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The Journal Gazette

  • May 22, 1948: Pilot James Groseclose, right, presents a "Certificate of First Flight" to his 82-year-old grandfather, Lew L. DeHaven. Marcy P. Gettle, left, president of Airgo Division of Consolidated Aircraft, which sponsored the flight, gives one to William A. Bayer. (Journal Gazette file)

Thursday, June 13, 2019 10:50 am

May 22, 1948: Seniors take first plane ride

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

When I sort through envelopes of old photo negatives in our archive, sometimes subjects stand out as things I just have to look into.

One such envelope, dated May 19 to 22, 1948, has more than a dozen subjects listed to identify the negatives contained within: "Rear Admiral at GE Club Banquet," "Mrs. Newton and Sons," "Model Homes at CHS" and so forth. But the one that caught my eye was "Old Men on 1st Airplane Ride."

It sounded like it could be a good story, and we found it on the local news cover from May 24, 1948. Below you'll find The Journal Gazette's story about the May 22 flight in which a grandson convinced his grandfather to take his first plane ride at 82.

Do you have a date, event or year that you would like to see featured in History Journal? I'm always looking for suggestions, so email me at cmcmaken@jg.net.

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"Man, 82, Talks 'Buddy,' 75, Into First Ride In Plane"

When 82-year-old Lew L. DeHaven gets into mischief, you usually can find him prodding one of his cronies to do the same thing.

For many years, Lew has been casting a critical eye at airplanes as they buzzed over the city. "You'll never get me up in one of those things," he would grumble. "They're not safe and I'm staying on the ground."

But Saturday (May 22, 1948), Lew went for a car ride with Jim Groseclose. They wound up at Smith Field where Jim does considerable flying. It wasn't long before Jim had his grandfather standing beside a plane. "Oh, sure, I'll just look 'er over a bit," Lew agreed. "But I'm not going up."

Ten minutes later, Lew had tucked his long legs inside the cockpit of an Airgo Division of Consolidated Aircraft's 170 fourplace ships. Jim, who flew 2,500 hours in three years while in Europe during the war, was at the controls.

"Oh, if you want to taxi her around a bit, I'll stay in just to see how they run along the ground," Lew replied to much pleading on the part of his grandson. After several trips across the field, Jim summoned all the diplomacy he had and, looking his grandfather squarely in the eye, said, "Now if you wan to, I'll take you up just a little ways, or if you don't we'll taxi back to the hanger."

"Shucks, we've gone this far, so we'd just might as well go up," Lew said with a broad grin. In a few moments they were in the air and for the first time, Lew looked down on Fort Wayne.

The pair made several trips over the city and Lew enjoyed every moment of it. He had scarcely stepped out of the plane when he said, "Let's go down and get Bill Bayer. I'm going to talk him into going up with me."

The pair went to Bayer's home where a lengthy argument ensued between Lew and his long-time buddy. Finally Bayer, 75, agreed to go to the airport, where the sales talk continued.

Then, with Lew and his grandson in the front seat of a plane, and Mr. Bayer and Marcy Gettle, president of the Airgo Division, in the rear seat, Mr. Bayer gave in. "Lew, I see that you're in this thing with me, and since you got down safe once, I'll give her a try, too."

Neither of the men showed the slightest anxiety during the flight. And both have become confirmed air travelers from now on if the occasion arises. "If I were a few years younger, I'd buy a plane and learn to fly it myself," they chorused when they climbed from the plane. To commemorate the event, both were presented "Certificates of First Flight" by Mr. Gettle.

But Lew still has one more ambition. He has another lifelong friend, Dan Bender of Pennville, who is 84 years old, and with whom he has criss-crossed the country many times on motor trips. "He doesn't know it, but Bender is going up the next time he gets up here," Lew said with a chuckle.