Charlie Morris [GVA 3]

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Charlie Morris [GVA 3]
Series Title:
Gainesville Aviation Oral History
Rowland, Mike ( Interviewer )
Morris, Charlie ( Interviewee )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Gainesville Aviation

Interviewee: Charlie Morris
Interviewer: Mike Rowland

Date of Interview: November 5, 2003

Interviewee: Charlie Morris
Interviewer: Mike Rowland
Date: 5 November 2003

[For some reason, probably operator error, the first part of the interview did not record. The 5
November interview was actually the second time I'd interviewed Charlie Morris. We recorded
an interview on 29 October 2003 but the tape was flawed. Charlie kindly agreed to a second
interview. Here are the questions I asked during the first part of the interview:

R: World War II was an important period for the expansion of the Gainesville Municipal
Airport. What factor do you think led the Army Air Forces to build up a base in

R: What was Alachua Army Air Field's mission?

R: Do you know any particulars about the training? For instance, was it low-level or high-
altitude bombing, or something else? [Charlie talked about skip-bombing]

R: Did you know any of the airmen stationed at the airfield? [Charlie remembers visiting the
airfield with a master sergeant who lived across the street from Charlie]

R: How did the community feel about the airfield?

R: What kinds of things did Gainesville citizens do to make the soldiers and airmen who
were here feel welcome?

R: There were several accidents at the airfield, some of them fatal. Do you remember seeing
or hearing anything about those accidents that you can share?

R: Did you hear about any minor accidents or close calls?

R: Have you heard any stories from other people about Alachua Army Air Field?

R: There were air raid warning posts in several locations around the county that were
manned 24-hours a day and there were practice blackouts. Did you ever feel any danger
of an air raid? What were your impressions of those activities?

R: The Alachua County Civil Defense unit made a movie called "It Could Happen Here"
about what would happen if enemy planes bombed Gainesville. Do you remember seeing
that film?

R: Do you have any memories of other civil defense activities?

[At some point in the first part of the interview, Charlie told me how he remembered watching
the guns of P-39 Airacobra fighters being fired on a range on the base. He also told me about
seeing a P-51 Mustang land at Stengel Field. Since it was a fast, powerful plane, the pilot was

Charlie Morris
Page 2

taking a risk landing and taking off from Stengel Field's relatively short grass runway.]

R: Do you think the army's presence had any lasting effect on Gainesville?

M: With the University of Florida being here and that sort of thing, it's very hard to answer
that question.

R: Why did the army give the airfield back to the city after the war?

M: Most of the military bases around the state of Florida were given back to the local

R: Was there any interest on the part of Gainesville or Alachua County government to keep
the army at the airbase?

M: I doubt it. The war was over, everyone was glad it was over, and everyone wanted to get
back home to their lives; that was the last of their thoughts in those days. The airfield was
just sitting there. As a Boy Scout, I remember, we used to go out there for different events
such as bicycle races [and] that sort of thing among the different troops.

R: When do you remember going out there for scouting events?

M: When?

R: Yes.

M: [It] was probably in 1946-1947.

R: So it was in the years following the war.

M: Yeah.

R: When did the military presence at the airbase really draw down?

M: That's a very difficult question to answer. I'd say it was right after World War II. The
presence of the military base was not that significant as compared to NAS [Naval Air
Station] Jacksonville [and] some of the big bases in other cities such as Fort Bragg, North
Carolina and its impact on Fayetteville. We never had that many military [personnel]
around here. I'd say that Camp Blanding had more of an impact on Gainesville and
Starke than our little base did.

R: Do you think it would have been good for the city if the army had stayed at the base?

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M: It certainly would have had an economic impact.

R: Do you think it would have been a positive thing or a negative thing?

M: Well, it could be both ways. I've seen cities look at it both negatively and positively.

R: What has been your personal involvement with aviation in Gainesville?

M: Well, I'm a private pilot, and I started flying out of Stengel Field when I was twelve years
old with a local man whose cousin was stationed at NAS Jacksonville that would fly with
us on the weekends. The first time I flew, it was a two-seat Waco. That was a very
memorable event to me and I still remember it.

