- JANESVILLE AIRPORTS.
2.1.KEMPTON-DUDLEY / OLD ROCK COUNTY AIRPORT.
Madison Capital Times – February 9, 1928. “Prospect Madison Men Ready To Open Janesville Airport Seek Field. We are ready in start operations at once providing we can find a suitable field at statuary prices was the statement Tuesday by Delos Dudley of a group of three Madison men planning to establish an airport at Janesville. Eldon A. Johnson and Willet M. Kempton are the others and they plan to incorporate as the Kempton Air lines. The men flew to Janesville Sunday and inspected three possible fields. We have two airplanes at the present time and will purchase a third before it is needed. We are prepared to do all sorts of commercial flying including instruction and have no desire to interest one cent of capital in our corporation as our stock has all been subscribed in Madison.”
On February 15, 1928, with a capital of $25,000, Willett M. Kempton, Delos Dudley, and Eldon Johnson filed articles of the Kempton-Dudley Flying service, Inc. to establish a flying field at Janesville. The same month they purchase a Waco airplane selling for $12.650 which would be the first one of three airplanes they will operate.
Janesville Daily Gazette – March 21, 1928. “Willett Kempton and Delos Dudley of Kempton-Dudley Flying Service plane this afternoon to complete details of a lease of an 80-acre tract along the Janesville-Beloit highway for a Rock county airport to be opened April 15.”
Its position was lat. 42° 37′ 03», long. 89° 01 `34».
Operated from April, 1928(1), on June 16, 1928, by governor Fred R. Zimmerman and in the presence of twenty-five hundred people was inaugurated the first Janesville Airport four miles at south of the city on Highway 51(1), Beloit road, also known in its early days as Janesville airport as much as Kempton-Dudley Airport for being stablished under control of Kempton Dudley Flying Service Inc. of Willett Kempton and pilot Delos Dudley. This airfield soon would be called Rock County Airport, to differentiate it from the Janesville City airport that would open later in the north of the city. Nowadays, it is named Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport. In these 1928 opening acts, a squadron of American Legion aircraft took part during their Wisconsin Second Commercial Tour Program (2).
Only three days later, on June 19, famous Col. Charles A. Lindbergh visited this airport (3). The purpose of his visit was to deliver a letter of encouragement to Dudley, his closest schoolmate during Wisconsin University years, who during those days was convalescent for injuries received in arm and leg when he was winding-up an airplane propeller during its starting backfire.
Charles Lindbergh circled the hospital twice so that ill schoolmate at the University, Delos Dudley, who was injured in a hospital, to see him. Lindberg made an unexpected landing at the Kempton-Dudley airport, coming in his usual manner, unannounced, and with scarcely a handful of persons on hand to greet him.
Kenneth Parker with his presence and work belonging actively into the general Committee of the American Legion planes, for this June 1928 Dedicate Airport Beacon Light, at the beginning of the “air era” in Janesville.
On June 20, 1929, in this airport was the inauguration of Wisconsin Air College, the first in the state. Flight training curses was being arranged to follow the new United States department of commerce regulations for civilian flying schools.
As soon as this south airfield one began operations, Kenneth Parker regularly rented the Waco biplane piloted by Col. F. H. Jenkins, chief pilot of the Kempton-Dudley Flying Service, Inc. to fly to transact business.
Janesville Daily Gazette – August 10, 1928. “Parker Back from 400-Mile Air Trip. The practicability of tile airplane tor business use was again demonstrated here Thursday when Kenneth Parker, advertising manager of the Parker Pen Company, made a 405′ mile business trip; over four states in 12 hours. Taking off from the Janesville airport at 7 a. m. in a Waco biplane, the Kempton Dudley Flying service, with Col. Jenkins at the stick, Mr. Parker arrived at Niles, Mich., at 9 a. m., two hours after leaving here. Business was transacted at the Michigan City and the pair returned to Chicago by noon. After further business was completed in Chicago they took off from the Municipal airport and returned to Janesville (Kempton-Dudley) airport at 7 p. m.”
Very soon, in September, Mr. Parker requested a plane demonstration to the Fairchild monoplane company. The test took place at this airport and would end up assuming the Parker purchase of what would shortly be the world-famous Parker Duofold Fairchild airplane.
On September 28, 1929 floodlights were used at the airport for the first time; seven lights, three flooding the field, a ceiling projector, and two lighting the ends of the hangar, were temporarily installed. For the lights would remain as permanent equipment at the field, George S. Parker and his sons, Kenneth and Russell, proposed to finance from their own pockets 40 percent of the total cost of the lights, the remainder would be paid by popular subscription. The lighting of the Kempton-Dudley airport was celebrated a few days later with a spectacular air race. Kenneth S. Parker was a timer judge of the event.
On March 8, 1930, the Kempton-Dudley airport was the scene of a historic event for Janesville inaugurating the airmail service linked with the Chicago-Minneapolis service.
