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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Bill Kessler
Interviewer: Mike Rowland
Date: October 30, 2003
R: Today is October 30, 2003. My name is Mike Rowland, and I'm interviewing Bill Kessler
in his office in Gainesville for the Sam Proctor Oral History Program at the University of
Florida. Bill, I appreciate your willingness to meet with me today. If you would, please,
tell me a little bit about yourself. Tell me where you were born, when you came to
Gainesville, and a little of your background.
K: Well, I'm a northerner by birth. My family had the good sense to move to Florida when I
was about four years old, I think. Interestingly enough, they settled in Gainesville first
back in 1921, which is many, many years ago. For some reason they didn't like
Gainesville too well and they moved to Lakeland, Florida, so I really grew up in
Lakeland, Florida. After leaving school there, I moved up to South Carolina, and that's
where I met my wife. I used to run a radio shop there; I used to repair radios years ago. I
used to fool around with radios when I was a kid. I came to the University of Florida back
in 1942, I think, and I started teaching here.
R: What did you teach?
K: [I taught] electrical engineering in the electrical engineering department. I guess my first
recollection of Gainesville [occurred at] what is now known as the Gainesville Municipal
Airport, [which] was actually a military airport during World War II. My first recollection
is 1943, and at that time I was teaching some courses in electrical engineering on the
twelfth floor of the Segal Building. Of course, we had lots of windows there, and you
could see the airport from the windows while we were having class. I remember seeing
the A-20s, the attack bombers, taking off and landing. That's my first experience with the
municipal airport. I must confess at that time I never visited the flight strip at all, but a
few years later, when I was involved in some research, at which time I was director of a
lightning research program at the University of Florida, we had our laboratories at the
airport. At that time, it was still a military airport and just getting ready to be turned over
to the city of Gainesville by the Surplus Property Act for the specific purpose to be used
as an airport in the future, and nothing else, in all perpetuity. At that time we were using
the old barracks, and there were quite a few of them that the military constructed. These
were buildings approximately forty feet wide and 100 feet long, and they were all
identical. We had about three or four projects going on at the same time. So, that's my
first experience with the airport.
However, back in 1958 I learned to fly, at which time I was pretty active in using
the airport, as well as Stengel Field. A few years later, I believe, I was appointed as a
member to the airport advisory board, and then later on the airport authority and so on.
So, at this point, I think maybe the best thing for me to do is just listen to some questions
and see if I can respond.
R: You've done very well, thank you. You kind of mentioned this, that World War II was an
important period for the expansion of the airport [and] the Army Air Forces took over.
What do you think led the Army Air Forces to build up a base in Gainesville?
K: As a matter of fact, I'm not sure, but I think I may have the answer for you. I may have
indicated during our telephone conversation the other day that I happen to have an audio
tape which was an interview with a fellow by the name of Fred Cone, who was a very
active citizen of Gainesville during World War II, and later became a city commissioner.
He was directly involved in acquiring that airport for the city of Gainesville, and I happen
to have that audio tape. I wasn't sure I could find it, but I found it the day before
yesterday, which I will make available to you. I think the tape is probably about thirty to
forty minutes long, and it relates exactly how the city of Gainesville acquired the airport
from the Service Property people of the United States Government. When you get the
tape, you'll find that the quality is not very good, certainly not as good as I trust this tape
will be. However, if you play it back on a good tape recorder that has plenty of volume
and turn the treble up and the volume up, I don't think you'll have any difficulty
understanding everything that's going on. So, I'll make that available to you for your use.
R: Thank you. When was that interview done?
K: That interview was done approximately in the early 1960s sometime. Fred Cone is gone
now, but fortunately we have his interview. He has shed some interesting light on the
R: I'm curious, why did you interview him about that?
K: I'm not really sure why we did that. I guess it had to do something with my involvement
with the advisory board, and later on with the airport authority. Of course, this was before
the airport authority was formed. I guess at that time we were interested in knowing
exactly how this happened, and someone told me, well, Fred Cone knows all about this.
So, we got a hold of Fred Cone and interviewed him.
R: What was Alachua Army Airfield's mission?
K: [What was] the mission at the airfield? Is that your question?
