A Plane in Every Garage

Oliver Parks predicted in 1944 that flying would become as much a part of our lives as having an automobile. So, how do you like that airplane and your neighborhood flying field? We’ll get around to that in a minute. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

When I was looking for information on the Dollar Store, I happened to spy a June 19, 1946, story that said, in part, two Cape Girardeau men – Eddie Erlbacher and Oscar Windisch – have purchased 55 of the remaining airplanes at Harris Field [now the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport]. The purchase included the fuselage, wings and landing gear; the engines had been removed and retained by the government.

Going to salvage landing gears

Twenty-two of the planes were the AT-10 twin-engine ship used as an advanced trainer. Eight were A-25 Helldiver dive bombers. The buyers took the ships at an average cost of $35 each. The men plan to use the landing gear in making agricultural and commercial type trailers for moving livestock and farm equipment.

“There are only 111 salable ships left at the field out of the 1,200 originally there. Of this number there are 48 of the PT-23 models, 30 Timms biplanes, 14 twin engine UC-78, or twin engine models, 15 AT-17 twin engine ships and four of the dive bombers.”

One thing led to another, and I found the following story, written two years earlier. (By the way, the City of Cape Girardeau website has a brief history of Harris Field, which became the Cape Girardeau Municipal Airport.)

Future of aviation after World War II

On July 6, 1944, The Missourian did a Q & A with Oliver L. Parks, head of Parks Air, which operates Harris Field [Cape Municipal Airport] and four other flying schools, who described what aviation will mean once the war is over. It’s worth reading the full story about his flying predictions. Here is a boiled-down version of the more interesting parts of the interview.

Neighborhood landing fields

Q: Would acquisition of Harris Field answer Cape’s flying needs completely?

A: No… For private flying, Cape Girardeau would want two or three small landing fields right on the edge of the residence district. Motoring is so much a part of social and business life today that our garages are a few steps from our front door; yes, in many instances, the garage is part of the home. Flying will become just as much a part of daily existence in the future. Therefore, the private flier will want his airplane hangered just across the road, if possible. In other words, we will be demanding neighborhood landing fields, small airports with turf runways, with landing surfaces 1000 to 1500 feet long and about 300 to 400 yards wide….

I’ll fly out of my back yard?

Q: Do you mean to tell me that I’ll be flying my own airplane in the future, practically out of my own back yard?

A: To be sure, you will be flying your own plane, but as to your own back yard, I don’t happen to know how large it is. If your back yard will accommodate runways of the brief length outlined, you could be flying your airplane – and your wife and grown children – today… As soon as air combat requirements ease up, production of … airplanes will be resumed – cozy, two-place little airplanes that will carry yourself and your wife, plus 100 pounds of luggage, on weekend visits to your friends in neighboring towns, at 100 miles per hour, on gasoline cost that can be figured at the rate of 25 miles per gallon; or, if you have a favorable wind, at that much less.

Locate a field at Country Club?

Q: Where would you suggest these fields be located?

A: At the country club, for the first one, perhaps. Then, wherever sufficient ground can be obtained at a reasonable price southwest of town, right on the edge of town.

Commercial Flights

There would be scheduled commercial flights to and from Cape and St. Louis and Chester (17-minute flying time), Cairo (9 minutes).

Other airport stories




Thoughts on Memorial Day

Three Wars, Three Men

January 15, 1969, I shot this photo in Athens, Ohio. I ran it  7-3/4 inches wide by 12-1/4 inches deep with the following caption, reflecting the self-absorption of a 22-year old:

three wars, three men: With most of our attention focused on Vietnam, it is easy to forget that other men of other years had their wars, too. Fate has placed three veterans in the same room at Sheltering Arms Hospital. They are Bill Howell, World War I, Jim Gates, World War II, and Clyde Edmundson, the Spanish-American War.

No Spanish-American War vets left

The last Spanish-American War veteran died in 1992 or 1993, depending on which account you read. The Last Veterans website has fascinating information for history buffs.

Frank Buckles of Bethany, MO, was born Feb. 1, 1901. When he was 16, he told an Army he he was 18. The recruiter told him to go home to his mommy. Frank decided a big lie might work better than a small one, so he told the next recruiter he was 21. As of this writing, he is America’s last surviving veteran of World War I. You can learn more about him at his website.

It’s hard to believe that our generation’s Vietnam vets are getting as gray as these fellows I shot in 1969.

Cape’s Freedom Corner

In mid-summer 1942, America was rejoicing in the defeat of the Imperial Japanese fleet in the battles of Midway and the Coral Sea. Cape Girardeans, a Missourian story reported, gathered at the corner of Capaha Park to dedicate four brick pillars holding two honor roll boards listing the names of 1,295 men and women serving in the armed forces.

Feb. 3, 1943, two large eagles from the salon of the steamer Bald Eagle were mounted atop the middle pillars. By 1944, the Honor Roll had grown to more than 3,700 names, with 60 gold stars alongside those who had died in the war.

The honor roll was taken down after the war ended. It was replaced in 1950 by the first memorial plaques to honor Cape Girardeau County servicemen killed or missing in action during World War II. Since then, plaques have been added honoring those from the county who died in World War I, Korea and Vietnam.

A replica of the Statue of Liberty was presented to the city by the Boy Scouts in 1950 and the corner became known as Freedom Corner. By 1997, the pillars had deteriorated to the point of collapse. The American Legion spearheaded an effort to get them rebuilt.

Homemade Memorial for Gulf War

I was riding my bike up Flagler Blvd. in West Palm Beach on a March day in 2007 when I saw a field of hand-lettered Corafoam tombstones in a city park. It was a homemade traveling memorial to the men and women who had died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I pushed my bike along every row, reading every name, sometimes with eyes brimming with tears at the waste of a generation. One name was missing.

Elizabeth Jacobson

Liz, as we called her, was my son Adam’s former girlfriend. She lived with us briefly before she joined the Air Force. When she came back from boot camp, she was one squared-away young woman who seemed to have her life figured out.

On Sept. 28, 2005, she was providing security on a convoy when the vehicle she was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb. Liz and Army Sgt. Steve Morin, Jr., of Arlington, TX, were killed; a third solider was injured, but survived.

She was 21 years old.

She has the dubious honor of being the first female airman killed in the line of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We’re only on earth for a little while”

I called Adam. He got permission from the organizers to add her “stone” to the memorial. On it, he wrote some lines that she had sent him: “We’re only on this earth for a little while, so live life to the fullest and carry a smile.”

Here is a website dedicated to Airman First Class Elizabeth Jacobson.