Monday, May 21, 2012

Airplane Landing Field

Just across Rockland Avenue from the 9 hole golf course was a large tract of vacant land. This property was actually a defunct housing development that had for it's boundaries Cleveland Avenue on it's north and Central Avenue on it's south. It went east and west from Rockland Avenue to Cedar Lane. Except for 4 houses on Cleveland and a couple on Cedar Lane the place was just a big field. It did have sidewalks going thru it and unpaved streets could be found if one looked hard enough.

These long packed dirt streets provided a great place for wandering airplanes to set themselves down on a Sunday afternoon so the occupants could stretch their legs or whatever. When we would hear an airplane buzzing around the sky, usually on a Sunday, we would run as fast as we could to this big field, hoping that this was one of the days that they would land. When they did, our eyes would almost pop out of our heads. Imagine standing next to a real live airplane (fabric covered) and sometimes we would even get to touch it. Almost more than a young boy could stand! We regarded these pilots as men from outer space, which to us they really were. The names of two of these fearless pilots come to mind as being Vince Moore and Bob Sona. Seemingly there were no restrictions as to where or how men flew these planes because they would cruise just over the treetops where they were about to land. Of course, they were landing on residential land, too. But then again, the residential land had no residents till years after this.

The street that they landed on is now named Roosevelt Avenue, probably was then, too, but no one knew it. This was surely a big thrill to all the local kids, after all, back then there would probably be no more than 3 or 4 planes fly over the town in an entire week.

This same field, known by us as "Ford's Field", also provided another thrilling experience for us. There was a glider club that I believe came from Hillsdale that also would use this field to test their skills on flying their frame glider. They would pull this with an automobile attached by a long rope and get it up in the air much like you would fly a kite. If the pilot was lucky to get into a draft of some kind he could make a big circle around the neighborhood and hopefully get back to the field. If he did not get the draft the thing would make a very abrupt turn and set down pretty much from where he just took off.

As soon as World War II came along, all these fellows joined the military as did most of the young men in the entire country. One of these glider pilots from Hillsdale, Frank Hill, became quite an American hero during the war as a fighter pilot. Flying a British Spitfire he shot down several enemy planes in the air war over Europe. I seem to remember that there was a Fritz Snow from Hillsdale and a fellow from Washington Township of the Beuerlein family in this glider club also. There were a few others, but I either never knew their names or have since forgotten them.

One day the glider didn't make it back to the field and crashed onto Mayor Blakeney's front lawn. I don't think that there were any physical injuries involved. I have also been told that the area where the 9 hole golf course was located was a little airport before it became a golf course. Supposedly this went back to shortly after World War I. This was indeed before my time and I don't know if this was true or not...

No comments:

Post a Comment