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April 5, 2002

Those recent columns about the grand opening of the Perry Air Park in 1930 have revived some memories for several readers of this column. The Air Park was located on the west side of U.S. highway 77 a little more than one mile north of town. It was on land leased by the Perry Chamber of Commerce from the Mildfelt family. Part of the parkís opening and dedicatory celebration more than 70 years ago was an air circus, stunt flying (by professional, barnstorming pilots) and other exciting events. The Chamber of Commerce manager, W.Z. Blake, evidently felt Perry was well positioned to cash in on the burgeoning new U.S. air industry. I donít know how long the Perry Air Park survived, but a companion installation, right across the road, on the east side of U.S. 77, outlasted it by several years.

That field on the east side was a creation of the federal government and it came along before the Perry Air Park. The east side field had a rotating beacon light and ground lights outlining a landing area to assist nighttime aerial navigators in cross-country flights or emergency landings after dark. Some federal agency personnel apparently felt that the field was needed as an emergency landing place for airplanes that needed to touch down on terra firma for any reason. Far as I know, it was never needed for that purpose.

Sam Ebersole, who lives on the land where the emergency landing field existed, tells me that his late grandmother, Mrs. Effie. Woodruff, received a quit claim title executed by the federal government that gave her the title to the property when the field became surplus. Sam now holds the title. His late father, A.L. Ebersole, used to tell Sam that several biplanes once landed at the field, spent the night there then took off the next morning. The pilots dropped some kind of leaflets over Noble county before moving on to another locale. I remember hearing about planes of that description depositing campaign material for local political candidates years ago, but Sam does not know what kind of leaflets those biplane pilots released. They may have been the ones Mr. Ebersole remembered.

Keep in mind that the Perry Air Park on the west side of U.S. 77 and the nearby emergency landing field on the east side of the highway, with its distinctive beacon, no longer exist. They were separate entities, and neither was related to what is now known as the Perry Municipal Airport, a few miles farther north of Perry but still alongside U.S. 77 (on the east side). The Municipal Airport today remains a proud possession of this little city and it is home to several private airplanes. As time goes by, you can expect to see Municipal Airport becoming more important day by day.