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Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum: Top-Flight Fun

A supersize version of Victor Stanzel’s Boeing P-12 model soars over the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum.

Mention Schulenburg, and tourists think of the century-old "Painted Churches" found nearby in Ammannsville, Dubina, High Hill, and Praha.

A high-flying museum, which opened in 1999 (and recently expanded), aims to add "Painted Planes" to the visitor vocabulary of this small town halfway between San Antonio and Houston.

The Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum showcases the aerial inventiveness of two local entrepreneurs, brothers Victor and Joe Stanzel. For seven decades, the Stanzels delighted generations of hobbyists and children with their invention and production of 47 models of flyable toy aircraft. The feat landed the brothers, who died in the 1990s, in the Model Aviation Hall of Fame of the Academy of Model Aeronautics in Muncie, Indiana, in 1986.

The Stanzels' scale-model savvy soars at the museum's newest attraction–the adjacent restored factory where the brothers began producing their fanciful flying toys in the 1930s.

Thirties-era Big Band music greets me as I step onto the original hardwood floor of the 1,800-square-foot factory. The music mixes with the occasional popping sound of the building's sheet-metal roof and walls expanding in the midday sun.

In the factory's front office, life-size mannequins of Victor and Joe pore over a drawing table and scale-model plans. Piled on a desk along with a prototype plane are Fifties-era model-aircraft magazines. Framed on the wall, two of the Stanzels' 25 patents protect future plans for a "remote control and steering mechanism for a model watercraft" and for a "combined lamp and smoking stand" that looks like a spacecraft.

Essentials

The Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum, operated by the Stanzel Family Foundation, is at the intersection of Baumgarten St. and Kessler Ave. (US 77 Bus.); 979/743-6559; www.stanzelmuseum.org. Hours: Mon, Wed, Fri-Sat 10:30-4:30, Sun 1:30-4:30. On Sep. 24, the foundation celebrates the opening of the restored Stanzel Brothers Factory with a model-plane airshow. (In 2006, the foundation and museum revives its annual October "Joy of Flying" celebration, including model-aircraft competitions and a Cub Scout space derby.) Two blocks south of the museum is the factory store of the Victor Stanzel Co., 1201 Kessler Ave. (US 77 Bus.), 979/743-4121 or 800/422-6823 (www.stanzelflyingmodels.com).

While in Schulenburg, learn local history at the Navidad Valley Heritage Museum, downtown at 631 N. Main St. (979/743-4241 or 561-8616). Catch a first-run movie at the historic Cozy Theater (979/743-6521), downtown at 607 Lyons in the 1927 Von Minden Hotel. Sate your appetite with kolaches and strudel at Kountry Bakery (979/743-4342), barbecue and German sausage at City Market (979/743-3440 or 800/793-3440), and home-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets at Oakridge Smokehouse (979/743-3372 or 800/320-5766).

For more information on Schulenburg, or to schedule a tour of the Painted Churches (in nearby Ammannsville, Dubina, High Hill, and Praha), call the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce (618 N. Main St., 78956); 979/743-4514 or 866/504-5294; www.schulenburgchamber.org.

From the October 2005 issue.

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