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Column: Talking with an old friend and looking down from above

Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run "Isn't That Something" columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen. The following column first ap...

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen. The following column first appeared April 24, 2004.

 

WORTHINGTON - In the week past, I talked with a friend who has been dead 40 years.

This is not true, of course, and I did not imagine it to be true, but it is not far from the truth.

In a file, I came upon a news story and a column written by Lloyd Refsell in 1929. Lloyd had quite a report.

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Lloyd Refsell - H.L. Refsell - was publisher of the Nobles County Times in 1929. I did not know him then. I knew Lloyd in later years when he was writing the Construction Kibitzer column for the Daily Globe.

Lloyd poked about Worthington every day, hour by hour, and he reported each day on local building projects. He was at the sites for the building of churches and schools and new stores, writing brick-by-brick progress accounts. He also looked into kitchen remodeling projects and new garages. In the late afternoons, readers picked up their Daily Globes and they were often heard to say, “Let’s see what Lloyd has to report today.”

In the early summer of 1927, Ref was focused on Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh was on a Fargo, N.D.-Sioux City, Iowa, tour of appearances and speeches only three months after his solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

In South Dakota, Lindy landed at Renner - because Sioux Falls had no airstrip. Lloyd noted Lindy’s lecture that no community can be part of the new world without an airport. Then Lloyd boarded a train to see Lindbergh in person at Sioux City. He came home lobbying for an airport at Worthington. Twenty-three months later, that project was advanced with the coming of an air show sponsored by American Legion Post No. 5 on the north side of town.

Ref made an India ink sketch of a proposed airfield and published that dream on the front page of the Times. How many people were at that pioneer air show?

“Well,” Lloyd said, “adults admitted to the grounds totaled 1,833. It is estimated there were more than 2,000 people in cars ranged for a mile or more in every direction.”

Was the air show quite a scene?

“Worthington looked like Minneapolis in the neighborhood of Wold-Chamberlain field. No matter what direction the eye was directed, there was an airplane - or several planes.”

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Universal Air Lines brought a Ford Tri-motor passenger plane to the air show and offered rides. Ref climbed aboard and talked about flying above Worthington 75 years ago:

“Well, at last we’ve ‘been up’ and here we are to tell the tale.

“So gently were we wafted aloft by Capt. Joe Westover that the first intimation we got that we were really ‘up’ was when the ‘grass’ turned out to be nine-foot cornstalks.”

What could you see, Ref ?

“I’ll tell you, some day it would be nice to have a rug of the tones and patterns presented by some 7,000 square miles of Minnesota and northern Iowa. A combination more beautiful is hard to imagine, and for this writer, it is indescribable.”

Ref picked out something he had advocated: the name of Worthington painted on the roof of the National Guard armory, now the YMCA.

“The bold yellow letters on the armory roof stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Another place that ought to be lettered is the 200-foot length of the fairgrounds grandstand. Pilots going over that building from town will be headed right in the direction of the airport.”

What is it like, flying in an airplane?

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“All feelings of dizziness and height are forgotten. You can look right straight down for hundreds of feet and never catch your breath.

“One thing we thought we’d always shudder over was when the plane banked for a turn. Boy, it takes a sharp turn in that tri-motor to be noticeable at all.

“Once we were gaping at some place down below and we thought of an object on the other side we’d like to look at. Lo and behold, the opposite window still was tilted up, so we couldn’t look over it.”

It is a good experience?

“We moved part of the time at more than 120 miles an hour. Just find something that will take you over the ground at 120 miles an hour! You’ll know you’re going some then!”

Good to talk to you, Ref. Catch you later.

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