The Origins and History of the Delaware Valley RC Club
The Beginning: U-Control in Northeast Philly
As told by the Delaware Valley RC Club’s most veteran member, Charles Holderried, the humble origins of DVRC began with George Reader, Will Hazel, and a few guys from Philadelphia who flew U-Control models at a pumping station near State Road and Levick Street in Northeast Philly.
Big Oak Road Field: The Club Registers with the AMA
In the early 1970s, the group caught the Radio Control bug and relocated to a larger field on Big Oak Road, across from Styers Farm in Langhorne, Bucks County. They organized under the name Aircraft Modelers Associates and registered with the AMA. Charles joined and the members honed their RC skills at the Big Oak Road field until the owner sold the land to a developer and the club was forced to leave.
Rushland Road: New Members & A Legal Battle
After losing access to the flying site on Big Oak Road, then-member Denny Schick located a new field on a sod farm on Rushland Road, owned by the Wilkinson family. During the club’s residence at the Rushland Road field, Bill Luig and Joe Griscavage joined, but flying at the new site was short-lived as distant neighbors began to complain about noise and air pollution from the gas-powered model planes. The club retained a lawyer in an effort to keep the field, but ultimately the Rushland Road sod farm was declared a no-fly zone, and the club pilots were grounded once again.
Slack Field: DVRC is Born
Not to be kept from the skies for long, several members started scouting new locations and eventually met Miles and Wanda Slack. The Slacks were willing to rent a grass strip that was used as an emergency landing field for nearby Doylestown Airport. It was an ideal site and for over a decade the club grew at Slack Field, taking in Tom Haake, Jim Gross and other members from The Flying Tigers when they, too, lost their field to real estate development. The club was renamed the Delaware Valley RC Club (DVRC) to reflect its new identity but refuge from the growing demand for suburban housing couldn’t last forever. The club left Slack Field in 1989 when the land was sold to another housing developer.
SPARCS: Another Origin Story
While early members of DVRC were happily buzzing above Slack Field, another nearby contingent of RC modelers was just starting to come together. The SPARCS RC club was founded by Jay Gerber (AMA L48, AMA Master Pattern, AMA Hall of Fame) after breaking away from the Rudder Clowns. He was joined by Jerry Cowen of J.C. RC Hobbies and Mel Katz. They began flying together at a field in New Jersey, where Jay taught Jerry how to fly by passing the transmitter back and forth. Legend has it they never crashed a single plane.
Jay, Jerry, and Mel were eventually joined by Dick Hockstein and SPARCS grew from there. They moved from New Jersey to a field off the 309 Bypass in Bucks/Montgomery County, spent a short time at the Flying Tigers Field on Land Road, and eventually landed at what is now known as SPARCS Field on the border between Perkasie and Dublin. The field, originally used for grazing dairy cows, was owned by Ralph Sensinger and later passed to two of his sons after his death. The cows are long gone, but bleached cow bones can still be found with the lost remains of fallen RC models along the tree line.
Ralph’s son Gerry became the club’s landlord. As part of the early agreement with SPARCS, his wife, Lisa, or her son, Andrew, would mow the grass each Saturday morning before the flyers arrived. Though the club had a great relationship with the Sensingers, local neighbors issued a noise complaint leading to a dispute with the township. A settlement was eventually reached, but by 1991 the club had only 8 remaining members.
SPARCS Field: DVRC/SPARCS Merger
Recognizing that SPARCS was in need of new membership and that DVRC had been without a field for over 2 years, SPARCS member Larry Meloy suggested a merger between the two clubs to Tom Haake of DVRC. Intrigued by the possibility, Tom passed word along to Charles Kellogg who negotiated the merger with SPARCS? Len Elsner. A fantastic merger was achieved despite vigorous objections by Chubby D’Angelo, the sole dissenter.
The reinvigorated DVRC took over the field lease as well as maintenance of the field on the Sensinger property, providing a tractor, shed, and portable toilet for the site. Today, the field continues to be called “SPARCS Field” in order to avoid future conflict with the township and its agreement with SPARCS. Six of the original SPARCS members are still active in the club today: Jay Gerber, Ted Essex, Larry Meloy, Richard Hockstein, Bill Newcome, and Ed Myers Sr. Jerry Cowen still often visits SPARCS Field in the summer to catch up with his old friends and former club-mates.
Over the years, the club has moved from giant scale gas-powered model airplane engines to electric flight; much to the delight of surrounding neighbors.