K: You're talking as a military airport?
K: Well, as a military airport it was a training field, training airport, to train pilots to fly A-
20 bombers, attack bombers. I don't know who manufactured those airplanes, but there
was a light twin aircraft.
R: Yes, it was the Douglas [A-20] Havoc.
K: Yes, I guess that's right, I think it was a Douglas. That was the sole mission during World
R: Do you know any particulars about the training? Was it low level [or] medium altitude?
K: As a matter of fact, I doubt whether any significant high or low altitude was involved. I
think it was a case of taking pilots who had already gone through primary training and
were getting training in multi-engine aircraft. It was a case of take-offs, landing, flying
around Gainesville, and so on. I don't think it involved any high altitude work.
R: Do you have any other memories of Alachua Army Airfield?
K: At that time, as far as World War II is concerned, that's my only recollection of the
airport. I just happened to see the training taking place from the twelfth floor of the Segal
R: Did you know any of the airmen stationed at the field?
K: No, I did not [know any men stationed at the airfield].
R: How did the community feel about having an airfield there that the military was running?
K: Well, during World War II, if it contributed to the war effort, I'm sure everybody was in
favor of it. Interestingly enough, I don't recall any accidents that were reported in the
newspaper. I don't know whether it was a completely accident free situation, or whether
back in those days they didn't bother to draw much attention to military training
accidents. But I don't recall any [accidents], frankly.
R: I've gone through some of the old Gainesville Daily Sun newspapers, and there is very
little mentioned. There are a couple of mentions of planes that crashed in the local area,
but I haven't read anything so far about a crash at the airfield itself.
K: I don't recall any at all.
R: Do you remember hearing about any close calls?
K: No, none.
R: What kind of economic impact do you think the field had on Gainesville?
K: Well, I think the economic impact is very significant because it's the only aerial gateway
to the city. It's probably almost as important as our highways that lead in and out of the
city of Gainesville, although a lot of our perishable supplies are brought in by large
eighteen wheeler semi-trucks. It's important for any community to have an aerial
gateway both for private aircraft, which of course are numerous in this country, and also
for commercial operations to carry commercial passengers in and out Gainesville.
Gainesville, as you probably know, is not a very important airport from the standpoint of
commercial traffic because there are not many flights in and out of Gainesville and, the
ticket prices are usually higher than they are in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa. So, we
find a lot of people here in Gainesville, because of that, will drive to Jacksonville,
Orlando, or Tampa, not only to get lower fares, but more importantly, be able to go where
they want to go more directly. So, Gainesville is simply not a hub airport, and is not likely
to be one for some time, although there's been many moves afoot to build a new airport
in this vicinity to be known as a regional airport to serve both Ocala and Gainesville and
make it a fairly large hub airport to attract the airlines to be used as a hub. But this is very
unlikely as long as we have Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa as close as they are. I mean
the simple answer is [that] it has an important economic impact nevertheless.
R: Now during World War II, with the Army Air Force presence there, do you think that had
any impact on Gainesville?
K: I'm sure it did [have an impact]. Any military operation near any community where you
have a fairly large staff and you have a large number of students is bound to contribute to
the economy of the area.
R: What kinds of things did Gainesville citizens do to make the soldiers and airmen who
were here feel welcome?
K: I guess I can't think of anything at the moment. At that time, I was probably so involved
in what I was doing I may not have noticed some of those things. But as you will detect or
learn from listening to the Fred Cone tape, the military was obviously made welcome.
They improved the field substantially. They virtually built the airport, and then eventually
it became the property of the city of Gainesville, which became a very valuable asset.
R: Were there any problems that you know of with the military personnel in Gainesville?
K: I don't recall any [personnel problems].
R: In late October 1943, a young lieutenant in the Florida State Guard was killed at the
airfield when his car was hit by a taxiing airplane. I can't remember his name. Do you
know any details about that accident?
K: As a matter of fact, I don't remember that. I may have read it in the newspapers and it just
didn't make an impact on me. It undoubtedly did at the time, but not to the point where I
remember it now. It's entirely possible I may even have missed it in the papers.
R: Some pilots took some risks that weren't always appreciated by people in the community,
like low level buzzing [flying low and fast over people, buildings, etc.] for instance.
