The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 1, Page 14.


Emerson Cota, Valparaiso Man, Was One of Pioneers Of Air Flights; Flew Glider To Height of 150 Feet

Aviation, a science undreamed of by the pioneers who founded Porter county a century ago, has had its grand moments, its tragedies and its economic setbacks. But it has weathered every storm and remained a factor which promises much for Valparaiso and the rest of the county.

Three years ago a municipal airport was established when the city council under the leadership of the then Mayor Harold J. Scheick really pioneered the movement to place Valparaiso on the air map by leasing some sixty acres of William Urschel on the old Bartholomew farm, one mile north of the city.

Previous to this C. Lee Nelson, one of the first of local aviators, had a landing field and hanger, just east of Urschel field. Following Mr. Nelson, Leslie (Bud) Winder established an airport on the Evans field, east of Valparaiso, where passengers were taken up. Later Mr. Winder moved to the Urschel farm, and now has a hanger there for the housing of his plane.

Emerson Cota, Valparaiso man, was probably one of the pioneers in making aerial flights. On June 17, 1913, Cote, with an 18-foot glider, patterned after the Wright Brothers' machine, made two flights. The trials were made at the Clifford farm, west of Valparaiso. Rising to a height of 150 feet, Cota flew for a good distance. He made other flights with fine success.

Valparaiso and Porter county people first became air-minded on July 20, 1913, when Tony Janus announced he would give an exhibition on Wauhob lake. A big crowd assembled for the flight. Janus was unable to get the plane in the air because of the small space on the lake. The plane was hauled in a wagon to Burlington Beach, Flint lake, where most of the time was spent skimming on the lake. Only on one occasion did Janus get his ship into the air and managed to encircle the lake above the tree tops without touching the water. The crowd had a hectic time rushing back and forth by trolley between Wauhob and Flint. Some of the more dissatisfied ones declared the railroad officials had arranged things so they could do more business. Railroad officials, however, denied this charge.

The World War in which a number of Porter county men participated, and which a number of them were enrolled in the air division, gave an impetus to air flying, and many young men took up the art.

For a number of years a government airport has been maintained at McCool, about 10 miles northwest of the city, on the route of government mail planes. Scores of planes, both mail and commercial, now pass over this route which is dotted with large beacon lights pointing the way for the flyers.

While there were no local tragedies, with exception of the crash of a United Airways giant liner in Jackson township, Porter county, in 1932, with a loss of seven lives, several persons have been injured.

In one of these crashes which occurred Sept. 27, 1924, at the Porter county fair grounds, Edward Fraley, a Boone Grove youth, who was a passenger in a plane piloted by J. J. Grady, a profession aviator, suffered a broken leg, fractured collar bone, broken nose, and cuts when the $18,000 plane crashed in the ground from a height of ten feet. Grady claimed the spectators had tampered with his ship just before the flight.

A Valparaiso man, Donald Shoen, radio technician, at the Van Ness Electrical Shop, and operator for WRBX, Valparaiso radio broadcasting station, was killed when a plane piloted by Sidney Cleveland, at Goldfield, Iowa, plunged to the ground from a height of 20 feet when the motor failed.

The air tragedy in Jackson township involved a bi-motored 10 passenger plane of the United Air Lines, which crashed on the farm of James Smiley, one and a half miles north of Jackson Center. The plane was on its way from Cleveland to Chicago, in charge of Harold Tarrant, Oak Park, Ill., pilot, and A. T. Ruby, Oak Park, Ill., co-pilot. Various theories were advanced for the crash, some saying that a bomb placed on the giant liner was responsible for the mishap. Coroner Carl M. Davis also ascribed to this theory, as parts of the liner were found at different points. Bureau of Commerce officials made an investigation of the mishap, but the fate of the big plane remains a mystery to this day. In addition to the two pilots others losing their lives were: Miss Alice Scribner, Chicago, stewardess; Fred Schendorf, Chicago; Dorothy M. Dwyer, Arlington, Mass.; Emil Smith, Chicago, and H. L. Burris, Columbus, Ohio.