For this occasion the Janesville Daily Gazette threw a special edition with a section of 3 pages dedicated to aviation and that read: “Janesville’s direct air mail service was inaugurated Saturday morning, when a northbound plane of the Northwest Airways, piloted by Russell McKnown, winged its way out of Chicago to Elgin and Rockford, arriving at the Janesville airport on the Beloit road at 9:20 a. m. with a small load of air mail. The plane came here practically unannounced, representatives here making no mention of It coming until a few minutes before its arrival. After leaving three pouches of mail here and taking on some for the north it departed for Madison”
When Delos E. Dudley was finally discharged he was heavily in debt and the airport at Janesville was in shambles. At the time he resolved to engage in Engineering as his means of livelihood. In 1929 he was employed by Economy Pumps, Inc. of Chicago as an Engineer as well he continued active in a wide range of aviation activities, among them as Instructor in both Navigation and Meteorology and taught Ground School for two Flying Schools(8). Willett M. Kempton continued working at Rock County airport until 1936 when he has gone to Athens, Ga., to become a journalist instructor at the University of Georgia. With difficulties and no clear project for the future, since negotiations had already begun for a modern airport in the current location under WPA financing, the old Rock County airport continued to operate by Larry Hughes and Stiles Whipple who leased the field.
On November 13, 1941(4), according to the 1940 Airport System Plan of the Wisconsin Planning Board, and after many heated discussions, the Rock County Board «decided to buy land south of Janesville for a county airport. No site was chosen but a site at or near Kempton-Dudley/Rock County Airport about four miles south of the city limits in 1941»(9). The new airport kept up the name it already had as Rock County Airport, reaching today as Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport. The federal government ran with most of this investment (9).
- “Teaches in South. Willett M. Kempton” (September 21, 1936). The Janesville Daily Gazette, p. 3.
- “Winsconsin Second Commercial Airplane Tour…” (June 25, 1928). Aviation Week magazine, p. 1854.
- “Lindbergh visits Janesville with note for Dudley” (June 19, 1929). The Janesville Daily Gazette, p. 1.
- “Scenes at First State Air Race at Janesville Air Port Sunday” (October 12, 1929).The Janesville Daily Gazette, p. 16.
- Registry collected from Federal Aviation Administration.
- Photo collected from National Air & Space Museum. https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/fairchild
- Photo courtesy of Rock County Historical Society. August 16, 2019.
- Dudley, D.” My Lindbergh Papers: Personal Memories of a National Hero» (Unpublished).
- DuPre, Mike. Century of stories: 100 year reflection of Janesville & surrounding communities (2000), p. 51, 90, 94.
- Photo courtesy of Willett & Houston Kempton.
2.2. JANESVILLE CITY AIRPORT.
In 1928 Herman and Carl Krause were owners of a service station on Milton Avenue where they flow a little plane on a grassy street next to the station. Herman later leased to Ida R. Lane State a land north of the city limits where they initially advertised it as Janesville Fair Ground. Then the Krauses built a hangar and called it City Landing Field. On February 25, 1930(1), this airfield north of the city near Highway 26 was chosen as municipal airport, placed in what is Kennedy Avenue today, leased to the city by local aviator Herman Krause, Carl Krause and associated. Herman Krause had been air graduated recently in the Wisconsin Air College conducted by the Kempton-Dudley Flying Service. This airfield located at north of the city was soon known as Janesville City and less as Janesville Municipal.
In March 1930, the Janesville City Council already appropriated $4,000 for equipping this municipal Janesville Airport with boundary and beacon lights (2). At the same time, the Janesville City Airport Co. was incorporated to operate Krause airport (3) and a hangar 80 feet square, was erected by the corporate officers.
In April 1930 Kenneth Parker reported that he would transfer here the Consolidated Fleet he owned in those days from the Kempton-Dudley airport. The federal government ordered that Air Mail plans, service recently opened in Janesville on March 8, 1930, continued using the Kempton-Dudley Airport.
The airport and its runways occupied this urbanized area of current Janesville.
The airport was formally inaugurated on August 7, 1930, with festivities that lasted two days in which hundreds of delighted spectators could enjoy with air races, aerobatic flights and popular dance enlivened by the Parker Pen Band. The entire program was broadcast by radio. Together with local and county authorities, George S. Parker was one of the speakers and he said: “Janesville and the state of Wisconsin would still be a wilderness. There Is little to conquer in the United States today in the way of territory but the spirit is still present, he stated. Another pioneer spirit is in evidence in Janesville today. It is the spirit of aviation. To succeed in this field requires vision, faith and an indomitable will and not a little cash. Fortunately Janesville has men of this type such as the Krause brothers, the proprietors of Janesville City airport. To these young men a great deal of credit is due” (4).
On November 4, 1931, airmail operations were moved to this Janesville City airport from Kempton-Dudley.
A disastrous fire happened the night of June 28, 1932, burned six planes including Kenneth Parker’s Stinson and blow up the brick hangar.
