Baby Bat Kite and Sky Spies

Baby Bat Kite and Sky Spies

Black wings flutter in the night. Bloodshot eyes peer down from above. A wispy body strains against the dark winds. It is the most fearsome creature to ever haunt the skies of southern Ohio. It is the Gayla Bat kite!

Kites were an overnight sensation sometime in my prehistory, the early years of my life before my family settled in Columbus. One day, we were just playing on the swings. The next day, all the neighborhood kids had kites. And the best of them all was the sinister Gayla Bat. Or, more accurately, bats.

There were several Gayla Bat kites: the original Bat, the Baby Bat, and the Super Bat. All had black bodies and large, evil eyes. But while the Bat had a black centerpiece, the Baby Bat had a white centerpiece, which gave it a kinder look, and the Super Bat had a white centerpiece as well as elongated horns. There was also a similar model called the Sky Spy. It was white instead of black, which is presumably why it was called “Spy” and not “Bat”.

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I did eventually get a Bat kite. I got mine long after everyone else, as usual, but I got one. After a little trial and error, I got it into the air and it began to soar. That’s when I learned the most important lesson of kite flying: the spools of string do not come pre-tied. When I reached the end of the string, it came off the cardboard spool and the kite began sailing away. But then, just as my little heart was about to break, one of the older kids did one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen in my life. He leapt forward and just before the string was pulled out of reach, he grabbed it, saving the kite for me. We hauled in some slack, threaded the string through the tube, and tied it off. And so I kept the Bat for another day.

There were several other interesting kites from Gayla: kites that looked like owls, kites that were painted like airplanes and fighter jets, kites with superheroes. But it was the Bat kite that sparked my life-long love of kites. It was the Bat kite that made me want to go fly a kite.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Interesting note about the eyes – The “bats” had GAYLA spelled out in the blood veins, but the “spy” did not.

  2. I had this very kite (did everyone?) and flew it down the shore every summer until the string broke and I lost it somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

    Or maybe it is still flying around up there. Circling…watching…waiting…

  3. Gayla still makes these kites. I have a baby bat and a sky spy in my garage right now, just waiting for spring. My local, family owned drugstore still sells them. Though actually I don’t recall ever seeing a “super” bat, even when I was young. Thanks for the great post.

  4. We used to buy these kites at the beginning of our two weeks on Cape Cod every summer as kids. We’d build them and hold dog fighting contests with them. My personal favorite was the Phantasma Gordo eagle kite – heck they were all the same, but ‘ol Gordo just seemed to slice through the plastic skins of all comers.

  5. @ Badwolf – awesome
    @ Retroist – it’s waiting. Definitely waiting.

  6. I was obsessed with these kites from age 7 to 10(’74 to ’77), I had to have all of the Gayla kites..the Sting-a-ree was my favorite…it would make huge sweeping motions across the sky…I was so obsessed with kites at that time I would imagine a half moon was my kite at night. I would see other kites in the sky and figure out ways to take them down. I remember that I got 50¢ a week for an allowance which meant I could get new kite every 2 weeks at the local TG &Y or thrifty…they priced them at. 94¢ + tax, so they came out to an even buck…my have the times changed.

  7. I used to fly these kites back in the 1960’s when I was a kid. The Baby Bat was always my favorite because it flew with a mind of it’s own, occasionally taking a dive almost all the way to the ground and then back up. The Sky Spy shown in the picture above is not the original design, but better. The one shown is shaped exactly like the Sky Raider, which was the most stable flying kite I’ve ever flown. But, the original Sky Spy would frequently dive down and crash, as did also the Sting-a-ree. The 70’s re-designed versions of all these kites were much better than the original designs. They were made with much more durable materials-especially the grommet on the keel, which always used to rip out.

  8. I was on-line looking for Gayla kites, its amazing how emotional one can become with the memories of child hood come streaming in talking about kites. The mid 70’s I was also “obsessed” with Gayla kites (that’s all that anyone flew) my thing was going through the neighborhood and climbing the trees where the kites were stuck. My favorite of course was the trusty Sky Raider that could out fly any kite any where. I could send one up with thousands of feet of string loose complete sight of it and take 2 whole hours to wind it back in! Oh how I miss those kites. I have seen a few vintage ones go for pretty good price on ebay, I’m sure the ones they make now are like every other toy now a days CHEAP. Thanks for this post, I want to get my girls a Gayla kite soon and show them how much fun they are.
    Kevin age: 44

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