K: I don't recall any situations of that type.
R: There were air raid warning posts in several locations around the county that were
manned twenty-four hours a day, including one on top of the Seagle Building, and there
were practiced blackouts and things like that. Did you ever feel any danger of an air raid?
K: No, I don't think any of the community really felt they were in any danger at all.
However, those were steps that needed to be taken nevertheless.
R: So do you feel like the efforts were valuable, or more a waste of time?
K: Well, I think it probably made us more aware of what was going on, and when we're
aware of what's going on, we're more likely to contribute in some small way to the war
R: The Alachua County Defense Council made a movie about what would happen if enemy
planes bombed Gainesville. Did you ever see that film?
K: I think I did [see it]. If I'm not mistaken, I think that was produced by a local
cinematographer here in Gainesville. I'm trying to think of his name now. He was very
much involved in stuff like that. He made a number of video tapes of that type, and I may
have one or two of them at home. I'm trying to think of his name. He ran a photography
shop in Gainesville for quite a few years. Many years ago he was the movie operator at
one of the local theaters. I can't think of his name right now for some strange reason, but
it'll come to me maybe.
R: I have some newspaper articles I made copies of that talk about that. I can look those up
and see if any of those names ring a bell. But you think you saw that film? It was called
"It Could Happen Here."
K: I didn't see the film, I saw the video tape of it. I'm not sure, but I may have one of the
video tapes that he produced. I can check that out tonight.
R: Thank you. Do you think the Army Air Forces' presence during World War II had any
lasting effect on Gainesville?
K: Well, the lasting effect that it had, and of course at that time, as you know, it was known
as the Army Air Corps, it became the Air Force later. That's not, perhaps, a very
important point, but the fact that it developed the airport, which later became the property
of the city, I think, is probably a very positive lasting effect. That's not unusual.
Florida's blessed with many, many airports, and they all acquired them pretty
much the same way. One of the reasons why Florida was used so extensively for training
purposes was because we had good weather almost all the year round. The military built
many airports in Florida which are today acting as commercial airports. In fact, some of
them, because they were in locations which were not ideally located, were eventually
abandoned. But nevertheless, many of them became good airports. The Tampa
International Airport was a military airport at one time.
R: Why did the Army Air Forces give the airfield back to the city after the war?
K: As a matter of fact, it became the property of the United States Government, and it was
made available to communities, such as Gainesville, by some act, I think they called it
some Surplus Act. I forget exactly how it was described, but in the process of donating
that property to the cities there was a very rigid requirement that it not be used for any
other purpose. It [had to] be used as an airport in perpetuity. In fact, they weren't even
allowed to sell off any of the property.
R: Was there any interest expressed in encouraging the Air Force to stay?
K: I have no idea whether they were encouraged to stay or not. Chances are, after World War
II was over, the military's need for airports and training areas had been drastically
reduced. So, if they kept any at all, I'm sure it must have been closer to larger
metropolitan areas, Jacksonville for example, where there's lots of military activity today.
I doubt they were interested in Gainesville for that reason.
R: Do you think it would have been good for the city if they had stayed?
K: [It] probably [would have been good].
K: I suppose any activity in which the United States Government operates [that] brings in
personnel and integrates themselves into the community is bound to have a positive
economic impact. Whether or not everybody agrees with that I have no idea, and whether
or not that is a good idea I can't be sure of, it's just my thought that it certainly would do
R: What has been your personal involvement with aviation?
K: My personal involvement with aviation actually, as I indicated earlier, began in 1958
when I learned to fly. Incidentally, I learned to fly on Stengel Field, [but] at that time Carl
Stengel was not operating it. I'm not quite sure where he was, but I never saw him on
Stengel Field at that time. I guess he was already pretty well retired, perhaps. Obviously,
he founded Stengel Field. In fact, one of the first operators on what is now the regional
airport was Carl Stengel, but somehow he got forced off the field and he went ahead and
developed Stengel Field in response to that.
R: World War II started and the Army moved in and took over the base, so Carl had to go
and he built Stengel Field.
K: The sequence of events on that I really don't know precisely. I am hoping that that might
be dealt with in the Fred Cone tape.
