The Age of Discovery: Crawling Through the Air Ships of History
June 15, 2013
My grandson is now in what I call the “Age of Discovery.” He is an eager participant in any new adventure that comes along. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes not so. At any rate, his Mimi enjoys the opportunity of experiencing both the good and, let’s say, the “challenging” adventures.
The Tyler Pounds Airport is home to the Tyler Historic Aviation Memorial Museum (HAMM) which is one of the best aviation museums in the country. Recently, the airport held an air show, not just any air show but a really good one. Through the generosity of the Collings Foundation, Tyler area residents had the privilege of enjoying the “Wings of Freedom Tour.” This tour has two goals: (1) to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans whose sacrifices allow us to enjoy our freedom; and (2) to educate the visitors, especially younger Americans, about our national history and heritage. My grandson is too young to understand those goals, but in time he will. I’ll make sure of it.
On the tarmac were vintage planes such as the B-17G Flying Fortress, the B-24J Liberator, P-51C Mustang, and the Me-262 Messerschmitt, to name a few. The Collings Foundation’s B-24J is the only restored flying B-24J in the world. Each plane was identified with a plaque giving its history. Needless to say, Jackson now thinks he will become a pilot. He was inspired when the helicopter took off. When he is older, I plan to take him for a ride in one.
The highlight of his trip was climbing up the stairs and walking through the B24. His dad and I accompanied him. The two of them didn’t have any trouble moving from one compartment to the other. I’ve decided those airmen in World World II were shorter and of course in better shape than this sixty plus years grandmother. We had to climb a ladder and then crawl on all fours through the first compartment, and as we progressed through the plane, the conversation went something like this.
“Jackson, follow Mimi. Daddy will follow you. Be careful.”
We had to stand up after low crawling through the first compartment. I was, of course, in the lead. There was a long pause before we moved to the next compartment.
“Mom, are you having trouble?”
“Yes, son, my knee is stuck.”
“You’ve gotta move. People are behind us. They want to come through. ”
“Well, I’m trying. Just give me a minute.”
Just then the man who was in front of us overheard our conversation, turned around, saw my predicament, and asked, “Ma’am, can I help you?”
As I proffered my hand, I gratefully responded, “Yes, please. Just take my hand and pull.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I think that will do the trick.”
Two skinned knees later and embarrassed at my inability to stand up, I offered my humble thanks to the gallant gentleman who had saved the day. We then had to walk sideways on a narrow ramp. The passage was so narrow that we had to turn sideways to go through.
“Jackson, walk like Mimi. Hold my hand.”
He did and walked carefully and gracefully, gazing through the gaping hole as he proceeded. One misstep and we would have fallen through the bottom of the plane.
We saw the big guns in the middle of the plane and – for lack of a better description – the big wheel that kept the ammunition feeding the guns that jutted out either side of the plane. Jackson was totally fascinated with it all. He waved at his grandfather who stood outside with his camera so that each time we passed an opening and held up our pride and joy for him to see, he snapped a picture.
I wobbled down the escape hatch, stood and reached up so my son could pass Jackson down to me. As I took him in my arms and hugged him close, he whispered in my ear, “Let’s do it again, Mimi.”