Tornado 1945

tornado-augusta

Augusta, Kansas; 500 Block of State Street, looking south. 1945

Fortunately, the tornado veered off and didn’t strike the town but it came close.
Dave Thomas           October 18, 2015

 

I like this picture because of the drama it displays. The big, black funnel looks like it is coming right up the main drag. The two men in the street seem transfixed and don’t know if they should stay and watch or run for cover.

Since posting this picture, I’ve received information that makes it even more compelling. I have received e-mails from Keith Scholfield and Jack Parker telling me of their connection to the event.

First, let me give you some background. Keith’s Dad, Gene Scholfield, owned Scholfield Hatchery and dealt in feed and grain and chicks. The store, easily identified by its white front, was located on the west side of the 400 block of State Street. Naturally, Keith spent a lot of time there. The first store north of the Hatchery was Bartholomew Furniture, owned by Jack Parker’s Grand-dad, Charles Bartholomew. Jack lived in the neighborhood and spent quite a bit of time at the family store. This information helps explain why the two boys were in the right place at the right time to witness the tornado that was heading for town.

If you look down toward the center of the picture, on the west side of the street, you can see the white storefront of Scholfield’s Hatchery. Keith has seen the picture a number of times over the years. It’s kind of fuzzy because it has been copied so many times, but as Keith points out, if you look closely you will see people standing on the roof of the building. Those are Gene Scholfield’s  employees along with Gene and Keith and Jack Parker. Jack first saw the picture a year or so ago on the museum’s web site and it triggered some fuzzy recollections in his memory of standing on a rooftop and watching an approaching storm. Jack and Keith have conferred about the picture and, though the memories are quite distant, agree that they were on the roof as the tornado was heading for town that day.

Keith says that the day after the tornado was sighted, his Dad took him for a drive southeast of town. They found the track of the tornado crossing Haverhill Road in a spot just north of Smileyberg.

Now, we’ve got a great picture and some people that we know who were associated with it. I think it’s remarkable that 3 old boys like us are communicating through the magic of the Internet about an incident that took place 71 years ago. Keith and I are 80 years old now and Jack is 81 and we have resurrected this story so it can be shared.

Dave Thomas Revised
November 29, 2016

 

 

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The Story of Pat’s Picture

My wife, Pat, turns 79 today. Two years ago, I sent the kids and grand-kids a little story about the picture she had taken for her 50th birthday. It is my favorite picture so I’m posting it to the blog today.
Dave Thomas  
November 29, 2016

53h-1987

My wife, your Mom/Grandma/Great-Grandma, Pat, has always been self-conscious about having her picture taken and usually dodges the issue. However, as she approached her 50th birthday she thought it might be a good idea to have her portrait done. Being a Sears employee, she made an appointment with the Sears Portrait Studio. She showed up at the proper time but had to wait because the little boy who was scheduled ahead of her wasn’t cooperating. He was unhappy, wouldn’t smile, and just flat didn’t want to be there. His Mother was doing her best to encourage him but it wasn’t helping. The photographer, an old hand at dealing with kids, reached into a cabinet behind him and came up with some sock puppets. He put one on his hand and started talking in a goofy voice and quickly had the kid laughing. The photographer soon had all the shots he needed of the boy and it was Pat’s turn. The photographer got Pat situated with a proper background, made suggestions for posing, and was ready to take pictures. However, Pat went into her normal tight-jawed, picture-taking mood and wouldn’t smile. The guy kept talking to her and trying to get her to lighten up but it wasn’t working. Finally, in desperation, he asked “how do I get you to loosen up and smile?” She says ”Well, you might try treating me like that little boy.” So, the photographer puts on the sock puppet and starts talking in a goofy voice and all of a sudden Pat is laughing! The guy starts snapping pictures and gets some fantastic shots. He captures the Pat I know so well with laughing eyes, maximum dimples, and full of fun. The picture I’m including is the best and most real picture you will ever see of her. You might want to save it.

Dave/Dad/Grandpa Thomas
October 9, 2014

 

 

Connections

I grew up in Augusta, Kansas, a small town seventeen miles east of Wichita. Augusta served as a bedroom community for the larger city. Many of our friends and relatives worked in the aviation industry. During WWII, Beech, Cessna, and Boeing hired thousands of people and the city called itself “The Aviation Capital of the World.” There were many small manufacturers before the war and during the evolution of the industry they came and went due to money and growth problems or by being swallowed up by more aggressive entities. One of the success stories after the war was the development of the Lear Jet by Bill Lear and company. I’ve got a few little stories that are loosely connected to Wichita aviation that I’d like to share. I guess they are important only because I remember them. Hope you find them interesting.