R: Do you know how Carl felt about having to relocate his operation?
K: No, I don't [know how Carl felt]. I'm not sure I've ever discussed that with him. I only
got to know Carl Stengel in his later years. In fact, back in 1993, one of the days was
called Carl Stengel Day, in which he received a plaque from the city commissioners and
so on. I believe that Carl passed away about three or four years after that. Of course, at
that time he was pretty well up in years already. I think he was already in his nineties.
R: When did you first meet Carl?
K: [I met him] probably in his later years. I would say [it was] around 1980-1985, something
R: What were his contributions to local aviation?
K: I would say Carl Stengel's contributions were substantial. Not only did he build,
essentially, Stengel Field, that's why it's named after him, but during World War II, he
was operating a training school using Piper Cub aircraft. It was a primary training school
where they took military personnel who had never, perhaps, even seen an airplane, and
[they] learned to fly. Those who graduated from the primary school would then go on to
other schools to learn to fly more complicated aircraft. Carl Stengel was kept busy, along
with many, many instructors and many, many mechanics, and so on. Stengel Field was a
hopping place in World War II. There was a great deal of activity there. They had so
many Piper Cub aircraft that they couldn't store them all in the hangar without turning
them all on their nose, for example, just stacking them in there one right after the other.
R: Have you seen any pictures of that? Do you know if any pictures exist?
K: I have some pictures of the field, yes. As a matter of fact, I made copies of some pictures
about the same time, 1993. [In] 1993, I forget who sparked the idea, but I had put together
a reunion of Stengel Field of everybody who had ever learned to fly and everybody
involved in Stengel Field in my home. We had about 150 people there. It turned out to be
quite an event. I'm trying to think of what this leads to. What did you ask me?
R: The last question was, do you have any pictures or have you seen any pictures of the
K: Okay. At that time Carl had a bunch of pictures with him. I remember taking copies of
pictures with my camera, which didn't turn out too badly. I've got some of those at home.
I'm trying to think of who might have more information on that and more pictures.
There's a man in town here who's wife is related to Carl Stengel. She may have lots and
lots of information. You're going to want to talk to her. I can't think of his name right
now, but he used to be manager of the radio department at one of the hardware stores in
Gainesville years ago. When I was in Gainesville, I used to make some extra money by
repairing radios in the evenings at his place. I will give you his name. I can find a way of
digging it up. In fact, I have it at home, but you'll want to talk to his wife. She'll tell you a
great deal about Carl Stengel, more than I could tell you.
R: What was the relationship between Carl Stengel and Curtis Pitts?
K: Curtis Pitts, at the time, was on the airport also. Exactly what their relationship was, I'm
not quite certain, except I know he had an aircraft building operation on the airport. While
he was in Gainesville is when he designed and manufactured the Pitts Special aircraft,
which has become a very popular aerobatic aircraft. I'm sure you've heard about it and
know about it, but that airplane was conceived and built originally here in Gainesville. Of
course, in later years he sold the company to a larger firm, and they are continuing to
build Pitts Specials. In fact, if you want to talk to him, I suspect he's probably still alive.
He lives in Homestead, Florida. I have an address and telephone number for him. You
may want to talk to him because he's one of the old-timers who probably knows more
about Stengel Field than I do.
R: Do you remember any stories about Stengel Field? Were there any close calls, accidents,
K: Well, we've had a few accidents at Stengel Field in which a few people got killed of
course. They were rather tragic.
R: Do you remember any details about those?
K: Yes. In one case his name was Junior Dykes. He had a small two place aircraft. In fact,
[he had] just got through rebuilding it and really put the thing in mint condition, when he
and someone else decided to go flying one night, unfortunately, after spending a few
hours in a bar. Stengel Field was very badly overcast, probably had a ceiling of no more
than 400 or 500 feet and visibility of probably less than one mile, at which time they
decided to go flying. Well, he went out to the airport and managed to take off safely
enough and fly around for awhile, and then when he decided to land, the weather was so
bad I'm surprised he even found the airport. He obviously found the airport because he
was on final approach when he apparently got too low and clipped the tree. Of course, the
airplane immediately crashed at the west end of Stengel Field on approach. It killed him,
but his passenger survived.
