Simple Amusements, Part Six – Mini-Miniature Golf

The Walden, New York soapbox derby.

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Popular Mechanics Projects

            By the time I was ten years old, I loved Popular Mechanics Magazine.  I still love it. They always fill it with exciting projects.  Some are complex, and some are simple.  Most of the articles are about new things.  The ads are for cars, and tools.  I always dreamed about building the projects myself.  Eventually I did.  Several issues caught my attention.  The projects captured my imagination, and increased my appetite for adventure. My  wish to build the project wouldn’t let go.  I remember three of the projects very clearly. They were, an ice boat, a soap-box derby car, and a table top golf game.

Although the idea of the ice boat fascinated me, the practical side of me went to work quickly.  I searched around for material, and could not find the right junk. None of my junk piles had ice runners, or the sail-cloth. Then there was the matter of finding ice. Even with these obstacles in my path,  I had visions of sailing on ice. Most of the time, my dreams took me ice sailing around Our Lady of Hungary school yard.

The second project really got my juices flowing. One issue of Popular Mechanics had a half page article showing a kid getting out of a tiny race car as  he was presented with a trophy for winning the Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.  The next two pages of the article had a blueprint for making a car. It described details of construction, with tips to make it competitive.  I loved the idea of building my own gravity racer. Entering a car that I made, into a race got me excited.  It was winter when I read that article, but I saved it, as I did all of my Popular Mechanics magazines.  I went through them often to review project plans that interested me. I put this one-off for the future also.

I did build the table top golf game. The game provided me, and my friends with endless joy.  The plan was for a table with a nine-hole golf course on top of it.  My course had tees, sand traps, fairways, and greens.   I didn’t have the wood or the tools to make a table, so I substituted. Instead of wood, I cut up the largest cardboard box I could find.  By laying the box out flat I had material with which to work.  I drew the course on the cardboard using crayons.  The most exciting part to make was the little golfer.  My golfer was a play action figure. He stood four inches tall.  He held a golf club that swung.

I made the man out of quarter-inch balsa wood.  The head, torso and legs were one piece.  His arms were separate pieces. A dowel that ran through the man’s shoulders joined the arms together.  The arms had an extension protruding above the shoulders. They stuck out from the man’s back.  The man held a golf club made from a piece of dowel. A balsa wood mallet, on the end of the dowel, completed the club.  Golf games began when I assembled the man.

A player held the man between his thumb and second fingers. The player’s pointing finger rested on top of the extension at the end of his shoulders.  By pushing down on the extension the arms swung the club head up.  He looked more like someone playing croquet than golf.  I painted the man in bright colors to make him look real. As a final touch, I stretched a rubber band between the club and his legs.  The rubber band provided tension to control the club. A  marble was  my golf ball.

Golfing was more fun when two people competed.  We’d place the board on the living room floor, or up on the dining room table.  Playing required skill because the marble rolled easily on the cardboard surface.  Getting the marble to stay in one spot to take a shot was hard because the board was so smooth.  It wasn’t long before we learned to ‘tee-up’, by pressing the marble into the board.  The dent kept the ball from moving until hit by the club.