During World War II, Pat’s mother, Melba Lee and her younger sister, Mable did their part by working as “Rosie the Riveter” at Beech Aircraft (later known as Beechcraft). They did well and Melba advanced to a Section Leader position.

rosie-the-riveter

I’m not sure when, but it probably would have been 1945, our Mom was working at the local refinery, and our great-aunt Rachel Peebler was taking care of my sister and I. One summer day, she loaded us up in her green Packard and took us to Wichita to buy some school clothes. We went to Buck’s Department Store on the northeast corner of Broadway and Douglas. We got our shopping done and Aunt Rachel said she was taking us to lunch. Diagonally across the intersection, on the southwest corner, was a big, brown, brick building that I think was a bank. We entered the building, went to the elevator, and rode up to the second or third floor. We stepped out of the elevator into a pleasant-feeling and busy restaurant. Aunt Rachel led us through the tables until she came to the table of a well-dressed older man who rose as she approached and shook her hand. She introduced the man as Mr. Brown and said she had known him for some time. In later years, I figured that he most likely was the man that owned Brown’s Bank in Augusta.

We left Mr. Brown and continued to another table where two ladies were seated. Aunt Rachel introduced us to Olive Ann Beech. We kids knew who she was. She and her husband, Walter Beech, owned Beech Aircraft and were prominent in the business and social life of the city. Their names were in the papers or on the radio every day. Aunt Rachel visited with Mrs. Beech and the other lady for a few minutes and then we had lunch and went home.

The first jet airplane I ever saw was heading for the air base in Wichita. I don’t know the exact year but can establish some brackets on the time. We were at Augusta Junior High School. The school served grades 6,7, and 8. That means I was probably 11, 12, or 13(1947-1949). It was during the afternoon recess when we spotted the plane heading west toward Wichita. The development of jet fighter planes had been in the news quite often. I can’t remember what model it was but the next day the papers carried the story about the plane and its arrival at the base in Wichita.

When I enlisted in the Navy in 1957, I sold my car, a baby-blue 1953 Ford convertible. The morning I was to leave, Johnny Luding drove me to Wichita and dropped me off at the Navy Recruiting Office. After I got out of boot camp in June, I came home on a 30-day leave. Jack Watson was working in the Auditing Department at Sears Roebuck in Wichita. He said there was a cute girl working there and worked it out to introduce me to Pat. We started going out but I was hampered by my lack of transportation. Johnny was working second shift at Boeing and said I could use his car. So, I would drop Johnny off at Boeing and then go spend the evening with Pat. At the proper time, at the end of the evening, I would be back at the Boeing gate waiting for John. Pat and I got acquainted and made up our minds about each other and got married that November on a 3 day Veterans Day weekend. Since we just celebrated our 59th wedding anniversary, I want to say “Thanks again” to Jack and Johnny.

After my 30-day leave, and courting Pat, I checked into Glenview Naval Air Station. It was located just outside of Chicago. Naval Reserve Squadrons “Weekend Warriors” trained there so there was a lot of flying done on the weekends. The pilots had to get in some “stick time” to maintain their proficiency and would fly short hops locally or to nearby cities. They usually tried to get in 4 hours at a time. When I wasn’t working, I would hang out at the Operations Building and catch a ride. For multi-engine aircraft, the base had R4D’s (same as U.S. Air Force C-47) and SNB’s. I only took one hop in an R4D and was bored out of my mind as there was nothing to do but look out the window. The Navy SNB was a variant of the Beech Model 18 or “Twin Beech” as it was known. It was a smaller twin engine aircraft, made for small airfields and was a very reliable aircraft. I forget how many seats it had but you could sit up close to the pilots and watch what they were doing. I probably took half a dozen hops in the SNB’s for a total of 25 or 30 hours. Fun stuff.

