From Discourse 20
In taking stock of some of the obscure collectibles in my back room, I ran across this unexpected image: a model-worthy woman retrieving a kite from power lines (top image at left)!
It led me to think about my friend, Jose Sainz, who for the last decade or so has worked for San Diego Gas and Electric (Sempra Energy) to put all of these wires underground. One of many reasons for doing so is to keep company personnel from having to do the very thing my German friend is shown doing in the bottom image at left.
A quick look at the Sempra Energy website will show you their commitment to public safety. (I picked Sempra to stay with my friend Jose’s company, but looking at your own utilities company will probably lead you to a similar page.)
They say: “At Sempra Energy, our top priority is safety. Nothing is more important to us than keeping our employees and customers safe. Protecting the public from dangerous contact with our systems and assets is an ongoing challenge. Our businesses educate their customers to avoid contact with electric and natural gas equipment, including poles, transformers, pipes, and wires.” We’ve all seen these safety messages on billboards, in newspapers, and even in our utility bills themselves.
But our web-driven and mass media lives have lost some charming relics that came from these same companies over a half-century ago. Two examples come from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) in 1960 and 1961. Porky Pig’s Kite Fun Book and Huckleberry Hound’s Kite Fun Book were distributed by PG&E to promote safe kite flying, and each creatively detailed the dangers of flying near power lines as well as flying during thunderstorms. Both booklets have their namesakes leading the process of making a two-stick diamond kite with helpful commentary by PG&E’s Reddy Kilowatt. In addition, each details construction of a “plane surface kite” (barn door kite), box kite, and star kite.
As I’ve pursued an artistic interest in three-stick kites, Huck and Porky’s plane surface kite is of particular interest to me. It shows construction and bridling techniques of the day (early 1960s), when wood and paper were still the materials of choice. In both booklets, techniques for tails are given, from bow-tie tails to cones to disco balls (okay, not really disco balls, but 3D cardboard discs that might be really effective). Both also give would-be kitefliers the idea of “messages” or simple line- climbers for additional fun.
Now it’s time to see if we are all the kitefliers we think we are. Here’s a quiz from Huckleberry Hound’s Fun Book.
(It’s True/False, so you’ve got a pretty good chance at passing!)
True or False:
- When running with your kite, don’t cross streets.
- As long as you’re standing in a puddle, it’s safe to fly your kite in the rain.
- It’s safe to use just a little metal in your kite for strength.
- It’s dangerous to fly your kite near electric power lines and TV or radio aerials.
- If you find a fallen electric wire, tie a knot in it so the electricity can’t escape.
Hope you got ‘em all right! You’d rate a “Tops” on Huck’s Kite Pilot Safety Meter!
These little relics are from a much simpler time, but they serve to show the creative way that power companies promoted safety in a time before video games, the Internet, and social media. While I’m not sure these would ever be considered valuable artifacts from the past, it’s sure they served a valuable purpose and today can be a source for humor, semi-serious kite study, and a reminder that safety is never out of date. ◆