A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

History: Walling Field, Raritan Township (Hazlet), before 1942-1955

USGS Map of Keyport Quadrangle (1954) showing Walling Field in Raritan, NJ. Landmarks include Cedarwood Cemetery, Rosemont Cemetery, Green Grove Cemetery, and Chingarora Creek. Map includes Mechanicsville and Keyport Borough. Heavy red lines from left are Route 36 (top, marked) and Route 35 (bottom). Red and white horizontal line bordering Walling Field was Middle Road. The red and white vertical line intersecting Middle Road would have been Poole Avenue.

Walling Field was a private airstrip at Route 36 and Middle Road, where Airport Plaza in Hazlet is now located, according to the Northern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce and other sites. The book "Hazlet Township," by William B Longo (1998), available at Google Books, says the airport was on property that was part of Keyport until the early 1960's, but most records seem to suggest Raritan Township or Hazlet.

I haven't found any details regarding the actual establishment of Walling Field, at least not yet. First mentions of it that I can find indicate that it was operating before the Second World War. It's possible that the field is named for prominent Keyport native David A Walling, who was born 29 August 1832 and died 7 April 1914 in Tinton Falls. Perhaps the field was established around the time of his death? That's about when Aeromarine started operations in Keyport as I recall.

Author Longo says the airport relocated to Morganville (Marlboro Township) in 1959, but that is incorrect. The shopping center's developer, Phillip Levin, had filled all available retail space by October 1956 and construction was already well under way. And Rhea Preston, a farmer in Marlboro, obtained the necessary state license to operate Preston Airfield on his farm in 1954 in anticipation of Walling Field being closed and the airport relocating there. This is according to Preston's daughter Candee, whose remarks are cited in Abandoned and Little Known Airfields. She says the gas tanks were installed on 30 May 1955. Later known as Preston Airport and then Marlboro Airport, the airfield in Marlboro operated for another fifty years. The author of Abandoned and Little Known Airfields has not yet encapsulated the history of Walling Field.

According to "Keyport: From Plantation to Center of Commerce and Industry," by Jack Jeandron (2003), pg 104, available at Google Books, the owner of Aeromarine offered in January 1934 to operate a public airport for Keyport for $1 per year but rejected some stipulations added by the Mayor and Borough Council. Jeandron suggests that Keyport might be home to a major regional airport if not for that caveat to the Aeromarine contract. I didn't find any reference to Walling Field in the available pages online. (Note: Jeandron's book contains a particularly detailed history of local maritime commerce. Many of the pages are available online, but Google Books withholds some for commercial purposes.)

Below is what i could find in local newspapers about the airport. Not much, I'm afraid.

1) Page 15 of the 15 January 1942 edition of The Red Bank Register tells of a plane crash at Walling Field in Raritan Township.

HITS TREE IN LANDING - Arthur Shultz, proprietor of Ye Cottage Inn, Keyport, was slightly injured yesterday afternoon when his light Aeronca plane struck a tree when landing at Walling Field, Raritan township, and nosed over. The propeller, landing gear, and under part of the plane's fuselage were damaged.

2) Page 2 of the 29 January 1942 edition of The Independent has a column with Hazlet social news. It mentions that Fred Algor was in charge of Walling Field before the war. Algor had become a flight instructor with the US Army in Texas. (The cross-country trip mentioned would have taken months and months in that era, I presume.)

Mr and Mrs Frank A Cerraty, of Route 35, Hazlet, accompanied by Miss Katherine Merlock and William Kahlert have returned from a 6000 mile automobile trip thru the western and southern states. They visited Thomas and Fred Algor, instructors at the US Army flying field at Terrell, Texas. Fred Algor was formerly in charge of the Walling field in Hazlet before leaving for Texas. The group also spent a week in Miami, Florida.

3) The 15 March 1951 edition of The Independent reported the crash of a plane at Morristown that had taken off at Walling Field.

Plane Crashes With Keyporters
Everdell, Pilot And Brother-In-Law Are Only Hurt Slightly In Night Accident

Two Keyport men, the pilot and his passenger, walked away from their two-passenger plane which crashed on the unlighted ,east-west runway of Morristown Municipal Airport at 7:30 Monday night.

The pilot was Donald C. Everdell. 25, of 146 Osborn St. His forehead was scratched, Ralph Dehnz, 36, of 53 Green Grove Ave., the passenger, is Mr. Everdell's brother-in-law. Both were treated at Memorial Hospital, Morristown. Mr. Dehnz also sustained only scratches.

