I WAS NINE YEARS OLD in 1927 when I happened to be walking along N. 42nd Street near Woodlawn Ave. and passed a man in the other direction. It looks like Lindbergh is going to make it, he said, seemingly to no one in particular. I looked around, expecting his remark was intended for someone else. But there was no one else ‹ I guess he was talking to me.
He was, of course, referring to Charles A. Lindbergh, who at that moment was flying over the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris, hoping to be the first pilot to cross the Atlantic solo. His plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, built by Ryan Airlines, was a single-engine monoplane, top speed 125 miles per hour.
Will Rogers, America¹s favorite humorist of the day, wrote in his nationally syndicated column that day: A slim, tall, bashful smiling American boy is somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean where no human being has ever ventured before. If Lindbergh is lost it will be the most universally regretted single loss we ever had. But that kid ain¹t going to fail. And he didn¹t. By the time Lindbergh landed 33 hours and 29 minutes later, he had become the world¹s most famous pilot, and his plane the world¹s most famous airplane.
Four months later, at the public¹s demand, Lindy toured the country, including a stop at Seattle, landing at Sand Point airfield, now Magnuson Park and home of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Several hours later he addressed 30,000 people in the University of Washington stadium. My dad and I would have liked to go to the stadium but Dad had no car, nor knew how to drive, so we heard Lindy speak on the radio. As our only radio at home was a tubeless crystal set with headphones, we walked up to Ralph Krows¹ radio store on N. 45th and listened to the Lone Eagle make his address on a REAL radio, a 6-tube Crosley Neutrodyne, retail price $111.50.
In reporting the event a reporter for the old Seattle Star (Seattle¹s third daily newspaper) eloquently wrote:
The powerful purr of the Wright Whirlwind motor which carried Lindy across the Atlantic, has reechoed from the stately trees that border the field and resounded in the Army and Navy hangars. A light rain was falling at Sand Point Tuesday afternoon as 5,000 people gathered there for his arrival.
And then Lindbergh appeared, swooping down out of the heavens from behind the hangars. Lindy appeared as if by magic. No one had seen him come in as all had expected him to appear from the East. He came from the West.
Boats in the harbor tied down their whistles. Automobiles sounded their horns. The crowd cheered wildly as Lindbergh swooped his plane down over the length of the field. A salute gun on one of the Naval boats in the harbor boomed forth a 21-gun salute. High in the air Lindy zoomed again, circled over the lake, then he drifted down lazily in sharp spirals and straightened up out over the field.
This time he flew at an altitude of not more than 20 feet, his engine idling until he reached the far end of the field.
Then the exhaust roared and he climbed straight up, missing the tree tops by feet. Again he circled and flew back over the field. The plane skimmed the boat tops, slid over the top of the field with one wing dipping, looking like the wing would hook for a moment. But the plane leveled out and landed evenly without a bump.
Lindbergh had arrived.
Taxiing to the hangar, he drove the plane under cover before shutting off the motor. A double line of Marines and National Guardsmen held the crowd back off the field. A red-haired sailor announced Lindbergh¹s arrival and led the cheering with Mayor Bertha K. Landes and other dignitaries joining in the welcome.
Lindy then went aboard the yacht Alarwee tied up in the lake and washed up and appeared at 3 p.m. for his stadium reception, still wearing his leather coat. He didn¹t speak about his own achievements, but advised: Build airports if you wish to become a part of the great chain of airways that will come within the next decade.
The airplane now, he added, is in the position the automobile was a few years ago. The automobile did not enjoy universal use until hard-surfaced roads were provided. The airplane cannot become thoroughly practical until airports are established everywhere.
LINDBERGH, however, wasn¹t the only famous pioneer aviator to take off and land at Sand Point. There were the eight Army Air Corps men in four Douglas biplanes, first to fly around the world in 1924; and Wiley Post, first to fly twice around the world (once with Harold Gatty) in 1931, and again to solo around the world in 1933.
The Army men flew in open cockpit Douglas planes, returning to Sand Point Sept. 28, 1924, where they were welcomed by some 40,000 people. A World Flight Monument commemorates the feat, located at the NE 75th entrance to the park.
