On Tuesday the 16th of August, the weather was not of the best, however, we do need these kinds of days every now and then; all one has to do is see some of the pictures the press is showing of Somalia, and the southern part of Africa, and in our own country the south and southwest especially Texas. Those people could really use some rain. But, as one OF put it, there can be too much of a good thing — look what the Midwest just went through with all the farm land flooded, and the Army Corps of Engineers opening dams to control the water. In rivers if it tain’t one thing it is another.
Regardless of the weather the OF’s wound up at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. In the back of the Duanesburg Diner it is generally cozy and that is where the OF’s gather. (See what the boys in the back room will have, a line in a very old song that fits the OF’s quite well.)
When a major event happens close to anyone’s home it becomes a topic of conversation for quite some time after the event; such is the case with the airplane that went down by Elm Drive in East Berne. One of the questions asked was who could remember who the first person was that owned an airplane on the hill or who could remember their first sighting of an airplane on the hill. Some of the OF’s had (and some still have) their own planes but that’s not what the real question was. This question did bring up quite a story and no-one could remember if any story preceded it. This story goes back to 1931 — that is 80 years ago.
A little information before the story starts. Glenn Curtis was a local boy you know, and in the early nineteen hundreds he would fly his pontoon plane up and down the Hudson River going from Albany to New York City. When WWI broke out the government ordered from Curtis hundreds of JN-4 airplanes as trainers. After the war these planes became available to the public quite cheap. Many of the JN-4’s were purchased by pilots that still wanted to fly for barnstorming and flying circuses.
One day in 1931 while one of the OF’s (the one who just had his 85th birthday party) was in school when an airplane buzzed the little one-room school he was attending. All the kids in the school ran out to see what was going on because it was not like today when an airplane goes over the house every ten minutes. An airplane sighting then was very rare. The airplane turned around and came back and buzzed the school again, and then disappeared over the hill. The school was on the morning side of the hill so all the kids, much to the dismay of the teacher, ran to the crest of the hill. They saw the airplane skimming the grass and the pilot eventually landed it in what this OF called the “flats” by his house.
This plane was a Curtis “Jenny” JN-4. and it was flown by Grover Cleveland. If that name sounds familiar it was not the former president but a direct descendant of his. The Clevelands had a summer home not far from this OF’s home, and a relative of this OF now lives in that home. Grover Cleveland kept the plane there quite awhile and gave some of the homeowners in the area rides in the plane. Rides were given to only the adults, not the kids, much to the dismay of this young OF.
One day Mr. Cleveland decided to take the plane to Albany Airport and crashed. Mr. Cleveland apparently could land the plane in the backyard but not at an airport. The airport in Albany still is the oldest municipal airport in the country. The airport started operating about 1908. There is a tid-bit of local history that can go in one ear and out the other.
This encounter with aviation as a youngster may have been the reason the OF joined the Army Air Corp Air Cadets. At about the same time this OF joined the Cadets, another one of the OMOTM did the same thing. When WWII broke out the Air Corp had more cadets than planes and re-deployed the first OF as a mechanic, and the second OF went on to be a Piper Cub artillery observer flying off a LST boat (converted to a carrier) but he never saw action. This was a good thing because these pilots did not have to worry too much about trying to land on a bobbing LST since most pilots did not come back.
Those attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner and enjoying the breakfast without the scribe were: Duane Wagenbaugh, Ted Pelkey, Herb Sawotka, Roger Fairchild, Art Frament, Robie Osterman, Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Jim Watson, Joe Loubier, Ted Willsey, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Glenn Patterson, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Gerry Chartier and friend Slade Carr, Willard Osterhout, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Garry Porter, Jim Rissacher and friend Tina Hayden, and not me.