Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who Cares about History?

As a kid, I was never much interested in history. I didn't see the value in it until some of the people I cared about began to pass away. Then I was left to wish I had known more about their lives. My grandfather, Ward Bowden, is one such example. He was my childhood hero, a Godly man, and I loved him so much. He left our earthly home when I was a teenager. I know he's now in Heaven because of the Christian example he set for me. I think his death was the first reason I ever had to want to learn more about history. As a young adult, I had a misconception that all historical events were somehow known and documented for anyone who might want to know about them. This was especially true about aviation history. NOT! At some point I began to care about aviation history as I came to realize it was about more than just these interesting flying machines. The stories are as much about the lives of the people who designed, built, flew, and maintained them. I discovered that a lot of our aviation heritage is at risk of being forgotten. And even worse, a lot of it has been inaccurately documented. My hat goes off to the expert historians who work to straighten all of this out. And though I am not in that league, I enjoy learning and working to share the little pieces of aviation history that come my way. In a few cases, I have found myself in possession of some rather unique historical information or photos that, when I set out to learn, I discovered had not been well documented. It is in these situations that I enjoy digging into the story to search for the facts. This can be a very rewarding hobby. Some of the most enjoyable aviation history stories that I have run across have been those associated with the activities at PARKS AIR COLLEGE from 1927 through the late 1930's. A few of the small segments of this topic have led to articles that I have had published. I try to view this effort as my contribution toward helping the real experts in the overall effort to learn and share aviation's rich heritage.

Vintage Airplane magazine (an EAA publication) published one article I wrote about PARKS AIRCRAFT, INC. This was the story of a manufacturing company started in conjunction with Parks Air College. Four aircraft models were developed (2 were certified) before the company became a casualty of the Great Depression. Swallowed up by a giant holding company, Detroit Aircraft, the Parks designs slowly faded away from the production line. A few of these airplanes still exist. Heres a photo of the extinct Parks P-3 monoplane.

Another article of mine made it into a more prestigious journal. The American Aviation Historical Society Journal. This was the story of THE GARDNER TROPHY AIR RACES. Again, I must humbly admit that my writings do not justify such a place in the ranks of expert historians. It is more due to the help I got from experts like the late Truman C "Pappy" Weaver and the late Richard "Dick" Kamm who encouraged me to submit the story. And it is a testament to the value the AAHS places on telling stories that might not otherwise be told. A most unique event of 1929, the Gardner Races hold a place of value in the development of aircraft racing, and subsequently made a small contribution toward improved airplane designs. Designers like Clyde Cessna, Matty Laird, and other amateurs participated. Heres a photo of one of the Cessna Racers.

Here's a link to Part 1: http://www.aahs-online.org/BackIssues/v52n3.htm#Article%209
Here's a link to Part 2: http://www.aahs-online.org/BackIssues/v53n1.htm#Article%206

Lately, I have become intrigued by the works of another expert aviation historian. If you care about aviation historical events of the 1920's and 1930's but have never visited the website called "dmairfield.org" you must go check it out. This wonderful living/growing historical mecca is the result of efforts by Mr. Gary Hyatt. I will have a lot more to say in the future about Gary and his works. So for now, take a look and you will find a lot of small works by people from all parts of aviation. If they hadn't cared, we might not have had such a rich aviation industry. And if Gary didn't care, many of these stories might have been forgotten. Good work Gary.

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