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 one each.

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 way.

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……

 

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