R: Do you know the name of the passenger?
K: No, but I think I could probably find out, and I'm sure that would be in the records of the
Gainesville Sun, by the way.
R: Do you remember when that accident happened?
K: I'm trying to think, because I know you need to know approximately when the date was. I
would say it was approximately 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963. [It was] in the early 1960s. You
may want to check with the Gainesville Sun, and if that person's still alive, you may want
to interview him. If he's much younger than I am, there's a high probability he is alive.
R: You said Stengel Field was a hopping place during World War II.
K: That's because it was a military training field. Actually, it was a private company who
had a contract with the military to train pilots as primary pilots.
R: Do you remember how many planes he had and how many pilots he had working for
K: I would guess he must have had 100 airplanes out there. I remember going out there one
time because the research we were doing involved developing some equipment for the
Signal Corps. After we got through designing the prototype, it turned out that some of the
manufacturers who had the capability of putting those things into production were simply
too busy, so the military asked us to go into production basically. They wanted the
electronics to be treated with some special varnishes and things like that so that insects
would not get to them and things like that. I was told that the people who repaint aircraft,
particularly put the dope [coating applied to fabric to produce tautness and increase
strength] and things on old fabric covered aircraft was the kind of material we needed to
use. Stengel Field, having as much activity as it was, I remember going out there and
talking to one of there mechanics to get the information as to what kind of material they
were using to dope aircraft with so that we could use it to treat the electronic circuit
R: When was that?
K: That was in 1944 and 1945, right in the middle of World War II.
R: What were the results of that?
K: The results were that we got the information we needed and we treated the electronics to
protect them against the weather and insects. It turned out the guy I was talking to,
interestingly enough, was not only an aircraft mechanic, but a very fine violin maker. His
name was Dudley Reed, and he built many fine violins, cellos, base fiddles, and
everything. He was very well known for that. His violins are in much demand and very
R: Do you remember any stories about the World War II training going on there? [I asked
this question again (see p. 13) in hopes of getting information specific to World War II]
Were there any accidents, any humorous experiences?
K: Well, as a matter of fact, no, I don't. I don't know of any accidents. [I] didn't read about
them, didn't hear about them, and I don't know of anything else.
R: What was the pilot training like?
K: The pilot training was taking someone who has never flown an airplane before, and they
would use Piper Cubs, which you are probably familiar with. It's a small, two place
airplane tandem seating where the student sits in the back and the instructor sits in front.
There's a reason for that, because eventually the student has to [fly] solo. You can't fly a
Piper Cub sitting in the front seat [because] it makes the nose heavy, so they put the
student in the backseat because you can fly the airplane solo from the backseat, but not
from the front seat, unless you put some weight in the backseat. In fact, I learned to fly in
a Piper Cub at Stengel Field. I'll never forget my first solo. Normally, students have
considerable trepidation in taking off into the air the first time alone, [but] it so happened
for some reason I didn't. When he got out of the airplane and said, okay, it's time for you
to fly the airplane by yourself, I was so pleased that I could see where I was going that I
didn't worry about anything because he was not in my way. I couldn't even see around
him before. I'd have to do this or do that to see where the airplane was going.
R: You'd have to look on one side or the other.
K: [I couldn't look] in front. I've never heard of any humorous stories or accidents or
anything like that.
R: How has flying changed over the years?
K: Well, the restrictions have increased substantially. The airplanes [have] become more
complicated. More airspace has been reserved for military use and also set aside for
commercial operations, especially near large airports where they don't want you to
intrude unless you have prior permission, and things like that. If you're flying under what
they call visual flight rules, VFR, you should not barge into these military areas or into
the areas near airports, which are known as control zones. However, if a non-commercial
or private pilot is flying under instrument flight rules, which they call IFR, and which are
under positive control by the center or by approach control and departure control, then of
course they always know where you are, they know what your intentions are, and you
have just as much right as anybody else. It's changed to the effect that things have simply
gotten more complicated due to more regulations. Aircraft have improved,
instrumentation has improved, [and] navigational devices have improved tremendously.
R: The municipal airport was named for John Alison. What were his contributions to
aviation in this area?