I don’t know all the details but sometime during the early 1960’s, my friend, neighbor, and classmate, Glenn Douthitt, was working at Boeing, in Wichita, as a draftsman. Bill Lear moved Lear Jet to Wichita in 1962 and began work on Lear Jet #1. Glenn went to work for Lear and played a big part in the design and layout of the innovative new instrument panel. Glenn went on to become the Chief Contracts Negotiator for the Avionics branch of Lear, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Now, you’ve read a bunch of little stories that are connected in some way to Wichita and its aviation history. I think it is interesting to see how memories can be attached to a common thread. If any of this aviation talk has piqued your interest, one story you might enjoy pursuing is the history of Bill Lear and Lear Jet.

Finding George P. Sicks

November 25, 1996

Here’s a story that I have enjoyed telling for the last couple of weeks. It could be titled “It’s a small world in the genealogy business” or some such.

My Grandpa, George F. Sicks, and Grandma, Ruby, were divorced when my Mom was about 6 years old, and that would have made it about 1919. Mom was raised by her family in Kansas and that was where I grew up also. Grandpa moved around a lot and spent time in Kansas, Arizona, and Los Angeles but he always kept in touch with Mom. She knew that Grandpa had a nephew named after him that was living back in Grandpa’s home town, Iola, Kansas. Grandpa always referred to the nephew as “Young George”. Mom never got to meet Young George and, during the depression, when she heard he had moved to Los Angeles 9she figured she never would. Through his letters and occasional visits, and until he died in 1958, Grandpa kept Mom and the rest of us up to speed on Young George.

A couple of years ago, I got interested in genealogy and started gathering information about the various branches of the family. I didn’t have much luck with Grandpa’s side of the family. I didn’t know a single person named Sicks.

About 6 weeks ago, to help with the research, I bought a computer program called “Home Phone” that is supposed to contain 80 million phone numbers and addresses. Two weeks ago, I was doing some research and opened the Home Phone program. I typed in Grand-dad’s last name and asked the program to search all the western states. The computer did its stuff and came back with a list of about 50 people named Sicks. At first, I didn’t see anything I recognized, but right in the middle of the page was the name “George Sicks” and the address given was only 10 or 12 blocks from where I lived in El Cajon, California! I thought that if I was lucky it might be a son or grandson of “Young George”. I called and had to leave a message on their answering machine. I said, “I’m Dave Thomas and my Grandpa was George F. Sicks of Iola, Kansas. Do you think we might be related?” The next day

Pat answered the phone and it was George. He said, “I’m George Sicks and tell your husband I was named after his Grandpa.” By gosh, I had found Young George, himself!

I went over and visited with George and his wife, Justine, that evening. They told me a lot of family history and had pictures of 6 generations of the family. When I showed them the printout from Home Phone they identified 4 relatives that they had met.

Well, that’s the story. I finally got to meet a guy I had heard about all my life and we hit it off right away. George is 82 years old and I’m 60 now but I hope to see a lot of him in the future.

P.S.

November 9, 2016

George lived to be 94 and passed away in 2008. We had plenty of visits at their house and ours and we enjoyed a few meals at various Mexican restaurants around town. They knew a lot of family history for when George retired, they bought a travel trailer and spent a year traveling around the country and called on a lot of relatives.

When George turned 86, he wanted a big birthday party so his wife, Justine, and step-daughter Kathy Kingsbury put together a memorable one. The plan called for a cruise to Santa Catalina Island with a morning spent sight-seeing in Avalon, a big lunch at a local restaurant, and more sight-seeing in the afternoon. They invited kids, grand-kids, and cousins like me from all over the country. There were at least 30 of us and maybe more. Pat and I drove up to Long Beach the night before and stayed in a motel instead of trying to fight L.A. traffic on the day of the party. We all met down at the pier at 7:00 AM and drank coffee and got acquainted until it was time to go. While we were milling around, Kathy was passing out baseball caps to everyone. The ball caps were well conceived in that they had been stenciled “80 Sicks” in honor of George’s 86th birthday.

g-p-sicks-1

In 2002, Pat and I moved to Keller, Texas, on the north side of Fort Worth and stayed for 7 years. George and Justine flew over and visited us twice. They enjoyed sight-seeing and especially enjoyed our trips to Old Fort Worth and the Stockyards. We always got there in time to watch the cattle drive before we had lunch.

