Flying Farmer '57 Article
This 1957 article was written by J. B. Kelsey in 1957 by request of his youngest son, Jack Kelsey, for the monthly Flying Farmers magazine. it was originally passed along to the Waynoka Historical Society. AND... now The OkieLegacy via of J. B. Kelsey's grandson, Barry Kelsey, has received a scanned copy to share with you all.
Page #2, Page #3 and Page #4.
"Jack asked me to write an article for this month's newsletter. I asked him what he wanted me to write about and he said, 'everything I want to write about, but would like me to say something about flying.' Well before I start, I would like to say 'hello' to my old flying farmer friends. When I was one of the Oklahoma Flying Farmers Directors -- back in the forties -- but before I say anything about flying, I am going to say something about transportation in my lifetime.
I first came to Oklahoma with my parents when I was two years old -- in the spring of 1894. We came to my father's homestead from Greensburg, Kansas in a covered wagon. We had three small horses, one cow, sod plow, a keg of water and a grub box -- my father and mother and four small kids. I was the third in the family -- two sisters older than myself and sister just a baby. My father was in the run of the opening of the Cherokee Strip -- staked his homestead and filed on it and lived there the remainder of his life. We still own the old homestead and is one farm in Woods county that never had a mortgage on it.
Yes, our transportation was a high wheel wagon with a spring seat and two broom-tailed bronks hooked to it. When the family went anyplace, mother and dad rode on the spring seat and us kids would ride on the floor in the back. We would throw a little hay on the floor and used an old buffalo robe spread over the hay for us kids to sit or lay down on. there were no automobiles or airplanes then. Could not use automobiles if we had them. There were no highways then, just trails across the country. Our transportation was horseback and high wheel lumber wagon. You will wonder how we made a living. Well, we always had plenty to eat. It did not take much money then. Every body planted a garden and a little corn. Broomcorn was our money crop. We did not know nothing about canning those days. The only thing I can remember my mother canning was sand hill plums and grapes. We would dry out corn and make hominy. We had all the meat that we wanted. There was plenty of wild game such as quail, prairie chicken, deer and rabbits. We raised our own beef and pork and had plenty of milk, but about the only way my father could get a little money were to haul cedar posts out of the hills west of the Cimarron River. Three or more homesteaders would go together with a wagon each and camp in the canyons until they got a load of posts out and loaded. It was hard work. The big drudgery was to ford the river with a load of posts, and then after they got home with their posts, they had to haul them up in Kansas and sell them to the farmers and ranchers for 9 to 10 cents each and would haul 100 to 150 posts to a load. If they got $10 or $12 dollars for a load, they were doing good. It would take about that many days to cut the posts and haul them to Kansas and get them sold.
My father did not sell many posts; he had a small business of his own. He had a little broom factory after he got to raising his own broomcorn. He always saved a few bails to make up in brooms in the winter months. There were a little grocery store in Waynoka and he would trade brooms for groceries and clothes. When he got a wagonload made up; he would load them up, put the bowes and wagon sheet over the wagon and start out making the little inland towns between Waynoka and Guthrie. When he got back, he would have some money and plenty of groceries and clothes for us kids. Yes, our transportation was the team and wagon and sure everybody had a saddle pony. If not, they would walk us kids -- walked to the school two miles and did not think nothing of it. My mother did not think nothing about walking one-half to one mile and half to a neighbor to borrow a little flour or something else to run us till father got to town to get supplies. When she walked and followed a path, she always carried a long stick or a garden hose to kill rattle snakes and they were a plenty of them there.
Well, this kind of living went on for years, as times progressed, so did the people. After so many years when us kids got where we could be a little help, my father would break more land and plant more broomcorn and finally he got a new spring wagon that was a light wagon with springs under the bed and had two seats we could all ride in style then. A young man's ambition was to own his own saddle and pony, then after he got a year or two older, he wanted a buggy all his own and when he got it by working for some rancher or farmer for a year or more, he would break his saddle pony to drive single and get him a girl. Pearl, my wife and I, did all our courting with horse and buggy. Then along came the automobile and the airplane. The first automobile I ever owned was a 1913 Model T Ford and of course -- it was the best Model T in the country. Everybody's Model T was the best and fastest. The first airplane I every saw was one that the Wright Brothers made -- it was back in 1909 or 1910. a neighbor boy and I put a tongue in my buggy and made a team out of his and my ponies and drove about 35 or 40 miles to Carmen, Oklahoma. One day to go and one day there and one day to come back home. They had some kind of big blowout, but the big attraction was the airplane that was flown in. He lit out in a pasture north of Carmen and what a crowd. People came in from every place to see this plane fly. Most people would not believe it till they saw it. When he got ready to fly it, he ask some of us boys and men to hang on to it till he got his engine warmed up and his prop enough speed to take off. When he got his engine started -- how our hats did fly. He finally motioned for us to let go and the way he went -- three or four hundred yards down across the pasture and finally set it back on the ground and I said right then, if I ever get a chance to ride in one of those blooming things, I was going to do so.
