Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Sting-A-Ree and Gazabo

Not all of the Gayla kites had long lives like the Baby Bat and Sky Spy. In fact, most did not. The Gazabo and Sting-A-Ree are 2 such kites. I believe the Sting-A-Ree was manufactured through most of the 60's coming to an untimely death in 1974/75. From what I have found and what I remember, The Gazabo was around for maybe 3-4 years from 1974 to 1978.

The Sting-A-Ree was a diving/looping nightmare. It was nearly impossible to fly in high winds as it would take on what I referred to as looping momentum. Generally it flew making huge side to side sweeps across the sky. But in high winds, these sweeps would turn into loops, which would continue until the kite finally crashed into the ground. Unless you were lucky, it would usually split right down the tip to the keel. Later, I found that giving it slack during a looping frenzy would break it's momentum. But it was a lot work to keep in the sky and  something I was willing to take on only as a change of pace from my regular kite flying habits.

In my collection I have a 1965-1969 example and a 1974. These kites came in 2 colors, Blue with a yellow keel and yellow with a blue keel. Both of mine are yellow with a blue keel. As with the other  kites I have discussed the Hang Card was made with a 2 color (black and red) process until 1972/73 when it was switched to 4. The 1974 model I have is especially rare as it was the only year it was made using the paper reinforcement on the keel instead of the grommet. In 1976, this kite made a brief return with the addition of a 50' tail and was called the Tailey-Ho. I think this kite may have been produced for 2 or three years and then it went away as well. Both the TH and the SAR are highly collectible.

The Gazabo is a strange kite. First off, what the hell did Gazabo mean?(I didn't have access to the internet then, here!). Secondly, Why did it cost $1.50? It shared the exact same 45" wingspan outline as the Sky Spy. I wasn't sold, so I never bothered to pick one up. The closest I ever did come to owning one as a kid was a time when I noticed one stuck in one of the lower hanging power lines in our neighborhood. I was pretty sure I could get it with our telescoping pool cleaning pole. I grabbed some rubber gloves and headed out to the backyard to grab the pole. My old man about pooped his pants when I told him what I was up to. Needless to say, I never made it to the kite with the pole. I have an example of the very first year this kite was produced in my collection. It is the only one that I have seen come up for auction on the internet in the last 3 years.  I paid more for this kite than any other. However, I have bid more for other kites and not won. I think I saw an example with a post 75' hang card, but that site is no longer available. This kite was the forerunner to the Fantazma Gordo, the Flutterburt Butterwink, and eventually all of the Gayla print kites that are made today.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Sky Spy and Sky Raider

Next to the Bat Kite (or Baby Bat), Sky Raiders and Sky Spies were the most frequently seen kites back in the day. The Sky Spy, with it's big bloodshot eyes, would peer menacingly down on the schoolyards. The Sky Raider, with it's pointy nose and broad wings, would sail gloriously over our neighborhoods.
Sky Raiders and Sky Spies from l-r - 1964 SR, 65-'69 SR, 70-'71 SR, 72-'73 SR, 75-77'SR, post 81 to '91 SR,
post 81 to '91 SS, '75 SS, 3 x 73-'74 SS, 2 x '72 SS
1974 Sky Spy
1972 Sky Spy

Sky Spies

The Sky Spy was the very first kite I owned as a child. It was a little unpredictable in the sky, which made for interesting flying. I own 2 of these from 1972. One has the yellow keel and the other a blue.  I believe these were the only 2 keel colors offered during this time period. These are rhombus or diamond shaped with a 3' wingspan. They are made of the rubbery vinyl like material and have the hard plastic keel grommet. These are the rarest and, I think, the coolest of the Sky Spies. After 1973, Gayla changed the shape and material properties of these kites. They made them Delta shaped with a 45" wing span. The keel grommet and vinyl like material was replaced with the paper reinforced line attachment on the keel and a much thinner/lighter plastic. They offered them with white, yellow, and blue keels at this time.  They also changed the printing of the hang card to four color process. In 1975, Gayla made a long term change to the Hang Card.
Back of 1972 Sky Spy

This is the same card used through the early nineties.
Back of a 1975 Sky Spy
They also made a black Sky Spy around this time. I know this because I owned one. I remember seeing one in the sky and thinking "that is an odd shaped bat kite". When I realized what it was,  I immediately tracked down the pilot and asked him where he got it. He directed me to a now defunct retailer, Gemco. I raced down there and grabbed one before they were gone.  The part of the eyes that is black on the white Spies was printed silver and it had a red keel. I have yet to see one of those come up 
post '81 SS
anywhere on the internet. One last and final change was made to the kite some time after 1981. They reduced the wing span to 42". That is essentially the same Sky Spy that is produced today by Gayla. 

Sky Raiders 

I always felt that this was the most stable and easy to fly of the Gayla deltas.  From what I recall, these were the kites I purchased most often in my early days of kite flying. I can remember using a purple one to empty a spool of 12lb 900 yd mono-filament. I remember my dad telling me that I had let it out over a half a mile! It took me 8 hours of reeling to get it back down! I recall that those kites would go out of sight when they were somewhere between 1400' and 1500'.  I have
This catalog is still in the
bag of this 1964 SR
no idea how many color combos were used for these kites in the 60's. I own 4 and they are all different.  I believe the 71-'74 era kites were limited to 4 colors.  I recall owning a yellow, purple and red Raider and possibly 
Back of a 1964 Sky Raider
seeing a blue one. In '75, they changed the hang card again and kept essentially the same template through the beginning of the nineties. Just like what was done to all of the other entry level Gayla deltas, the wing span on this kite was reduced to 42" at some point after 1981. They also added a "fringe" on the bottom (see the hang card on kite that is sixth from the left in the picture at the top of the screen).  I have seen pictures in a catalog from 1984, and this fringe was on the SR at this time. Around 1992-94, the outline of the kite was changed to match the Sky Spy and printed with a skull and cross bones.

Up coming blogs will cover the Sting-a-Ree, Gazebo, Gordo and Flutterburt Butterwink !!!