The plane, a single-engine Stinson L-5, took off from Walling Field, Keyport, at 6 p.m., according to Mr Everdell. He said there were 12 gallons of gas in the tank, enough- for a 110-mile flight. At Teterboro, 50 air miles from Keyport, Mr. Everdell circled the control tower and tried to ask permission to land. "But my radio just wouldn't put out," he reported.

Heads For Morristown

The bayshore pilot then decided to head for Morristown field with which he is familiar. The runway lights there were not on, but Mr. Everdell said, he could see the strips from a 1000-foot altitude. He stated they were illuminated "by the rotating green and white field beacon and by moonlight. He explained that as he neared the runway a ground haze at 200 feet obscured his vision.

The plane struck the edge of a drainage ditch about 100 feet off the north side of the runway and about halfway down its length. The plane hit at about 75 miles an hour speed and flipped over on its back, Mr. Everdell said.

An airport official was in an office at the field and heard the crash. He drove to the scene and found the men climbing from the wreckage.. Mr. Dehnz said he was "all right" but Mr. Everdell appeared dazed and had to be helped from the wreckage.

The landing lights at the airport are turned on only by request, Allan B. Heinsohn, manager, said. A pilot may file a flight plan with the Civil Aeronautics Authority, or telephone the field before a flight. The CAA will investigate Monday's accident.

Mr Everdell, an auto parts salesman in Keyport, has had his private pilot's license five years. He has flown 700 hours, and has had 80 hours night flight experience, 20 only recently. He was a crewman with a Navy carrier based observation squadron. In the Pacific in World War II, Mr. Dehnz said he flew as a crewman with the Air .Force in Europe.

4) The 12 May 1955 edition of The Independent has a photograph of 14 pilots from Walling Field who participated in Operation Grasshopper.

The caption reads: The planes flew in two formations of six and eight to test Ground Observer Corps, as well as military posts, in county. Operation was under the direct supervision of Arthur S Van Buskirk, Coordinator of Monmouth County GOC, Staff Sgt George H Pilkington of the Trenton Air Defense Filter Center, and Dyson Woodhouse, assistant to county coordinator. The flyers who volunteered their time and planes are pictured at the air field before the test. They are: Harold LaVoie, Dick Logue, Bud Delaney, Dick Cresman, Joseph Laskiewicz, Steve Paterson, Tom Nagel, Walter ?, Mel Nodel ?, George Lewis, and Ray Kruser (front row); Charles Guentner, Austin Burns, Staff Sgt Pilkington, William Kahlert, William Schultze, Charles Haseman?, Joe Kelsa, Lloyd Runin? , Mike Paleio?, Mr Woodhouse, Raymond Wallace, and Mr Van Buskirk. (Feel free to send corrections to these names. They are difficult to read.) The 9 Jun 1955 edition of The Independent also discusses Operation Grasshopper.

UPDATE: I had some luck searching for Walling Airport in The Matawan Journal.

The 9 Sep 1954 edition of The Matawan Journal revealed that Walling Airport had been in operation for 20 years, an enterprise of the Walling Brothers. It consisted of 60 acres with two directional runways, well graded takeoffs, and facilities for commercial aircraft. Over the past two years it had developed sufficient contracts to become the main center for tow-banner advertisement flights destined to area beaches, replacing Asbury Park and Red Bank Airports. Daniel Walling was the proprietor of the airport, which was described as being in Keyport. The summer beach circuit for these advertisement-bearing planes was from Seaside Park to Long Beach, Long Island. 20 private planes were housed at the airport, including planes belonging to Van Winkle Todd, CEO of Hanson-Van Winkle Munning Co, and Arthur Schultze, owner of Ye Cottage Inn. The front page includes a photo of Mr Schultze peeling a tow-ad from the runway.

The 24 Feb 1955 edition of The Matawan Journal discussed rumors of the possible sale of Walling Airport at Route 36 and Middle Road in Keyport. Daniel Walling denied that he was seeking to sell but didn't deny that his brother James Walling might be attempting to liquidate his interest. The proprietor of the airport was identified as L W Seaburg.

The 13 Aug 1953 edition of The Matawan Journal contains a reference to Walling Airport, described as being outside of Keyport. The front page article talks about how LaGuardia Airport generates a directional beam that orients pilots on their approach to the New York City airport. The beam, which crosses over Point Comfort and passes directly over Walling, is referred to as the Matawan radio signal.

