April 2014
subscription newsletter text is here, as are photos
past newsletters are available at:  http://www.dteator.com/glhg/glhg.htm

Happy April (probably close to May), to all,

Just to prove us winter-2014-weather-complainers wrong, an almost-summer, 80-degree day awaited the 40-50 who came out for the first GLHG meeting of the year. (Those of you with good memories know we have always started our year with a share session; I guess there is always time for a “first.”)

Among our regulars: Donna & Walter Ingalls, Phyllis Beechert, Stephanie Ingalls, Christine Mickelsen, Marie and Bob Shaw, Mary & Allyn Shaw, Ron Golden, Cathy & Tim Broder, Lew Knott, Judy & David Rundell, Bette Welter and Robert Uzzilia. Among some of the newer faces: Katja & Paul Rehm, Walter Jeune, Barbara Schmollinger, Lois Rockefeller, Jeff Barrett, Rachel Ceasar & her dad, Marilyn and Dick Snow, and others I never caught up with or did not write the name. (If I did not mention your presence at the meeting, let me know and I will fix it for next time.)
          Especially heart-warming for our guest speaker, it seemed half the crowd either was instructed by, knew, or flew with Clem.

After audience introductions, I took a minute to introduce our guest speakers. And after a lengthy list of accomplishments and life experiences, I had to reveal that Clem and Rita Hoovler were as close as local history can get—my in-laws. They, and Deb and I, shared a connecting walk-bridge when they owned the Freehold Airport, and that bridge was razed a year before Hurricane Irene would have swept it away.
          I had crafted about thirty slides for the slide show that showed various aspects of the popularity of flying, local sites, and then aspects of the Hoovler business.
          Some context was provided with the influence of Charles Lindbergh (even with a slide of the Spirit of St Louis on the Freehold Flats! A-hem! Correct plane, wrong place, as I found out years ago).
          Combine the Lindbergh mystique with planes that could land in a flat cow pasture or hay field, and our countryside was witness to many landings, with more regular ones at Birmann’s (Rainbow Lodge), Ingalside, and Freehold. Every town had a few good landing spots, and many a story must have been told in the 1930s about those new-fangled air machines.
          And back to the night’s focus.
          Rita was born in Brooklyn, Clem on Long Island, and then Rita’s family moved to Long Island where the two eventually met, courted, and married.
          Clem’s early interest in flying was sparked by his Uncle Paul; Clem earned his pilot’s license at 16. He worked a few years at Grumman and learned a few more tricks of the trade. Looking for a life beyond assembly line, Clem looked to operate an airport in an area where another part of family had moved to—the Hudson Valley, Catskills area.
          Clem and Rita bought land in South Cairo, started to build a house, and moved with their first daughter (my wife Debra!) by 1960. Clem looked forward to operating the Catskill Airport but a winter fire destroyed it as well as Clem’s first potential job here. They had looked originally at Pittsfield and Great Barrington but the land or the situation was not suitable for them. They next moved on to the Cairo Airport where Clem worked for a year. He then met Virgil Phinney of Freehold who had been flying for over twenty years and had used the cow pastures of the Phinney farm on the upper Freehold flats as an airstrip.
         Virgil had removed a couple of obstructing stonewalls to make way for what is today’s runway. Then, an entreprenurial spirit moved, and Virgil’s next venture was to investigate the production of a new airplane model, the Jodel, that originated in France. He and a few partners built a new building, with new lettering (Iroquois Aviation) painted on, lettering that is faintly visible today on the Greene County Highway Department! (This will be a picture for the 2015 calendar).
          This promising venture came to a tragic end when Virgil was killed in an aviation accident shortly thereafter, dooming the venture. Clem was cast adrift but managed to work out an agreement with the landowner, Fanny Phinney (Virgil’s aunt), and Clem and Rita were able to purchase the property in 1965/66 and started Catskill Valley Flying Service.
          Clem held multiple licenses to pilot the planes, give instruction how to fly, and perform mechanical work. Over the years, thousands have taken a scenic ride, earned their pilot’s license, or had work completed on their plane at the Freehold Airport. Meanwhile, Rita oversaw the office, kept the books, did the customer service, gave directions, ran an art gallery, and more.
          In 1975, Clem’s birthday gift was a load of boxes of parts and framing that would become the Fleet bi-plane that would later be sold to the NYS Museum where it hangs today.
          On Mother’s Day 2000, a lightning bolt during an early morning storm struck the office, starting a fire that destroyed the old office/farm barn. But within a few weeks, volunteers and friends pitched in to help Clem and Rita build a new office that services the airport yet today.
          Finally, age was slowing the couple, and they sold the airport to the Nutmeg Soaring Club, an organization whose core is from the western Connecticut area but many locals also avail themselves of the gliding/soaring experience.

After the slide show, Clem fielded questions and comments from the floor, many of whom attested to or embellished the details above. Close calls, quirks, great instruction and lessons of life, friendships that still last, etc., were the basis of many of the comments.

A thank you goes to Rita and Clem for retelling and reshowing their part in our community’s local history.

Next meeting notice:
The May 12th meeting is a rare two-parter. First, Mary and Allyn Shaw will present several, or more, devices/practices of Yesteryear, challenging the audience to identify their mysteries.
          Then, Anne Lafferty, with friends, will present the 40+ year history of Greenville’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, an event that once again celebrated another year in mid-March.

More notes:
Don showed the 2014 Iroquois calendar, a production that featured pictures of gazebos in the towns that share the Iroquois pipeline. Yup, Greenville is March
          Judy Rundell has donated Chuck D’Imperio’s latest work—Unknown Museums of Upstate New York: A Guide to 50 Treasures. Thank you, Judy, for your thoughtfulness. (Chuck will return for our July meeting!)
          Of course, a thank you goes to Stephanie and Christine for hosting the “light refreshments will be provided” part of the billing. Always appreciated here!

I often note the passings of past members. Until four years ago, my mother Connie was a faithful attendee and supporter of the group (and, of course, my efforts!). Declining health forced a move to Delmar, but she continued following our goings-on, even if it meant me reading the newsletter to her and answering the questions she had.  This bond-building practice ended with her death on March 28th.
          And because one of her wishes was to have people donate, in memoriam, to the Greenville Local History Group, I finally opened a bank account in the name of the GLHG so community members can donate to our cause. So, donations can be made to the Greenville Local History Group (tax exempt purposes), or to me for the expenses type of stuff (newsletters, etc.). Nearly $300 was donated, all of which will go to the 2015 calendar, a production my mother always looked forward to.
          And a warm thank you goes to so many of you for your condolences, sympathetic words, and empathy.

Another obituary struck me the other day. Marjorie (deHues) Shaw passed away in late March, 2014 at the age of 102 (her husband Robert survives). It immediately rang a note of recognition. In a picture of the first GCS faculty (not GFA), Miss deHeus sat in the front row. I paid even more attention because the mid-identification of her was one our first calendar mistakes!
          And on the newsletter front, I noticed with some surprise, and some pleasure, that the 50th email address was added to the GLHG email list. If you know of anyone who might want to keep up to date with our meetings, forward the email, or let me know and I will add the address to my list.

Take care,

perhaps, an Ingalside crowd in the 1930s
at the Ingalside airstrip


Fleet bi-plane, reconstructed in 1970s
from boxes of parts and framing by Clem Hoolver;
today, "flying" in NYS Museum


Clem Hoovler with J3 Cub, about 1970


text from 2001 Press article on Robert Archer, Greenville artist

illustrations with Archer article