History of Sydney's Sky Hawks, a typical club of the control line golden era, as remembered by John Quigley.
The Skyhawks flew at Tempe Park in the inner south west of Sydney near the suburb of Sydenham. There was room for a 60ft, 50ft and 30ft (just) circles though the smallest one was not used much.
The 60ft circle was interesting and I have not seen an environment like it since. Until about 2pm it was one model at a time probably for testing etc. There always seemed to be a model in the air. Should a lull appear about 1.30/ 1.45 then open flying was declared and it was "on".
The pit area was a small area for models that were not needed and was located as is the practice now. Though at this site there was no room for lines to be laid out in the pits. The flying area could have what seemed like 10 to 20 models lined up and all lines attached, rolled out and handles in the centre.
When your engine started you flew. Sometimes there would be six up! There was always one model in the air.
The pits were always located in the same place and take offs were too, by definition, always the same place.
How did we overcome the problem of the lines being out in the circle? Easy, the rule was do not land on the lines. Simple. One learnt to stretch a glide.
The whole flying area was roped off and the club's equipment was stored at the local corner shop. No doubt they made a lot of money from the modellers and spectators every second Sunday though this was not obvious to me at the time.
People came from miles around to see the aeroplanes on Sunday. It was a family outing my wife's family was fond of when she was quite young. Later in the 60's when I started work and work mates discovered I flew model aeroplanes, I would be questioned "If I flew at Tempe Park? They would go there to see the action.
In those days the trams terminated at the field, as the bridge over Cooks River was wood and too narrow for trams and cars. The day the trams stopped there was a huge "carnival" as many rode the trams for the last time. Later the bus stopped about 200 yards up the road and was more expensive to ride. Ah progress!
Photos at right:
1. Author John Quigley in 1959 with his model that took first place in the hobby section at Marrickville Town Hall.
2. Junior membership card from 1955.
3. Stan Pilgrim, still flying forty years later.
4. There's a story behind these tags.
5. Guess whose mum hasn't got a Whirlpool! Looks like Bob Fisher.
6. Author John Quigley's 1963 stunter.
7. Cec Pierce (right) at presentation to Brian James (Milperra club) at a Cabramatta competition day.
John Wilson; Brian Kemp; Garry Wells; Late Colin Monk; Late Darcy & Pat Peck; Darcy's brother; Adrian Coggins; Paul Varenie; Paul Maloney; Cec Pierce; Pierce Junior; John Hutchens; Jack Emerson; Russ Johnson; Ray Johnson (not related); Joe McGuffin; Bob Fisher; Keith "slim" Berry; Stan Pilgrim; John Kittle; John Cruickshank; Ron Herbert; Kim (unknown); John Siccardie; Brian Fowler; and Yours Truly. My apologies to those whose names I have forgotten.
It was a vibrant club.
Darcy Peck supplied juniors with wood glue and fuel in quantities that we could afford. This assistance was a contributing factor in the success of the club. We used the same glue for building and as a dope. We did not know about thinners to wash brushes. Today one can get quality brushes for those quality jobs and junk brushes for those sacrificial jobs. In those days we would spread glue/dope on the wing with our hands and spend days picking the scale off. Later when I ventured into R/C where the wings were built with a bit more finesse the C/L technique would warp a wing. Basil Healy and Coop educated me in the art of using actual dope.
Flying and Club Meetings
Flying days were every second Sunday and I think the club meeting followed that Sunday on the Tuesday night. Club meetings were in a meeting room at the Marrickville Town Hall.
Getting to the field
To get to the field was an interesting trek. We would assemble at a one modellers home, consolidate all our stuff and start walking. The large 2Volt single cell lead acid battery that we needed for the glow engines was very heavy. I do not know where this battery came from but it did not seem to need charging. We became familiar with the tides as the shortest walk was under the train bridge at Tempe. When the river was up it was necessary to go via the overhead bridge at Tempe station, a much longer and harder walk. No one was old enough to own a car. Only two families had cars and they were not large enough to take all our stuff.
Combat in those days.
You had to use the same model for the complete contest. By the end of the day there were some wrecks flying. While we had fast drying celluloid based glues for some repairs the models still finished as a mess at the end of the day. Many a model was flown with no outside wing. Most of the models were the conventional style with a fuselage. The Fox Stunter and Hearns Gladiator were the style of model flown. Not many modellers could afford the cost of the Hearns Gladiator kit. Darcy Peck's brother had a K&B 35 in a Gladiator that went like a missile. The Ram Rod was a large model in my eyes then and the kit was out of my price range. One of our members obtained a Ram Rod kit and we did our derivatives. The Stiletto was also popular with some modellers.
Visit to Eastern Districts.
In the late 50's there was a personality clash going on that as a junior went over my head. Some of the club members that wanted to fly in contests had some licence with special numbers on their models. Arrangements were made to visit Eastern Districts club that flew in Centennial Park. A nice setting that as a kid was not appreciated as the trees caused turbulence. The flying by this club was not as wild as the 'hawks but they had many larger models doing all this serious stuff like 8's, loops and inverted!
Visit to Olds.
This club had many flying fields, and the club visited each of them once on a rotational basis. This still caused a problem with noise as many fringe enthusiasts would fly anywhere and having seen a club on a field, would use that field on a non-club day. With letters the only form of communication and special events scheduled on some flying days, having many fields was not a solution to the noise problem. When the OLDS flew at Bardwell Park we would visit as we could walk to Tempe Station and train to the Bardwell Park field. Now most Sydney railway stations are about 1.5K's apart and Bardwell Park field is half way between two stations. As I remember a very large area to fly in.
