds at higher altitudes. One such trick was to tie the sticks that formed the frame together with a short piece of string at the point where they crossed. This strengthened the kite and gave it greater stability when aloft. We also experimented with different types of kite tails, an essential addition for ease of flying. Many a mother never learned that her missing pillow case had been torn into strips and was dangling at the end of a kite.

We preferred to fly our kites in places like Highland Park where there were no electrical wires to complicate safe landings. There were also different ways to rig the kite so that it could perform aerial maneuvers. Sometimes we would let two competing kites battle it out in the sky. One enterprising kid tried the James Bond-like trick of tying his fathers old double-edged razor blades to his kite's tail in the hope that it would shred his opponent's kite. (He probably grew up to work in government.) His shabby tactics backfired when he sustained a bad cut after absentmindedly grabbing his kite by the tail as he reeled it in for a landing.

And so for a measly quarter, we got practice assembling things with our hands, learned kite-building innovations (no matter how despicable) that would give us a competitive edge, and got all the fresh air and exercise we could stand. Take that, Nintendo.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

I recall playing skellzies with bottle caps, and building scooters form old skates!