R: When you were twelve years old?

M: Yeah.

R: Do you remember the name of the pilot?

M: Yeah, Bob Beaty.

R: How did it work out that you got to go flying with him at that time?

M: He gathered up his cousin, another Bob Beaty. His uncle was Dean Beaty at the
University of Florida. His cousin Bob Beaty would have the other Bob Beaty down and
he would gather up a bunch of his neighbors and friends and we'd all chip in and go out
to Stengel Field and fly.

R: So your first flight was when you were twelve years old. When did you get your pilot's

M: Later on in 1965, because I worked toward it off and on as I had money.

R: So it was many years later?

M: Right.

R: What were your other flying experiences during the 1940s?

M: [I had experiences] flying in J3 Cubs, Champions, Luscombes, and that type of thing.

R: Was that all at Stengel Field?

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A: No, some of them were out at the old airfield, at the old Army airfield [Alachua Army Air
Field during World War II; before and after the war it was the municipal airport]. The
fixed-base operator out there came at a later time [to the municipal airport]. But we flew
at Stengel and the other place.
R: What were Carl Stengel's contributions to local aviation?

M: Carl had a flight school, and then during the war years he had a major flight school. He
was teaching the students that were going through the program that I described a little
earlier, which I cannot remember the name of. He had quite a large flight school complete
with cabins, living quarters, three hangars, [and] many type of aircraft. [He had] Cessnas,
the old Bamboo Bomber, Wacos, J3 Cubs.

R: What was the Bamboo Bomber?

M: Well, let's see if I got that right or not. It was a Cessna Bobcat [The Cessna T-50 Bobcat
light transport plane was used extensively as a trainer during World War II and was
known as the "Bamboo Bomber" because of its wooden construction.], a twin-engine
aircraft for multi-engine training. No, it was not the Bamboo Bomber, it was the Bobcat. I
take that back.

R: How big was his operation out there? How many planes did he have? How many pilots?

M: That's a little difficult to answer. Other people can answer that a little better than I can
because I was pretty young back then and I was just flying with Bob. We would rent an
aircraft and he would give me lessons in a J3 Cub. So as far as this formal program where
there's a number of different aircraft, I really can't answer that with any accuracy.

R: What are some memories you have of Stengel Field?

M: Well, the Pitts Special was built by Curtis Pitts, and the very first one was built at Stengel
Field. It was later sold to Betty Skelton, who became a worldwide/world known aerobatic
female pilot, and the name of the aircraft was Little Stinker. I believe it is now in the
Smithsonian Institute. [The Little Stinker (its complete name) was built in 1946 and was
donated to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in 1985. It was
the second Pitts Special; the first was wrecked several years after its first flight in 1945.]

R: What are your memories of it?

M: [I remember] watching it fly around and watching it go through its paces. I lived
reasonably close to Stengel Field in those days, so I got to see it very often.

R: When the army took over the municipal airport, Carl had to move his flying service to

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Stengel Field, the one that you're familiar with. How did Carl feel about that?

M: I cannot answer that.

R: Do you remember any accidents or close calls at Stengel Field?

M: I know of two of them that I was involved with. A crop duster was flying a side by side
Luscombe, and he came in and nosed over. [There were] no injuries [and] no fires [with
that crash]. Another friend of mine flying a [Piper] Cherokee 235 on take off had engine
failure and hit a pole, if I remember right, and there was an injury in that.

R: Do you remember when those accidents happened?

M: Yeah, [they happened] in the 1960s.

R: How bad were the injuries in the second accident you mentioned?

M: [The injuries were] pretty severe. There was no fatality, but the passenger lost an eye.

R: Were there any fatalities at Stengel Field?

M: I'm sure there were, but I don't recall. I know of no details on them. I don't remember
any specifically.

R: Besides pilot training, what other kinds of aviation related activities was Carl involved
in? Somebody mentioned to me that he had a charter service and he would fly folks
around to different areas.

M: I'm sure he was, but I can't answer that.

R: Who are some people in the area today who would be good to talk to about local aviation

M: Ray Heplin [and] Dashwood Hicks [would be good to talk to]. Let's come back to that
question, I'll think of some more.

