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· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge:
It’s Saturday, September 17, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Sheriff Fay Brown and his wife, Cora, prepare to transport a back seat of new friends to Albright Airfield, 2 ½ miles southeast of town.
Sheriff Fay Brown sat behind the wheel of his new automobile, a 1927 Studebaker Standard Six Dictator. He glanced at the mounted clock, adjusted the rear-view mirror, and had the urge to honk the electric horn. But he didn’t. Then he recalled the automobile salesman referring to the vehicle’s door-lock as “thief-proof,” and chuckled.
Cora led the way, down the front steps of the sheriff’s residence at the jail. House guests Mary Albrecht, and her youngest daughter, Pearl, 15, followed her. Dressed up as Charles Lindbergh, Jr., Pearl, in her short hair and aviator outfit, looked stunning.
When everyone had their seat, Fay said, “If you’re all ready, we’ll pick up Delbert and be off for the airfield.”
As Fay turned onto Delbert’s block, the Albrecht’s grew silent. This wasn’t just Delbert’s block. Mary Adella and Pearl scanned the neighborhood, looking for their family Ford, studied their house, and half-expected Harvey—husband and father—like old times, to walk out the front door. They missed him, and loved him, but unfortunately, they feared him.
“Good morning, Delbert,” greeted Cora, as the boy, 14, entered the automobile, and sat down next to Pearl.
“Good morning,” Delbert responded.
“You ready to get your hands dirty?” Fay asked Delbert.
“I thought I was just getting a tour,” responded Delbert. “Do you think they’ll let me tune an engine?”
“No, probably not,” replied Fay.
Fay turned south to G Street, headed southwest of the city to the Albright Airfield for Pearl’s photo shoot to promote the Hutchinson landing field and flying lessons.
As they drove past the reformatory with its 24-foot high limestone walls and taller guard towers, Fay considered how many people he knew inside the armed fortress—both the adult employees and the young criminals ages 16 to 25.
“Those walls were built with inmate labor,” Fay volunteered. “Stonecutting was the institution’s first vocational program.”
Near the reformatory barn, on the south side of Avenue G, Cora and Mary observed horses outside, and recalled their younger days growing up on farms, Mary in Saline County; Cora, in Reno County.
Pearl and Delbert eyed one another, smiling like Cheshire cats from the novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, excited about their upcoming event. “This is so much better than going to the State Fair,” they had said repeatedly over the past few days, although they would attend the annual gathering on Monday, a free day for students.
At Careyville, Fay remarked, “some of these houses were rebuilt after the tornado of May 7th, thanks to Mr. Carey.”
“As Cora glanced north of Avenue G and east of William Street, she said, “the Carey Lake Golf Course has its beautiful grounds manicured with every blade of grass in it’s proper place.”
“My father says . . .” began Pearl, then stopped abruptly and put a hand to her mouth, as she looked at her mother, apologetically.
“It’s okay Pearl,” assured Mary Adella, who still had facial bruising from being battered by her husband a week earlier. “Go ahead, what did Harvey say?”
“My father said that Mr. Carey is deserving of a lot of credit for helping Hutchinson grow and prosper,” continued Pearl, “but, the abandoned courthouse next to the jail wouldn’t have sunk and been condemned if the Carey Salt Mine had been more careful and hadn’t undermined salt from beneath the county property.”
“That’s right,” agreed Mary, “people can do both good and bad things; when the bad is unintentional, we should be cautious about judging them.”
“Looks like a funeral going on,” said Fay, as the Studebaker whizzed by Fairlawn Burial Park before slowing for the entrance to the airfield. A permanent sign stated: “Albright Flying Field.” A smaller, temporary sign, advertised: “Sky Rides, $1.”
“Hello, Sheriff Brown, welcome to our airfield,” said Ruth Albright, 19, as she stood beside an airplane hangar and gas pump. “Mom will be back any minute.”
“Thanks, Ruth,” said Fay. “Let me introduce you. This here is Ruth Albright, soon to be married, and to be the first bride in Hutchinson to take an airplane honeymoon trip.
“Ruth, this is my wife, Cora; Mary Albrecht and her daughter Pearl; and Delbert Wright.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Ruth.
“It’s going to be hot, but the weather looks good; there’s barely a cloud in the sky,” said Fay.
“Mother will talk to you about the sky ride when she gets here,” said Ruth to Fay.
