Moline Memories - MHS 66 Friends

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dave Coopman's Quad City International Airport -
The Perfect Gift for QC Fans, Moliners in Particular

Those who want an important and fascinating book about aviation and Moline will love this contribution by Dave Coopman.

Three of his books can be found at this Amazon link:

David Coopman's books.

The ones listed are:
  1. Quad City International Airport
  2. Davenport's WOC AM-FM-TV
  3. Rock Island County

He has also written about WQUA AM and KSTT AM.

Industrial Power
I grew up taking the Moline airport for granted. Little did I realize how the industrial power of John Deere gave us so many opportunities seldom afforded a town of equal size.

Also, our area had many pioneers who were willing to take advantage of the new technologies, and we benefited from that love of adventure. The Palmers got the area into radio at the beginning of the era, which led to President Reagan getting his first job in the Quad Cities. The Palmers were also far ahead of others in alternative medicine. Our chiropractors in Phoenix named their dog Palmer in honor of the doctor.

Dairy Queen and Chicken Delight were two far-sighted food franchises.

I never made the connection between Kris Streed's family and the airport. I knew her at MHS and Augustana, but we never stopped to talk about airplanes. She contributed a number of photographs to the book, because her father was one of the pioneers of local aviation.

The Moline Airport
Frank Wallace brought aviation to the Quad Cities, trained in flight by Wilbur Wright in France. Wallace Field was the first, on the Iowa side, in 1919.

Gus DeSchepper was trained at Wallace Field and helped start Franing Field and an airplane business there.

One of the most unusual pioneers was a Belgian priest who came to Moline to found Sacred Heart Church (below). Rev. John Culemans was trained by fellow Belgian DeSchepper and had his own plane. Father Culemans was instrumental in Moline buying the airport.

Richard Streed partnered with DeSchepper in the aviation business (p. 14).

The Moline airport was one of the first and a good stopping place on the way to Chicago or St. Louis. Charles Lindbergh stopped at Moline a few months after his historic flight, 1927. Augustana College held a inner in his honor and an enormous crowd of 50,000 gathered to see him off.

Deere Velie Connection
The Velie family was related to the Deere, so they had the capital to make carriages, cars and airplanes (p. 24).

We remember Velie for the Plantation restaurant at his mansion, but he is also known for his luxury car and airplanes.

Famed stunt pilot Vern Roberts (who inspired Lindbergh) became the manager of the Moline Airport in 1927 (p. 25).

Most of us associate Mosenfelder with men's clothing, but Gabe Mosenfelder was also one of the early fans of aviation. He flew for the Curtiss Flying Service, out of Moline.

Someone should be saying at this point, "They all lived?" This was a dangerous avocation in the early days and not always safe today. They were brave men. And one was a woman - Amelia Earhart visited Moline shortly before she went missing in 1937. That riddle has not been solved to this day.

Dr. Warren Streed, the dentist (Kris' father) is pictured on page 32. I recall from Facebook that he was a wing-walker, too. He is pictured in flight on page 34. He was a founding member of the QC Airmen's Association, pictured on page 35.

Great Historical Photos
Coopman is a master of historical detail, balancing the significant facts with the fascinating stories.

One great contribution is the ad for the Moline Airport Motel - "Nothing Like It Anywhere." It had six apartments and was heated in the winter (p. 40).

The growth of the airport, from grassy field to concrete runways, is another interesting aspect of the book, told in great detail, with many explanatory photos.

Moline became the main airport because statistics showed our city was the center of QC population (p. 57).

Many of us remember the excitement of going to the airport and watching aircraft take off and land. Air travel was still rather expensive and glamorous in the 1950s and 1960s. If we got to fly anywhere, we dressed up in our Sunday best.

Famous people appeared at the airport. I went to the Nixon rally there during the 1960 campaign. Reaching up through the forest of hands, I shook his, just before he went into the plane and left.

My wife, son, and I saw President Reagan at the Saginaw, Michigan Airport, inside a hanger, 1988. No one shook his hand that day, but we were very close, in the VIP section. My wife said, "Are we VIPs?" I led them in, saying, "Very Important Pastor."

JFK was also at the airport, as I recall. My family was not about to see a Democrat candidate.

Newest Version, 1985 to the Present

I thought the Moline Airport was quite spiffy when I got to visit it. My first flight was going to a bakers' convention in Boston. We flew a DC-3 to Chicago, a bone rattling journey. Then we got on a jet to Boston. My father never got over the speed of air travel. We were on the streets of Boston and he said, "We were in Moline a short time ago!"

My parents grew up on farms without electricity. My mother bought her first computer at the age of 80, after the prices went down. I wonder if any generation will see the same advances in so few years.

The latest version of the airport is detailed by Coopman, with many explanatory photographs. In 1988, President Reagan landed at Moline Airport and spoke at WOC radio (p. 104).

The official name is now the Quad City International Airport, a name earned by its prominence in the region and its direct flights to Europe.

Coopman has written a fine tribute to the pioneers who built and maintained their own planes, worked for a bigger airport, and made our little town a center of progress.