K: John R. Alison was a military pilot. I'm not sure, I think it was probably in the Pacific
theater [of action during World War II], where he was killed. [John Alison is still alive]
They did decide to name the airport after him. However, it's unclear whether the actual
airfield is named after John R. Alison, or whether it's the terminal building which is
named after John R. Alison. The general public generally confuses the airfield and the
airport, but they're considered different entities. The John R. Alison name, I think, has
been dropped from the airfield. It's known as the Gainesville Regional Airport [or] the
Alachua County Regional Airport, something like that. [For] short, it's GACRA; that's
Gainesville Alachua County Regional Airport. I believe the terminal building itself [is
named for John R. Alison]. There's a plaque [from] when it was constructed, I don't
know whether you've seen it or not at the terminal building, [that] I think probably bears
John R. Alison's name.
Now, Fred Cone addresses that subject by the way. He thinks that it should have
been named after someone else rather than John R. Alison. I'm not clear what his reasons
are because it's been quite some time since I've heard the tape. I tried to listen to it the
other day on my small, portable tape recorder here, but I couldn't adjust the equalization
enough and get enough volume to really understand everything he says. But when you
play the tape, and I don't know whether you can play it back on that one or whether you
will need to play it back on another machine, if you'll boost the treble as much as
possible and raise the volume, especially with a headset, I don't think you'll have any
trouble understanding it.
R: Do you remember the name of the person he felt the airport should have been named
K: No, I don't, but it's all on the tape.
R: Who are some people in the area today who would be good to talk to about local aviation
K: Well, I tried to think about that the other day, because surely there must be some people
around here who remember some things that I don't remember. You've already talked
with Dashwood Hicks. A fellow by the name of Shorty Stotesbury [would be good to
talk to]. Has that name been given to you?
R: Yes, it has.
K: Okay. In fact, I think Shorty Stotesbury is on that tape also. I think we both interviewed
Fred Cone, because I think I heard Shorty Stotesbury's voice on there. Unfortunately,
the laughter comes through louder than anything else. If you ever talk to Shorty
Stotesbury, you might want to, because he was flying during World War II.
R: He was flying here in Gainesville?
K: [He did] not [fly] in Gainesville, but while he was in the military, I think he flew some
light plane aircraft for surveillance purposes. You'll want to talk with Clayton Hustad.
His wife is related to Carl Stengel by the way. I hope that Clayton is still alive. He used to
work for Baird Hardware, it was one of the large hardware stores here in town that had a
radio department store, and that's where I used to repair radios, and Clayton at that time
was manager of the radio department. I have at home, when we had the large reunion at
my home, the names of everybody present written down because they signed in, telephone
numbers and addresses and everything. I should have brought that in. If you have the time
or could see me again, I will get that book, and I think it may give us some names of
some people you may want to talk to. But I think you'll want to talk to Clayton Hustad's
wife, because she may have some pictures, for example, that you could use. The pictures I
have are not extensive [and] are not very good because they're not originals. She may be
able to lead you to some relative of Carl Stengel who has all that material.
R: I have interviewed Carl Stengel, Jr., and he said that after his father died, a lot of that
material was thrown away.
K: Oh, that's terrible. Holy mackerel.
R: That was my reaction.
K: I know I have one picture of Carl Stengel and Dean Weil. Dean Weil was the dean of our
college of engineering when I was there. Carl Stengel, in addition to his training, used to
operate a small charter service. I have this picture showing Dean Weil, Carl Stengel,
[and], I think, two other people getting ready to go on a trip [and] standing beside the
R: Do you know when that photograph was taken?
K: I guess that photograph must have been taken sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s.
[Have] you ever heard the story of how Carl Stengel got to Gainesville?
R: Why don't you tell me.
K: Okay. The story is that Carl Stengel owned a motorcycle, [and] everything he owned was
on the motorcycle. He was kind of traveling around as an adventurer you might say. He
was passing through Gainesville one Saturday afternoon when there was a football game
in progress. The police department in the city of Gainesville was pretty well undermanned
at that time, and somebody, perhaps the police chief, spotted Carl Stengel's motorcycle
and said, hey, do you want to work today and help us control crowds? Carl said, probably,
how much does it pay, or something like that. So he told him, sure, why not. Then he
went to work for the police department for awhile.