In 2004, while still in Texas, we got a call from Justine saying that there was going to be a big party for George’s 90th birthday. They were inviting everyone back for a day at the San Diego Zoo. It would be a day of visiting and looking at the animals and meeting for lunch at the zoo’s restaurant. I was told that since I lived in Texas I would have to wear my cowboy hat. Pat drove us to San Diego and we went to George’s party and spent a few days visiting with our kids. It was a lot of fun to meet new relatives and visit with those we had met previously. George seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

November 25, 1996

Here’s a story that I have enjoyed telling for the last couple of weeks. It could be titled “It’s a small world in the genealogy business” or some such.

My Grandpa, George F. Sicks, and Grandma, Ruby, were divorced when my Mom was about 6 years old, and that would have made it about 1919. Mom was raised by her family in Kansas and that was where I grew up also. Grandpa moved around a lot and spent time in Kansas, Arizona, and Los Angeles but he always kept in touch with Mom. She knew that Grandpa had a nephew named after him that was living back in Grandpa’s home town, Iola, Kansas. Grandpa always referred to the nephew as “Young George”. Mom never got to meet Young George and, during the depression, when she heard he had moved to Los Angeles 9she figured she never would. Through his letters and occasional visits, and until he died in 1958, Grandpa kept Mom and the rest of us up to speed on Young George.

A couple of years ago, I got interested in genealogy and started gathering information about the various branches of the family. I didn’t have much luck with Grandpa’s side of the family. I didn’t know a single person named Sicks.

About 6 weeks ago, to help with the research, I bought a computer program called “Home Phone” that is supposed to contain 80 million phone numbers and addresses. Two weeks ago, I was doing some research and opened the Home Phone program. I typed in Grand-dad’s last name and asked the program to search all the western states. The computer did its stuff and came back with a list of about 50 people named Sicks. At first, I didn’t see anything I recognized, but right in the middle of the page was the name “George Sicks” and the address given was only 10 or 12 blocks from where I lived in El Cajon, California! I thought that if I was lucky it might be a son or grandson of “Young George”. I called and had to leave a message on their answering machine. I said, “I’m Dave Thomas and my Grandpa was George F. Sicks of Iola, Kansas. Do you think we might be related?” The next day

Pat answered the phone and it was George. He said, “I’m George Sicks and tell your husband I was named after his Grandpa.” By gosh, I had found Young George, himself!

I went over and visited with George and his wife, Justine, that evening. They told me a lot of family history and had pictures of 6 generations of the family. When I showed them the printout from Home Phone they identified 4 relatives that they had met.

Well, that’s the story. I finally got to meet a guy I had heard about all my life and we hit it off right away. George is 82 years old and I’m 60 now but I hope to see a lot of him in the future.

November 9, 2016

P.S.

George lived to be 94 and passed away in 2008. We had plenty of visits at their house and ours and we enjoyed a few meals at various Mexican restaurants around town. They knew a lot of family history for when George retired, they bought a travel trailer and spent a year traveling around the country and called on a lot of relatives.

When George turned 86, he wanted a big birthday party so his wife, Justine, and step-daughter Kathy Kingsbury put together a memorable one. The plan called for a cruise to Santa Catalina Island with a morning spent sight-seeing in Avalon, a big lunch at a local restaurant, and more sight-seeing in the afternoon. They invited kids, grand-kids, and cousins like me from all over the country. There were at least 30 of us and maybe more. Pat and I drove up to Long Beach the night before and stayed in a motel instead of trying to fight L.A. traffic on the day of the party. We all met down at the pier at 7:00 AM and drank coffee and got acquainted until it was time to go. While we were milling around, Kathy was passing out baseball caps to everyone. The ball caps were well conceived in that they had been stenciled “80 Sicks” in honor of George’s 86th birthday.

In 2002, Pat and I moved to Keller, Texas, on the north side of Fort Worth and stayed for 7 years. George and Justine flew over and visited us twice. They enjoyed sight-seeing and especially enjoyed our trips to Old Fort Worth and the Stockyards. We always got there in time to watch the cattle drive before we had lunch.

In 2004, while still in Texas, we got a call from Justine saying that there was going to be a big party for George’s 90th birthday. They were inviting everyone back for a day at the San Diego Zoo. It would be a day of visiting and looking at the animals and meeting for lunch at the zoo’s restaurant. I was told that since I lived in Texas I would have to wear my cowboy hat. Pat drove us to San Diego and we went to George’s party and spent a few days visiting with our kids. It was a lot of fun to meet new relatives and visit with those we had met previously. George seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

Here’s George at 91 or 92 and headed for a western party.

cowboy-george