Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Again...

Another way I knew when spring had arrived is that Mama would say, “Well, it’s time for our spring cleaning.” That term has not been used in our home since I was a boy living on Pipkin Street in Beaumont. I am certain that folks still do spring cleanings but they just don’t talk about them.

Usually this cleaning time meant that we were going to “sun” the mattresses and our pillows. I used to wonder why we sunned our bedding because Mama always told me to stay out of the sun during the hot part of the day. “You don’t want to catch polio,” she warned.

Also as part of the cleaning we had to move our furniture away from the walls and do some serious dusting of the baseboards. This was a good time to pick up any misplaced toys and perhaps remove any left over dead roaches.

During my formative years, this spring cleaning ritual meant that I had to clean up my room. My parents always were telling me to clean up my room but this spring cleaning time carried with it some special assignments. Mama would say, “Take everything out of your closet so we can put it all back.” This used to confuse me. Why take it all out just to put it back.

Then Mama would take down all of the living room curtains. I never knew why. Later she would put them back up. I guess it made her feel better knowing that the curtains had participated in our spring cleaning.

Another question I had back then was why we didn’t have fall cleanings, winter cleanings or summer cleanings. I never asked my parents about this because I did not want to give them any ideas. Cleaning up my room once per year was about all one boy could take.

There were occasions when the drudgery of spring cleaning became so hard that I would ease outside, climb the tallow tree by our bathroom window and get onto the roof of our house. I could stay on the roof for up to two hours and no one would know my where-a-bouts. Or so I thought. A few years later, Mama told me she knew I was on the roof because she could hear me walking around. She figured that if I stayed on the roof then I would stay out of her way while she was cleaning. So she never bothered telling me to get down. Not a bad trade out, I suppose.

Sometimes, if the sun was too hot for me to get onto the roof, I would go into our attic. Dad had torn the top out of our hall closet and made a steep staircase. It was pretty neat climbing those stairs. Almost like climbing a stepladder. But generally I couldn’t stay in the attic for very long because it was just too hot up there. We had an attic fan that pulled in air through our screen windows and blew it out through the roof vents. But I was afraid of the fan. Those blades looked like they could really chop up a boy so I stayed out of that breeze while in the attic.

One good lesson I learned from those experiences was I decided that it was simpler just to stay downstairs and get with the program. Cleaning up my room and dusting furniture were much easier than climbing up onto the roof in the hot sun or hiding out in a hot attic.

And even today, at age 73, I know that the most efficient way to get a task done is just go ahead and do it.

Although my wife would give anything if I would clean up my office.

Winston Hamby

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Kite HasThe Right To Flight At Great Height..

Back in the 1940s as a boy living on Pipkin Street in the South Park area of Beaumont I made a bunch of kites. Now “bunch” really isn’t as refined as saying “many” or “several.” But you see, I did not make just “many” or “several.” I made a bunch. There were kites all over my bedroom and even some lying around on the floor throughout the house. Mama said they were “messy.” You see, she simply did not understand about kites. All kites have to be somewhere so it wasn’t my fault.

The most interesting kites I ever made that actually flew were about 7 inches high by 5 inches wide. They would not survive outdoors because the March winds were too gusty. However, they would fly inside the house in a breeze produced by my dad’s Emerson electric fan. Dad had one of those old oscillating fans that normally sat over in the corner of our dining room. It would turn back and forth and blow three speeds of air depending on how the switch was set. In fact that is how and when I learned the definition of “oscillate.”

Anyway, I used light-weight tissue paper along with leftover balsa wood strips from my model airplane hobby. Regular kite string was too heavy for the mini kites so I used thread from my mother’s sewing machine. Mama gave me a spool of thread so I would quit appropriating needed ingredients from her machine bobbins.

I have not tried making a mini kite since the late 1940s but I know it should still work if you want to give it a try. Following are the instructions:

• Obtain two small balsa wood sticks and trim to desired lengths.
• Tie the sticks together forming a cross.
• Run an additional thread around the ends of the sticks to stabilize the
• Place the framed cross against some tissue paper and trim around the outer
edges of the thread frame.
• Fold the paper edges over the thread of the frame and glue the folds in

You now should have a two-stick mini kite (if you don’t then email me for clarification).

As for the kite’s tail, I found that two small paper clips attached to the bottom of the vertical stick worked just fine. This will depend upon the size of your kite and the velocity of your breeze.

Now find your indoor breeze. Usually electric fans are easy to come by. At least they were common in pre air-conditioner days.

One afternoon I made a mini kite. I set my dad’s fan so that it would not oscillate. I tied one end of some thread to the center of the fan cage and affixed the other end to the kite’s bridal (use thread for the bridal and fashion similar to those on regular two-stick kites). I turned the fan on at the lowest speed. The kite attempted to fly but began looping. I added a paper clip as a tail. The kite still looped so I added another paper clip. Then the kite flew. The thread from the fan to the kite was about three feet in length. The little kite would fly for up to 30 seconds before falling off to one side. A larger fan might have worked better.

I loved kites as did most of my friends. In fact this 73-year-old kid has six kites out in the garage that have never been flown. I have collected them over the years but just never have had the time to go out and fly them.

But if anyone ever tells me to “go fly a kite,” I’ll be ready.

Winston Hamby