Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Beginner's Guide to Building and Flying Model Airplanes

A Beginner's Guide to Building and Flying Model Airplanes
Robert Lopshire ~ Harper & Row, 1967

Now that my son is of a certain age, I'm beginning to dig back in the archives of our collection and pull out books I bought years ago expressly for this era of his childhood. In the digging, I uncovered this little jewel and thought I'd use it as an opportunity to give props to Mr. Lopshire, who passed away in 2002 and was best known for his book Put Me in the Zoo. A while back, I was looking for information on him and 10 Engines was kind enough to send some back story along, including this quote...

Thirteen years after the it's publication, Lopshire explained how the book (Put Me in the Zoo) came about: "I came to write my first book because, at the time, I was employed as creative art director on the 'Beginner Book' project at Random House, the first of the truly planned assaults on young minds."

Later, he explained, "Ted Geisel (Dr. Suess) said that the old 'Dick, Jane and Spot' concept was horrible, and that no one could ever do anything more with the three--he bet me on this. . . . Put Me in the Zoo uses Dick, Jane and Spot and I won the bet."

More recently, I found Robert's obituary from the Herald Tribune.

Lopshire, 75, a resident of Gainesville, died May 4, 2002, of emphysema and congestive heart failure in the North Florida Regional Hospital there.He was born April 14, 1927, in Sarasota and graduated from Sarasota High School in 1944.

"The nurses brought in Bob's books for him to autograph during his last days at the hospital," his wife, Selma, said. "They said they had memorized many of them as young children and were now reading them to their own children."

Lopshire had his pilot's license by the age of 15 and after graduating from Sarasota High School, served aboard assault landing ships in the Pacific Theatre. After the war ended a year later, he worked as an illustrator in studios in Boston and Philadelphia, and was a member of the Illustrators Group in New York.

When Lopshire was creative art director during the earlier stages of the Beginner Books series at Random House, his illustrations for Ann Can Fly, published in 1959, caught the eye of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss of the famous Dr. Seuss Beginner Books series, also at Random House.

Lopshire created other favorites for young children such as New Tricks I Can Do! and It's Magic! all for prominent publishing houses. Lopshire loved airplanes and amused himself and crowds before baseball games at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia with synchronized take-offs and landings of radio-controlled Snoopy and the Red Baron model planes. In addition to illustrating and drawing blueprints for building models, he also wrote Radio Controlled Miniature Aircraft for Macmillan, and A Beginner's Guide to Building and Flying Model Airplanes for Harper. He also contributed a section on model airplanes for the World Book Encyclopedia.

"He never retired," his wife said. "Bob had a massive imagination. Right up until the end, he had intricate model airplanes on one table and was working on another book at his desk."

Now, this is one man I'd have loved to interview. The dust jacket of this book mentions that Robert was a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics and a combat photographer during WW II. My son adores the illustrations he did for the Big Max books and thrives on How to Make Flibbers projects, so I'm hoping he takes to the wings so we can get some play out of this comprehensive volume.

The book is so lovingly constructed, diagrammed, researched and explained, that it's hard not to get swept up in the romance of the hobby. I can only imagine how many wee aviators were inspired by Robert's infectious joy of the sky.

Dedicated up front to: Wilbur and Orville Wright for having started something wonderful. One could say the same about good 'ole Bob.

RIP, amazing fly guy.

Also by:
How to Make Flibbers
Ann Can Fly


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