Remembering the 'Golden Age of Aviation'
Sunday, Aug. 13, 1922: I awoke to the sound of a rooster crowing from the nearby farm yard, and sleeping under the wing of my trusty Curtiss Jenny the dew was beginning to run off the wing and drip in my face. The sweet smell of clover filled my nostrils and forcing one eye open I saw the top of the orange sun just above the eastern horizon. Got in just at sunset last night and made the deal with the farmer to use his field to hop rides. The towns all seem to run together, what town was this again? I remember, Brainerd, Minn. The serenity of the early morning gives me pause to think about how I got to this place and time.
As a pilot in the “Great War” I was lucky to survive. Many of my comrades were not so fortunate. Returning home from Europe I guess I still had the wanderlust in me. Jobs were pretty hard to find, especially good ones. I tried my hand at a few things and after being fired a couple of times I realized that I was only really good at one thing, and that was flying. I had heard from some of my Army buddies that they were flying around the country hopping rides, even some of the more famous pilots of the day were doing it. They were actually doing well and they called it barnstorming! The idea of buying my own airplane and hopping from town to town seemed like little more than a distant dream. Then I heard that the United States government was selling surplus Curtiss Jennys for as little as $200. Now I was mostly broke but after selling everything I owned I came up with the money to buy my very own Jenny. That wanderlust in my soul was soon to be satisfied!
My day usually started the same as this one, waking up under the wing of my airplane. So as not to anger the locals, I never would fly too early in the morning. My first rides of the morning were to pay back the farmer whose field I was using. We would buzz over the town several times, to the delight of the farmer, and sometimes even drop leaflets (if I could afford them). After several passes over town, the people would begin to pour out into the streets looking skyward, many of them seeing a real airplane for the very first time! I was like the Pied Piper and flying in circles working toward the farm I would lead them to my flying field. Word soon spread in town to those that had not seen us fly and folks would come out in droves to see this newfangled flying machine. Most of the time that would attract enough paying customers that it would take most of the day to get them all rides. If there were really a lot of customers I might even stay another day and fly rides right to sunset, otherwise I would leave early enough to just get to my next stop before dark.
Business was great and people began to call us barnstormers “Nomads of the Air.” Kind of romantic don’t you think?
Well folks you will have the opportunity to share in the spirit and romance of the “Roaring 20’s” right here in Brainerd when the American Barnstormers Tour visits the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport on Sunday, Aug. 12; Monday, Aug. 13; and Tuesday, Aug. 14.
Consisting of 14 vintage aircraft from 1909 to 1941, period costumed pilots and crew, model T cars and good old fashioned food, it will be just like stepping back some 90 years. It is truly a living history lesson for all ages.
The aircraft will all be on display every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and visitors will be able to get right up close to see them and talk to the pilots. All day long four aircraft will provide rides to those adventurous enough to purchase one, and every afternoon all aircraft will fly in the exciting, professionally narrated “Parade of Flight.” While not an air show the public will have ample opportunity to see these aircraft fly at the airport as well as over the city. On Sunday the Cuyuna Range Community Band will provide music of the time.
Brainerd is the only stop in Minnesota on this biennial tour. There is no charge.
Relive the “Golden Age of Aviation” and come to visit the American Barnstormers Tour!