R: You told me the last time that we met that you served in the air force for awhile. How did
you get involved with the air force?

M: This was during the Korean War years, and it was not a question of whether you were
going into the military, it was a question of when. Either you were drafted into the army
or you volunteered for the air force or the navy, and I elected to volunteer for the air

Charlie Morris
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R: How old were you at the time?

M: I was eighteen.

R: What did you do in the air force?

M: I was in technical supply, which meant aircraft parts, radar parts, [and] that type of thing.

R: Where did you serve?

M: I served in a wonderful place called Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island. [It was] 250 Eskimos
and seventy-five men.

R: Where was that located?

M: [It was] north of the Hudson Bay.

R: How long were you there?

M: I was there a year.

R: What are some of your memories of that?

M: It's some of the very best Arctic Char [related to Salmon] fishing in the world. I got to be
the fishing guy. The generals would come up just to go fishing, and it was my job to take
them, which I did. It was very, very cold. It was sixty-five below zero the night I got
there. [I went] straight from Florida to there.

R: How did you get there?

M: I was in the air force, I was ordered there.

R: So they flew you in?

M: Oh, yeah, sure. [It was] myself and two or three others.

R: What were your day to day responsibilities?

M: [I was responsible for] base supply. [I was] taking care of everything to do with supplies,
from food to you name it.

Charlie Morris
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R: Were they making flying operations out of there?

M: No, it was strictly an auxiliary base, emergency base, and a weather station.

R: So you spent a year there, and then what did you do?

M: I came back to Shaw Field, South Carolina.

R: What did you do at Shaw Field?

M: [I did] the same thing, technical supply. Then from there [I went] to Myrtle Beach, South
Carolina, to reactivate that base. We had a hurricane that came through, Hurricane
Wilma, and it tore up the area. So we had to get out there and guard it with baseball bats
and that sort of thing to keep the people from looting.

R: Was there looting?

M: Oh, yeah.

R: Did you have any confrontations?

M: I didn't [have any confrontations] personally, but we kept them away with baseball bats.

R: They didn't give you guns?

M: No, [they did not give us guns].

R: When did you get out of the air force?

M: [I got out on] January 21, 1956. Then from there [I went] straight into school at the

R: What did you study in school?

M: [I studied] entomology, insects, [and] agriculture.

R: And at some point you got into crop testing.

M: Yeah, I was in the agriculture supply business after that working with local farmers, so I
got some of the aerial applicators to come in and we started flying pesticides by air.

R: So you have a long and varied history with aviation.

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M: Oh yeah, I worked with various application equipment, micronares, dusting, spraying,
you name it. [I worked with] many aircraft; old Stearmans that had been converted, which
today are worth a fortune if you could get them and convert them back. In those days they
were almost throw away aircraft.

R: Do you still fly?

M: Oh, yeah, as much as I have a chance to.

R: How many hours do you think you have now?

M: [I have] several hundred.

R: Was there anything else you'd like to tell me?

M: I might mention that we had two other airports in the area that people have forgotten all
about. One [was] in the northeast section of Gainesville, which is now known as the
Carrollwood Estates area. Back in those days it was just out of town, a long ways out of
town. There was a field there. As a matter of fact, I think Carl Stengel was involved with
that one.

R: Do you remember the name of the field?

M: No, [I don't remember the name of the field]. Then there was another on the west side of
town right off of Newberry Road where the movie theaters are today. That was a small
field at one time.

R: Right, there were two fields. There was Chambers Field and Jarvis Field, and I haven't
locked down entirely where they were located.

M: Chambers I think was on the east side of town, and Jarvis was on the west.

R: Did you attend the reunion of Stengel pilots back in the early 1990s?

M: No, I was out of town or had some conflict.

R: Do you know how many folks showed up to that?

M: No, I sure don't [know how many showed up]. Shorty Stotesbury would be a good one
for you to talk to also. Shorty based his plane out at Stengel Field for many years.

R: Do you have anything else you'd like to say?

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M: Not at this time.

R: Charlie I really appreciate it, thank you very much.

M: [I was] glad to do it.

[end of interview]