Wallington Airport (1946 -1950) – Page

From the book Arms’ Crossroads – Wallington pp 62 – 65, page 84 – 87 and page 155 by The Wallington Cobblestone Schoolhouse Restoration Committee 1982

The Airport (1946 – 1950)

Bill VanCuyck, familiar to all the residents of Wallington, started the airport in 1946 for his own enjoyment. The land was purchased from Mary Lent and included twenty-seven acres on the Old Ridge and North Geneva Road. The three original runways were built by Stewart Sill, Sr. of Sodus Point and ran north and south 1800 feet; east and west 1100 feet and southeast to northwest 1200 feet. (What is now the Sodus Microd Club).

Bill’s interest in flying started when he learned to fly a glider at the Sodus Glider Club at age 27. The Sodus Glider Club was located on Middle Road where Myers Community Hospital now stands. He went on to get his pilot’s license while working for the U. S. government at Watervielt Arsenal near Albany during World War II.

 Bill built three aluminum hangers that were destroyed by a wind storm in 1951, and his first plane, a Piper Cub bought in 1946, was in one of the hangers at the time. Fortunately, the plane was not badly damaged and is still stored in a building beside his machine shop on Ridge Road, east of Sodus. He also owned a Veronica Champion and a 1947 Cruiser in which he and passengers Pete Verburg and “Doc” Messigner made the trip to Flushing, N. Y. at a brisk time of two hours and thirty minutes each way.

The first crop dusting in the area was done out of the Wallington airport by partners Bill Copp and Clayt Smith, who also doubled as stunt flyers with their loop overs and barrel rolls. Pilots Clark Burghdorf  and Don Van Lare also tied down planes at the airport. Donald Lowley was a well-known area pilot as well as an instructor.

As you can well imagine, the little Wallington airstrip was the scene for much of the neighborhood’s excitement. A wing was torn from his plane when Oliver Tierson managed to overshoot the runway and hit and elm stump as well as Abe Vanderlesters car. VanCuyck enjoys remembering the pleasure many people had with his free rides, including any of the children of Wallington who had permission slips from their parents. Margaret VanLoan Nichols of the Airport Diner remembers one woman in particular thought there would be no pleasure in getting her feet off the ground. The only way Ada Race would accept her free ride was after a box filled with dirt had been placed on the wing and she kept one foot planted “on the ground”.

The decision to close the airport in 1950 resulted from the fact that Bill could no longer afford the repairs on the planes which he had been renting out at $6 per hour for the Piper Cub and $10 for the Cruiser.

(Because the airstrip was small and also had no landing lights many remember the Canadian pilot landing on South Geneva Road in the field of Adrian Vanderzille, another on near-by Glover Road with still another going a little further — into Sodus Bay.)

The idle strip was put to good use around 1956 when Bill put in a baseball diamond and was the manager of a pony league. Through the years the American Legion team for teen-age boys used the field as well as the Wallington Fire Co. for their donkey baseball  games. Presently area softball teams have an active schedule throughout the summer playing season.  In 1980 Bill and his wife, Maria, gave permission to the Wallington Cobblestone Schoolhouse committee to fill and use a section of the adjacent airport land north of the school for a parking area. Young and old worked together with saws, rakes and bare hands to clear the trees, brush and poison ivy. Thus ramifications of the “airport” still ripple through the Wallington community.

Another legacy of the airport is the Airport Diner (still in existence) that was built across the street from the airport by Charles Smith and then sold to Margaret Nichols and her first husband Charles VanLoan in 1946. The diner used to sell 50 cent raffle tickets each weekend for a free airplane ride of your choice.