The airport corporation was dissolved because of the lack of activity of this fire. In 1933 the Janesville Flying Club of Carl Krause, Bert Hilton, Ralph Tumelson, George McCarthy and Russell Van Galder built a 42 by 25 feet new hangar. This group also soon faded out.
In 1934 the Eaglet Janesville Aero Club -after named Janesville Flying Service- impulse by Art Hodge, Floyd Stone, Joe Bouziane and friends began operations. In 1938 they installed a second-hand metal hangar acquired at another Wisconsin airport and Hodge y Bouziane was hired to transport airmail as temporary pilots for the Northwest Airways.
In 1939, Bouziane and Hodge bought the shares of the remaining members.
By 1940 Janesville Flying Service began teaching government flying classes, first known as the Civilian Pilot Training program, later called War Training Service.
After Pearl Harbor the two members operators of Janesville City airport flew for the Air Transport Command, ferrying aircraft to the fronts. They returned to their usual civil occupations in 1945. Parker Pen regularly hired JFS for short-distance services, so it was common to see Art Hodge flying to Ivan Tefft and other executives onboard the Parker Twin Bonanza on his frequent trips to Chicago.
In March 1957, replacing Fredendall, former Parker pilot, Hodge was voted for taking over commercial operations at the Rock County Airport, becoming so as to double operator of Janesville City field and the new Rock County airport.
In December of 1960, the lands were sold for real estate development and Janesville City airport close.
- DuPre, M. Century of stories: 100 year reflection of Janesville & surrounding communities (2000), p. 60.
- Aviation Week magazine (March 8, 1930). P.502.
- Aviation Week magazine (May 10, 1930), p. 963.
- Janesville Daily Gazette (August 11, 1930), p. 2.
- Photo collected from http://www.airfields-freeman.com/WI/Airfields_WI_SE.htm.
- Photo collected from Hedberg Public Library´s. Gruver photo collection. http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu.
- Photo collected from https://www.wisconsinaviationhalloffame.org/images/janesville_city_airport_cau.jpg
- DuPre M. “Aerial pioneers”. Janesville Daily Gazette (October 26, 1985), p. 1B.
2.3. NEW ROCK COUNTY AIRPORT.
Nowadays knew as Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, on November 13, 1941(2) according to 1940 Airport System Plan of the Wisconsin Planning Board, and after many heated discussions, the Rock County Board voted a resolution of $ 45,000 for the purchase of the necessary land for a Rock County airport, and $ 45,000 additional for the 1942 budget. The vote on the airport issue came after previously lengthy and bitter debates during 1940 which resolutions providing for the construction of a county airport that was subsequently reversing. The airport was to have been constructed with federal aid and under a Work Projects Administration project.
Finally, lands were chosen four miles south of Janesville and seven miles north of Beloit bordering Highway 51, slightly southwest of Kempton-Dudley / Old Rock county airport.
In February 13, 1942, the development of the Rock County Airport was approved by Washington D.C.
In 1942, airport acreage increased to an area of 711 acres. In June 14, 1943, the Federal government allocated $400,000 to develop the airport and the county board contributed an extra amount of $45,500. An additional allotment of $275,000 for development of this airport was granted on November 1943. On February 1944, the civil aeronautics administration, CAA, announced that asphalt runways were ordered for the airport because bids for this type were lower than for concrete.
In September, 1945 and after several years of persuading disappointments and headaches Rock county airport finally achieved to complete the runways and lighting system.
In September 1945 were completed the three runways 150 feet in width, two of them of 5,400 ft. in length and a third of 5,000 ft. and, weeks after, temporary control tower, main building shop hangar storage, repairing, maintenance and offices. Freeman Shoes Co. and Parker Pen Co. built their large private hangars. Parker completed their hangar during fall of 1945 as home of the Cessna P-51 Express. In March 1946, Parker Pen Co. bought their sleek new gold silver twin-engine Beechcraft D18S “Parker 51”.
During 1947 and 1948 Aviation Service Inc., Wichita, Kan., under leasing, the agreement operated the airport. From then, John D. Fredendall, airport manager and Parker pilot was its operator.
The airport was officially dedicated on May 14, 1950, with the assistance of 25,000 people, during First Flights Day festivities on the occasion of the arrival of air transportation of travelers and merchandise to the airport. For this occasion Kenneth Parker accompanied the governor Oscar Rennebohm and wife from Madison to Janesville in his Parker Beechcraft. On the first freight flight of this day, Parker Pen Co. sent $ 55,000 worth of pens to Hong Kong.
- Photo collected from www.com/janesville
- Photo collected from wisconsinaviationhalloffame.org/images/rock_county_1947.jpg
- Photo collected from potterlawson.com/?portfolio=rock-county-airport+
- “Pen Air” (September, 1950). Skyways magazine, p. 28-29
- “Special Rock County Airport” (May 12, 1950) Janesville Daily Gazette.
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