Crowd shares memories of yesteryear
Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 9:03 pm
Stories of the war years, specifically World War II, abounded Tuesday at Everett-Stewart Regional Airport — the former Embry-Riddle Field — as those in attendance got a first-hand look at a variety of memory-inducing items that are part of the current military display at Obion County Museum and will most likely find a home in the future at Discovery Park of America.
Some of the guests gathered there had specific tales about the cadet training school that grew out of verdant Obion County farm land almost overnight in response to the nation’s need for fighter pilots.
Among the memories shared were ones of actual construction of the site when the Embry-Riddle Flying School set up shop there to train cadets in 1942. At the time, two wooden hangars were built in double-quick time by local labor — with the job still in progress when the first cadets appeared on the scene. One of those first structures stood next to the steel hangar that played host to the crowd Tuesday.
The original hangars featured 102-foot trusses that were some of the heaviest he ever worked with, according to World War II U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Johnnie Caudle of Union City, who was in attendance Tuesday with his wife, Jerre Caudle, a pilot herself. He was still a 17-year-old but was a veteran builder — raised in a family of such craftsman — when the call came to make the former farm land suitable for a flight training facility. He worked on the project with his dad, the late Elton Caudle, and two uncles, the late A.B. Caudle Jr. and the late Delbert “Deb” Caudle. Rounding out their crew were the late Ed Scroggins and the late Lexie Caldwell. As the war progressed, several of them would see service for their country overseas.
Others who talked with family and friends about the glory days at Embry-Riddle — and who were later introduced by DPA Marketing and Communications Director Larry Snider — were employees who had worked in a variety of jobs once the facility opened. Among them were parachute packers like Dr. Joe Harpole, dispatchers like Margie Armbruster, cadets like Joe Childress, general employees when the facility opened and future cadets themselves like Joel Shore and Roy Carey Wehman (a parachute packer, as well) and civilian flight instructors like J.R. Meek. Several other World War II veterans were also honored for their service, among them WASP veteran Doris Tanner and her highly-decorated U.S. Army veteran husband, Bill Tanner, plus World War II U.S. Navy vet Robert Wood and a couple of World War II cadets, Hayden Phebus and Clen Reavis, who took their actual training at other fields but were more than familiar with the Stearman.
Published in The Messenger 6.23.10