A brief description with pictures of Melbourne's Sandringham Model Aero Club, a typical club of the control line golden era.
Sandringham is a Melbourne bayside suburb situated some 16km from the city centre, and in around 1955 an aeromodelling club was established there largely as a result of the efforts of local model shop proprietor, Harold Haynes.
1. This group of the club's most active members is pictured at their new George Street flying ground. From left to right are Athol Holtham with young spectators, Geoff Cawsey, Lindsay Edwards, Max Stevens, and Cliff McIver. To the left of this picture and slightly uphill were the rapidly encroaching Sandringham Tip and Cheltenham Cemetry.
2. Pictured in this group photo are several of the club's prominent members of the late nineteen fifties: In the front row is Philip Marks at left with the broken Ram Rod; Jeff Cawsey, Brian Taylor with his dad's Ram Rod, and David Axford at far right. In the back row are Secretary Lindsay Edwards at left with his own design stunter, a semi-scale Sea Mew; Max Stevens, David Kidd without a plane, Athol Holtham with his Thunderbird, and Dennis Perkin.
3. Lindsay Edwards with his scale Avro Anson at the Gawler Nationals of 1959. Powered by two .35 engines, the model featured very good interior detail, a retractable undercarriage, and placed third.
4. The club is well represented in this line up of flyers at a stunt day held in 1957 at Albert Park. In the back row is Athol Holtham third from the left; John Bower is beside him, and Geoff Cawsey is at far right. The lone Thunderbird is the first of its kind in Australia, built by Bob Hyde. In the front row are Cliff McIver second from left, and David Strachan second from right.
5. Junior member Brian Taylor displays two of the club's Thunderbirds in this picture taken by his dad. The photo won the Montgomery Photographic Award when it was published in Model News.
6. Teamrace victors in a Manion-Munro race of the late nineteen fifties at Albert Park were Athol (left) and his chief mechanic Peter Ellis. That enormous cup being examined by Peter is the perpetual trophy donated by Jim Manion and Mac Munro to promote Class 2 teamracing in Victoria.
7. The Sandringam Model Aero Club was already in decline by the time David Kidd entered an open competition for the first time. Pictured here at Albert Park for one of the six-monthly contests for the Hearns Trophy, this model was a modified Thunderbird slightly reduced in size. The part of Albert Park where models were flown is now part of Melbourne's Formula One Grand Prix circuit.
8. Robin Mutimer at the age of 16 was one of the club's most prolific model builders. Pictured here is his All Australian, built from the Hearn's Hobbies kit and powered by O.S. 35. Other planes in Robin's stable included Hearn's Demons and Frisky, plus several class 2 teamracers. His Frisky was memorable for flying in clockwise circles (the opposite of most control line models) because of a slight mistake when installing its controls.
Click on any picture at right to see a larger view.
The Sandringham Model Aero Club was probably no better or worse than dozens of similar clubs that sprang up around the country. It had some talented members, and for several years contributed much to the enjoyment of aeromodelling in the area which it served. But its life-span was less than ten years, and you would be struggling to find much evidence of its existence today.
Members of the club were mainly young adults and teenage boys, in some cases supported by their parents. They included Harold Haynes, Lindsay Edwards, Athol Holtham, Peter Ellis, Cliff McIver, Jeff Cawsey and his dad, Max Stevens, Donald and Andrew Mackintosh, Brian Taylor and his dad, Robin Mutimer, Jon Wilcox, Terry Farrelly, Phillip Marks, Dennis Perkin, Horace Wee, Terry Newman and his dad, David Kidd, John Bower, David Axford, David Strachan, and numerous others. There were none of the middle-aged adults so common in radio control clubs of today. On the whole they were not an affluent lot, but free flight and control line model aeroplanes were affordable by those who got their priorities right.
Club meetings initially were friendly evening affairs conducted monthly in the homes of members. By moving around to a different member's home each month meetings made it possible to get to know each member very well, to inspect his models and engines, and in some cases, to impress his parents and enlist their support for the club. When the club grew bigger, meetings shifted to a hired hall, first at the Life Saving Club, then later the Scouts. Meetings were well attended until the spread of television in the country enticed members to stay more in their own homes.
The Sandringham City Council granted the club use of a remote area of land in George Street, and there the club established two flying circles for control line. Many members had free flight models as well, and these were flown at the enormous Dendy Park in the neighbouring suburb of Brighton. Unfortunately, the park was not quite enormous enough to avoid models drifting into neighbouring properties, resulting in annoyance to neighbours and damage to models. Flying at Dendy Park eventually ceased, and occasional club visits to country properties were organised for members wanting to fly free flight.
The official opening of the George Street flying ground was a big event for the club. The famous Australian stunt competitor Tony Farnan gave an aerobatics demonstration with his RamRod, enthralling the spectators with low level pullouts from wingovers. The watchers never knew whether a wingover would end in upright flight or inverted, and many expected disaster... but the worst that happened was the RamRod's balloon fueltank once escaped from its proper compartment, causing a ragged engine run.
Under the heading "Model Aero Club" the local Sandringham News reported:
"The Sandringham Model Aero Club's new drome, at the corner of Spring and George Streets, was opened last Sunday by the Mayor, Cr. Berg. More than 300 people attended in spite of the unpleasant weather conditions.
"Cr. Berg and Cr. McLeod spoke enthusiastically about the value of such clubs to the community as a healthy means of occupying leisure time for boys and also from the point of view of the valuable training they receive.
"In wishing the club every success Mrs. Berg announced that she would donate a trophy for club competitions."
The club put on an occasional display of its best models in the window of a local shop. The shop in question happened to be Haynes' model shop, but it could equally well have been put into any empty shop... except that in those days there were no empty shops; for empty shops we had to wait for the wonderful economic performance governments tell us our country now enjoys.
Annually or sometimes more frequently the club would be invited to put on a flying demonstration at local school carnivals and fetes. These provided a fun way for members to show off, and at the same time attracted new members for the club.
Eventually the club tried running some competitions. At meetings a few of the more advanced members would recount their experiences in competitions elsewhere, and slowly others became attracted to the competitive side of control line modelling.
But all this came to a premature end largely because the club was not in the lawn mowing business. The rhetoric of Mayor Berg notwithstanding, Council would never cut the grass at the George Street flying circles, and the few members who had been using their own mowers to keep the circles mowed understandably got tired of the job and drifted away. The club was always small with fewer than 40 members at its peak and with many of these still juniors it did not have the resources to solve the grass mowing problem. Members returned to unco-ordinated flying on various sportsgrounds that the Council did mow. Council, seeing the patch of weeds it had generously assigned for a flying ground unused, cancelled the club's permission to use it. Although the club lingered on for several more years it never returned to its former strength and eventually faded away.