The old days. What is the definition of “the old days?” It depends on your point of view, that point of view being age. If you are young, the old days were back in kindergarten, perhaps. If you are in your 80s, who knows when the old days were.
For me, the old days, more specifically the good old days, included the summer I was teaching at the St. Augustine airport. It was there that I met a great group of people over at Jim Moser’s Aerosport.
Jim was a great guy. Jim and his father, Ernie, and the rest of the family were responsible for building the St. Augustine airport into what it is today. Colonel Ernie Moser, a retired Air Force officer, took over the airport in 1966. At the time, there were only six airplanes based on the field.
There was a group of aerobatic pilots based at the field and they were always practicing in the box just to the east over runways 15-33. It was like going to an airshow on the weekends, without having to sit in the sun and deal with the crowds.
Aerosport had a green Great Lakes 2T-1A at the time that they rented to properly qualified pilots. It was affectionately know as “Kermit” because of the color. A group of us was loyal to the airplane; it almost seemed as though it was ours, and not a rental unit. I never believed I would get checked out in such an expensive airplane – $75 per hour. But I did for only one reason (see The Summer of ’86).
One day, I was standing with a group of people watching a pilot practice some of his airshow maneuvers in Kermit. His girlfriend was among us and we watched as he accidently scraped the tail of the airplane on the runway. It was not such a big deal, but she was mad because he was, at the time, making an inverted pass.
Unfortunately, one day a rental pilot from somewhere else came in, lost it on landing, and destroyed the airplane. It was a sad day at the airport.
Some very interesting pilots hung around the airport. For those of you who fly, you know how it is. There is a cadre of very loyal people including flight instructors, charter pilots, student pilots, and others. They seemed to live for nothing more than sitting around the FBO, talking airplanes, and drinking coffee. This was how I had the opportunity to meet Jim Holland.
Jim was a former airshow pilot and one of the most experienced Pitts pilots ever to fly. He was retired, those days I hung around the airport, and that is how I got to meet him—talking airplanes over coffee on the couch at Aerosport. Saturday mornings were wonderful.
The airport has changed now. Some of those I used to hang around with back in the old days are still there, and I run into one or two of them occasionally. Every other July when it is time to renew my CFI certificate, I choose to renew through AOPA’s weekend FIRC in Jacksonville, just to meet up with a couple of the old gang from St. Augustine.
I miss the two Jims and all the other flyers from St. Augustine.
© 2011 J. Clark