Chesterton was also an aviation center as early as 1929, when Jesse L. Cross, a pupil of Lindberg, made a number of flights over the Dunes region. The flights were sponsored by Vaughn L. and C. H. Harvill. Oakley Lutes, who had landing field both here and at Chesterton, made a number of flights during 1929.

In August, 1929, the Charles Pratt Post, American Legion, launched a move to establish an airport at Valparaiso, but sufficient interest could not be mustered up to make the promotion a success.

Interest in flying has been enhanced to a large degree by the visit here of large transport planes used in commercial flying in charge of army aviators. One of these recently visiting the city was a 17-passenger Ford tri-motor monoplane, owned by Major Leslie O. Mulzer, veteran U. S. Army air corps reserve commercial pilot with over one half million miles of flying time. The Ford plane weighed 14,000 pounds and was valued at $65,000. Many passengers enjoyed air trips during the stay of the plane here. John Matthews, flying a special Travel Air bi-plane, put on an exhibit of stunt flying in connection with the Ford plane's visit here.

In 1934, the Schenck city administration leased part of Urschel field for a municipal airport, taking a five year lease. A FERA labor grant was obtained and considerable work was expended in grading the ground for a landing field. The work was stopped when the FERA went out of existence. Later the PWA came into being, and another project was obtained. More work was done on the airport. The ground was further graded and tiled and then the work was again stopped because the Bureau of Aeronautics of Washington, D. C., informed the airport promoters that no further work could be undertaken until the city acquired ownership of the airport ground. A $47,000 grant was contingent upon the city acquiring title to the property.

Mr. Urschel, Glen J. Goddard, and others interested in aviation attempted to secure the aid of the Bartholomew administration in a plan to place ownership of the necessary ground in the city without the necessity of paying any funds other than the amount of the annual rental being paid by the city.

However, lack of interest among council members is holding up the project, and the chance of the city cashing in on the government's offer appears at the present time a remote possibility.

An attempt was made by the airport promoters to obtain paving brick from the city for the construction of a hanger to house the airplanes which operate at the local airport. Again the council refused to show an interest in aviation by deferring action on the brick request.

To date some $12,000 to $14,000 has been expended by the government in placing the airport in shape for the landing of planes. According to the airport boosters the field could be rigged up in condition for the landing of planes.

Glen J. Goddard, who is in touch with several of the large commercial airway companies, announced that Valparaiso was in line for stops for big planes. The Bureau of Commerce at Washington also announced that the McCool landing field would be abandoned and the equipment moved to Valparaiso.

In the fall of 1934 the Valparaiso Aero club was organized with 12 members. The aim of the club is to promote and further the interests of aviation in Valparaiso and the surrounding community.

The first flying of the club was limited to gliders. All of the original group of members learned to fly a primary type of glider.

In May of 1936, the club purchased a Wow training plane to use for club students only. To date seven club members have soloed and have been rated a student pilot. They are under the able leadership and are instructed by Leslie (Bud) Winder, local pilot. Due to his capable instructions they have had no accidents in all the flying they have done.

At present the club comprises twenty-two members from Gary, Valparaiso and the surrounding community. The members of the club are Bud Winder, pilot license; Clause Lenburg, pilot license; C. Lee Nelson, pilot license; Bill Younce, pilot license; Olie Sundelin, solo, had most student flying hours; Henry Foster, solo; Daniel Perry, solo; Ben Blackman, Axel Nogard, solo; Arthur Babcock, solo; Harrold McCray, Hillary Dunn, solo; Chuck Lucas, LaVerne Blackman, Ralph Barenko, solo; Clarence Powell, Mark Marvihill, Fred Glroux, Kenneth Busier, Richard Williams, Buster Babcock, Own Babcock.

At the present time five ships are kept at the Urschel field. They are owned by Bud Winder, C. Lee Nelson, Bill Younce and Clause Lenburg, Mr. Brady, of Gary, and David Fitch, of Kouts. Glen J. Goddard, who owns a large Stinson cabin plane which he flys over the country, keeps his ship at the Lansing, Ill., airport because of the absence of a suitable hangar at the local airport.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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