Friday, October 12, 2012

Another Baldwyn Aviation Story


   A  photo I obtained from Vivian Parton Kesler recently shows her father, William "Bill" Parton and Walter Greene, a postal delivery worker, at the old grass airstrip just East of town off Clayton Street, known then as the Pratts Road.
   Bill was a local pioneer in sport flying along with many others: Mr. Duke Young and his son, Duke Archer "Arch" Young, Murray and Evelyn Duke, Mr. Claude Gentry, Carl Martin, Mr. McCary,Fred Parmenter, Barry Henderson, Gerald McKibben, Walter's son, Jim "Jimmy" Greene, I believe Ralph Pennington, and  others whose names I have forgotten.
   It was a favorite Sunday afternoon pastime to go to the airstrip and watch the planes rolled out, checked over for flight readiness, prop started (manually pulling the propeller to start the engine) and taking off and landing. Cows and other livestock frequently got in the way of aircraft landing, so we boys would get on our bicycles and go kick and bump the cow with our bikes to clear the runway. We would get rewarded once in a while with a free short ride in the sky with one of the pilots.
   Claude Gentry wrote in his memoirs of trying to land one day after a fishing trip to Pickwick Lake (he would sneak off there on lots of Wednesday afternoons when the stores in town closed for a half-day) and a stubborn cow would not get out of the way so after a couple of unsucessful close buzz-bys close to her trying to scare her into moving. He finally decided he could go ahead and land and go around her after touching down, or apply the brakes in sufficient time to stop. It didn't work. He hit the cow and the propeller killed it, damaged the propeller blade,and he had to pay the owner for the cow. (From his book Fourscore and More in Dixie).
   The picture above showing Bill and Walter is a reminder of the phrase the post office uses - "neither rain, sleet, snow, or gloom of night, etc" - you know the rest - of how Bill carried the mail and Walter to outlying areas when the roads were so icy that a truck could not be used. The mail had to get through, so they flew to a spot where they were able to land and give the mail to the recipients that had been informed when and where to meet them.
   I really miss those days at the old airport. Several times some kids would get in touch with the electric fence wire and not be able to get loose until they were knocked loose. That was funny to those of us that had done it before and knew what not to touch!

Photo from Jimmy Greene

6 comments:

  1. Anyone remember the plane crash in the early 1950s, out off East Main Street?

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    1. Yes. Killed Prentiss County Sheriff Holley's son and another man. That's about all I remember.

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  2. Possibly the crash that happened in the pasture just north of the Baldwyn Middle School?

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    1. That is it. Was a small cotton field at the time, and it barely missed an occupied shack home.

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    2. Carl, I would like to add that this an Aronica Champ, the colors were yellow over the red tear drop on the bottom of the fuselage. My dad traded for this airplane sometime in the early fifties. If I remember correct he traded a Jeep (army type) and some amount of cash. My dad flew and Bill trained my mom to fly. The sad part is that my mom did her solo flight one Sunday afternoon and later that night it burned in the hanger with six or seven other planes. She and my dad never flew again that I remember. Arch Young and I spent many hours in that pasture. Good memories.

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    3. Good memories, indeed! Sunday afternoons at the airport were well attended by the general public and us "young-uns". I have a lot of memories of a short flight over Baldwyn. Very impressive. No other flights in C130's and commercial over the Alps to Germany and other places I experienced later were quite as fascinating. I recall the fire at the hangar when it was on the North end of the airstrip. Thanks!

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