Patio Talk

During the summer months Pat and Izzie and I like to sit on the patio after supper until sundown. Isabella (Izzie), being an indoor cat wears a harness with a five-foot leash attached. We also have a reel for pets that is about fifteen feet long. We snap the reel onto the leash and Izzie has about twenty feet that she can move around in. While Izzie looks for lizards and wishes she could get to the two hummingbird feeders, Pat and I are sitting in the swing. We swing and hold hands and talk and keep an eye on Izzie. (I think there are about 10 stories about Izzie that you can find under the “Cats” category on the blog.)

I’m 81 now and Pat will be 80 next month. If you are wondering what old people talk about, its kids, grand-kids, great grand-kids, and “stuff”. I’ll give you some examples of the “stuff”.

We listen to the airplane noises. We are just a couple of miles west of the Miramar Marine Corps Air Facility. It’s a training base so some days are a constant stream of after-burners. When the Blue Angels are here for the annual air show we get blasted out of our seats and it scares the devil out of Izzie. We have no complaints though. This is where the world’s best pilots are trained and was the setting for the movie, Top Gun.

Besides the jets from Miramar, we sometimes hear small private planes coming out of Montgomery Field which is only 3 or 4 miles away. There is one small plane we hear every night about 6:15 as it climbs out and heads up the coast. We are guessing that it is either a flying lesson underway or a sight-seeing tour. We get a lot of helicopters, too. We live in what is called “The Golden Triangle”, an area that is bounded by freeways on 3 sides. Naturally, the freeways are patrolled by the traffic choppers from the TV news programs and by the police and the sheriff. All together, we hear a lot of aircraft noise when we are on the patio. The funny thing is, that it is not that bothersome but adds to the flavor of the patio experience.

I talked about my first ride in a small plane. It took place one Saturday morning in 1954 or 1955. I was driving back from Wichita. Normally, I worked at the garage on Saturdays from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM so I have no idea why I had been to Wichita. Anyhow, I was just leaving town, heading east on Kellogg, when I spotted a kid who was hitch-hiking. Back then, we frequently picked up hitch-hikers and this kid looked clean and intelligent and I was bigger than he was. I stopped and picked him up and as we headed for Augusta, he told me his story.

He said he was 23, was in the Air Force, and was stationed at McConnell AFB in Wichita. He went on to say that before joining the Air Force, he had earned a pilot’s license and he had just recently saved enough money to by an old airplane. The plane was an old single engine Taylorcraft and looked really beat up. However, he bought it for $700.00 and that made it look a lot better. He had parked his plane at the Augusta Airport because it was small and cheap and close enough for him to get to it easily. Also, Al Guy, the airport manager had promised to help him put a new skin on his airplane. This Taylorcraft was old enough that it had a canvas skin rather than a more modern skin of aluminum. The kid (I can’t remember his name) and Al Guy had re-skinned the plane and it looked good and was ready to fly.

At that time, the Augusta Airport was on the north end of town. It was at least a half section of land stretching from Ohio Street eastward to Custer Lane and north to the county road. The southwest corner of the property in later years became the site of Augusta’s first Wal-Mart. The interesting thing about it was that it was a multi-use property. Besides being the airport, it was the golf course and country club, the skeet shooting range, and the archery range.

I’m tired of saying “he” so I’ll call this kid “Joe”. I helped Joe push his plane out and he performed a pre-flight inspection of it. We climbed aboard, taxied out and took off. We flew around for an hour or so and Joe taught me how the controls worked and let me fly for a while. Joe told me that when we went in for a landing we would have to be careful as there might be golfers on the landing strip. The landing field was a wide grassy strip right down the middle of the golf course. Sure enough, as we came in, there were golfers crossing the fairway. Joe gunned

the engine to let them know we were coming and took the plane around for another try. The golfers cleared out and we touched down easily and rolled out across the grass. I enjoyed the ride and the experience and was happy that I had stopped to give the hitch-hiker a ride.

Pat said she had a story about her first ride in a small plane. She had just moved to El Dorado from Eureka and since she was 13 years old, that would make it about 1950. She was looking through the El Dorado Times and saw a notice that one of the local organizations was holding a fund raiser in just a couple of weeks. They would be giving rides in an airplane and charging just a penny a pound. Pat got all excited! The ride would cost just over a dollar and she had that much in her piggy bank. Of course, with the event being 2 weeks away she nearly drove her Mother crazy.

Pat and I had to take time to discuss the fare. A penny a pound isn’t much money. Pat pointed out that regular gasoline was selling for only 13 cents a gallon so a penny a pound would surely be a profitable venture. The price of gasoline really put things in perspective.

The big day finally arrived and Pat couldn’t have been more excited. The temporary air strip was a pasture on the outskirts of town. Pat’s Mom drove her out there and since there was no seating, stayed in the car to watch. She would be happy to experience the thrill of flight from ground level.

There were 2 planes giving rides that day and it was a good thing. When Pat got in line there were at least 40 people ahead of her. All of them were excited and a little nervous so they were all laughing and jabbering. The time passed quickly and Pat was soon climbing into a Piper Cub and anticipating the flight. The pilot gunned it and Pat was amazed at the speed with which they rolled across the bumpy pasture. Then, suddenly, they lifted off and left the bumps behind. She was elated as they gained altitude and she could see farther and farther. The cars and people below began to look like miniatures. It was a magic ride but it didn’t last long enough. They were soon back on the ground and everything looked normal again. Pat has retained her fascination with the elevated view. When we fly, she gets the window seat so she can look out.

Dave and Pat Thomas
October 11, 2017

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