Wednesday, March 18, 2020

McKellar Landing Field, Forgotten History

On May 19, 1932, The Plain Dealing Lions Club discussed the possibility of founding a landing field. Suggesting that the McKellar place would be “the logical landing place for airplanes.” After the discussion, a committee was formed with H.F. Spencer, John J. Doles, and Ben E. Keeth to investigate the possibility and to report their findings at the next meeting.

After the next monthly meeting, the following announcement appeared in The Plain Dealing Progress on July 7, 1932.

“An outstanding project recently sponsored by the Lions Club of Plain Dealing, and introduced during the presidency of Mayor F.D. McKellar of the local Club, became a reality this week, when it was announced that this little city of 1200 population has followed the pace of large cities by establishing a landing field.

“The new landing field is located on the McKellar place, ideally situated one and one-half miles from town, and offers aviators a splendid landing place, and has already been used on several occasions by Earl Ricks, aviator of Stamps, who frequently visits his parents, Mr. And Mrs. E.P. Ricks, prominent citizens of Plain Dealing.”

The dedication of McKellar Landing Field took place on the morning of July 28, 1932, with the initial plane landing by Earl Ricks, Jr. of Stamps, AR with his mother, Nancy Ricks, as his passenger. “They made the trip from Stamps, about 40 miles, in 20 minutes, landing at the field in the presence of admiring spectators at 9:30 o’clock.”

On Jan. 24, 1935, an announcement appeared in The Plain Dealing Progress that the Roach Strayhan post of the American Legion would sponsor an Air Circus at the McKellar Landing Field on Sunday, Jan. 27, 1935. The show was to include a free parachute jump by Hansen over the business district of Plain Dealing at 2:00 p.m., sponsored by the local merchants. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, the show was postponed.

Source: The Plain Dealing Progress Jan. 17, 1935

Finally, on Feb. 3, 1935, Gene Lee and Herb Hansen, daredevil air show performers of Texarkana, provided a stunt-filled Air Circus for the crowds in Plain Dealing. To make up for the disappointment of having to reschedule the show, they promised the readers of The Plain Dealing Progress that Lee would perform a 2000-foot parachute jump, and Hansen would drive his little red racing car through a flaming board wall at 60 miles per hour.

The Air Show was a great success and the local troop of the Boy Scouts, led by Howard A. Wheeler, arranged to sponsor another Air Circus scheduled for Sunday, Mar. 31, 1935 at McKellar Field at 1:00 p.m. The proceeds of the show would benefit the local Boy Scouts organization.

Source: "The Plain Dealing Progress" March 28, 1935

Lee stated, “the main feature of the air show at this time will be a double parachute jump from a plane at ten thousand feet in a parachute and change from one chute to another before he reaches the ground.” The show would also include a sensational stunt flying performance by Harold Bell, who was “scheduled to do everything imaginable in a small open plane.” They also had two planes on hand to carry passengers up for only 75 cents.

Mayor F.D. McKellar
1936 political campaign picture
Source: "The Plain Dealing Progress"
The owner of the field was Fred Douglas McKellar. He was a native of Bossier Parish, raised on a farm, and served our country in the first World War. McKellar served as the Mayor of Plain Dealing from 1928-1936, serving four terms as Mayor, twice he ran without opposition.

During his time as Mayor, he eliminated the town’s debt, built a new jail, exempted autos from local taxation, all while reducing the resident’s tax burden by three mills. McKellar also modernized the light and gas systems and reduced the cost of water to homes and fire insurance. And, he was apparently quite the aviation enthusiast by offering the use of his property as a landing field.

To learn more about Mayor McKellar or the history of Plain Dealing, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

No comments:

Post a Comment