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High-flying hobby

January 1, 2012
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

I included a photograph of the WWII aircraft observer's shack in?Wells in my latest book, and it got me to thinking about the planes of WWII and how they became a major part of my life while my dad was off to war. I saw a WWII-era B-17 flying on TV the other night so I pulled out my two scrapbooks of airplanes to see if I had a picture of it. I spent many hours collecting pictures of those planes and pasting them with flour paste in my scrapbooks. It was a good time in history to develop an airplane hobby; the use of planes in the war effort was multiplying faster than Adirondack rabbits. Each generation of aircraft was spawning the next.

Wheaties (my favorite lifelong breakfast cereal) produced World War II airplanes on their boxes that could be cut out, wings stuffed with cotton, and a penny placed in the nose, so that they could be flown with a simple toss into the air. I loved those planes and I have a couple pages in the scrapbook of colored airplanes that are similar to them.

I took some time to look at my old scrapbooks to renew those old memories. Some pages were bedraggled and some of the pictures had been torn out over the years for some unknown reason. Some of the small airplane cards from my dad's Wing Cigarette packages were still there; I sometimes see them in the antique stores for a good price today.

I guess my airplane hobby was important to me during those pre-teen years. I wrote on the cover, "My Hobby of Airplanes." Opening the book to the inside cover it again reads, twice, "My Hobby of Airplanes," leaving no doubt what it was and that it was mine. Sometimes what children do cannot be explained.

During WWII, I was surrounded by servicemen. My dad was a Seabee along with most of his friends. One of my uncles was a Marine and another was in the Air Force. Four of my cousins served in WWII and some of my mother's cousins were in. Somehow, again hard to explain, my hobby of airplanes connected me with them and what they were doing. I often looked through the newspaper photographs hoping to see them. I spent hours searching through magazines and newspapers to cut out any war pictures of airplanes and air force men that I could find. I went to every movie at Northville's Star Theater that was a WW II airplane story, and there were plenty of them during those years. I learned in later years the war movies were part of the war effort to build patriotism.

When Northville businessman Walker LaRowe landed a big World War II bomber at the Edinburgh airport and let me sit in the cockpit, it was one of the biggest days of my life; my airplane hobby became real and I was ready to fly. Sitting there facing that wall of dials and holding the stick turned me into a World War II Ace, ready to face the enemy. Imagination is a great childhood luxury; too bad we lose it as we age.

My flying "imagination" took me one step beyond the World War II planes. I also included my predictions of the future in my hobby books. I designed the first space ships that would someday travel to outer space and the moon. It was good that in my lifetime I saw my predictions come true. Some say that "hobbies bring happiness and good mental health." In my estimation, my airplanes did that for me.



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