Some history of radio control in Kearney.

I was asked to write something about my 60 years of radio control history in Kearney that was interesting enough to read.  I don’t know if I’m up to the task but here goes.

My family got to Kearney the same year as Interstate 80 – 1967. I was 11 years old and just joining the Boy Scouts. I can recall attending a club meeting of the Mid-Nebraska Modelers Association (MNMA) with my friend and fellow boy scout Mike Albrecht.  It was held in the conference room of the old gas company building on east Hwy 30.  Mike’s father Kenneth Albrecht was active in the club and actually won the top pattern title in the late 60’s in Phoenix giving our club a little national notoriety.

Some of you R/C pilots might remember a few of the early members like Dale Christensen, Harlan Gruethouse (sp?) Fred Loman, Dale Hansen, Lloyd Marty, Mack Nickel, Leonard Yendra, Bill Foster, Raleigh Jacobson, Verlon Lewis and Les Bruntz.

All in all the club was strong and growing and a part of a new and small national organization called the AMA.  I think dues were $20 which I could not afford so I just watched.  Membership in the AMA at that time was optional but highly encouraged for what they were trying to do for our hobby with respect to frequencies, safety and such.  There were no buddy-boxes in those days – you did what we all called “toss the transmitter” to help a newby learn to fly.  I only got to try flying once with the help of Kenneth Albrecht leaning over me and trying to fly an old Pattern plane he had.  I was HOOKED!  Well come on …. it had RETRACTS!

The MNMA club had many flying fields over the years.  I think that field I just mentioned was the club’s first one.  It was south of the Platte River near the Fort Kearney stockade just north of the 50A link.  It was a beautiful bluegrass mowed circle in a pasture because some members also flew control line.  I recall they had to clear it of cow pies prior to flying each day since they had to ‘share’ the pasture some of the year with the local bovine.

For me, school, cars, dating and ‘growing up’ in general got in the way so I just read my model magazines and drifted away from the club for a few years.  I returned in 1977 with my first Kraft sport radio to teach myself how to fly at a club field south of the Platte River but this time west of Highway 44 on pasture ground that was soon taken over by a new invention at that time.  It was call a ‘center pivot’.

The club then moved to a field on the south side of the river road less than a mile west of Highway 44 and the old Interstate structures building.  This field had a dangerous traffic problem (too many rubber-neckers on the river road) so we had to find a different field.  We then moved to land owned by the state on the northwest corner of the YRTC property in west Kearney which is now about hole number 16 of Meadowlark Golf Course (I still can’t help but slice my drive off to the right when I come up that hill toward the old runway) – then to a hilltop on on the west side of Cottonmill road just north of 56th street which is now the Kearney Area Sanitary Landfill.  Once again we were homeless.

I heard about Dr. Mark Meyers who had bought ground south of Riverdale and had put in a grass airstrip for his full-scale plane – he was calling it Onion Crest Field since he raises Vedalia onions on the property.  I thought if there was ever a brethren spirit that might be willing to talk about leasing us some ground for our model club it would be another pilot.  I called his office and left a message and one Saturday while I was working a show at the Hilltop Mall he stopped by to visit with me and in about 30 minutes with scrap paper from my briefcase we worked out the highlights of a lease for the club to relocate to his airstrip.  That was in 1991.  We’ve been at that location ever since.

The club reached about 23 members in the first years following the move to Onion Crest Field.  Club activities included the ‘2 stick’ golf tournament, cross-country radio control from the field to Miller and back, Wives night out for the January meeting.  As the sophistication of Doc Meyers’ planes increased with subsequent models so did the runway.  The 500’ buffalo grass runway that we installed in 1991 was paved over in the late 90’s which I personally welcomed but many pilots didn’t appreciate the scuffed wingtips of a less than level landing would cause their models.

At least half of our membership were reaching an age where they were not active in the hobby any longer and those from out of town began attending their own local clubs rather than make the drive to Riverdale.  For the remaining members such as myself I can recall the R/C industry losing its middle ground.   On the one side you had ‘toy’ R/C products that were affordable like I sold when I worked for Radio Shack and you had what we commonly called ‘Quarter Scale’ aircraft that started around $2000 dollars per plane.  The 60-size aircraft in the middle lost favor among the vendors and I know Mike and I spent more time camping as he was spending time with his many grand kids at the lake.

Due to passings, illness, and injury and a multitude of complications the MNMA evaporated by about 2011.  Mike and I kept up the yearly lease on the flying field and split the cost of an old rebuilt mower so we could fly when the notion hit us and in about 2015 Dan Dauel contacted me about the club wanting to do some flying.  He and I met and added him to the roster at the flying field so there were just the 3 of us.  Dan noticed a bunch of guys on facebook that wanted to start a new R/C club in Kearney.  I contacted Mike Rohde and asked them to join our flying site and start up a new club early summer of 2018.  The birth of KEARNEY R/C CLUB (since that is what we always called the MNMA anyway)

Shortly after the formation of the Kearney R/C Club we realized that the addition of regular crop-duster flights in and out of our current location at Onion Crest Field was just too dangerous, so we had to move (again) in the spring of 2019. One of our members (Lance Bauer) was nice enough to let us temporarily move to one of his pastures north of Odessa through the balance of 2018 until we secured a new lease on our present location, 2 miles south of the I-80 Odessa interchange on 746 road 1/2 mile west of the Odessa highway. As of this writing, our structures have been located there, the ground has been worked and the gophers have been asked to leave. Hopefully it will be our new home for at least another 10 years or longer.

Rick W. Redden

AMA #138677