White Castle Is History

Ernie Chiles at Painton Airport 08-13-2014Ernie Chiles and I went flying Wednesday. It’s amazing how his Cessna 150 keeps getting smaller and smaller every year. I don’t remember that much togetherness when we started going up together when I was in high school. He flies out of a grass strip airport down in Painton (if you have to ask, you wouldn’t know where it is even if I told you). His plane was born the year I graduated from Central.


While Ernie was prepping the plane – I think that means he counts the wings, checks to see if the oil is black enough and makes sure there is more gas than water in the fuel tanks – I wandered around looking at stuff in the hangar. Next to the door, there was a wooden hinged sign. It read, “IN CASE OF FIRE, RAISE THIS COVER.”

I knew I shouldn’t do it, but, finally, I just had to raise the cover. Yep, I should have left it alone.

Ernie Chiles at Painton Airport 08-13-2014He greased it in

Taking off from Painton Airport 08-13-2014After taking off, we made a pass by Cairo to see the Muddy Mississippi pushing the Ohio River back upstream, then flew over Thebes to see the courthouse on the hill and the railroad bridge. We did a quick scan of Cape’s riverfront, shot some fresh quarry photos in Fruitland and headed back to base.

Now, I’m not exactly sure how old Ernie is, but I’m pretty sure he’s now as old as the dirt he taught me about in Earth Science class at Central. I like to fly at 1,000 feet (or lower), the legal minimum over populated areas, but Ernie, being an old and conservative pilot, never likes to give away altitude without an argument, so we generally hang out at about 1,500 feet. He believes in the pilot’s adage that “There ain’t nothin’ as useless as altitude above you, runway behind you or fuel on the ground in the truck.”

On final, I asked Ernie to let me know when I should start screaming. “I don’t want to start too early and be all out of screams when I really need one, but I also don’t want to wait too long and perish before I get the last one out.”

Well, as it turned out, he greased it in so smoothly that I couldn’t tell when the wheels touched the grass. I could tell that even HE was pleased, although he says any landing you can walk away from is perfectly acceptable. That leaves me with a wonderfully crafted scream all bottled up unused.

So what’s with the White Castle?

White Castle demolition 08-13-2014Just as we were finishing up a couple of BBQ sandwiches in celebration of cheating death one more time, Mother called to ask if we had landed yet. She was stranded at the Dollar Tree and needed her battery jumped. If I was available, she wouldn’t call AAA.

On the way there, I passed what used to be the White Castle at the corner of William and Siemers Drive. When I opened up The Missourian on my laptop, I saw that Laura Simon had beaten me to the scene. Here is a story about the May 13, 2014, fire.


Ernie’s Earth Science Book

Ernie Chiles with Earth Science book 05-02-2014I’ve written many times about Earth Science Teacher Ernie Chiles and the friendship we developed outside of class. He interacted with students in a way that would be unthinkable today, but that’s what made him one of the most memorable teachers I had.

To keep from rehashing old stories, I’ll just post links:

When we met for lunch this trip, Ernie presented me the actual Earth Science book he used to teach the class. I told him to play Vanna White or pretend he was selling soap so I could take his picture with it. He may have a shot at making it in the late-night infomercial game.

He even inscribed it

Ernie Chiles' Earth Science book 05-04-2014Jim Stone, George Cauble and I set a goal of acing all of Ernie’s tests. We’d get together in my basement to review and practically memorize the book the night before a quiz. Ernie, for his part, took the challenge and decided to make tests so hard they couldn’t be aced. You can imagine what THAT did to the curve.

Jim Stone and I are still arguing with him over a couple of questions he marked wrong.

Who did all the underlining?

Ernie Chiles' Earth Science book 05-04-2014When I leafed through the book, I noted that almost every sentence was underlined.

“Geez, didn’t they give you a new book when you started teaching? Who did all the underlines?”

“I did,” he admitted. “You guys thought I was kidding when I said I was only about a chapter ahead of you when I was teaching the class.”

We couldn’t go flying

We couldn’t go flying the last time I was in town because Ernie’s plane had a broken perambulator or something.

It’s perambulating fine now, but there had been a lot of rain around Painton Airport where he hangars the plane. That made the grass runway a bit iffy. I had hoped to get in the air before the leaves came out, but since I had missed that, we decided to err on the side of caution and wait until summer to go up.

Stone is going to be SOOOOO jealous when he hears I have The Book.


Matthews Store in Randles

Somebody said there was an old general store in Randles where the owner just closed the door and walked away with all his stock on the shelves one day. I don’t know who told me about it, but it came from a couple of different folks.

