People and Planes of Creve Coeur
In the department of flood recovery, Noah and his ark got nuthin' on the folks at this little airport-except that many of the aircraft they saved are ones, not twos, of a kind.
- By Linda Shiner
- Air & Space magazine, July 2005
(Page 3 of 6)
The American Waco Club couldn't come in the summer of '94 (still too soggy). Stix moved his cooking operation to an airport in nearby St. Charles. "They came back, though," says Waco club member Ruthie Coulson of the people at Creve Coeur. "They fought hard. Al and Connie and all of them. They're real doers. They pulled together and now look at what they have."
The facilities at Creve Coeur are a reflection of what the owners were seeking when they bought the field: a better place than where they had been. Stix remembers working with his friend John Mullen on the Corsair they owned together at Arrowhead Airport, not 10 miles from Creve Coeur. "We were rebuilding the Corsair, and [when it rained] the hangar kept filling up with water," he says. "It was kind of an unsatisfactory situation to be in with power tools," he adds in characteristic deadpan. "We had this wonderful idea that all we had to do was just buy this airport. The more scotch-and-waters we had, the better it sounded."
The fact that an airport was there to buy is the result of a farmer's ambition for his son, according to retired machinist Jack Oonk (pronounced "unk"), who comes to his hangar at Creve Coeur almost every day to work on his Cessna 195.
Oonk's first airplane was a Luscombe, which he bought in 1953. That summer he hired an instructor for $3 an hour to teach him to fly it. Oonk went flying with two friends, Sid Coates and Aiden Cash. "Sid Coates-he had a Cub-was flying around in the evening west of Lambert," says Oonk, referring to what is now Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, "and the farmer waved him down. The farmer wanted his son to learn to fly, so Sid and the farmer struck a deal." The farmer, Norman "Ducks" Dauster, mowed a grass runway and put up a few shade ports on a 34-acre parcel of land. Coates, who was an engineer, designed a large hangar that today doubles as the party room, and Oonk designed the door for it.
"On a nice summer night, somebody would say 'Come on, let's go flying.' We'd park a car at each end of the grass strip with the lights on." To illuminate the runway's edges, they would fill six Coke bottles wth coal oil, stuff them with wicks, and use them as lanterns.
Eventually a 3,000-foot asphalt runway was laid. And that was pretty much the state of affairs when John Cournoyer, who had several airplanes based at the airport, learned the land was up for sale.
"The guy who owned the driving range across the street offered $1,000 more an acre than we did," says Stix, "but Ducks didn't want it to be a golf course. He wanted it to be an airport."
"This is a neat little airport here," says Bo Mabry, who has flown his Cessna in from South Carolina. "Ya'll are lucky. Ya'll are real lucky," he says to a group of Creve Coeur natives standing nearby. Like the chorus in a Greek drama, five or six Creve Coeur airport bums are usually close at hand to comment on events and accept compliments from visitors. They know they are lucky. They nearly lost the airport, and that brush with disaster undoubtedly brought them closer together. Unfortunately, another pair of tragedies brought them closer still.