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CYRUS: The Big Sign. It had letters 10-feet high, but few saw it

Passers-by must have wondered, back in December of 1947, what was going on on the roof of the GMC and Oldsmobile dealership on Campbellsville Street
And who is that Time Traveller, flying overhead, wearing those Snoopy/Red Baron goggles?
"What's he doing up there?"

Almost certainly, that question formed in more than one mind and on more than one set of lips in December 1947 as occasional Campbellsville Street passers-by glanced up and saw a fellow moving atop the Heskamp Motors Building.

And just as certainly, a couple of wags commented that it was Santa Claus doing a bit of early reconnaissance work in Columbia, and most likely, others good-naturedly suggested it was Mr. David Heskamp checking his secret stash of six-ounce Coca-Colas.

However, the gentleman in question was a Russell Countian, and he was busily engaged in painting what has to be the biggest -- and least seen -- sign ever created in Adair County.

A brief entry found in the December 10, 1947 edition of the Adair County News told all:
Air Marker Painted
On Heskamp Motor Roof

As a marker to guide airplanes, the word Columbia has been painted in ten foot letters on the roof of the Heskamp Motor Co. building on Campbellsville Street. An arrow points toward Streeval Field.

This work was done by John S. Vaughn, of Jamestown, for the Civil Aeronautics Commission and paid for by Standard Oil.
For those folks not quite as chronologically enhanced as your humble Central Ohio Bureau Chief, Streeval Field was located on Rte. 206 in Christine.

From the mid 1940s through about 1950, it served as airport and hangar and as a training field for flight instruction for former GIs and for local flying enthusiasts, including Mr. Heskamp.

Upon recently reading the above article, Columbia native daughter Ann Heskamp Curtis weighed in with the following thoughts.
New Most Wished-For
Time Travel Event:

It is December 1947 and I am flying an airplane over Adair County...Below me, I see a building emblazoned with "COLUMBIA" in 10-foot red letters and an arrow directing me towards an airport.

I circle once, and then head east over the fields out towards 206, to Streeval Field.

(I am wearing Snoopy Red Baron-style goggles.)

Hopefully, I will land safely, unlike the Lindsey [Wilson] students/pilots who seemed not to have a high rate of success.
Ms. Curtis' comment about the Lindsey Wilson students/pilots refers to Messrs. Laverne Lay and Joe Montgomery and indirectly to Bobbie Collins, the latter an employee of Heskamp Motors at the time his unfortunate adventure.

In the April 10, 1946 edition of the News, it was reported that Mr. Collins was a passenger in a plane piloted by Joe Montgomery, a student at Lindsey Wilson, when "the plane's motor conked out immediately after the takeoff and it fell from an estimated height of fifty feet, narrowly missing the hangar."

The article went on to state that Montgomery suffered a slight concussion; that Collins "had several teeth knocked loose and sustained a fractured cheek bone" [thank goodness local dentist Dr. H.C. Randall was a member of the flying club!]; and that "the plane, owned by a group of local aviation enthusiasts was badly damaged."

This possibly was the first of two aerial misadventures for Bobbie Collins. I'm told that on one occasion, Collins was piloting and upon take-off or landing, a plane wheel hung in a fence, the plane flipped, Collins walked away and never again took to the air.

Laverne Lay's mishap occurred a few days before Christmas, 1947, and was reported thus in the December 24, 1947 News:
Local Plane Is Wrecked Sunday

Laverne Lay, Lindsey Wilson student escaped with minor injuries when he made a forced landing late Sunday while flying from Streeval Field to London.

Lay, a former Army pilot, said that he was having motor trouble when forced down. The plane, owned by Dr. H.C. Randall, was badly damaged. The owner, well-known local dentist, had been flying the plane earlier in the afternoon.
Does anyone know the story behind Streeval Field's demise? It apparently was going strong toward the end of 1949 but according to the scanty information at hand, it had been abandoned by mid-to-late 1950.

Central Ohio Bureau Chief
The story above prompted Larry Walker to send his wonderful memories of Steeval Field. To read the story, Click Here
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This story was posted on 2006-04-10 10:55:33
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