A CLUB FOR FIFTY YEARS
By Bob Stovel
Here is how it all started fifty years ago…..
Roy Foot, founder and first club president.
In the summer of 1966 a small group of local flyers were using the soccer pitch at the University of Victoria on a semi-regular basis. Roy Foot, one of these guys, had the idea to start a formal club. There followed a meeting at Walt Morgan’s house on Bay Street. About ten flyers showed up and Roy chaired the first meeting. “Who would like to be President?” Roy asked. “Why don’t you do it” we said…..it was your idea!! OK…..I’ll do it he said, but we need a name. Roy liked the magazine RC MODELER so suggested that we call the club VICTORIA RC MODELERS. The name would cover more activities than just flying. All agreed and the name has stuck (with the addition of “Society” which came later).
We successfully flew at UVIC for a short time but there were too many “I haven’t got its” and we were asked to leave. We flew at a number of places for a couple of years (school yards, Gordon Head, Lansdowne, Stelly’s field etc.). Also a field on Lochside a few hundred yards off Martindale. We welcomed an opportunity to use the polo field on Puckle Road….off Island View Road, about a kilometer north of our present field. We gladly paid a rental fee to the Polo Club and enjoyed that site for a couple of years. Life was great until an angry neighbor started to shoot us down with a transmitter and a bunch of frequency crystals…..he just keep changing crystals until he found out what we were using. Lots of fun for him but a disaster for us!! On top of this the land was being used by Forestry and they planned to plant trees on it. It was clear that we would have to move. The Polo Club said that they had found another field that would be suitable…..it was a field on East Saanich Road owned by a Michell (Verne Michell’s cousin). This was another great field for a couple of years until the neighbors again complained about the noise to the Central Saanich Council and who promptly forced us out.
The loss of the Michell field felt like a death knell to the club and another field could not be found. As a result everyone went their own way…..scattered around at places like Belmont School, behind the Colwood ice rink and a field west of Langford Lake. We were kicked out of every place we went simply because we were noisy and some members were just plain dangerous.
In the mid-seventies I started flying with my good friends Ed Pickard and Bob Durke at a field at Esquimalt High School but soon I was the only one flying powered models, all others were into gliders and flying them across the road from the school (now Central Saanich Fairgrounds). I had little choice but to join them and I flew gliders only until 1980 or so. My real interest was never gliders so I eventually started to fly my power planes back at Stelly’s School. The glider guys cooperated by giving us a number of frequencies that we could use to avoid frequency conflict. Dwayne Matear, Bob Jestico, myself and a few others flew there on Sundays for a few years until we heard that twenty or so guys were flying at a field on Lochside Drive. They had found a site owned by Danica Nurseries and were looking for new members. We promptly joined up with them.
Early members, Bob Stovel and Dwayne Matear
It was now 1987 and Mike Bernhard was president. Later Bob Smith and Ron Turner presided over the club. Things looked good but Danica had other plans…..they wanted to use the land for other purposes. In 1989 we again found ourselves without a field.
Randy Ben, a lifetime Central Saanich resident and a good friend of Vern Michell started discussions with Vern to use part of his field. Vern subsequently gave us the use of a small part of his land which was not suitable for crops and a reasonable rental rate was agreed upon. This is the property that we now enjoy. Weeks were spent preparing the field for a runway. John Van Haaf built a metal gate and we installed a metal culvert in the ditch at the entrance. The club flourished, I was president and Membership rapidly rose to around 130 members and we were starting to experience safety and noise problems. The membership was increasing faster than safety rules and regulations were drafted. I was concerned. The field was crowded every day, all day and things were getting dangerous. Finally there was a crash very close to a field worker who happened to be the sister of Ben Mar, owner of the property next to us and Councilor for the District of Central Saanich. Of course they complained to Vern Michell and he came quickly to us. We were again in trouble and for the very same reasons as before. In desperation I called an executive meeting and it was decided to close the field for two weeks to draw attention to the members about the need for flying safety.
At this time I was at the end of my two year term as president and expressed my grave concern that we would again lose our field. At this time Brian Weekly was one of the most enthusiastic members and shared my concerns. Brian became president and agreed that our membership was too high. Something had to be done!! About the same time a large new house had been built across the road from us and noise complaints again were loudly heard. They were building elaborate horse stables and were saying that the noise was disturbing their horses. They took their complaints to the municipal Council who in turn went to our landlord Vern Michell. Now we had government against us as well as the neighbors. Luckily our new president had firsthand experience in dealing with Municipal Councils having been associated with the Capital Regional District. He struck a safety committee to deal with the problem. This committee was Brian Weekly (chairman), Ken Watson, mike Scholefield, Al Tamosuinas, Jack Price, Dave Reaville and myself. After discussions with Verne the committee decided that the club had to reduce the membership to about 35 members from the existing 130. The task of the committee was to decide who would stay and who would be asked to resign……not an easy task as it turned out. I have to tell you that this was the most difficult task that I ever had to do and I am sure that the other committee members would say the same.
