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Wilfred Weisensee

Dundas Model Airplane Club

by Rob McKenzie
Luck is usually where opportunity meets preparation. In my case, I was not at all prepared for the incredible break when in the fall of 1957 at age 2, my parents moved to the town of Dundas in Ontario, Canada. Directly behind our house was a 100 acre vacant hilly field that was becoming perhaps one of the greatest model airplane hotspots in North America. Almost every summer evening from age 2 to 9, I would find myself out in this field watching the models flying. Mesmerized and jealous. Dinner became a terrible inconvenience and I had to eat fast and beg to be excused so I could resume my nightly spectating and dreaming. I could win any speed-eating contest if the sound of a model airplane engine was buzzing in the background.
Pictured at left is Wilfred Weisensee, the reason for the Dundas aeromodelling fate and fame. A German National born in 1930 he later as a young man married and moved to this otherwise sleepy little town in Canada. He brought with him an incredible love of aeromodelling. Armed with a boatload of model airplane blueprints from the German 1920's and 1930's he began building and flying his models in the very field behind my home.

Unknown to me at the time since I was only 2 years old, this man was becoming a mentor to the local babyboomer kids and making aeromodelling history. With encouragement from parents and assistance from many adults that could pull strings, the town donated a plot of land at the edge of this field and a farmer several miles away donated a rickedy old barn. The kids, Dads and "Wilf" disassembled the barn, loaded the lumber onto a donated flatbed truck and constructed a quaint clubhouse on the edge of the donated field.

Below is a picture of the clubhouse taken looking NE about 1961 with Wilf's daughter Monica at about age 3. Note the wartime propeller on the west side of the club. The Dundas Model Airplane Club had been born, the only one of it's kind in the world.

And here are a couple of images I found on the RCC forum. Left is a newspaper article written by Wilf in 1965, and right side shows the construction and layout of the club's interior.

Being a member of the club was easy. Simply be a minimum of 10 years old (because of the knives used in model building) and pay a $2 a year dues. I joined the club at age nine by misleading Wilf a bit about my age. I just couldn't wait any longer. I was obsessed. With your membership you would get a couple evenings a week of Wilf's time and all raw materials at his cost. He got a great price break on balsa wood and other needs. Contrary to what most kids would think of as the way to build models, we would never use "kits". We started with blueprints, made jigs and templates and made every rib and spar from sheets of balsa wood. Covering was tissue paper. We had many local competitions and just flew our brains out in between the comp days. Repairs were commonplace after flying days.

There were no radio controls in our models. Both powered and unpowered were all free flying. We would set them up to make a constant circle and they would drift with the wind. Once a glider flew 27 miles. We always had our names on them to assist in recovery. We got good at running, cycling and triangulating a distant descending model by having two chasers separate laterally during the chase. We climbed trees and negotiated with mean backyard dogs to enter their territory to retrieve gliders. My personal love was always the unpowered models.The following article is from early Jan of 1967.

Below is an aerial image of the original site of the clubhouse taken in 2005. The clubhouse site is now a baseball field. The clubhouse was between what is now 1st and 2nd base. The large works department to the north (above) the clubhouse site is where the open fields were where so many dozens of youth learned to fly their model planes.

I wish to thank Wilf for the years of dedication to the youth of the Dundas area. In my opinion he never got the recognition he deserved.

I recently learned that Wilf died on June 10th 2002 of complications after heart surgery. He was a husband, father, grandfather and mentor to many. Thank you Wilf!

As a final wrapup on the club, in the early 1970's Wilf gradually after some 17 years of dedication, left the club encouraging it to be carried on by it's members. In time the club membership waned and the clubhouse was abandoned without Wilf's direct inspiration and energy. The clubhouse was eventually torn down for expansion of the nearby baseball field. The flying field is now a public works department storage area. It is not surprising that the club did eventually close as the phenomenon really was Wilf, not the clubhouse.
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