Crowds lined Winona Lake. The sun shone hot upon glassy water. A fragile craft of linen and bamboo sputtered noisily on the lake.
At the controls was Glenn Curtis, holder of pilot's license number one, then practically unknown. He was to demonstrate that a machine built by man could fly. It was nearly evening when the wobbly little ship left the water, labored to an altitude of fifty feet; landed several hundred yards away.
Man and machine had flown. The crowd was satisfied. Aviation had come to Kosciusko county.
Flying was a thing to read about, not practical and not seen for several years thereafter. During World War I, several local men among them Russell Ogden, Sam Trish, Ted Williams, Paul Bright and Babe Brubaker, flew with the infant army air forces. Ships like the first Jenny, the "improved" DeHaviland, the La Reune, did not do much to encourage continued flights and as far as these five were concerned they didn't.
Then came the glamorous and probably most dangerous era of local aviation, when the only planes belonged to hardy barnstormers like Harold Preston. Powered with a Liberty engine and a Model T Ford radiator as added equipment, Preston's plane could be seen flying off the vacant lots along the Argonne road in east Warsaw one or two Sundays each summer.
From this field on a memorable day in August 1921, Jack Rodeheaver, brother of evangelist Homer, took off with a Captain Merrill, for flying instruction. Jack was destined to take his place in the early history of flying that afternoon, for a few minutes after take-off observers saw an object which looked like a coat, drop from the plane and strike the ground near the present county fair grounds.
It was the body of Captain Merrill. The plane rolled over on its back and crashed some two miles distant with the youthful Jack still aboard. Both men died.
Present Councilman Fred Irvine was a little later risking his neck in similar ships and held a very early private pilot's license.
Mail routes were just starting. Two brothers, Wilbur Zimmer and the late Raymond Zimmer, learned to fly in Fort Wayne and purchased between them an old Standard bi-plane, powered with an enormous OX-5, V-8 engine, which developed a whopping 90 horse-power.
Back in 1922, Raymond had purchased a Curtis-Wright pusher, hired a pilot. When it ground-looped fatally (to the Curtis-Wright) on its first hop, it dampened "Zimm's" enthusiasm till the two boys acquired the Standard and opened their airport west of Warsaw. (More hanger-flying next column.)
Pat Haynes, currently bookkeeping at Munson's Motor Sales, becomes the first femme in the county to receive her private pilot's license through the G.I. program. Passed her flight exam Saturday, is now awaiting that coveted ticket to arrive in the mail. Pat spent two and one-half years in the WAC's, 17 months overseas. Happy landings!
Flying Farmers will hold their second annual field day, Monday and Tuesday, Aug 4 and 5, at the University of Illinois airport, five miles south of Champaign, Ill. One of the feature events is a Jonah club banquet. There are a number of Flying Farmers in Kosciusko county. We'll name them in another column.
Warsaw Daily Times Monday July 28, 1947