Popular Times

 

As a youngster, I loved the magazines, “Popular Mechanics” and
“Popular Science.” These two magazines were portals into a place
where my own creativity was born complete with pictures and diagrams.
It was awesome.

The first thing I liked about the “Popular” series of magazines was
the men pictured in the articles. They all had khaki-colored slacks
and work shirts and were capable of anything mechanical. They kept
most
of their worldly possessions in the breast pocket of their shirts and
sported haircuts that were “high and tight.” They reminded me of two
Uncles, Donald Olson and Gil Flaten. They were both fellows who could
complete projects that today would require an engineer, several
workers and a committee.

Easily my favorite subject of any “Popular” article was airplanes. I
had such
an urge to fly and design airplanes when I was young and would quickly
vacuum up any article on this topic. “Popular Mechanics” and
“Popular Science” differed in their coverage of aeronautics in that
“Science” looked more to the heavens whereas “Mechanics” kept it real
with stories of people who had built their own flying machines. I
preferred the grass-level guys in the open-station, home-built planes
which used Volkswagen engines to drag them through the air.

I really liked the classified section of either magazine. My airborne
hunger was satisfied by the advertising for gyro-copters from a
company in Tonawanda, Kansas. Gyro-copters looked like a regular
helicopter however the rotor blades served as only a rotating wing.
Propulsion was made by a pusher prop mounted aft and powered by a
small gas engine. I would sneak into Viking to use the payphone and
order brochures on gyro-copters or any government surplus that flew.

The classifieds typically featured the “Struck mini-dozer.” The
bulldozers were about the size of a lawn mower. I remember these
classifieds included a picture of a man (in khaki pants and work
shirt with a full
breast pocket) sitting on top of the bull dozer which appeared to
accomplish mighty acts of
earthen work. These were so cool but even I could see that they were
too small to be of practical worth on a farm. I was astounded to find
that the Struck Corporation (www.struckcorp.com) still exists and
hand-makes the “Magnatrac” in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. These are the
ultimate toy for gents as you can kind of rationalize the purchase in
that you can do some work with the machine. Myself, I would probably
just make sure it had a cup holder and allow myself a few hours to
drive it down to the mailbox and back. If I ever locate one of the
originals, it would make a good winter restoration project.

The one thing both “Popular” magazines did was to bridge my mind to
the outside world. I could see what others were doing which fired my
imagination and validated some of my own crazy ideas. It also showed
me the importance wearing proper works clothes, keeping my hair cut
close and storing everything I might need that day in my left, breast
pocket.

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