Well in 1912, Pearl and I was married and I had a lot of things to think about instead of flying, but I never got it out of my system. Every time I would hear of a airplane in the country any place, I would try and be there. The first lady flyer that I ever saw was in Wichita, Kansas. They were having a big wheat show in Wichita and it lasted for several days. I heard that Ruth Law, the great lady flyer -- in fact I think the only woman flyer at that time -- was going to do some flying and sky writing. So, I said to pearl, 'you and I are going to Wichita to the big wheat show.' Of course, what I really was thinking about was to a woman fly an airplane and at night. Well, we went and we went out to the Park where she was going to take off at that time. Wo when it got dark, Miss Law took for the sky after she got some altitude she went to writing her name in the sky RUTH LAW. she done a real good job. that was sure something then when she started to land she got lost and could not find the place to land, so she flew around awhile and finally set it down in the river without injury to her or her plane. Her plane sure was a crude looking thing. She sat out in front and the prop was in the back.
Well, as time went on -- airplanes got more common. More people learned to fly, so finally one day there were a small plane came to Waynoka. Some fellow had learned to fly it. He was out barnstorming trying to make money to pay for it. He set it down in a small pasture east of town and of course every body went out there, even some of the stores closed up to go and see the airplane. He was taking rides and charged $10 per person. Well, he was not doing so good. $10.00 was a lot of money those days and most people was afraid to ride in a airplane. So here was my chance at last. I asked the pilot if he wold let me take my 4-year0old son with me for $10.00 and he said he sure would. My little boy was at home taking his afternoon nap. I call his mother on phone and told her to get him ready he was going to take a airplane ride I knew he would like it because he watched every plane he ever seen just as long as they were in sight. Well, the ride was sure something. Everything I expected and more too. Roscoe, my small boy, liked it just as well as I did and he can tell about his first ride yet just as well as I can.
So, time went on they built better, faster and safer airplanes. One of my neighbor's boys went to Wichita to learn to be an automobile mechanic and while he was there, he learned to fly an airplane and he traded his car and some money for an old Jennie open cockpit and water cooled. When he would come home, he would land in his father's pasture. All I had to do to get a ride was to furnish the gas and him and I sure would have a lot of fun flying. I sure like it, buy my wife thought I was spending too much time flying with Ira Fox. He finally got rid of his plane and it sure did please Pearl.
Well finally the big thing happened! Charles Lindburgh flew in and made location for a big TAT Airport -- one large enough to land the big thru motored passenger planes on. The location was just across the road from my home place. What a time! My brother and my wife's brother owned the land -- 320 acres and they sold it for double what they gave for it. Things sure did pick up around Waynoka. They built three blacktop runways and a big hanger 150' x 205' -- office building, water system, boundary lights clear around the field and about every contraption that could be used around an airport. Finally, they got it completed. This was back in 1929 and the big planes started to come in from the East. This before they done much night flying. The passengers would come in from the West on the Santa Fe train. They had an airplane depot at Waynoka and big busses to haul the passengers from the train to the Airport ad from the Airport to town to take the train. They would travel at night by train and day by plane. Roscoe and Roland, my two oldest boys spent most of their time when they was not busy at the airport and watching the big planes take off and come in. They run three out in the morning and three in the evening.
This went on for a year or two, then they got to flying at night instead of the planes stopping at Clovis, New Mexico, they just came on through and would pass Waynoka up. Stopped at Wichita to take passengers on and off. Waynoka Airport was a dead duck, just used it for an emergency landing field. Finally, they sold the land and moved the big hangar and other buildings off. By this time, Jack and my two oldest boys, Roscoe and Roland, were like their Dad -- quite air minded. Roscoe and Jack went to Woodward and learned to fly. They never told their mother anything about it until they had soloed. So, one day here they came flying over our house each of them in a J-3 Cub, so I knew I had to do something about a strip for them to land on. I knew I had a good place down in the pasture just across the road where the old airport was, so I went to work and made a strip for them to land on.
Well, Jack went tot he Army and was gone for over two years, but Roscoe and Roland went ahead with our little airport. We made three runways and built a hangar. Gene McGill had a small plane and did a lot of flying, so we got an Instructor and started a school and about every kid in the country wanted to learn to fly. We had about all one instructor wanted to do. Some of them got their own planes, but not many of them could afford one. We finally got a little Aeronca Champion and how we did use it. It was in the air most all of the time when the weather would permit. Jack finally got back from the Army and he took over. Him and I bought us an Aeronca Champion and how we did use it for about every thing that you can use a plane for. I don't think there was hardly a town in a radius of 100 miles that I did not know it from the air.
I was a member of Oklahoma Flying Farmers and attended all of the meetings. I was elected to the Board o Directors and when the question came up how long a member was to serve on the board, they were writing up a new set of by-laws. I suggested that we should stagger the Directors and elect one each year. We had directors then, so we decided to do that. so We put 5 numbers in a hat and, of course, I had to draw the -year term. Well, I served 4 years and resigned my last year, then was when Jack got into the game. he was put on the Board. I think he served three or four years, then was elected President in 1956 and was elected back in 1957. He is still serving as you all know. I was very proud of him and I think he made a good president. I understand his time will be up when you have your next State Convention this year. I think two years is long enough for anyone to serve as State President.
The old Transcontinental Air Transportation Airline that colonel Charles Lindburgh routed and mapped was taken over by the T.W.A. and today the TWA Airlines is one of the largest in the world. When they were stopping at Waynoka, we got to see a good many noted people and a lot of movie stars. Meeting charles Lindburgh and his wife, Ann, and visits with them at the airport. Also, I talked to Will Rogers. He came in several times and always liked to ask questions.
I think I have already wrote too much for an article in the newsletter and I am guessing that Jack will never ask me to write something again. They say in two or 4 years, we will have Space Ships that will be taking us to the moon. Maybe we will have our National Convention on the moon sometime -- who knows. -- written by J. B. Kelsey in 1957"
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