If you want to present a teenager with a difficult task, try to get him interested in coin collecting.
Difficult? Sure. For proof, try to remember your own spending habits at thirteen, when what little money you got on Saturday was burning a hole in your pocket.
Your allowance may have been as much as two bucks a week, and your only chance of improving your situation was asking Dad if he wanted some extra chores done.
After all, that allowance only kept you in soda, a couple of candy bars, the Saturday afternoon cowboy movie and the occasional comic book, then you were broke again, and it was only Tuesday!
Then Dad pointed out that coin collections always started out with small change, and suddenly comic books were out of the question and you started looking closely at every coin that came along. Why, you could always borrow comic books from your buddies - until they realized you didn’t have any to loan them in return and cut off your supply!
By that time you had a good start on your collection, you realized that values were slowly but steadily increasing as Dad had pointed out, and comic books didn’t matter that much anyway. For me, that was the convincer, and I stuck to my guns and became a serious collector. I was broke almost constantly, but my collection was looking good – very good.
Recently, it reached a respectable amount, so I turned it into a birthday present and passed it along to the kids, who continue the collection, just as I had hoped.
While I was collecting, my older brother had developed his own choice of hobbies. He took up building model airplanes, As soon as he completed one, he’d start on another, and pretty soon he had eight or nine hanging from the ceiling.
He was something of a perfectionist, so they all looked just great, and the more kits he completed, the more complicated and detailed they became.
Next thing I knew he had me interested, and try as I might, I was in too much of a hurry to complete a kit, so his models always looked better than mine, while the coin collection almost came to a standstill.
After I’d finished a couple, I knew that building model airplanes wasn’t for me, especially as part of our sibling rivalry, because he’d finish one, fly it briefly, then move on to the next one. Meanwhile, my efforts wound up with the flying capabilities of a brick!
That was my first, and the second came out just like it, so I took the hint and went back to my coins.
However, his airplane enthusiasm vanished when he discovered girls, and there he was, with all those models hanging from the ceiling gathering dust since he had more important things on his mind, and model airplanes no longer held their fascination – not when competing with girls.
Then came the Day Of Decision.
That was the day he casually announced that he was through with models. He even asked if I wanted them, but I turned him down as I was preoccupied with my coins, and I couldn’t take the time to build more airplanes (and didn’t build them very well in the first place, as we already knew).
A couple of days later he told me of his plans.
Fun Time was on the way.
Collecting all his completed planes, we took them up to the attic and proceeded with his plan for their final flights.
While I stood ready with his camera, one by one, he would prepare to fly them by winding up their rubber band ‘motor’, give the plane a couple of squirts of lighter fluid, apply a match, then launch it out of the open window while I recorded each one on film.
Talk about spectacular! Talk about fun!
Some went into an immediate flaming nosedive, some survived for about twenty feet, and one flew beautifully, burning spectacularly all the way for about a hundred feet, slowly descending until the flames consumed the tail assembly, ending in a very satisfying crash, still burning just like a real one, recorded from start to finish, like the others, forever on film.
Later, when we told Dad, he insisted on having the film developed immediately, and when he saw the results, almost collapsed with laughter, eventually taking the pictures and showing them off at work.
Pat’s Planes immediately became part of the family legend, but I’m not jealous.
He had his planes, I still collect coins, Dad had a good laugh, and life goes on.
I wonder; what’s next?
— Newton columnist Mike Morton writes weekly for the Kansan. He can be reached at email@example.com