The Club was reduced to 35 members and we then had to deal with the Central Saanich Council, the CRD, our neighbors and our landowner. We had to show that we were in control of the sound being generated at the field and we had to show that we were a viable member of the community.…..to do this we hired BKL Consultants, a professional sound engineer from the mainland to take sound readings under many different conditions. We obtained and studied a copy of a professional sound report done for the Cowichan Regional District by Wakefield Acoustics. This report related to the proposed “Noise Park” north of Duncan…..a very similar noise problem. From these reports we developed a workable sound testing criteria. We hired a BC Land Surveyor to legally identify the land that we were using. We petitioned three thousand signatures from the day to day users of the Lochside trail. We relocated the runway to avoid overflying neighbor’s property. We set up a testing system to assess the skill level of our members. We established an airplane testing system to control the quality of model construction. We established “no-fly zones” to control the overflying of private properties. We established new daylight flying hours. We encouraged the use of our field facilities by the public. Armed with this data we met in mass at a public Council meeting to state our case. The result was in our favor and we now have a written permit identifying our field as being officially zoned for model airplane flying……not many of these in Canada!!
We are now in a smaller club with some limitations. We became much more respectful of the rights of our neighbors. We now cooperate with the horse stable owners next door and our other neighbors…..there is no more fighting and hopefully it will stay this way.
In 2005 Mike Scholefield along with help from Jack Price started our annual “Largest Little Air Show”…..Probably the best thing we ever did as a club. The Air Show has generated over $213,000.00 for two very special charities. 100% of the proceeds raised at the show are donated to C-FAX Santa's Anonymous and the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation. Not only that but this annual event has brought the members together to work as a club. It has given us a special purpose that did not exist before and we are respected for it by our neighbors.
The following notes relating to some events of the early days of our club have been received by early member Cliff Stacey;
It was early in 1963, the family and I were going on a drive around Victoria on a Sunday when we passed Lansdowne School I heard the sound of a model aircraft engine. I had just spent the last couple of years flying control line in Comox with Mike Caljou. So I stopped, there was a group of eight or ten guys that came out every Sunday. I spent the next year and a half flying with them. Sometime in 1964 some of them started to buy radios and the action quickly changed to one of the sports fields at U Vic. Walt Morgan and his friend were in the Army and had just came back from Europe. Walt's friend had a German radio with an aircraft and an engine all ready to go and wanted to sell the works. The radio was a Telecont and used tuned circuits instead of a reed relay. It was much more reliable. The aircraft only had rudder and motor control. I had many good flights on it. I think it was early 1966 we decided to start a club and had the first meeting.
I had rejoined the airforce and Roy Foote was headed to Boeing in Seattle. He told us he had seen a giant jet engine that the intake was so big a six foot man could stand up in it. When we did not believe him he showed us a picture. Early March I headed for my first posting, Gimli Manitoba (BURRRRRRR) and hot. Then I spent two years in Petewawa Ont. Where I met my second wife. In 1973 I got transferred to VU33 the navy base at Victoria International Airport. I quickly got in touch with someone, I found out that they were flying of a polo practice field just off Island View Road half way to Sidney. I quickly became an active member of the club. At one of the bull sessions I happen to mention that the club in Pembroke Ont. was tossing around the idea of flying a model aircraft from Chalk River down highway 17 to Pembroke and maybe beyond.
At the next VRCM meeting a couple of guys brought up the idea of flying across the Straights of Juan de Fuca. It was sort of a fluke because I had made a float chamber from two pill bottles and an Enya needle valve. I had already tested it and it worked fine. We started to throw around aircraft designs. I remembered Frank Lewis in Winnipeg had built a Smog Hog and painted it with marine epoxy. It weighed eleven pounds. The wing was 12” X 72” with a very dull leading edge. He flew it with a Super Tiger .56.
I designed an aircraft that looked a lot like the Spirit of St Louis. It was designed so that the bottom third of a fuel can would fit right in. Bob Dirk was a machinist at the dock yard, took my float valve assembly and made us a couple of metal ones. He also lent us his 8mm movie camera. We got it soaked with salt water. I made one aircraft and Chris Cox made the other. Chris fibreglassed the inside of the centre section of the wing so it would hold 60 ounces of fuel. His wing the fuel would gravity feed, mine required crankcase pressure to feed the fuel. One of the guys had two 27 MHZ radios and he had tuned them and adjusted them so both receivers could be operated from either transmitter. The club went with this setup. The test flights went excellent. Both aircraft flew for more than one hour and fifteen minutes. Two thirds throttle produced a safe airspeed. One of the local radio stations volunteered to supply the boat. We took off from the spit at Port Angeles Washington, Both aircraft crashed into the water about 3/4's of a mile from the Victoria shore. We later found out that there was a CB'er at the top of the hill with one of those giant rhombic antennas. The 27MHZ sets make one hell of a racket on a CB set. In 1974 VU33 squadron moved to Comox. That ended my association with VRCM.
It is noteworthy that some years later (in 1949) ex-VRCMS president Jim Scammell successfully flew across the Strait from Beacon Hill to Port Angeles with a Sig Cadet Senior. He was presented with a special award at our wind-up dinner that year.