Sunday dawned cold and clear. My family could hardly wait to start the weekly flight to somewhere. Now that we have one newspaper column and two radio shows to do each week--these grand flying trips to interesting places are a necessity as well as a pleasant diversion.
We picked a flight yesterday which led us over level Indiana countryside to the shore of the great lake to our immediate north. Around the lower perimeter of the fascinating inland sea to the sprawling metropolitan area of Gary, Hammond and Chicago.
The day was rough and jumpy. I'm sorry to say it would have been not in the least comfortable for amateurs.
The windy bumps were compensated for, only by the wonderful visibility. Huge fleecy clouds, balls floating only 300 feet over our plane, looked as if they had been sawed in half--parallel to the ground. With the bright sun of Sunday, they cast irregular globules of a shadow on the countryside. Already divided into a colorful quilt by the green of the woods, the light beige of the harvest fields and the smooth pasture-land, these shadows caused it to appear that we were flying over a giant, yes, a mammoth, world-wide and all-inclusive camouflage job. It was as if nature had conspired from above and below to hide all regular landmarks.
Today, even though we could see at least twenty miles in all directions, towns and villages were hard to define. Entire lakes lay hidden beneath these cloud shadows.
A powerful wind, sweeping from hundreds of miles to the east and behind, kept us moving at a merry clip. Our air speed read an indicated 100 miles per hour, but actually we were averaging 120 miles per hour-two miles per minute-ground speed. At 9:26 we passed the race track at Bourbon. (You know, race tracks make wonderful check points for private pilots). And at 9:32 we crossed directly over Milt Fry's Plymouth airport. We were sailing a half-mile above the surface of the earth at that time.
As we watched with careful appreciation, the flat fields of the Kankakee river valley rolled by, we spotted lake Michigan to the north. Tremendous in size, mysterious as it disappears into the blue haze, the lake curves southward into northern Indiana, framing the picture before us. We landed at Valparaiso just 35 minutes away from Warsaw.
At seven minutes past eleven, we left Valpo behind us headed once again through the patches of cumulus clouds north and west toward the lake. We broke over the shoreline east of Gary and followed the narrow bright ribbon of sand west of where the sprawling industries of the middlewest crowd nature right back into the water.
From Gary to Calumet Harbor, black steel mills poke dirty fingers into the lake. Ugly looking piles of ore are heaped along the shore, like flower-pot earth mutilated by a rake. The groups of shiny white oil and gas storage tanks, clustered in the Calumet area, can be seen approaching for miles along the shoreline. And I was amused by the note on my otherwise dry and precise chart which read: "Tank Farm." It certainly is.
Just beyond the tank farm at Calumet Harbor, where the ore boats ply their trade, the backwash of industry has marred the blue of the lake. Some iron-colored stain makes the water brown and opaque. The patch of rusty-looking liquid extends half-mile into the lake and for perhaps a mile along the shore.
Coming up over the slightly rolling nose of our plane, is the sight we came for. The windy city, Chicago lay prone, along the lake. The checkerboard of its busy streets lose themselves in the blue haze of distance and we were able to see across it to open country.
I don't think I like the view over the expanse of Chicago. Somehow to me it started thoughts of a great and lusty animal crouched on the shore of this pretty lake and looked evil. I know I'm doing the town an injustice--but that's the way it made me feel.
Only at the waterfront itself, was the impression different. Here the kindliness of the city exerts itself. Out of the shadows of skyscrapers and miles of tenements, suddenly comes the cheerful ring of the Chicago lakefront park system. Open, above board, colorful, seemingly washed clean by the waves rolling in from neighboring Hoosierland and Michigan, the green parks extend acre after acre, mile after mile, below us in all their splendor.
We see the site of the railroad fair, the tangle of tracks leading to the sleeping trains. Already the big parking lot is filled with automobiles and the crowds will soon awaken the iron monsters, start them puffing and huffing their way into the amphitheater where they were holding the last show Sunday. The bright yellow of the spectators' stands flash prettily.
The forbidding masses of stone, which make up the Field Museum, the art Institute, Shedd Aquarium and the Planetarium look like ancient architecture to me from the ground. But you know from above, here again the picture is truly different. It's modern. It's the twentieth century personified. Here Chicago expresses herself best to airmen.
It's the lay-out of super highways, parkways, streets and the endlessly stretching lines of breakwaters that do it, I think. The pattern is something from a Buck Rogers book. Even the old museum buildings cut square clean lines adding to the geometric beauty of Chicago's best side.
It was with selfish interest that we circled Northerly Island, which you will remember from the 1933 World Fair days. Northerly Island is now a new lakefront airplane landing and parking strip. This is surely another progressive move by the city which gave us the "Century of Progress Show" 15 years ago. It is sort of an historic oddity that the strip should be built upon the site of the World's Fair.
Turning backward in a great circle over the loop, we reluctantly headed our plane for the beckoning line of light sand. the dunes of Indiana could be seen faintly in the distance. Soon we were over them, swinging inland toward Valparaiso and home. We landed once again at Urschel Field at exactly twelve noon. Fifty-three minutes from Valparaiso to Chicago and return--and such sights as we saw, you don't catch from the window of a railroad train.
We left Valpo at 1:45 and spent a leisurely 45 minutes returning to Warsaw, climbing to 3,000 feet hunting smooth air. Didn't find it, so glided down again and crossed Plymouth, homeward bound on the last leg at 1,000 feet.
We touched wheels to Warsaw's Municipal airport at 2:30. Our tanks took 13 and four-tenths gallons. Altogether we had been in the air only two hours and 15 minutes.
Warsaw Daily Times Tuesday Oct. 5, 1948