My younger brother Jim and I spent a lot of our younger pre teen formative years (before girls) reading many publications that helped make us what we are today. We spent a lot of our school weekends and summer time with our maternal grandparents. Grandpa was a woodworker and we would make things from his wood scraps but grandma would write checks as my brother and I would spend our allowance ($0.50 a week) on mail order parts for various electronic and other construction projects. We also did small jobs when we could to earn extra spending money.
Brother Jim once ordered a solid fuel rocket kit where he had to mix the powdered fuel and tamp it firmly into a cardboard tube body. The kit made three rockets. Two blew up like bombs and one shot off extremely well. I can’t imagine 10 or 12 year olds doing that on their own these days.
Standard reading material was Radio and TV Experimenter, Popular Electronics, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and any other of those how-to-do-it magazines we could get grandma to buy for us while we were with her at the supermarket. We didn’t just read them; we tried a lot of the things that were within our skills and meager budget. Oh yeah, there were some comic books in there too.
One Christmas mom and dad bought us electronic experiments kits. There were two vacuum tubes and a lot of parts we had to screw down to plywood and use fahnestock clips to hold the wiring. We also needed “A” and “B” but not “C” batteries. No kid today even knows about radio tubes and high voltage batteries.
We both got into model airplanes about that age. A neighbor (at grandma’s house) would fly gas powered free flight airplanes in a field behind his house. All we needed to hear was the whine (sweet wine) of the two cycle model engines and off we ran.
I started building free flight and Jim didn’t want his airplanes to fly away so he was building U-Control (wires from the airplane to a handle the operator (pilot) held.) Model Airplane News (MAN), Flying Models and other model aircraft magazines were added to the reading list.
That was great fun growing up with all those things we would do. They were all for real. No computer simulation. If we broke things we had to fix them. It built character. No crying to an adult when things didn’t go well. We had to figure it out and fix it ourselves.
Well, I am still doing all that today. Now I have a workshop and a much larger budget but it really hasn’t changed what it is all about. We were never forced into doing any of these things. We were just never told we couldn’t do them and neither of us has ever stopped. What a great opportunity we were granted and growing up in a time when we could do dangerous things. Somehow we survived and it may have helped us survive this long in life.