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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Local Airport Memories



By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

daughter of the Old-Timer




**********

When my brother was born in 1963, my maternal Grandmother lived in Monroe, Wisconsin. She wanted to be in Marinette to help with my sister and I while my Mother recovered in the hospital. I’m guessing my Grandfather was still working then, and needed their car, so she bought a ticket on a commercial flight to the Menominee airport.

And not just any plane, but my favorite airplane of all, a DC-3. This plane was one of the workhorses of early passenger aviation, and has a beautiful, nose up posture on the ground. Back then, Menominee probably had a couple of commercial flights a day. A favorite recreation for us was a “for no purpose” trip to the airport with our father. We’d park by the tiny terminal (near Enstrom’s location now,) watch the tower light beacon rotate and wait hopefully to see a takeoff or landing. (If we weren’t lucky enough to see that, Dad would always say “Those guys are too chicken to fly.”)

The most impressive trip of all, of course, was that day we went to pick up our own Grandma at the familiar terminal. We saw the big silver plane land, lower gracefully into its nose up posture, and swing around on the apron right in front of us. Once the airstair was lowered we were breathlessly excited as the passengers came down, screaming when we saw Grandma Schmid had arrived, and in such a totally glamorous way.

I passed this “airport” fascination on to my own children, with a favorite trip during their early years a drive to the Crivitz area for a dinner at the supper club located at the Crivitz airport. After dinner, we’d walk on the taxiway, and in nice weather we’d bring their big wheels so they could ride them there. Sometimes a kind small plane pilot would talk with us, and let the kids sit in their plane. We met a lot of really nice people that way. No fence kept us from these personal connections. If we weren’t lucky, and no one was flying during our visit, I’d remember Dad saying, “Those guys are too chicken to fly.”

A few years ago we vacationed with our kids in Marathon, Florida, located in the keys. There’s a very interesting airport there, with a fair amount of “island” traffic passing through enroute to the Bahamas or Caribbean. Lots of old, worn-out planes end up flying between island nations with skimpy economies, and I love seeing those old survivors still earning their keep. Sitting right out in front was a DC-3. No fully restored beauty, she was a bit worse for wear, but still had that proud upturned nose. We approached the fence to take a picture so I could look up the tail number (N-number) in the FAA database, to see who owned the plane and how old it was. Imagine how surprised we were when a man checking an engine on the plane approached the fence and invited us out on the tarmac to see the plane up close.

Even in this day of tight airport security (Marathon being a much bigger and busier airport), he whisked us right out to the plane. When I asked where he was bound, he told me he’d bought the plane in South Carolina (I think) and was flying it to South America to use it in a James Bond movie being filmed there. “Yeah, sure,” I thought to myself, but it was fantastic to be able to walk around the plane. Another kind gesture from a pilot, a group with huge passion for fight and amply willingness to share it if you just ask, or show some interest.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a preview for a James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace.” The preview showed a DC-3! I don’t go to movies, but I went to that one. And there was that DC-3, so he wasn’t just trying to impress us, after all. Not too chicken to fly, was that guy.


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