Getting your Wings.
This was a system where a new kid had to demonstrate three flights in an afternoon. This included starting your engine and good landings. You then got your wings. These were a black felt backing with white Hawk stencil on the black felt. Though damaged, I still have "my Wings". The clubs colours were Black and White. Though not many members could afford it, the club uniform was black pants and shirt with a white Hawk stencilled on the back.
Cec Pierce was one of those workers that all clubs need but is often un- appreciated. He arranged the storage of the club goods and chattels at the corner shop, assisted with launching models, rolled out the ropes. Later he was a valuable assistant to the fledgling NSWAA. Cec was a boiler attendant and general handy man at the Australia club in Macquarie Street Sydney. A rather exclusive club for the movers and shakers of society. I can only speculate here that it was his contacts with this club that paved the way for the NSWAA to use an Onlso Macarther field for a state champs.
One miserable new local had us moved due to the noise. Maybe he was a failure at modelling and could not bear to see others being successful. So we moved to the other side of the river. This was a good and bad move. There was more room and better grass but we were in a different Council area. For a while the club thrived having a great field. But another miserable home dweller a long way from the park didn't like the noise or the fun we were having. We were again moved to the back to the verge of Tempe tip. Cec Pierce and Darcy Peck were the negotiators that tried to keep the club together. By this time some of the members went car racing and other pursuits. Thus the club slowly disintegrated. I went to a state champs at Camden and discovered wireless models. Ces Pierce was assisting John Marquette with the NSWAA and with no-where to store the club's equipment and a rough field, difficulty in getting council to mow the "grass", the club died. The shop where things were stored was what seemed a mile away.
One day at the new field I was trying to start an OS35 in a large elliptical wing O/D model (most of us rarely used plans and in fact I had never built a model strictly to a plan until I started in Old Timer) where the engine back-fired and cut my finger. This was an own design and I do not have any photos. This model did not last long but it was nice to fly. With a cut finger I kept flicking like mad and had gathered a small audience. After some time I stopped for a break, looking at an observer who was wearing a white shirt now very splattered with blood spots. He did not say anything but I guess he has not taken up aero modelling. Today we would be in much strife for a shirt replacement, trauma, counselling, AIDS testing and damages for pain and suffering. Times have changed.
Somewhere in these moves the Sky Hawks members were affiliated with the NSWAA and our numbers were in the 4100's. The public was insured but in those days the members were not insured. It was only necessary to join the MAAA if one wanted to fly in contests. Times have changed for the better provided the insurance company is solvent.
I do remember some of the members have numbers on the side of their Team races. Rather swish looking to a kid. Coggins had 122.
From time to time a "fun" event was run called a butchers picnic. These "contests" were limited to about 10 in the circle at once. In one of these events I was a mechanic (model holder) Wilson was starting and for some reason he looked up and saw a model landing and said duck! I ducked and the model ran up my back. It was fun at the time.
I do not remember serious stunt being flown in the Sky Hawks though some would do inverted, lazy 8's. On very windy days some would continue doing lazy 8's after the engine stopped. Team racing was serious with Classes A, B, C and some D. D Class was tight as it was flown on 70ft lines. Occasionally Darcy would fly his Dyna jet! That almost white hot tail pipe in the almost dark sky. Once all the Sydney clubs came together and flew at the Sydney showground one evening during the interval of the Speed Cars. I have no idea how this was arranged but as a kid it just seemed to happen, we just went, quite an experience for a kid who was still at school.
On occasions some of us would travel by push-bike to Centennial Park to watch EDMAC as they had some serious stunt models and pilots. We had no idea where or how to get plans for these model. Then and now if spectators stay for some time at a field not many "insiders" will say hello to the public.
Another occasion the Sky Hawks went to Blacktown Showground to put on a demo. The grass was very long and not much flying was done. Blacktown and Milperra seemed like the end of the world from Marrickville in those days. Once a bunch of us rode our push-bikes to Milperra to watch Jim lovic and Brian James fly. They were wilder than the Sky Hawk modellers.
Stan Pilgrim, Slim and Bob Fisher had small engines in big models with big tanks. Many a 15 was flown on 60ft lines with 19's in large models. In those days we only flew on piano wire. This was bought from a piano shop in York or Clarence St Sydney. Quite a large quantity of wire was bought for not much money. Single strand wire makes you look after the lines, mechanics never let the lines go loose and it was always up to the mechanic to lead the pilot to the pits. A lost practice at some C/L fields these days.
There were some K&B 35's many Foxes and Sabres. Taipans some AM's. We would share engines and many would use the same engine for combat and T/R. Later OS's came on the scene. Slim's Boys seemed to have Frog 500's going like nothing else. At the time I was annoyed with Taipans, and I have told this story to Gordon, as we all now know there are countless models — all different. A characteristic we now admire but then it was a bloody nuisance as by the time I could afford an engine the model I had built would not take that particular marquee. I remember the Glo Chief Bulge Crankcase being poo-pooed as a speed engine, if only we knew.
On many occasions a Sabre 29 was used in a T/R and stunt model and combat. Usually an Artmill 10/6 prop and a splash out for a Strato wood prop for the team races.
By the end of 1963 the club had all but vanished. I did not appreciate the need to keep the club records. They were, I believe, in Cec Pierce's custody but by about 1970 I had lost contact with Cec. The Australia Club where he worked had been modified and there was no easy access for unannounced tradesmen to enter the building. Prior to the facelift there was a discrete door where I could enter and visit Cec. Later the building was demolished and a modern edifice erected. With hindsight, a criminal act.
As I remember it.