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Building the Vision: N-B has now raised $2M of its $3M goal

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How can this be? It's almost Christmas! Seems to me like I just used up the last of the Thanksgiving turkey. Wasn't that just a few days ago? Well, maybe you don't feel like I do, but I can't keep up like I used to. I find myself saying that a lot, lately.

Another thing that is rapidly approaching is 2007. I mention that with this reminder ... don't forget to take advantage of the NAPS credits before the end of the year. Lots of monetary decisions need to be made before Jan. 1, 2007, and giving to the Civic Center/Museum Campaign and helping yourself get a tax break should be at the top of your "to-do" list.

If you need any help with deciding on how you want to contribute to get the most for your donation, don't hesitate to call the campaign headquarters at (660) 886-2630 or drop by in person. That brings up a matter that needs to be addressed ... we have moved! Not far, however. Actually, we are only two doors south of our former location, in the building that recently housed Kids' Connection. Our phone number is the same, as you can see. Mel Sharon, our office manager, has noted that there has been increased activity at the office, and has made plans to keep the facility open more hours, as a convenience to you. The new office hours, with the exception of Christmas Day, will be daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please take the time to drop by and visit with him, pick up literature about giving, and check out our new "digs."

Other breaking news ... we are two-thirds of the way to completing our $3,000,000 goal! If my math hasn't failed me, that means that we have raised $2,000,000 to date and are on the final leg of our journey. The architect has been chosen, the building plans have been drawn up, and the target date for starting construction is April, 2007. This schedule depends on you. If the final $1,000,000 can be accrued by April, the Vision will become a reality. You, the believers in our need for a civic center/museum, have helped us come this far. We're so close ... we can't let the momentum fade. Please follow through with your good intentions by making a donation to a facility that will most assuredly benefit the community, surrounding areas, and all the people in it.

In the near future, The Marshall Democrat-News will publish in greater detail the plans and architect's rendering. Keep watching for that much-anticipated information.

Last week I wrote about Ole Fahlin, a Swede who made his mark on Marshall and on aviation. This week I want to feature Marshall resident John Thompson, who worked for Ole from 1935 to 1943 ... through the depression and up to World War II.

In 1934, the Fahlin Propeller Company moved from the Nicholas-Beazley building to a flat building near the stacks on Ellsworth, now occupied by Banquet. Propellers were "whittled" in those days.

Thompson reported, at the time this article was written for The Marshall Democrat-News Sampler in 1983, that, "I was broke in on small propellers with clocks in the center. "He made his first airplane propeller Sept. 8, 1936. During his time of employment with Fahlin Thompson made 837 airplane propellers ... all wood ... and earned an average of less than $25 per week. Everything was piecework, then," Thompson commented, "and I returned many evenings to 'whittle' on propellers to increase my output and pay."

Thompson recalled that the 16-foot propellers called "windjammers" were made for wind-generated electricity. In 1939, Fahlin Propellers got into government contracts for the military, following their move to Columbia.

John Thompson left Fahlin in Columbia in February of 1943 to enter the air force. He left behind, in the care of a friend, his tool box containing hand-held tools consisting of a saw for the removal of most of the excess wood to get the outside shape, a shaper that would take off more, cutting heads on a flexible shaft, and planes, files, scrapers, and sandpaper.

After the war, business was slow and the factory closed down. When Thompson returned, he asked Ole if he could buy his box of tools. Ole said with his Swedish accent, "No, Yon, I can't sell them to you, so I'll just give 'em to you." Thompson said he thought about as much of Ole Fahlin as any man he had ever worked for.

Two other Marshall men were featured in the Sampler ... Oliver Marshall and Floyd Kuhn.

Oliver Marshall told about Lawrence Short, an instructor at Nicholas-Beazley's Marshall Flying School, who needed 200 flight hours for his transport license. "Some of us," said Marshall, "like Bill Powell and myself, would sneak gas from our fathers' tractor tank and exchange it for flying lessons." Short got his flight hours and Powell and Marshall got their flying lessons. Marshall said that Powell was later commissioned an officer and served as a pilot in World War II, then went on to fly for a big oil company in Texas.

Relating what early flying was like, Marshall shared this story: In the summer of 1934, state airplane interests decided to have, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, an aerocade over the state. Pilots were to assemble at 10 a.m. in Jefferson City. From there, they were to fly to Cape Girardeau, on to Springfield, Monett, Nevada, and finish up with a celebration on the west side of the courthouse in Marshall.

Ole Fahlin and Oliver Marshall decided to take Fahlin's new plane Nicholas-Beazley had just built. It was still in the experimental stage and boasted an air-cooled English-made Popjoy motor. Marshall said Fahlin wanted to show it off.

They left Marshall early that morning and headed toward Jefferson City. Just at they crossed the Missouri River west of Boonville, the fuel line broke, spurting raw gasoline all over the plane fuselage. Marshall said, "It's a wonder we didn't burn up." They made a forced landing in a wheat field in the Boonville Bottoms. Marshall explained that, "Ole wasn't lacking in ingenuity, so he removed the pipeline. The farmer took him to a garage in Boonville for repairs and two hours later, we were back in the air."

By the time they got to Jefferson City, the aerocade had started east for Cape Girardeau so they began their pursuit. Just as they got over Freeburg, the air-cooled motor heated up and they made another forced landing. "If you've ever flown over south Missouri," said Marshall, "you'd see there's nothing but trees with landing areas few and far between."

They finally found a small field south of Freeburg. "Being a farm boy," observed Marshall, "I could tell the field was full of stumps and commenced telling Ole. Ole was intent on finding a spot to land other than on top of a tree. In we went, hit the ground, and caught a stump which ripped the landing gear out of the plane. There we were on our belly in a stump patch. Folks from Freeburg saw the landing and came to see those fellows who tried to land in a stump patch."

According to Marshall, Ole's ingenuity again saved the day. Ole went to a blacksmith for scrap iron and saw horses. They lifted the landing gear and welded it back together.

At daybreak the next morning, they got a clear path, though circular, mapped out for takeoff. By daylight, they were back in the air, headed home to Marshall. They had completely missed the first part of the aerocade. In Marshall, they rolled the plane to the back of a hangar and covered it with a tarp so people wouldn't know what really happened.

Ole had another plane which they rolled out and after breakfast and in a clean shirt, took off to meet the aerocade at Nevada. They enjoyed the festivities there that night and flew back to Marshall with the aerocade for the celebration on the courthouse lawn. Marshall says no one ever knew what had happened.

Check this out ...

Next week, I will write about Floyd Kuhn, attendant at Marshall Airport, who learned to fly in 1935.

Let me ask you this ... Do you ever long for those "by-gone" days? When I write these articles about what seems like a thrilling time for our community, I wonder what the people were thinking at that time. Did they take all of the activity for granted?

Even having said that, I know that Marshall was a wonderful, active place, and although I don't personally remember the Nicholas-Beazley years, I remember my parents telling about them. We mustn't let our heritage die.

Merry Christmas!

Building the Vision appears on Wednesday.

Building the Vision