My earliest memory of departures goes back to childhood and a very small community airport. The hangars were metal sheds of dreams; their contents precious birds of flight with few seats and locally owned by businesses and doctors. My father often went up in these enormous beasts, defying the laws of nature and taking to the open skies beside of his friends or acquaintances. They didn’t offer to take up children, and when I was along, we only watched the departure and subsequent landing of manmade wonders of steel feathers and wings. I remember the feeling of anticipation as the plane would charge the runway like a knight’s steed in battle, lifting up at what often seemed like the last possible second and soaring over the tree tops. Then we would visit the vending area – a machine with pull levers for snacks and another with bottled sodas.
The airport was near W. Kerr Scott Lake and Reservoir then – unlike now. People often went up to sightsee over the beautiful mountain ridges or deliver important packages. We were a booming ‘small’ town then with home offices to many large businesses – Holly Farms, Lowes Companies, Ithaca Mills, American Drew Furniture, Northwestern Bank, Hush Puppy Shoe Plant, Modern Globe Industries. We also birthed NASCAR and had a very active race track which drew in extra traffic. Think back to the days of Junior Johnson, Richard Petty and Benny Parsons. The ideas born of our great minds, outgrew the capacity of those wishing to see their expansion and one by one they desserted us in search of some place more modern or with larger buildings or an even bigger airport.
Our community tried to appease their demands and built a larger airport on another side of town. I understand the planes still command a large audience especially when there is an air show. But it isn’t the same as the place I stood, little hand reaching up to hold my father’s, as we shielded our eyes from the glaring sun glinting off the surface of the planes as they ascended into the heavens on a burst of speed and lift of air – departing the earth if only for a moment.