Thanks to Ali Fujino, who continues her service to the Drachen Foundation, an interesting archive has been added to the website. It contains writings, sketches, publications, and collectibles of the late Lee Toy.
When I came to kiting in the late 1970s, Lee Toy was already a legend in the fledgling US kite scene. He had journeyed around the US on his motorcycle, the Snail, and sought out kite enthusiasts of the day. His travels resulted in his publication, in 1984, of kite plans, Flight Patterns, in which he credits many of those people whose paths he’d crossed. These were early American Kiteflers Association (AKA) members – Red Braswell, Bob Price, Harald Writer, Jack Van Gilder, Brooks Leffler, and others.
Lee was an active organizer of kite festivals, kite exhibits, and kite workshops and saw the power of educating a new cadre of kite flyers and kite makers. Ali Fujino shared one of Lee’s notebooks (from 1988) with me. It displays his considerable talents; two watercolors grace the early pages. His journal reveals Lee’s encounters with kite makers of the day, notes about kite festival organization, and his kite ideas. I particularly liked Elmer Wharton’s notes, centipede maker to the stars, in which Elmer’s secret bridle formula is in our archives.
And Lee demonstrates his broad interest in all-things-kiting as we find an outline for the “Stunt Kite Forum” in late 1988. Topics of the day included field management, National standards, and the possibility of cash awards. He interspersed these thoughts with his sketches of Martin Lester Legs’, Joel Scholz Flutterby, bill lockhart, and Betty Street’s diamond kite frame. Lee was indeed a kite renaissance man.
And then there is a somber turn in this particular notebook: the entry is titled, “Nov. 1, 1988, Day of the Dead”. “It’s been a long day. Perhaps it’s because of the deep terror I feel having gotten my HIV test results – positive.” Lee wrote almost six pages describing his feelings, his health, his life at this horrible time. These were the early days of the Aids epidemic, and my wife, Sherry, and I witnessed a parallel life to Lee’s as Sherry’s brother Rob, diagnosed at about the same time. Through it all, Lee remained upbeat and positive and was the first to laugh, dance, and engage. I think working through my brother-in-law’s trials brought me closer to Lee in those final days. Indeed, I knew to treasure every second in his presence. I’ll never forget Lee dancing in the moonlight in Junction, Texas, where he reveled in this immersion into kites. The kite scene at Junction and what then followed in the 1990s was due in no small part to Lee Toy’s vision.
See the first of his newsletters here: Kite Flyer Introduction