James Haynes, Flying Field. Bushell, Illinois: Robins Nest Company, 1995. Paper. 232pp. $16.00 +$3.00 postage.[21 Sunset Ln. Bushell IL 61422-9739]
I've known for a while that James Haynes was working on the history of the Monmouth airport. That he would do a good job was expected. After all, he had been an educator and he was the son-in-law of Ralph Eckley. Ralph, as old timers will remember, was a flying enthusiast who could remember the earliest days of local aviation and delighted in telling me and anyone else who would listen about those glorious years when rules were few and heroes were common. True to that spirit, he insisted on getting behind the controls long after he was legally blind, just to relive again the joy of flight. Clearly, Ralph's lifelong habit of clipping articles and collecting photos gave Jim a good start on this fine job of research and writing.
The Monmouth field was started in 1921, largely because Monmouth was located half-way between Chicago and Kansas City, and therefore was a convenient place for refeuling and repairs. The level grass field bordered Sixth (remember the old hangers there?), went over to Eleventh, extended to the section line on the north and south across what is today Highway 34 into the cemetery addition. Over the years various individuals tried to establish a regular passenger service, but then, as today, it was the hobby fliers who kept the operation going.
As diners at the Barnstormer know, John Livingston was manager of the airport for several years. Oldtimers will remember the inspirational book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, with its message that You Can Do Anything. Surely, the many individuals here who took flying lessons from him learned that lesson well.
World War Two provided opportunities for many local residents and college students to learn to fly. The Civilian Pilot Training Program 1940-1942 and the Naval Flight Preparatory School 1943-1945 stimulated the local interest in flight. In 1967 the flying club and the city council dedicated the present hard-surface runway that is the heart of today's airport.
The airport has seen its share of thrills, achievements, and tragedies. Clearly, there was never a dull moment in light aviation in the early years, and if there were any dull story-tellers, they weren't talking to Jim Haynes.
If you're still looking for a Christmas present for that flying buff or local history enthusiast in your family, this fits the bill. Sixteen dollars from Alternatives in Financial Planning at 105 E. Broadway. Very likely his or her name is in Flying Field. Jim Haynes is Very Thorough.