With the onset of the rainy season
came the breezes – not necessarily cool, but a breeze
nonetheless and oh so nice. That transition period was when
the kites would come out. Initially, you would notice one
or two and then as the days passed there were more.
There was a lady down the street
from us in Tia Juana, next door to the Lanciaults, who had
a little shop in her living room where she sold nick-knacks
and she would stock kite kits. There was a nice selection
and they were composed of rice-paper and bamboo lenghts.
Small torn strips of old bed sheeting that mom would provide
to us would do for the kite’s tail. I recall a kite
cost about B’s 5 and so my brother and I only got
You would cross the two pieces of
bamboo and tie them together with string and then connect
each tip of the wood with string and then lay that over
the paper and fold and glue the paper over the outer string
to form the shape of the kite and then wait impatiently
for it to dry. Once dry, you then slightly bent the cross
piece to form a slight arch and then tied a string hold
the arch. The degree of arch that you made determined how
responsive the kite was to your tugs on the string. Next
you tied the tail which had to be just the right length
because of too short the kite would spin as you pulled it
into the wind – you carried extra strips of sheeting
in your pocket to make field adjustments.
That was the beginner's kite. You
would see the younger kids out running and pulling and sailing
their itty bitty kites. The string was not very strong and
many a kite was lost because it broke.
The older kids made their kites from
scratch. The kites could be three feet or more long and
at least two and a half feet across and we mostly used brown
wrapping paper because it would hold up. We also used lengths
of split bamboo for the cross members because it was strong,
flexible and light. The kites were kind of heavy but once
up, sailed beautifully and we used 100 lb.-test hand-fishing
line for the string. The tails on these kites could be 10
feet long and we used different colored cloth to distinguish
our kites from one another’s. These kites were very
maneuverable and you could cause them to move left or right
by jerking the string in the appropriate direction. Running
forward or backward caused the kite to drop or ascend rapidly.
My older brother, Bill, made the
monster-kite. It was at least 6 feet long and 4 feet wide
and he used heavy hemp twine to keep the line from breaking
because the kite had such a strong pull. He would take it
out to the golf course where he had a long run and he would
charge along until the kite lifted and he would get the
kite up so high that it was a speck in the sky. I was truly
amazed!!! Somehow he lost the kite – I think the line
broke from the tension because it was as taunt as a piano
wire when the kite was way up there. He mourned its loss
and stopped flying kites as of that incident.
Boredom was not in our vocabulary
and we were very competitive and every game eventually turned
into a battle, so the “Kite-Wars” were introduced.
The whole idea in a kite war was to cut the string of your
adversary’s kite in the air. How you accomplished
this depended upon your ingenuity. My technique was to tie
several of my Dad’s discarded razor blades to sections
of my kite’s tail. Bobby Lavin who was a champion
kite flyer glued broken glass to his kite’s tail.
Others had other methods, but razor blades were common.
No girls played this game. We would congregate at the staff
school playground and spread out. Our maneuver zone was
limited to the vicinity of the playground and the road and
island in front of the school. Once all the kites were in
the air the “War” began!!
Whooping and hollering, each of us
would run around trying to drape the tail of our kite over
a victim’s kite line and then run backwards and jerk
the line in a manner to force the tail across the victim’s
line as the kite ascended trying to slice the line. It was
a strenuous process because it was also fair to gang up
on a victim to limit their ability to maneuver out of harm’s
Great pleasure was derived from watching
a kite suddenly drift backwards in the breeze and then spiral
out of control to the ground. The end of the game came when
the sole survivor pulled his kite in. The rest of us losers
sat around on the ground with our kites in our laps and
watched with envy…
But then, there was always tomorrow……