When Ernie Chiles and I passed through the town on the way to the Painton airstrip, I noted a likely candidate and decided to check it out on another trip. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.) See the black cat crossing my path on the left?

Matthews Store

The sign on the north side of the building says Matthews Store. I don’t know if that’s Matthews with or without an apostrophe, but it probably doesn’t make much difference these days.

I had Mother and Wife Lila’s Uncle Ray with me on this adventure. Mother’s got a sharp eye for persimmons, so she made me pick up the ones that were on the ground and hustle them back to the car.

Lots of goods in the store

I couldn’t quite see through the windows, so I held my camera above my head to peer in through the broken front window. I can see lots of stuff on the shelves, but it looks more random than would support the “walked away” tale.A lot of the bottles and jars appear to have been opened and empty, like they were placed there by a collector. The center of the store was taken up with stuff that looked more like trash than treasures.

Still, it must have been quite a store in its day. It big inside and out. I imagine it was the center of  life in Randles.

Double doors to where?

I couldn’t tell if this was a separate storeroom or what the purpose the extension on the north side of the building would have served. I don’t think you’d have doors for customers this far away from the main entrance. My guess was they were used used for deliveries. It doesn’t have the feel of lodging for the store owner, either. It’s too long and narrow for that and probably wouldn’t have had double doors.

I guess when it’s time to add shoes to the Perkins Shoe Tree, I’ll have to ask around for more info.

[Editor’s note: I had originally said this store was in Perkins. Reader Madeline DeJournett, a REAL reporter, corrected me below in the comments. It’s actually in Randles. If you’ve been on the page before, you may have to press Ctrl-F5 to make her comment show up.]

Fall Day at Houck Stadium

We’ll get the facts out of the way first, then we’ll get on with the story. I don’t know what sporting event was going on at Houck Stadium Saturday afternoon, but you couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to hold it.

Houck Field House, Academic Hall, Kent Library and the high-rise dorms all show up prominently. Parking has replaced some of the homes and businesses along Broadway in front of the Field House. (Click on the photo to make it larger. It has some cool detail.)

I’ll run a photo at the bottom of the page that was shot sometime around 1966 for comparison.

Ernie Chiles was my pilot

I flew my first aerials with Ernie Chiles while I was still in high school, and I’ve written about how one of those flights launched me into photojournalism.

We flew out of the Painton Airport

I asked Ernie if he knew where I could charter a plane to shoot some aerial photos on this trip home. He offered to fly me himself for old times sake. (By the way, we’ve come to an agreement: we refer to each other as “former student” and “former teacher.” Neither of us likes the way “old teacher” and old student” sounds.)

He keeps his plane at the Painton Airport.

If you have to ask where it is, you wouldn’t know where it was if I told you. Its a grass strip, with a short length of paved runway needed to get a crop duster airborne when he’s fully loaded.

It’s flying the way it used to be: park next to your plane, no TSA and no full body scanners. That’s not to say there’s NO security. There were half a dozen guys hanging around who knew who belonged and who didn’t.

Ernie’s seeing eye dog had the cutest parachute

Since he’s advancing in age, I tried as delicately as possible to see if Ernie was up to the task. He said that he’s finally mastered takeoffs; landings are handled by the Law of  Gravity, which hasn’t failed to bring every flight of his to the ground.

He DID suggest that I bring an extra milk bone or two for his seeing eye dog. It sits right behind him in the cockpit and presses down on the appropriate shoulder to indicate a left or right turn. It has the cutest little parachute.

I thought for a second that we had attracted a wingman just before touchdown. Turned out it was just our shadow.

Jet on strafing run

While Ernie was refueling and putting his airplane to bed, I looked up to see a jet making a low-altitude strafing run at a long freight train loaded with Canadian crude oil. It took a moment to realize that it was a radio-controlled model operated by one of Ernie’s buddies. Things are not always as they appear at the Painton Airport.

I really DID shoot some serious photos, but it’s going to take some time to wade through the 563 frames to pull out the best ones. I’ll scatter them out to keep you from overdosing on aerial photos.

Houck Stadium circa 1966

As promised, here’s what the Houck Stadium area looked like around 1966.

I asked Ernie if he knew where I could charter a plane to shoot some aerial photos on this trip home. He offered to fly me himself for old times sake. (By the way, we’ve come to an agreement: we refer to each other as “former student” and “former teacher.” Neither of us likes the way “old teacher” and old student” sounds.)