R: When was that?
K: This must be the late 1920s or early 1930s. So, that's how he wound up in Gainesville.
R: I read that he was Gainesville's first motorcycle cop.
K: That's probably right.
R: What other stories can you tell me about Carl?
K: Well, let me see. Carl Stengel told me something one time that I've only heard two
people say. You'll find this rather unusual. Carl said, if I had my life to live over again, I
wouldn't change a thing. That's got to be a great life. I could change a lot of things
knowing what I know now, but Carl Stengel said, if I had my life to live over again, I
wouldn't change a thing.
R: When did he tell you that?
K: I would say [it was about] 1992, 1993, 1994, or something like that.
R: Was Carl a good pilot?
K: I suspect he was. He managed to train a lot of people, he managed to fly people on
charter, and he died of old age, so I guess by that definition you'd say he's a good pilot. I
guess, I can tell you a little bit about Carl. Carl really was considered in his early, younger
days an old curmudgeon. I don't know if you know exactly what that word means.
R: Yes, I do.
K: He was pretty rough on people. Next to Stengel Field he had built some small concrete
block structures for rent. [They were] probably one or two room structures. During World
War II, when housing was in demand, he was able to charge almost anything, and he
didn't bother to maintain it very well. If someone came to him and complained, hey, my
sink is stopped up, would you mind getting it fixed? Carl would say, you know, maybe
you just don't want to live here anymore, maybe you want to move. [Laughing]
R: Did he get in trouble for that?
K: I don't think so. That's the only thing I can remember which I think is kind of amusing
R: Well, what are some things that aren't so amusing about Carl that you remember?
K: Well, let me see. I guess I can't think of anything. What I just told you I didn't hear him
say, but other people who lived there told me this. But he mellowed in his later years, he
mellowed very much.
R: Do you have any idea how many people were trained to fly through his flying school?
K: Oh, gosh, I would probably guess a few thousand, because I think the training period
lasted two or three years at Stengel Field. With all those airplanes and all those instructors
out there, and they must have been soloing students every two weeks or so, that's a lot of
students. A lot of students per an every two week interval over a two or three year period;
it must be in the thousands. I don't think anyone, as far as I know, is alive that was
involved with Stengel Field at that time. Dudley Reed is long gone.
R: What was Dudley Reed doing?
K: Dudley Reed was a mechanic, and he's the one that was also a fine violin maker. I have a
biography of Dudley Reed, and there's a chance that there may be a lot of references to
his Stengel Field days in that. I will dig that up also. I may have it here at the office, I'm
going to look as soon as we get through with the interview, but if it's not here, I know it's
R: Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?
K: I can't think of anything at the moment. I'm hoping that you'll be able to get some useful
information from the Fred Cone tape. Let's see, there's two things I have to get for you.
I've already given you Clayton Hustad's name, and you may be able to look him up and
maybe talk to his wife. She might have some information. Also, I need to get the sign-in
record of the Stengel Field reunion back in 1993, which is about ten years ago now. In
fact, I think it was May 30, 1993, which was ten years ago now. Also, I'm going to see if I
can locate the Dudley Reed biography. Those are the three things I need to do.
R: And if you could, see if you have the videotape of that movie that was made during
World War II.
K: Oh, yes, I'll look at the videotapes and see if I happen to have that particular one. I know
there's something on one of those videotapes having to do with the war in Gainesville. I
remember seeing the tape, but I'm not sure I have that particular one. I will look. That's
four things that I need to do.
R: Were any movies, films, or anything like that done at Stengel Field?
K: I don't know of any. If they have been done, it's most likely done by this local
cinematographer. I know he had the opportunity to work with some Hollywood crews
who had come to various places in Florida to make movies. He was usually involved in
some of those productions. I don't know why I can't think of that guys name, but I'll get
it for you.
R: Well, Bill, do you have anything else you'd like to say?
K: No, I can't think of anything at the moment. All I can do now is respond to questions.
R: Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
K: You're very welcome. I hope this is helpful to you.
R: I think it will be.