SEYMOUR FLYING CLUB
During the spring of 1947 a group of intrepid Seymour citizens met at Hotel Nelson (Hotel Seymour) and agreed to form the “Seymour Flying Club, Inc”. with the slogan, ”Seymour of Wisconsin” as their theme. The Board of Directors included Derbert Coonen, Orville Marnocha, Stewart Droeger and Harold Maass. Officers elected were: Bud Nelson, President, Jarvis N. Selberg, vice-president, and Marvin R. Kuehne secretary-treasurer.
At the second meeting on June 13, 1947, 19 new members were added to the 23 charter members, making the total membership 42. The club decided to hold regular weekly meetings and invited ladies as guests for the June 23 meeting to be held at Marnocha’s lounge. Entertainment and movies were planned for the evening.
A large number of women were present for the “ladies night meeting.” They were entertained with two movies, “The Navy Flies On” and “Fight for the Skies.” Bob Jubin, a flight instructor form Oconto, and Ed Wichman, a flight instructor from Oshkosh, gave interesting talks on aviation.
It was reported that the American Legion was pleased with the flying club’s offer to provide rides at the July 4th celebration. The committee indicated that it would secure a field for flight use and make arrangements to provide transportation from and back to the fair grounds.
The club continued to meet on a regular basis holding its first annual meeting in January at the hotel. The major topic at the annual meeting was the possibility of obtaining land near the city of Seymour that was suitable for an airport. By the end of the month several sites were recommended and a goal was established to make a decision by early spring.
A February 6, 1948 article in the Seymour paper mentioned that, “The Hotel Nelson was filled to capacity Monday evening when the Seymour Flying club held a big rally here. Mike Burns officiated in his very able manner as master of ceremonies. After a bountiful dinner the group was entertained by a movie showing the trials and tribulations of a student pilot which was of interest to most people present.”
The club continued to meet on a weekly basis with the main topic being obtaining land and building an airport. The officers of the club for 1948 were Harold Maass, president, Bud Nelson, vice-president, Vernon Siebert, secretary-treasurer with Jarvis Selberg, Marvin Kuehne, Tom Landwehr, and Derbert Coonen serving on the Board of Directors.
Twenty acres of land was purchased two miles east and two miles south of the city. It was formerly known as the old Dave Stewart farm. Numerous notices appeared in the paper during the summer of 1948 appealing to local residents to help clear brush and trees, pick stones, and help construct a 2,600 foot runway. Plans were also underway to construct several hangers. Traditional methods, such as sponsoring a dance and having a booth at the fair were used to obtain funds to pay expenses.
A July, 1948 article in the Milwaukee Journal described a unique method used by the enterprising aviators to pay for the airport. “The club recently harvested early June peas from its airport fields. A second crop is due to be cut soon. Leaving only the runways clear, they planted the balance of the airport area in peas and sold them to a local packing company. Their first crop will meet the year’s expenses and will leave something ‘for the club to grow on,’ the members say.”
The club reached its peak during the early 1950s and then due to rising costs, several accidents and less interest in flying, membership declined. Discussions with area residents indicate airplanes were owned by Daniel Duffey, Joe Ulmen, and a partnership referred to as the “Flying Five” including Marvin Kuehne, Vernon Siebert, Leonard Nelson, Orville Marnocha, and Harold Maass.
As years passed, the land purchased for the airport increased in value and eventually was sold. Descendants of the charter members established two scholarships, with a maximum of $2,000.00 each, for graduates of Seymour High School who pursue a career in an aviation related field. Most recent recipients of the grants are Heather Drephal and Sullivan Stroess.
The Seymour Community Historical Society has also benefited from the generosity of the flying club. Prior to dissolving, they donated $15,000.00 toward the new museum building fund. An exhibit in the new museum will remind future generations of the days when Seymour had an airport and local flying enthusiasts took to the air over the city.