About 1996 or thereabouts, we were living in an an apartment in Canton Michigan which is northwest of Detroit and just west of I-275. The management had a computer for the residents to use. I was still counting on the old land line and postage mail to communicate. One fine day I was playing with this device and discovered the SRA web site. On the opening page was a photo of “Stearman Over Barvaria”. It had a number 346 on the side, ( the number on my former PT-17) upon closer inspection I saw my old “N” number on the vertical stabilizer (N55097) or so I thought. I then found how to enlarge the photo and printed it so I could take it home and check for sure. We didn’t have a computer of our own then. I was still using my fingers to calculate with.
Once home, I found my trusty magnifying glass and sure nuff, there on the stab was my old number. I quickly got a letter off to Jack Davis to find out who the individual was that now owned my Stearman. As an aside, I purchased this Stearman from Pete Jones in October of 1986 and it was delivered to me at Willard Duke’s End of the Season Flyin” in Jennings Louisiana. I flew this fine airplane for 5½ years when my career at Eastern Air Lines came to an end due to the strike and an ugly divorce that caused me to lose my great friend, 346.
Finally a letter from Jack Davis arrived telling me the name and how to best contact the new owner, Arthur Scheid. I fired off a letter to Arthur telling him to check the log books and find me as the previous owner and that I had his Stearman’s history from Ken Wilson. Arthur responded with his e-mail address and asked for any information I had on his Stearman. The Stearman’s history wasn’t doing me any good now and was just sitting in a drawer of my desk, so why not ship it to the Stearman’s new owner so he might read of his airplane’s past. I also told Arthur about Galesburg and the great people there.
In August of 1996, I had me a double by-pass operation. However, I had begun the purchase of another Stearman, BIG RED… otherwise known as NC 32498. This Stearman was flown by Deed Levy from the factory to Parks Air College in East St. Louis Missouri on 26 March 1941. My wife & I drove out to Galesburg that September. My cardiologist approved provided she drove and we stopped every 2 hours or so and for me to walk around a bit. The broker from whom I was going to purchase my Stearman from said he wasn’t going to return my deposit if I cancelled! I didn’t know if I was gonna get my medical back or not. I talked with a lot of guys at the flyin and they said to go ahead with the purchase cuz the lawyers would cost me more than my deposit and still I wouldn’t be too certain my deposit would be returned. So, the purchase was completed amongst a lot of other difficulties. I did get my first class medical in 9 months 28 days.
In 1997, we flew our very own Stearman A75-L3 to Galesburg from Y47 (New Hudson). In 1998, same thing except that the weather was extremely hot. My wife doesn’t do heat well at all so she was at the hotel trying to stay cool. I was cleaning bug remains from my Stearman when I heard an unmistakeable German accent. I got up, turned around and there in person was Arthur Scheid and his wife Erna. Arthur said he was coming to Galesburg, but I just knew something would mess up his plans. So, here is the guy who owns my first Stearman. I asked Arthur if he wanted to go fly. Naturally his reply was ja, ja we go fly. But what about Erna? Her English was not good at all so I phoned the hotel and asked Polly if she would come over and show Erna around and help her with English. The late afternoon temps had begun to cool a bit so Polly showed up, Arthur & I climbed in, cranked the starter of “498” and off we flew. I have a friend who I grew up with who had a home out on Spoon Lake which is about 25 minutes by Stearman east of Galesburg. Naturally, we had to smoke Fred’s house and fly around a bit. Arthur flew us back to Galesburg, accomplished a nice landing too. Later, Fred and his wife invited Arthur and Erna, me and Polly out to their home for dinner. Prior to dinner Fred had to show off his new boat and engine. Fred thoughtfully brought along one of those ¼ kegs of good German beer. Seems Fred did all he could to hit every wake in the lake and make the boat unstable. Well we needed our beer cups refilled, Arthur and I were delegated to that task. I think I poured and Arthur steadied the cups. We didn’t spill a drop!
So, Arthur and I remain friends and see each other at Galesburg. An amazing friendship happened all because of the fantastic Stearman.