Then Ruth turned to the young Lindbergh look-alike and remarked, “She’s anxious to meet you again, Pearl.”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever met her,” replied Pearl, a bit confused. “I’ve never been here before.”
“Oh, she remembers you,” added Ruth, with a chuckle. “You could say that you made an impression on her.” Looking towards the entrance road, Ruth announced, “Here they come.”
Fay glanced northward and recognized the approaching right-hand steering vehicle, a Pierce-Arrow, model 48 Coupe, and its driver.
Once parked, the driver, wearing a golfing outfit with a flat cap, exited and said, “Hello, Brother Fay, hope you haven’t been waiting long. It wasn’t Eva’s fault she’s late. I delayed her.”
“Oh, it’s okay, we just arrived,” said Fay.
“Again, congratulations on becoming Reno Lodge’s newest Mason. You’re already making a difference in the world.”
“I appreciate the fellowship,” said Fay.
“So may it be,” replied Fay’s fraternity friend.
“Remember us?” asked Eva Albright, directing her question to Pearl.
Pearl looked confused.
“The night of the Frolic . . . we were walking by the Rorabaugh-Wiley building,” said Eva, “when you accosted us.”
“Oh my god!” said Pearl, “I’m sorry I was so rude. I guess I reacted the same way I respond to my mother when she tells me not to smoke. I tell her, ‘smoking is my business.’”
“You look charming dressed up as a non-smoking Lindbergh,” said Eva. “Did you know that he hates being called ‘Lucky Lindy’ or the ‘Flyin’ Fool’? Lindbergh says he’s experienced and meticulous, not lucky.”
“Pearl, clearly, you’ve already met our hosts,” said Fay, “but let me formally introduce you to Mr. Emerson Carey of Willowbrook, and his sister, Mrs. Eva Carey Albright. She lives here with her husband, and their two daughters. You’ve met Ruth. Eva has a real love of assisting fliers who use the airfield. She’s the live-in manager here, and the person who put Hutchinson on the map as a welcoming community for pilots.”
“Why, thank you, Fay,” said Eva. “But the airfield wouldn’t be here if Emerson hadn’t also felt the importance of turning part of his pasture into a service for the community.”
“You’ve met Cora, my wife,” continued Fay. “Our friends, Mary Adella Albrecht, Pearl’s mother; and Delbert Wright, are here to observe. Mary, Pearl, and her sister, Jewel, are staying at the sheriff’s residence as our guests.”
“Delbert,” said Mr. Carey, “If you’re any relation to the Wright Brothers, you’ll quickly gain favor with my sister.”
The grassy airfield’s top airplane mechanic avoided introductions. He invited Delbert over to him with a head nod and said, “Stay with me and we’ll talk while I double-check the New Swallow. It was manufactured in Wichita at Laird Airplane Company. Its Curtis OX-5 engine was designed by Glenn Curtis. He was a pioneer aviator and brilliant engineer. Curtis started off manufacturing motorbikes and set world speed records. This 90 HP engine was used on aircraft trainers in the World War, including the JN-4 or ‘Jenny’. It’s a dependable workhorse, still popular today thanks to war surplus.”
Jack Lowderman, 36, former war pilot, recently hired by the Hutchinson Airways Corporation, was welcoming scheduled customers for sky rides to be flown over Hutchinson in the New Swallow biplane.
Pearl was about to join the group preparing to fly with Lowderman, when Mr. Willis Kysor, 31, of Niles, Michigan, said, “Hold on, you’ll be my passenger in this Alexander Eaglerock.”
The photographer for the flight, an old friend of Mr. Carey’s, had worked as a camera man for the Hutchinson News and as the official State Fair photographer. As soon as he was introduced as “Mr. Bailey,” he adjusted his Graflex Century camera and said to Pearl, “You look great in that outfit. Let’s get started with some shots of you beside the plane.”
After war veteran Kysor inspected the Eaglerock biplane, the serious-looking pilot told Pearl and Mr. Bailey he had some passenger instructions for them. When they stepped closer to listen, he said, “no wing-walking or parachute jumping today,” then waited for his audience to recognize he was joking.
Shortly, as they prepared to climb into the plane, Ruth ran up to Willis, her fiancé, hugged him, and said, “Be careful! Ten more days and we’ll be together forever.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.