by Al Bartlett
Going back to when I was about 10 years old, a friend and I visited what is now the Richardson International Airport—it used to be called Stevenson Field.
No one drove us out there by car. Neither of us owned bicycles, and we didn’t walk either! We both owned wagons, which we propelled by pushing them along with one foot and kneeling in the box with the other leg. Not quite as fast as a bicycle, but much faster than walking, probably about 10 miles per hour at most.
In those days there was a sign at Portage Avenue and Sackville Street to direct people to the airport. As neither of us had been there before, I suggested we investigate the place. We soon ran out of sidewalk and the going became rather heavy, but we persisted and eventually got there. Arriving at the corner of Ellice Avenue where it ended at Sackville brought us to Stevenson Field. The first hangar was 112th Army Co-Operation Squadron, re-named 402 Squadron during the Second World War.
The second hangar was the largest. It had Canadian Airways in big letters painted on it. North of Canadian Airways there was a smaller hangar, then a parking lot, and then the Winnipeg Flying Club furthest north.
That was Stevenson field in the mid-1930s! Four hangars adjacent to grass runways. There was no control tower, but there was an enclosure on top of the Canadian airways hangar, accessible by a stairway on the west side. I presumed that it was for the “weather guesser” to make his observations.
The northern boundary of the airport was fenced, and followed a dirt road, Saskatchewan Avenue. Alongside that was a railway line.
After spending about 20 minutes at the field, an airplane arrived. At the time I didn’t know the names of any aircraft. I later learned that it was a Custom WACO. Pronounced correctly, it is “wawco,” and not “wayco” or “wacko.”
WACO aircraft were often seen in aviation magazines of the 30s and many of us youngsters knew the spelling. That didn’t mean we all said it right! Once, during school recess, a WACO flew over head. “That’s a WACO,” I said saying it like the real pilots did. Another kid named Ken blurted out “Barlett, you’re wacko in the head!” I shot back, saying, “Ken, go to the airport and call it a ‘Wacko.’ There they will laugh at you!”
There’s an old saying, “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you say it right.”
WACO is the popular abbreviation for the Weaver Aircraft Company. Al Bartlett was a long-time volunteer of the museum.
At the time of this posting, WACO, CF-AYS, is being restored by our dedicated restoration crew and volunteers; click to read more about the restoration.
This article originally appeared in Altitude magazine, Summer, 2010 edition.