Post and Gatty made their around-the-world trip in eight days in a single engine plane, besting the previous record of 21 days by the dirigible Graf Zeppelin in 1929.
IN THOSE EARLY DAYS of Sand Point, pilots took off in the summertime on a dusty airstrip that was little more than a trail through the woods. Rain made it so muddy that the planes eventually were mounted with pontoons and flown from the lake. When they experimented by planting grass seed on the runway so many wild ducks took over the field a sentry had to be posted there with a shotgun to prevent damage to landing airplanes. (Sounds familiar, but these days it¹s Canadian Geese rather than Wild Ducks.) Naval cadets were quartered in a former chicken house, and the Supply Officer¹s office was in a former farmhouse kitchen.
Sand Point was originally known as Carkeek Park, the land given to the City in 1918 by the Morgan Carkeek family. Morgan Carkeek, a Seattle pioneer had acquired the property in the 1860s. Settlers and Native Americans had co-existed there until the turn of the century. Carkeek consented to receiving $25,000 as compensation for the park, immediately donating that sum to the City, to hold in trust for the purpose of finding another park equal to or better than the old one.
Eventually the Carkeek name was applied to a newly acquired park area on Puget Sound north of Golden Gardens. In the early 1920s the Sand Point property was transferred to the federal government for a Naval Air Station, which it remained until its closure in the 1970s.
Since then the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) acquired a large portion, 100 acres, with the remaining 196 acres converted into Warren G. Magnuson Park, and citizens began devising various uses and future plans for its development.
WILL ROGERS in 1935 noted in his column that he had never been to Alaska. I¹m crazy to go there sometime, he said. That opportunity soon came when Wiley Post planned to fly there and invited Rogers to come along. From Seattle¹s Sand Point Naval Station, Rogers wrote: I¹m off on a little sightseeing trip with Wiley Post. From Juneau, he wired: Well, that was some trip. Talk about navigating! This old Wiley turns up in the right alley everytime. Nothing is more beautiful than this inland passage to Alaska.
Their flight across the Brooks Mountains was over a wilderness of peaks, ice, and fog. In the afternoon, Wiley set the pontooned seaplane down on a lagoon. There he learned from an Eskimo that he was only 15 miles from Barrow. Taxiing back out, the plane raced free from the water and began a climbing turn. But the takeoff turned out to be its last.
It crashed, killing both men.
Soon the nation mourned the pair Will Rogers, the simple man of the people, the philosopher of the American Dream, the best loved American of his time; and pilot Wiley Post, the first man to fly twice around the world.
My Dad, Orrill V. Stapp, who editorialized in the Outlook, wrote: The successful flight of Col. Lindbergh has served to direct attention more than ever before to the great and immediate future of air transportation. Seattle is being thoroughly aroused to take definite action. He hoped it would be by the Port Commission, rather than the City or County.
And my brother, Art, in several of his Free Air columns in the Outlook, noted: 1. Lindbergh won a popularity contest among boys 11 to 16 years old, Lindy receiving 214 votes, Pid Purdy 210, and Moon Mullins 142. (Now who in the heck was Pid Purdy?); 2. A Young Lindbergh¹s Contest for best-made model airplanes, sponsored by the Seattle P-I, attracted 135 contestants. Among the local winners were Donald B. Davis 13, and Paul Ytterdal 9; 3. Yes, Lindbergh¹s plane did have a few loose connections. But they tightened up flying over Scotland; 4. 30,000 Seattleites drove their cars to the Stadium to see Lindy. Parking the car was a good bit of practice in view of the approaching football season. (The Good Old Days weren¹t all that good, after all!)
As for the rest of the Stapp¹s family¹s relationship with Sand Point: Brother Milton took photos there; Son Michael Stapp currently works for NOAA; and in the ¹70s I printed a publication for the Naval Base.
Source: JET CITY MAVEN - VOL. 4, ISSUE 1, JANUARY 2001. Copyright 2001 Park Projects. Please feel free to use the article and photos below in your research. Be sure to quote the Jet City Maven as your source.
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