The Early Days:
Although the Club became an Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) chartered club #396 in 1965, there were a number of Spirits activities that preceded this. When people with the same interests began to meet regularly and share interests and activities, an organization was born. At first, this group of modelers met with the McDonnell Aircraft Club, which had a field supplied by their employer. These future “Spirits” members were allowed to fly with the McDonnell club members with a permit issued by that club. This didn’t last long, as McDonnell informed them that their presence might void their insurance.
The Spirits became a Missouri not-for-profit corporation on Oct. 24, 1968.
While searching for a field of our own, we flew at various other sites. The northern area of St. Louis County had many large fields, such as Keeven Sod Farm and Earth City which were suitable for flying R/C.
Some of our members participated in establishing Buder Park in South St. Louis County near the intersection of I-44 and Hwy 141 in Valley Park as an R/C flying site including paved runways in an X pattern for R/C flying. In fact it had many other capabilities: Control Line Circles; Free Flight; Whippet dog racing, steeplechase, and baseball diamonds at the East end of the park.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)
The Spirits soon decided to become an AMA Chartered Club. We acquired AMA charter #396 and have re-registered every year since with the AMA. As membership grew, we started to hold contests – racing with the little ’Top Dawgs’ was one of the most popular. We expanded into pattern contests, scale contests, Quickie 500 pylon racing, Warbirds racing, and other activities that could bring the members together such as Fun Flies.
The Spirits joined the GSLMA (Greater St. Louis Modeling Association). This organization meets monthly and plans activities that affect the entire
area relative to all forms of modeling. Events can be scheduled so that they do not conflict. The Spirits also became a Missouri Not-For-Profit Corporation for the protection this offers, again on Oct. 24, 1968.
Activities soon expanded with Mall Shows, Demonstrations, and Air Shows. An Annual Swap Meet had been developed jointly with the McDonnell Douglas R/C Flying Club, now the Boeing Phantom Flyers RC Club The Swap Meet was held early in the year (March), was very successful, and typically had attendance of over 600 modelers and interested spectators. Groups of Spirits members regularly become involved with various organizations such as the Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts and have presented an educational show or put on a flying demonstration/performances for them. Usually, several volunteers always step forward to participate in these types of activities. These events have helped establish the Spirits’ reputation for service to the community.
Before finding a field, the members met at each other’s homes and in the summer months at whatever flying site we were allowed to use. Finally, in 1965, one of the
members found a site on Creve Coeur Mill Road, adjacent to Creve Coeur Lake, and the rent for the five acres was within the club’s means. The site was next to a well-traveled bend in the road and the north end of the field bordered Creve Coeur County Park. Exposure to the public proved very beneficial, as visitors to the park would stop and watch members flying. Many new members were recruited from these interested spectators.
In 1979, the Spirits were informed that the field we occupied was being sold for development as a golf driving range, putt-putt, softball and baseball pitching machines. The Club was given notice to leave. It was two years before the Spirits found another site. During that time we ’borrowed’ two fields for our Warbirds Contests. The St. Peters Prop-Nuts and the East Side R/C Club graciously loaned their fields so the Spirits could keep this event going.
In 1980, one of the members learned that a site on Creve Coeur Mill road that had been used as a construction training school by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of St. Louis was vacant. Friends of friends were contacted and finally permission was given to use the site with conditions. The major requirements were to clean off the brush and debris and keep it mowed. The site consisted of 40 acres of which 20 acres had to be brush-hogged and mowed several times before it began to look like models could take off. The purchase of a tractor with a mower and eventually our own brush hog almost wiped out the treasury, but the Spirits survived. The Club has owned three tractors, one Kubota purchased brand new (which we still own), and several riding and push mowers over the years..
Displaced by Golf. Twice!
The Club lost this flying site when a Hale Irwin Golf Driving Range was built on the property just north of the site. It is now a lake and part of the nature preservation areas of Creve Coeur Park. Thanks to the dedication of several of our members, another site was quickly developed. The new flying site was located east of Creve Coeur Lake on Morning Glory Drive and looked like an extension of the park that abutted the west end of the field. Spectator benches, a large pavilion, gravel parking lot, fencing, trash barrels, 600’ asphalt runway and 50’ X 50’ asphalt pad for launching pylon racers, sand point water well for watering the grass, and a picnic area added to the park-like atmosphere.
Once again, in 1999, we lost our flying site to the 18-hole expansion of “The Quarry at Crystal Springs“ golf course and the addition of a driving range where our runway was previously located. A reward was offered to the member who found a new flying site. Many members searched for months, until one found a site. After months of acquiring permits and approvals, in 2000 we began the development of our current field, located off of Amrein Road and Greens Bottom Road in southern St. Charles County. This approximately twelve-acre flying site is our best yet, with a 600-foot asphalt runway, paved pits and taxiways, protected pilots’ box, a 24’ X 36’ large pavilion with ceiling fans, spectator benches, electricity along the pit area, and a portable restroom. It has a large gravel parking lot and access road. It also has designated areas for helicopter hovering practice, engine break-in and a Control Line area.
The Spirits have never had a closed contest. Contests/events are open to all current AMA members. Lots of contest/event activity takes place. On a yearly basis, the Spirits host a number of contests/events, including Fun Flies and racing events. Our annual Open House has always been a success. In 2002, the Spirits put on a very successful Air Show for a retired Ozark airline employees’ reunion at Smartt Field. We have been invited to do it again for upcoming reunions.
The Spirits originated the Warbirds Unlimited contest, a pylon race for W.W. II scale models in 1979. Several other Clubs in the country, with whom the Spirits have shared the original Warbirds rules, have copied and expanded the concept. The event now enjoys wide-spread popularity.
The Spirits flying field is usually in continuous use because the membership is so varied. Saturdays and Sundays bring out the weekend flyers, all day long. Throughout the week there are a variety of flyers – shift workers, retirees, and students. When the weather is acceptable, there is someone flying most weekday mornings, late afternoons, and into the evening. Since the field runs east/west, and pilots face almost north (off by 18 degrees) the sun is not an issue, except for an hour or so in the evening.