Living on the West End: Kite season
By Bill Shepard
“In like a lamb, out like a lion; and if in like a lion, out like a lamb.” I heard- that old saying when I was a boy. March is just around the corner; by the time this article reaches the newspaper, March will have arrived!
This writer welcomes March with mixed feelings. Daylight Savings Time arrives early in March, but the jury is still out as to whether the continuation of that practice, begun during World War II, is worthy or not. Some states have already made their decision.
The first day of spring comes early in March (the 19th), but all who have lived through the change of seasons as many times as I, know that there are a lot of winter days ahead. Some of the largest snows that this writer has ever witnessed happened in March and here in Piedmont. My advice would be don’t put your warm jackets or coats too far away just yet!
I recall the incident that shook this nation on the first day of March 1932. That was the day the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped. The baby was found dead a short time afterward. The father, Charles Lindbergh Sr., was one of the world’s great aviation heroes.
I was a 10-year-old boy at the time and remember well listening to conversations among the older people. The Columbia Record was a prominent newspaper during that period and my brother was a carrier. His route included a portion of the mill village where we lived. The paper carried the story of the kidnapping and he always had an extra paper that he brought home. The story was a conversation starter in most any group and continued for a long time!
March ushered in an important period for the boys in the village. It is not listed on the calendar but perhaps it should be! It could be listed as “National Kite Flying Day.” Do I have any votes? Kite season came as regularly as March, and would be followed by marble season. Both were well represented by the boys and girls who lived on the village.
In the days before March arrived, the display window at McClellan’s Dime Store on the Square in Darlington would be filled with pretty kites, designed to catch the eye of those passing by. The price ranged from 10 to 25 cents.
I do not recall ever seeing a store-bought kite sailing in the open skies over the village. The children made their own kites. This writer made his own year after year. The materials needed were easily obtained. A few dried fennels from the pasture nearby were used to make the frame and were tied together with string.
Pages of a newspaper made an excellent covering over the frame. If a newspaper wasn’t available, a large brown shopping bag from the grocery store was sufficient.
Paste, made by mixing flour and water, was used to glue the covering to the frame. A long tail was used to balance the kite against the strong March winds. Pieces of scrap cloth tied together would suffice; a long strip of cloth from one of Mama’s worn-out sheets was best, if available. The kite was now ready to sail. A 5-cent roll of grocer twine was needed to send my kite sailing in the blue yonder!
The field near the large cypress swamp was our airfield. Dozens of village children would gather and sail their kites into the blue skies. Before March ended the tall cypress trees inside the deep swamp would be the everlasting home for many of the kites.
There they’d stay, blowing in the wind until time had taken its toll. I saw it all happen during the years of my childhood.
Marble season was next and would be appearing at vacant spots over the village on any day, but that’s another story!