Man built more than 10,000 kites

Published 8:59 am Saturday, February 26, 2011

Here are a few of the many kites that Junious Bradshaw has created and saved over the past few decades. He figures to have made over 10,000. -- Stephen H. Cowles | Tidewater News


CARRSVILLE—Yes, Junious Bradshaw still flies kites.

Perhaps that’s why he’s made it to 86 years old; the activity of making and flying kites is both sustaining and personally fulfilling.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I sure have,” said Bradshaw.

Junious Bradshaw looks through one of his scrapbooks. These contain many articles about his kite-making, as well as letters of thanks from young people who learned the craft from Bradshaw. -- Stephen H. Cowles | Tidewater News

There are still tools at the ready for whenever he wants to make one of his unique creations. He estimates to have built over 10,000.

Several of his remaining kites are decorated with logos of Union Camp and Woodmen of the World, and drawings of birds and even Mickey Mouse.

But building and flying the kites is not a hobby he took up in recent years. This passion goes back a little more than 35 years ago when his eldest son, Gerald, was in the Cub Scouts.

Bradshaw recalled that his then 8-year-old son said he needed a kite for a contest. Bradshaw had made or flown one and the offer to buy one was rejected immediately. “We gotta make it,” was Gerald’s command.

Using paper obtained from Union Camp where he worked, Bradshaw’s first effort failed. But after considerable thought through the night, he tried again. The two succeeded in making a kite that went up a mile and won the best awards and a gold cup.

“Time went on and I began helping other Scouts in the area and across the James River,” said Bradshaw.

The interest really took off in the mid-1970s when a Union Camp media representative asked him to help the Police Athletic League with a community youth project.

Long story short, Bradshaw helped 1,200 boys and girls create their own kites for a contest that took place in Central Park. He recalled that a little Polish girl won the $500 prize.

His participation merited the attention of The Today Show and other media.

That event and subsequent kite-making workshops have resulted in numerous articles in print and television.

“I’ve lost count of the write-ups,” said Bradshaw, as he flipped through a couple of nearby scrapbooks. “I can come in here and keep looking at them.”

His dedication to the craft became so well known that his design for a kite was put on the cover of “The Complete Book of Kites and Kite Flying.” Renowned enthusiast Will Yolen published the book in 1976. Bradshaw is mentioned inside as well.

Even after Gerald and his other son, Steven, got out of scouting and kite flying, the interest flourished.

“I never dreamed it would take off,” Bradshaw said. “People’s calls for help with kites took me deeper and deeper.”

Bradshaw mentioned that his late wife, Emily Freda, “took an interest.” She was “100 percent supportive.”

You might be wondering what kind of paper the kite-maker uses. Bradshaw said that 35-pound grocery paper, which is made from 85 percent pine fiber, is the best.

Through trial and error he learned that where the brattle string is tied on the front is crucial for how high the kite will fly.

“They fly better when balanced.”

At one time, Bradshaw calculated, he flew a kite that went out of sight two miles into the blue sky.

Thinking there’s a better way than hand reels to help him sail and bring in the kites, Bradshaw invented a motorized reel in the early 1980s. To the best of his knowledge, he’s the only person who uses one.