The 21 Apr 1960 edition of The Matawan Journal provides this article mentioning the airport after it had closed and patrons had moved to Marlboro.

Flying Club At Preston's Elects

Annual election of officers of the Preston Air Field Flying Club, Marlboro Township, was held over the weekend. Those chosen at the third annual election of the group were: William Stevenson, Ret Batik, president; Stephen Megill, Long- Branch, vice president; Joseph Laskiewicz, Cllffwood secretary, and Rhea Preston, Marlboro Township, treasurer.

The club is the owner of two planes, an Aeronlca and a Tri-Pacer that are used for lessons, training flights, and sport flights by the membership of 33. The club is successor to the one that operated at Walling Airport, Raritan Township, before that site was sold for a shopping center. The majority of its members are student
flyers aiming for licenses under the instruction of experienced pilots.

The 13 Apr 1961 edition of The Matawan Journal contains Daniel Walling's obituary.

Daniel Walling Dies Suddenly

Daniel W Walling, 65, Green Grove Ave, Keyport, died Sunday afternoon of a heart attack while helping firemen fight a grass fire near the trailer in which he lived. The fire, at Green Grove Ave., near Eighth St., was the sixth in the Borough since Friday afternoon.

Police said Mr. Walling suffered a heart attack while he was helping firemen fight the grass fire with a garden hose. The Keyport First Aid Squad administered oxygen while police called Dr. Francis W. Holman, Broad St., who pronounced Mr. Walling dead.

Mr. Walling, a native of Raritan Township, had lived in the Keyport area all his life. He was a retired farmer and the operator of the former Walling's Airport at Route 36 and Middle Rd, now the site of a housing development and shopping area. Surviving are one sister, Mrs. Peter O. Weigand of Keyport; and two brothers, James W. and William Van, both of Raritan Township.

Funeral services were held yesterday at 2 p.m. at the Bedle Funeral Home, Keyport, with the Rev. Norman R. Rlley, pastor of St. John's Methodist Church, Hazlet, officiating. Interment followed in Green Grove Cemetery, Keyport.

7 comments:

  1. As a young boy I flew as a passenger in Grasshopper II as described in the 9 June 1955 atricle, page 1 lower right. Have the original news clipping but did not know until now when or where it was published. Also have an original(not in great condition)photo of the pilots in the 12 May 1955 article. Correct name for Kay Kruger is Ray Kruser.

    I remember watching airplanes towing banners out of Walling Field and some local pilots expressing concern about how close they flew over a billboard sign when coming in for a landing over Rt. 36.

    Emailed Pat a cropped section of a 1954 USGS map showing Waling Field.

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    1. cle2000@msn.comMay 4, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      My father's name, Austin Burns, is mentioned as one of the pilots in that photo. I would love a copy if you still have that photo. My father died in 1963 in a private plane crash.

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    2. Greater Media Newspapers runs a network of local newspapers here in Central New Jersey (http://ind.gmnews.com/). Check with their archives. I pulled this image from the online version of the newspaper. If you have no luck with GMNews, check with the Monmouth Historical Association in Freehold. They do clippings and might have retained a better copy of the news article, if not the photo itself. Monmouth County, the State of New Jersey, or the National Archives might have kept a copy. Good luck.

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  2. Thank you for the map. Kindly check my caption and confirm it is correct. I fixed the name as you suggested. If anyone else can help with names in that list, or if anyone has a better image of that photo, I will include it. I'm also interested in when the field was established, exactly when it closed, and for whom it was named. Photos of the tower, buildings, or planes on the field or landing/taking off would be wonderful.

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  3. Captions are correct.

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  4. I found more information on Walling Field by searching Walling Airport. It was established about 1934 and was owned by brothers Daniel and James Walling. I added the new info as an update at the end of the old article.

    I sent a query to the NJ DOT today seeking some basic information from the state. If I learn anything new, I'll add it to this article.

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  5. The Air Defense Radar Veterans Association has a section of its website dedicated to its museum (http://www.radomes.org/museum/). The table of contents on the left side of the screen has a listing for the Ground Observer Corps with a lot of contact information. I noticed in the comments section that someone had exchanged emails with me about the photo, even corrected one of the names, but unfortunately I no longer have that correspondence and his listings here are anonymous. Perhaps he will see this exchange and write back?

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