Sunday, January 20, 2008

POM - not a drink, but an airport

I keep on swearing that I'm gonna pull a Tip O'Neill and try to concentrate more on Inland Empire issues in this blog, but I never get around to doing it. This David Allen post, however, got me thinking.

From Mike McAlister:

"In about 1947, I became aware that Pomona had an airport, and that accounted for the low-flying biplanes we'd see, mostly on weekends, buzzing the walnut and peach orchards in what is now South Pomona.

"Pomona's population basically ended somewhere south of Phillips Boulevard (it was an Avenue then). There was a casket factory on the west side of Garey, and Phillips was maybe a half-block south of that. South of that was in the country.

"My memory is a bit faded, but it seems to me that the Pomona Airport (such as it was) was between two rows of block-long chicken coops, in approximately the west and east end of what is now the Pomona Cemetery, south of Franklin and west of Towne.

"The 'aerodrome' was populated by one or two old WW I vintage biplanes. The 'airstrip' consisted of a clearing between walnut trees and was maybe the equivalent of two or three blocks in length. Not much to get excited about in terms of today's excitement, but it was 'really something' in 1947.

"Hot dawg!

"There was another airfield in about the location of today's Cal Poly administration building. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but a guy I later knew took his first flying lessons there. He graduated to B-17s over Europe in WWII. His name was Vince Batchellor and he had a bug-spraying shop in a garage off the northeast corner of McKinley and Park Avenue, north of the 10 Freeway. Vince is no longer with us.

"Brackett Field, west of the Fairgrounds, was a dirt strip that was privately owned but was a popular landing strip in '47."

A page that lists Southern California airports lists several airports that existed in Pomona at one time or another:

  • Brackett, from 1944, which still exists today.

  • Burnley Airport, from 1930.

  • Kellogg Airport, also from 1930.
As we will see, Burnley Airport was the one in South Pomona.

There is more information about Kellogg Airport at the Cal Poly Pomona website. Here is an excerpt:

The W.K. Kellogg Airport was in operation only from 1928 to 1932 but because of its dimensions: 22 acres, with a runway measuring 450 feet by 2,300 feet (Department of Commerce, 1929, p.2) it was reported to be the largest privately built and the maintained airport in the United States at the time ("Expert Completes Survey," 1928).

The airport did not have hangars or repair facilities. Kellogg Drive, Eucalyptus Lane and the W.K. Kellogg Horse Center now occupy the area which was the airport runway. There are no physical traces of the airport today....

In the summer of 1927 Charles A. Lindbergh started on a 22,350 mile nationwide tour with his monoplane "The Spirit of St. Louis." The purpose of the tour was to publicize air travel and to encourage the establishment of airports and landing fields (Mosley, 1976, p. 124). Mr. Kellogg offered to donate 200 acres for an emergency landing field if Lindbergh would fly over the ranch and circle the proposed landing field....

After Los Angeles County Fair officials heard about this telegram they also extended an invitation to Colonel Lindbergh to circle the fairgrounds. Preparations began at the Kellogg Ranch to mark the landing field so that Lindbergh could circle the exact area. Letters which measured 50 feet in height were constructed out of bunting. They spelled: W.K. Kellogg, E.A. No. 1. The abbreviation E.A. was for Emergency Airport

On September 21, 1927 Lindbergh circled the Kellogg Ranch and the fairgrounds. The people in the Pomona area took a holiday to witness this historic event. Schools and most businesses were closed. Only the banks, the post office and the canneries remained open ("Lindbergh Flies Over Fair," 1927).

So what happened to Kellogg Airport??

Two events signaled the end of the airport era at the Kellogg Ranch. The first event was the dedication of the Burnley Airport on July 29, 1928, just two weeks after the Kellogg Airport opened. The Burnley Airport occupied 20 acres on Garey Avenue south of the Pomona city limits. It became known as the Pomona Airport and was active until it closed in 1950. The second event occurred on May 17, 1932 when Mr. Kellogg donated the Arabian Horse Ranch, 87 horses and $600,000 to the state of California for the use of the University of California. The name of the facility changed to the W.K. Kellogg Institute of Animal Husbandry. On December 31, 1932 the W.K. Kellogg Emergency Airport No. 1 was officially closed. The landing field reverted to agricultural use and a colorful period of ranch history ended (Parkinson, 1975, p. 195).

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