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March 15, 2002

Here’s more about the Perry Air Park, the one located in 1930 about a mile north of town on the west side of U.S. 77.

A federal installation (a rotating beacon light) for aircraft travelers was already in existence in 1930 when the Perry Chamber of Commerce leased a field on the Mildfelt farm north of Perry and named it “the Perry Air Park.” To dedicate the field on October 5, 1930, an ambitious event was planned by W.Z. Blake, manager of the Chamber of Commerce. Part of the promotion for the day was a rubber stamp to be used on outgoing self-addressed mail at the Perry post office. Those pieces had been sent in advance to the local C-C by collectors and others. The chamber said at least a thousand pieces of mail were received here to be stamped on October 5. One of them was the item featured on E-bay that caught Dave Payne’s eye and led to this retelling of the story.

All aspects of dedication day were thoroughly publicized in advance with front page articles in The Perry Daily Journal. One of the chief features was an aerial circus starring some of the nation’s best-known pilots and stunt fliers, both men and women. Among those due to participate was the legendary Lt. James Doolittle. That’s the same hero who went on to greater fame during World War II as the leader of a daring unit of the U.S. Army Air Corps (as the Air Force was then known) that staged a daylight bombing raid on the island of Japan in the summer of 1942. By that time Doolittle had climbed the military ladder to the rank of lieutenant general.

Mrs. Howard (Dorothy) Pressler, a former Perry resident, was to take part with an acrobatic flight as part of the program. “Another feature that will be full of thrills,” The Journal reporter wrote, “will be by Roy Hunt, of Norman, noted stunt flier, who will do an outside loop, the most difficult feat known to aviation.” Mr. Blake said a speed race for all types of planes powered with motors of 90 horsepower or less would open the afternoon show at 1:30 p.m. Later in the day’s activities was to be a spot landing contest, open to all classes of planes. Local agriculture observers tell me that spot landings would not be possible today. Most farm fields, like the Mildfelt pasture, were more or less level in 1930. In the modern era, terraces are commonplace to control erosion, and the sculptured rows would not accommodate airplanes, either landing or taking off .

In those days before television brought its own kind of thrills and other types of vicarious excitement into our homes, those air circuses and stunt fliers must have provided memorable experiences. The preliminary publicity alone was enough to make the hair on the back of your neck tingle. And to think, all of those promises were to be fulfilled on Perry’s brand new Air Park. One could swoon in anticipation.

We’ll continue the story of the Perry Air Park in another Nortrwest Corner, coming soon.